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What’s “Cross-Bitting?” HyperDuck Interview on Sound Tips for Indie Devs, Dust: An Elysian Tail OST Preview Included


HyperDuck SoundWorks’ Chris Geehan and I had more a conversation than an interview. Being both Irishmen, we met at a “virtual” bar (details) and discussed things over several rounds of Guinness. In order to enjoy and recreate the surrounding ambience, Chris has provided a HyperDuck jukebox. Yes, the bar only played HyperDuck music. But your ears will agree; these maestros are more like melodious mallards than mere ducks. Start the virtual jukebox below:

Dan Byrne-McCullough is Chris’s partner in crime. They have contributed some prolific tunes to XNA Dream.Build.Play  2009 grand prize winner Dust: An Elysian Tail and 2010 first prize winner A.R.E.S. Their awesome tracks are also heard on the trailers for Secret Base’s Bitejacker, starring 2011 IGF host Anthony Carboni.

With that being just part of HyperDuck’s hyper resume, it may have seemed unnecessary, but I began our conversation by raising my pint for the team’s recent submission to the Behemoth for BattleBlock Theatre and by toasting Dan, who regrettably couldn’t find the bar. May XBLA gamers be so lucky to hear HyperDuck on their home consoles!

So, are you working on Dust and some other projects?

(Chris of) HyperDuck:  We’ve pretty much finished every single other project deadline now. Up until Dust‘s deadline, we’re 100% Dust.

Any Dust details?

HyperDuck:  We’re rearranging all the older music we did in the new style, along with the entire reworking of the Dust audio engine, designing the sound effects and creating the foley for Dust and the creatures. The old style had a heavy YsIII / YsIV influence. The newer style is a lot more “real” sounding  in terms of instrumentation and has a cinematic quality throughout it. I think when the music comes out, we will release the old and new versions of the songs so that people can hear the transformation that occurred.

Was Iji your humble beginning?

HyperDuck:  Pretty much. Dan Remar and I were both massive fans of Machinae Supremacy, who are a band who mixed SID Chip sounds with their rock/metal music. From that forum we became friends, and he said he was making a game at some point and asked me if I could do the music. Later I got the call, realised I needed to begin working, grabbed my partner Dan and said, “Let’s make some music.” We pretty much learned how to record stuff by doing Iji, which is pretty apparent in the quality of the sound in the soundtrack.

Not at all, but  it sounds like you wanted and got help along the way. Indie devs do the same thing. What resources are there to help music devs?

HyperDuck: Good question. There’s plenty of stuff and good communities that I have been and continue to be a part of, some quite small ones. There is an IRC channel where myself, Anosou (Cobalt), DannyB (Super Meat Boy), Josh Whelchel (The Spirit Engine 2), c418 (Daniel Rosenfeld of Minecraft) & disasterpeace (Rich Vreeland of Rescue: The Beagles) meet and share tips, feedback, and generally support each other.

There is OverClocked Remix, a fine place for people wanting to learn about remixing, interpreting music, and knowing good places to buy music equipment. There is Audio G.A.N.G., which has a subscription of £30 a year, but it’s really worth the money. The people there got my business head screwed on tight. They gave a lot of tips and tutorials that can help any aspiring musician looking to do sound design or music composition in media.

(As we moved onto another round of Guinness, I became more astute, noticing a new logo for HyperDuck.)

So, what’s up with the name change?

HyperDuck:  We kept getting a lot of people assuming that we only do music, which is what we founded the idea to team up on, back before we came up with HyperDuck “Music Studios.” But we do a lot of sound design work these days, too. We’re pretty dedicated to both, so I think “SoundWorks” is a good umbrella term to cover all aspects of the audio work we do. We won’t be changing again.


Let’s role play (kinky). I am an indie developer; how would I find you if I didn’t know you existed? What sources are out there to easily connect indie devs with sound devs?

HyperDuck:  I’d probably find you. Most of the developers after Iji/Katakijin we sourced out ourselves, though most of it was from TIGsource or at least Zero Gear was. I think pushing yourself out there as much as possible without becoming obnoxious is important to get ahead, but I found something very special at TIGsource and the Audio G.A.N.G.:  a community is very important and should not be disrespected as such. I joined TIGsource because I saw like-minded folk there who shared the same passion for games, and I wanted to help combine what I was good (well crap at that stage) at with what they were good at and make some awesome experiences in video games.

Mod DB and Indie DB also have great resources for indie developers, as well. I think making contact with a developer and showing the best aspects of yourself is mega important. For every single person we have worked with, I still chat with, and I’ve never had a bad moment in any project we’ve done. They’re all so nice.

Any other tips for game devs?

HyperDuck: One tip is to always make sure the people you are working with have a demo reel or some example of their music in any form. I know if I were a game dev, I wouldn’t take on people if I’d never heard their work before, even if they have been in a game. But to be honest, you will always find somebody who is looking to fill their portfolio up who has either done very little work in games, or has none and is looking to freshly start.

