Meet the disposable heroes… A rag-tag band of nobodies who – quite by accident- represent the kingdom’s last hope.
With the royal army slain it is they who must venture across the land on a quest to bring back the head of the king’s son so that the light might return.
Finding a Voice
by Evilized Games’ Ben Aprigliano
As a one-man studio with a perpetually limited budget I’m always looking for ways to enhance the overall depth and quality of my games; from visual FX around game events such as weapon strikes (which I will always spend time getting right) to additional music bits over, say, a studio ident at the start, or the right SFX for things like punches or horses’ hooves.
Of course with the intentionally comedic stick-man style that I opted for with Disposable Heroes, the rest of the world that the characters inhabit has to be suitably technicolour, bombastic… and bonkers! Whatever you add in has to have the same pantomime qualities, yet for that approach to work, like with any melodrama it can’t be slap-dash and thrown together – it’s got to be properly thought out and properly assembled. ‘Organised chaos’, if you will.
You’ve got to bear in mind the various ingredients in your cake and how they all go together, and not pour too much of one thing in just cos you like the idea of it.
So I decided to add some voice parts, on top of the sounds provided by my soundtrack composer, and on top of the visual effects and narrated introduction.
I had already built in speech bubbles to give my characters additional depth, whether that’s the Red Leader in the trebuchet level taunting the attackers, or the bad guys in the mine cart chase exclaiming their frustration at being forced off the rails, but I wanted to go a step further than that and so opted to include actual voice recordings to feature in the game to help further personify my characters.
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It took me weeks to find the right voices. I wrote my provisional scripts and then went through Fiverr and other sites to look for suitable voiceover artists. I’m sorry to have to say that some people were a bit of a challenge to deal with at times, but everything on there is done at a good price which means that when you have kissed the frogs and found your prince, it’s probably worth it overall.
As far as the implementation of the voices in the game, it’s important to me to keep characters fairly consistent as far as possible – plus I don’t want them gibbering away saying stuff the whole time, that to me would come across as clumsy and overcrowded.
The brothers gonna work it out…
For obvious reasons, a lot of the dialogue would also only really ever make sense in two-player mode, as the Heroes interact with one another, so I built an engine that lets them say things in certain parts of the game, and certain lines in certain levels dependent upon the individual circumstances at that time; all of which are triggered by different things like randomizer counters. This means that at a point when you are standing in a corner for example, and two or more zombies come near you, the character will call out to player 2 for assistance. Or it could just be The Gladiator telling anyone who will listen just how great he thinks he is…
A wonderful feature of Disposable Heroes is the minigames that you find, a break from the top-down style of the core levels, each of which pits you against new challenges; from the collapsing castle to a trebuchet assault.
I certainly was of the opinion that the minigames should have their own themes, so that’s what they’ve got, and they were a lot of fun to make. There’s one to match each of the five minigames that you encounter amidst the 70 or so main levels.
From the tentative, awkward steps of ‘Eine Kleine Knight Music‘ which accompanies the part where a section of the castle is collapsing, to time travel to Planet Earth in the year 1995, from the falling tune right through to the drama of the trebuchet level towards the end, I’ve aimed to reflect the identity of each mini level in musical form.
This is where knowing the game inside out (and, wherever possible, the workings of the mind of its creator) helps in knowing how far you can push things. For example, some might have opted to pay homage to medieval themes but having made the buccaneering Disposable Heroes theme, I was keen to play around with some musical styles – the level where you travel to 1995 was a no-brainer (a bit like the Heroes themselves you could say…) and gave me an opportunity to revisit the music of my ‘youth’, but for some reason the first time I ever saw the minecart chase I knew it had to have a hillbilly bluegrass tune. That was quite a challenge to make, given that I neither own nor play the banjo (it’s one of those instruments that digital audio never seems quite to be able to replicate in as authentic a manner as I would like), but I think I got away with it.
After six months in development in Early Access, the game now has its full launch on 23 March 2016 so it’s an exciting time – I hope you enjoy the game and I hope that the soundtrack provides a fitting accompaniment to the wacky world of the Disposable Heroes. As you may have seen, the game has been selected to appear in the Leftfield Collection lineup at this year’s EGX Rezzed, so I am hoping to trot on into town with Ben and some of the team to meet gamers at the expo in April.
You can listen to and purchase the full soundtrack at davidfburrows.bandcamp.com. I believe Ben is making the full soundtrack available for free as DLC to everyone who buys the game, so if you’re planning on getting hold of a copy, go via the Steam store for this extra Brucey bonus.
You can find David Burrows on Twitter @davidfburrows