Nobody Suspects a Theme: Demos, Remixes, and Covers

Ian McKinney’s Octodad (Nobody Suspects a Thing) is the catchy theme song for Octodad: Dadliest Catch used in the trailer and credits sequences for the game. The song began as a simple request to a talented friend for a theme song for our new Octodad game teaser and has spawned numerous versions, remixes, covers, and even a vinyl 7in.

My own attempts (and those of Young Horse’s own talented composer, Seth Parker) hadn’t quite arrived at capturing the magic we needed for a new teaser trailer.

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Why Music is the Best Thing

Disclaimer: I tend to get really emotional and personal when I talk or write about music, so if that isn’t your thing, you should probably bail.

“There’s always a point, like when I’m all by myself composing…where I’m thinking, ‘is this anything? Is this idea gonna be interesting to anybody?’ You have this whole series of self-doubts. And then there comes a point that I get over the hump, like I add some instrument, or I play some melody and it’s like ‘oh, oh, oh, ok, that’s what this was meant to be!’”

– Marty O’Donnell, composer for the Halo series

Terrified. That is the only word I can use to describe my feelings as I set out to create something. Whether I’m going to write a blog post for the Octodad page, or write a piece of music for the main menu of the game, I am simply terrified as I try to start.

What is going to come out of me? Is it going to be anything worthwhile? Will anyone even like it? Am I even qualified to be doing this?

These are things I wonder and must move past in order to get anything done. There’s paint on the brush, but I’m unable to overcome that inertia to get myself going. And then I remember the reason I do create: No one else will ever make the thing if I don’t. The sounds that are in my mind and my heart will never see the light of day if I don’t codify them. It is terrifying to create because in doing so we show everyone a piece of ourselves that we have hidden. I have never been comfortable showing anyone my writing or my music because it is like I am letting them pry open my brain and root around in there.

I guess I should probably cover how I got to feeling the way I do about music before I go into too much more on this train of thought. I was raised a musician, I have been playing the flute since a young age. I even used to listen to youtube nursery rhymes to help educate me when I was really young. Music is always something I’ve enjoyed and had a knack for. I always wondered about it, though. Why has music existed for so long? Why is it something that has transcended the fall of civilizations, and why do people like it so much? How can someone devote his or her entire life to something that takes so much work?

I’ve never really had a deep attachment to it until recent years. I studied music (specifically, Sound Recording Technology) at Depaul University and because of it, I love music technology similar to what you’d find at Hi Fi System Components if you’ve used any of their stuff and enjoyed it write a review. Why did I choose to do so? Well, it was logical. I was good at music, so why not continue on in that for the rest of my life? Alright, sure. Well, it was at university that I finally developed the deep emotional connection to music that I feel now. I finally understood, through exploring so many different types of music, why it is such a wonderful thing. It is a beautiful expression of who we are. It allows us to see into the souls of those creating it. It is not this thing that we have on in the background at a party, or in the car, or wherever, it is what the people sound like. Music is what our thoughts and our beings speak. It wasn’t really until the last two years or so that music ever made me teary-eyed, until I was listening to a piece and got this incredible, indescribable feeling that consumed every fiber of my being, a feeling like I was connected to everyone by this piece of music, that I really understood why music has stood the test of time.

With the invention of the portable music device, music has been becoming intensely personal. Thanks to things like streaming services and AV Installers, we can now listen to whatever music we like in whatever fashion we want. The music on our ipods is something that we feel we have ownership of. Those songs belong to me! With this in mind, I set out to write music, that I do it for myself, to move myself. Everything I write is intensely personal. The only thing I have in mind when writing is to make make something sincere. On this note, people often ask me what type of music I listen to. My Response? Anything that moves me. Anything that is sincere. I am drawn to things that people have put their whole being into, things that they created out of love and were a part of them. I love it for the same reason that it makes me uncomfortable: that I can come to know something about another person that they couldn’t possibly have described to me in words. Something deep about their mind that is hidden, but is ever present in their own brand of music. The same can be said about every type of art, and I am drawn to other creations in the same manner, but none so deeply as music.

