Recent Project: Online game jam:1-Bit Clicker Jam

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This month I took part in 1-Bit Clicker Jam on I hadn’t done an online game jam before and this one had a two week submission window so I though it sounded a bit more relaxed than the usual 48-hour jams that I have done in the past. Unfortunately, we missed the submission deadline because of a technical malfunction with the game, but I still learnt some new skills.

The limitations of the jam were 1-bit graphics, meaning a resolution of two colours per pixel (most games ended up being black and white) and the audio had to be 8-bit. I don’t have any experience with 8-bit, so I was keen to get stuck in and see what I could conjure up.

To get started, I did some research in to the old 80s consoles to see what their audio capabilities were like back then, to see what limitations I should impose on myself.

Because these consoles were pre-sampling, the internal audio chips that they were built with were usually limited to a small amount of channels, usually four, with three oscillators rocking a square wave and one noise channel. (If you are interesting in hearing more about this sort of thing, I really strongly recommend BEEP as a fantastic documentary that goes through the full history with tons of great sound designers and composers talking about their work.) What this meant was that at any one time the maximum amount of sound was three musical notes and some white noise. With these kinds of limitations, I always find it amazing how much variety those sound designers managed to get out of the equipment – just think of all your favourite games on the NES and consider how many sfx are immediately recognisable as being from a specific game, rather than just as being on that console.

When I synthesise non-8-bit sounds I usually don’t have to consider if I am allowed to use a certain method to get to the sound that I am imagining, but with only a square wave and a noise wave I had to get inventive to make some interesting sounds.

I used Massive as my synth of choice, which in this instance is completely overkill as it has everything that a sound designer could want for subtractive synthesis! But it was actually a fun experiment and also a bit of a test of will to avoid the tools that I knew weren’t available on a true 8-bit machine. All of the sounds used a square or sine wave as a base, and I used the stepper to control the pitch to act as an arpeggiator or tracker. This, with a low pass filter and a volume envelope was pretty much all I used for all of the sounds.

Here they are in all of their glory:

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