Cornered - sound scape game
"Cornered" was the first game I did a sound design for, back in 2014, and revolves about claustrophobia. The game emphasizes progressive sound development and explores coherency between game environment and ambient sound to create an immersive experience.
The player is placed in medias-res on an abstract journey the player voluntarily has to begin by entering the portal at the spawn. What is seemingly an easy adventure soon quite litteraly turns to hell as the small bumps in the map slowly rises and narrows the path. After a while, the sky encloses the map and everything turns dark. It becomes evident that time is running out, and the only way out is forward - the walls brutally bounces the player back onto the path. At the end of the path, another portal exists which ends the game. The player may either 'win' by reaching the last portal in time, or die by running out of time or having hit the walls too much. The game winds may push you in unwanted directions.
Conceptually, it is about claustrophobia, time pressure and feeling closed-in. The abstract landscape reflects a state of mind in a common situation, and when the journey begins, the state turns into an anxiety attack. What in life may only seem like a bumpy landscape can rise if not controlled, and the analogy of the game of course is to keep on moving and getting out of the situation. The 'walls' symbolize the enclosed feeling of claustrophobia together with the fact that they are dangerous, while the winds represents the destructive tendencies we have to unwillingly but subsciously subject ourselves to the same situations.
The sound and music part of the game was indeed the highest priority, as the graphics quality may have exposed. In fact, the graphics was toned down to completely remove the aspect from the game, and instead make the player delve into the spatial environment instead. The sound closely correlates with the 'state' of the game (and mind); at the start the music is very harmonic, consonant and ambient, but when the game starts, much more comes into play. A mix of two soundscapes, 'safe' and 'unsafe' plays with a mix depending on the player's distance from the main path. That is, the music gets much more dissonant, scary and concrete as you close in on the walls, which ultimately throws you back at the path (with one less life), playing a violent FX which slowly blends back into the safe state of mind.
As the game progresses, the music slowly turns into a cascading dissonant chaos of violins while the roof's fire becomes much more apparent. At this point, navigation becomes difficult, and together with the winds objectified sonically as haunting ghosts, the stressful situation hopefully creates a very immersive experience. At the end, the game fades to black if you lost, with a classic composition utilizing lower notes of a piano together with a soundscape drawing from unsafe or dangerous FX throughout the game, falling in pitch. These elements also ensure the player in no way is in doubt about the thematical elements, like death and defeat. If you won, however, the camera fades to white and a fresh new composition with the positive elements plays, assuring the player that he got out of 'the situation'.
All sound FX, compositions and foley was created from scratch. Drones and music was created nearly exclusively with AM-synthesis. In general, I felt it was important to clearly reuse elements of the sound in the different pieces to create a coherent sound-palette, that the player also quickly would recognize as threatening or not. The sound is kind of abstract and surreal, fitting with the theme, however the movement of the player is stylistically realistic - it is the only real anchor point of the state of mind.
Development & Technicalities
The game was built from a skeleton project in Unity3D as it was my first game, and the focus was completely on the sound design. As of such, I'm not developing any further on this particular game, however as visually unappealing as it may be, I think the sound design turned out great together with the concept, thus it now resides on this site as an example of the sound design I do.