At this point of writing this post, I’m beginning to become uncomfortable with what I have said, but I know what I have said is sincere. I really hope that everyone has something in their life that brings them as much incredible joy as music does for me. I think I’m pretty much done rambling about this for now. This has probably wasted several minutes of your time and I’M NOT SORRY. DEAL WITH IT.

– Seth

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Summoning an Octopus from the depths

At the onset of production for Octodad, I was faced with a rather unique problem: what, exactly, does an Octopus sound like when it has not only been removed from its natural habitat underwater to become a landomorph, but also has somehow become father to human children and husband to a human woman? The answer:

The above is a visual representation of what brought Octodad to life. I set out to create a soundscape for the Octopus that was both hilarious and refined in order to compliment the game’s humor, while being unintrusive. Essentially, I sought to reinforce the humor of the gameplay and art without pulling the player’s attention away from the task at hand (which, at any given time, probably involves destroying the house).

My quest to find the perfect materials for Mr. Octopus, however arduous, was quite enjoyable. It began in the bathroom of my apartment during the prototype phase of development. I searched for anything and everything I had on hand that might be used to make hilarious, squishy sounds. The things I found included: Sponges of various size, washcloths, and hand soap. I found none of these to be particularly what I was looking for. However, I recorded a heap of material, in hopes that I’d be able to combine these sounds with something else down the road for the perfect octopus footstep.

Fast forward to the first week of production. The time was nigh to stop experimenting, and start producing quality Octodad sounds. I pulled out all the stops. The nearest store I could locate in downtown Chicago that seemed to suit my cephalopodic needs was about a two-mile trek. I hoofed it to said party store, in hopes that I could find molding dough, party string, and an assortment of other items. Several hours later, I returned, victorious to the Depaul Game Development Lab, with a rather weighty sack of appropriate items.

The following day, armed with a Zoom h4n and ready to make a huge mess in my bathroom sink, I set to work. I began by wetting a rather large selection of “Edu-Dough” and smashing it around. One mess after another followed. The day concluded in my bedroom with a big ole’ pile of whoopee cushions. Possibly my favorite sound that got recorded that day was by accident. I was enjoying a banana while taking a break for lunch, and realized that the sound it made in my mouth was exactly what I was looking for. Wasting no time, I grabbed for my recorder, and the rest is history. The following pictures describe how the day went more clearly than words ever could:

Whoopee Cusions

By day’s end, I had somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and a half of raw audio to sort out.

I spent the better part of two weeks sorting through this mish mash of material. I had created around sixty rough sounds to work with, that would later be polished and would become Octodad. I presented a couple of fraps videos to the team, to give them an idea of what the Octopus would sound like in game.

Feet Demo

Hands Demo

From this point, the bulk of the work was finished. I picked out a handful of sounds for each of the functions the Octopus could carry out: walking, grabbing, and dropping. Having selected a good number of these, I went through and made a number of revisions, involving filtering out some of the unwanted frequencies, normalizing volumes, and other edits that are far too tedious for discussion here. Finally, I placed these sounds into the sound engine, fmod. In order to keep these sounds from become too repetitive, I made used of some of the built in features of this wonderful engine. Each action carried out by Octodad has a group of sounds assigned to it, that are randomly played by the sound engine. So, when Octodad picks up a bottle of Expired Milk, a sound from the “grabbing” category is randomly selected. Each of these groups also has a pitch randomization assigned to it, so the exact same sound is rarely ever heard, and the player does not not get annoyed.

Thus concludes my talk of Octopus sounds.

Tune in for Part II: Collision sounds system.

– Seth Parker, Audio design lead and music composer

If you have any questions, or want more specific information about any of this, feel free to email me:

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