(Being the rude socialite that most people are at bars, I checked my Twitter account. People were all achirp about the heinousness of muting the audio while gaming. Chris quacked back.)

HyperDuck:  I think that music can be muted in games, but you’re missing out on a deliberate part of the experience that game has to offer. As for music not being essential, well that’s a matter of opinion. And quite simply, my own opinion disagrees with it. I am happy to continue my life and career adoring video game music, as many of us are and will do, so it doesn’t bother me.

When do you become involved with the overall game process? I imagine great sounds are never an afterthought.

HyperDuck: I’d say there are more projects where we walk in early on in the development, and through talking with the developers, seeing screens, and  playing demos, we begin to craft what we think is in their head for the game. So by pulling together drafts, we get feedback from the developers saying that they are finding designing certain parts of the game much easier since they have the music for it. That’s about as close as we get to the development process of the game. Aside from doing sound design, we’re mostly in the cogs.

The music isn’t an afterthought. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that in any project we’ve worked on. It can be, and it’s noticeable when the game and sounds do not gel.

So, what makes a game “easier” to write music for?

HyperDuck: “Clear vision” is the key phrase. In this line of work, you quickly learn that it’s ok for the game developers to not 100% know what they want for the game, and if they do have an idea, it’s not always easy to project it across. We’re not all musically mouthed, so that can be a hell of a challenge. But a clear vision can be attained between the developer and us if they can show us what influences them. Most of the time, unless they say “go for it; I trust you guys,” they show us what makes them, and usually their game, tick.

Tick how?

HyperDuck:  Seeing visuals, videos, music and sound design from other games and media– it all helps a lot in making something that the developer will eventually love, and something that feels right within the game. They will sometimes link to other game soundtracks, and suggest games to try out for the sound design techniques used. That’s really useful and actually is like a new lesson to be learned each time we do it.

For example, if a guy gives us a shout and wants a soundtrack with the style of Battletoads, we’ll go back and look at the game, then he’ll say, “Oh, but I want it with reggae style instrumentation, and a hint of rock too,” getting the sound for that will become a lesson, a test of our musicianship essentially. By the end of it, we’ve learned how to do something fresh. It’s also really rewarding and refreshing. I like being kept my toes like that.

Do you find it weird that no one has done any “cross-bitting,” a phrase I think I just coined for having an 8-bit game design with 16-bit sound or something like that?

HyperDuck:  I’ve done some personal experiments with 8-bit and 16-bit stuff, and tried mixing elements of it together, but I see no reason not to merge the elements from both together, so many other hybrid sounds have came together from doing so with genres, why not this too!

To your knowledge, have games done this?

HyperDuck:  Not to my knowledge, but I wouldn’t say I have searched hard enough to find it.

So, what haven’t you been asked before that you think you should be asked?

HyperDuck:  Hmm, Nobody ever questions if we’re actually ducks or not.

Why would anyone? Sitting across from me was obviously something of avian origin. As we parted ways, I divulged details about my Irish ancestry, that my mother’s maiden name was Duffy.

HyperDuck: A good strong Irish surname, lovely! I’m not sure if you know, but Duffy means “Descendant of the Dark One.”

That explained so much about my childhood.

Thanks for the enlightening discussion, HyperDuck. Sample more of Dan’s and Chris’s audio euphoria here.


Dream.Build.Play First Place Winner A.R.E.S. Releasing With 3D and HD Support on Steam


A.R.E.S. is coming to Steam on January 19th. The build will include two new armor skins which are available for the player to switch from the beginning. This build will be exclusive to Steam for a limited time. The game is already available for purchase on Direct2Drive, Desura, and GamersGate. For those who haven’t heard, the folks at Hyperduck have provided an awesome MegaMan X-inspired pulse pounding soundtrack.

DIY’s Peter covered the PC release of A.R.E.S. last month. The link included loads of screen shots and a free demo. The game controls with a keyboard and a mouse or an XBOX 360 controller. The latter seems only natural, since Extend Studios entered and placed in Microsoft’s XNA competition. The team has high hopes of an XBLA release this year, as well.

The Steam release has received an additional upgrade. The game is ready for HD and is fully compatible with Nvidia 3D vision glasses! The below trailer was made specifically for the Steam release. Somehow, the music and action are even more intense this time around! The video includes a look at the extra skins mentioned and some extreme boss fights.

I’ll be posting an interview with HyperDuck soon. Once the Steam release is live, I’ll have a chat with Extend Studios and hopefully have procured a way to use my XBOX360 controller on A.R.E.S. My apologizes for being a recovering “consoloholic.”

