Space Invaders Game Audio Analysis
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Space Invaders Game Audio Analysis

August 27, 2019


hello and welcome to Sound Library my name
is Stephan Schütze I’ve been a composer and sound designer in the game industry
for over 12 years and I’ve been a musician for over a quarter of a century
when I was young a friend of mine took me on our bikes across three suburbs to
a pizza parlor and in that pizza parlor was the very first space invaders game
in our entire area, needless to say within seconds I was hooked for life
I’ve been a big gaming fan for many many years long before I even entered the
industry and even thought about entering the industry and games always been
something that have been really really important to me as is sound and music
This is the first in an ongoing series of game audio analysis videos so these
are not going to be reviews of games but an in-depth analysis of exactly what’s
going on within the game from an audio point of view, so we’ll look into how the
audio supports the narrative of the game what types of techniques they’ve used in
producing the audio for the game and also what things have worked
particularly well from an audio point of view in the game and also what things
have not worked very very well. I’m going to be presenting these videos across a
really broad range of game platforms right back to some of the very earlier
type forms such as the Nintendo and the Segas through to the current
generation of home video game systems including portable systems such as iOS
devices Android Nintendo DS Sony Vita etc so as the first of these videos,
we’re going to start with something that was really quite simple in scope and
very very simple in the resources that it used and yet it’s probably more
complex than most people realize. We’re gonna head right back to 1977 and we’re
gonna start with the game that started it for me and that is Space Invaders. Space invaders is very simple sonically
only having five actual sound effects in the game, a simple four note repeating
musical theme and some user interface or UI sounds to indicate coin added and
player selection and free man. So all in all there are about a dozen different
sounds, but that doesn’t mean the audio is not a vitally important aspect of the
success of this game. The goal of the game is to fend off the ever advancing
alien horde as they move closer and closer to landing on earth, your “tank”
can fire shots to destroy the invaders and move left and right to avoid their incoming fire. So far so good. except, as the game progresses the rate of movement of
the aliens increases thus providing a greater threat. Or does it? if I just
maneuver the tank without engaging the aliens the music tempo proceeds
unchanged. In fact if it were possible for me to continue to avoid them the
invaders would work their way to the bottom and defeat me and the music would
be unchanged. It is only when I actively fire at, and destroy invaders, game responds and
increases the tempo. So even the very first space invaders game was
interactive in its use of music. Aliens get destroyed and everything speeds up
making the players job of defending the world more difficult. But even here not
everything is as it first seems as we destroy a few invaders the tempo
increases adding pressure to the player but what is actually increased? If you
indicate the tempo of the music on one side and the tempo of the invaders
movement on the other side we can observe some very clever design choices.
When we activate the first tempo increase after the first half dozen
invaders destroyed all those occurred is an increase in the tempo of the music
the actual movement of the aliens is unchanged in fact throughout the course
of the game the tempo of the music will increases two or three times for
every one increase in the movement speed of the invaders. We are being tricked
as we play. The increase in the music tempo heightens the tension in the game
and can produce an emotional response in the player. The player may feel panicked
or rushed thinking the game has just become harder when in fact nothing has
changed. Playing the game with no audio really
highlights how effective this is with no sound we have a disconnect to the pace
and urgency of the game we can proceed methodically with less of an emotional
response to the game state, this of course reduces the enjoyment of the game
as the state of tension is an essential aspect of the gameplay but it is an
interesting exercise. For such a simple game concept there is
a very real purpose and function for the game audio. Appreciating how key audio
can be even in the simplest of games sets the foundation for many of our
future analysis videos into some of the more complex aspects of game audio
production and implementation. Audio can go a long way to defining how users
perceive the game they are experiencing and there are tons of effective
techniques for altering how we enjoy our games A few little secrets in space
invaders perhaps not everybody was aware of it’s still a very very simple game
but I find it really really fascinating that right from one of the very earliest
video games the sound of music was very very important as to how we perceive the
game and how we played the game in future videos as I’ve said we’re gonna
have a look across a broad range of games on a broad range of platforms and
I get to continue doing what I love the most
playing games. Thanks for watching

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  1. Interesting stuff. Looking forward to seeing more, I loved the BioShock and Portal audio analyses you did back in the day and it's great to see you start the series back up 🙂

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