Try out the demo and leave your reactions at one of the outlets below:



Positech Games’ Gratuitous Space Battles on Sale at Apple’s iTunes Store, Steam Discount This Month

GSB for iTunesCliff Harris states that Positech Games’ Gratuitous Space Battles (GSB) has invaded the iTunes store and is now for sale. For those waiting until they could buy GSB from a Steve Jobs approved ‘app’ store, the day has come. The developer warns that the app-store version doesn’t have the online challenges, due to Apple’s restrictions. GSB can be purchased here.

The version of GSB on the iTunes store is listed as 1.48.1, an apparent update from the balances of version 1.48 that DIYgamer’s Erik Johnson reported on two months ago. The campaign add-on for GSB, Galactic Conquest, can be grabbed here to begin conquering the galaxy immediately. This expansion will go on sale through Steam by the end of the month, for those who would rather get it there.

Cliff Harris reports that it is slightly quiet at Positech HQ, as he is in the early stages of work on the next Positech game. All he can say now is that if gamers liked GSB, they should like the next game, although it’s not simply GSB 2. Tantalizing in a teaser trailer sort of way without all the fancy CG or trailer, for that matter, Positech fans await more details anxiously. Well played, Mr Harris.


Koruruto’s Spoon Devil Features Sweet Japanese Indie Goodness


Koruruto’s Spoon Devil ’tis a thing of wonder. Creator misi (lowercase intentional) of Q [keu] Handmade Games is no stranger to creating games with a sense of wonder. His last title, Ecolpit, was featured at Tokyo’s Sense of Wonder Night 2009 during the Tokyo Game Show. Don’t worry, the video is narrated bilingually.

His latest venture is illustrated in his blog as a battle between a horde of enemies and a witch, Koruruto, with her pet devil. The story goes like this: there was once a witch who kept a pet devil named Spoon Devil. The pet regrettably changed everything he came in contact with into something sweet. There also existed a queen who loved candy. She finally plotted to kill Koruruto and take the Spoon Devil for herself, and so she dispatched her troops to carry out her plans. The story takes place where now Koruruto and her pet must mow down the troops, taking out the monsters that lurk in the forests, hills, and tunnels as they travel to defeat the queen.

His blog then illustrates in photos and text (behind the photos) the events that transpire that make up the game. The text also describes the gameplay. The Spoon Devil is controlled by mouse. Koruruto is controlled by keyboard. She makes her way through the forest and tunnels. The last photo censors the appearance of the final boss. Big tease!


The innovation is not immediately apparent from the video below. Though the player controls both characters, both will auto-aim and shoot the enemy closest to them. Since Koruruto is the slower character, the Spoon Devil needs to vary between defensively killing enemies that get too close to Koruruto and offensively while gathering candy for score. While the game appears to be a bullet hell shooter, source Marcus Richert says it’s really a defensive tower game of sorts with Koruruto being the tower. The gamer must concentrate on evasion and placement of the two characters.

Creator misi blogged that he wants to move away from simplistic/geometric graphics and didn’t want to use a black background again (Ecolpit is black as night). He aims to release the full game as shareware.

The proof of the insanity is in the pudding, they say. Check out the gameplay:

Source: Q Handmade Games
Thanks to Marcus Richert for the tip!


Amanita’s Friend Citérémis Releases a Developer Edition of Aztaka. Will You Come Play?

box cover dev Amanita has this little game called Machinarium. The game has earned critical acclaim and has been featured in the most recent Humble Indie Bundle. There is no real need for Amanita to be humble, but they politely remain so. It is with that same, genuine spirit they ask for the indie community to support Canadian friends Citérémis, who today have released Aztaka Developer’s Edition. In a “Quest for Profitability,” the developers have included the game’s source code, an exotic French art book, and the game’s professionally recorded soundtrack for the next 21 days at a 50% off launch deal of $9.99.

Citérémis describes Aztaka as a side-scrolling role-playing adventure that blends classic gameplay with modern technology and high-end graphics. The game appears to be painstakingly hand-drawn, achieving an attractive overall design. Despite receiving positive reviews, Aztaka has achieved total revenue of about $35,000 against the $235,000 budget borrowed from friends and family.

“At the bottom of this quest for profitability also lies the idea of a stronger community. Let’s work together to stay independent and innovative! If we stick together to increase everyone’s project visibility, we have a greater chance of success,” says Citérémis president Jonathan Mercier. The quest for profitability begins today with two main objectives: to generate enough sales from this edition to let them keep doing what they love while reimbursing their friends and family and to bring together indie developers. The devs appear to have a relatively large debt to repay to those who supported their indie dreams, but those people who had helped will hopefully inspire future generations to give the same financial support. The open source material could bring together many devs interested in expanding Aztaka.

For those willing to take the plunge, Aztaka appears to appeal to old-school gamers who yearn for a 2D side-scrolling game and those of the new-school, with the prevailing thought of customize, customize, customize:



Regarding Citérémis’ quest for profitability, as of this writing, the goal was 14% completed. Care to start out the New Year by spreading some indie cheer and indulging in some source code?

Sources: Amanita blog, Citérémis