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soundStrider Progress

Breaking the silence

It’s been a busy six weeks as I’ve worked to fill soundStrider with content and prepared for its June release. Regretfully, I’ve been so busy that I’ve neglected to update this blog with important announcements about my progress. Don’t worry—it’s nothing but good news below.

Continue reading to play the alpha, watch its first trailer, visit its new website, and read all the patch notes.

What’s new

Given the current pandemic, you may be wondering how I’ve been doing. Fortunately, having already lost my job and working for myself from home, it’s been relatively simple for me to stay healthy, safe, and informed. Ultimately it’s meant that I have more time to devote to soundStrider than ever.

Occasionally I find the news downright depressing, which has been affecting my sleep and ability to keep my normal schedule. Some days are reminiscent of a bad depression I had a few years ago, and that scares me. As an introvert I’ve otherwise found it easy to thrive in spite of the current social distancing guidelines, now absent the dozen parties and concerts to attend each week. To recharge I’ve been catching up on games and movies. So I’m mostly good.

My heart is with all affected folks and essential workers who, many without a choice, have sacrificed so much to keep society moving. In solidarity a little sign reading General Strike hangs in my window. When this is all over, I hope we reevaluate our essentials, what we could do without, and how we can fundamentally transform our society to raise up our most vulnerable…

Right! You’re here for the game development stuff. 🙃

Alpha released on

The most important news is that I released the soundStrider alpha and have been regularly supporting it with point updates—the full changelog can be found below. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you can check it out here:

Coming soon on Steam

A few days ago I was elated to receive an email from Steam Support informing me that the soundStrider store page was approved. Seeing it professionally packaged on a platform I know and love certainly elevated its realness to me. Creating the store page helped me evaluate how I describe and market soundStrider and led to some good breakthroughs. Overall I found its documentation and setup to be a straightforward experience.

Please check out the new store page and wishlist if you desire:

First trailer

A trailer was needed for the new Steam store page. With this initial trailer I wanted to accurately represent the core soundStrider experience as holistically as possible. Viewers will enjoy a short stroll through the Beach, Storm, Astral, and Limbic palettes with an accelerated day-night cycle for a full preview of the visuals it offers:

Creating the tech to choreograph this trailer was exciting for me because it demonstrated some other ways I could leverage my game engine to create scripted sequences beyond (or in addition to) its procedural generation. I intend to make another trailer that showcases the adventure systems in different environments. These advancements may lead me to creating more cinematic spatial audio experiences in the future.

New microsite

Today I launched the new soundStrider microsite. As a web developer with limited time and patience for embellishment, I’ve always been a huge fan of brutalist design (and unsuccessfully pushed colleagues to believe the same). The result was simple enough to develop before lunch and represents a major step forward for my rather laissez faire marketing strategy. Enjoy!

Full changelog

The past six weeks has definitely seen a steady stream of soundStrider updates. All of the changes that I’ve shared with players through the soundStrider devlog on are summarized below. I’d still recommend checking them out because I’ve omitted some parts of the announcements:

v0.8.0 (Alpha 1) changes

The first playable alpha for playtesters and early access purchasers was released on March 30. Right on schedule! This update included three new palettes and a plethora of changes for Adventure mode. Most exciting for me was building the Pulse palette which, in a loving homage to Steve Reich, procedurally generates hundreds of unique songs per seed.

This update also expanded the soundStrider demo with the addition of the Beach, Classic, and Storm palettes. With ten playable palettes I decided it was time to liberate some of my favorites. My hope is that they provide joy and utility for anyone seeking a free white noise machine.

  • Added palettes
    • Forest
    • Limbic
    • Pulse
  • Added footsteps
    • Squish
  • Added game systems
    • Bird
    • Exploration
    • Limbic
    • Pulse
  • Miscellaneous
    • Added Randomize Seed button to Free Roam menu
    • Added placeholder props to unfinished areas
    • Added distance cues to compass waypoints
    • Removed return leg from expeditions
    • Connected expedition destinations with breadcrumbs
    • Added directional cues to breadcrumbs
    • Synced breadcrumb pings
    • Prevented expeditions from spawning in explored areas
    • Implemented save migration process for future updates

v0.9.0 (Alpha 2) changes

Shortly after, I released the Alpha 2 update on April 2. This was a smaller update that had features and fixes that weren’t ready in time for the initial launch. To implement an authentic foghorn sound, I studied the semantics of maritime signals and enjoyed a great post about synthesizing brass instruments via SoundOnSound.

  • Added props
    • Foghorn (Beach)
    • Mirage (Desert)
  • Added footsteps
    • Grass
    • Soft
  • Miscellaneous
    • Adjusted levels of Beach and Desert props
    • Reduced level of placeholder props
    • Made breaking improvements to bird song generation
    • Remember last focused bookmark on Bookmarks screen

v0.10.0 (Alpha 3) changes

The Alpha 3 update was released on April 9. This update introduced the Mainframe palette and made improvements to various game systems. In it players can explore a futuristic hacker space filled with beeping computer tropes and auditory finite-state machines.

An aspect about this update that disappointed me was that I needed to break saves to correct issues with world generation that were difficult to diagnose earlier. In the future I’ll remember that soundStrider is alpha software, breaking changes are expected, and it’s much better to break things now than after full release. Possibly expect a few more updates like this?

  • Added palettes
    • Mainframe
  • Miscellaneous
    • Added experimental builds for Linux systems
    • Added basic game manual in PDF format to build archives
    • Improved interaural arrival time interpolation
    • Improved footstep selection and interpolation
    • Improved pulse song phrase cadence generation
    • Cycle pulse prop gain and decay throughout day
    • Made breaking improvements to world generation:
      • Improved predictability of palette shifting over large distances
      • Improved palette weighting for prop selection
      • Bookmarks are affected by this update
    • Added Andrew to the Credits screen—thank you!

v0.11.0 (Alpha 4) changes

This week’s Alpha 4 update includes the new Trance palette and some needed performance optimizations. Explore a club filled with electronic dance music that’s energetic by day and lethargic by night. The change to the reference pitch is purely mathematic rather than pseudoscientific—it’s easier for me to reason with pitch now that all C notes are integer powers of two!

  • Added palettes
    • Trance
  • Miscellaneous
    • Updated game manual with support information
    • Footsteps are now rendered in stereo
    • Changed A4 reference frequency to 432 Hz
    • Adjusted gain calculations so scenes are tighter
    • Optimization improvements for binaural modeling
    • Made breaking improvements to world generation:
      • Swapped locations of Classic and Wetland palettes
      • Additional improvements to palette shifting
      • Add octaves to some underlying noise fields
      • Bookmarks are affected by this update

Striding forward

The next soundStrider updates will continue to focus on its remaining palettes which are firmly grounded in reality. The Wetland palette will add more moisture, insects, and waterfowl to bridge the gap between the Beach and Forest palettes. The Urban palette will add bustling concrete jungles filled with autonomous traffic. Lastly, the Rural palette will bridge these urban centers to more remote locations with farm machinery and domesticated animals.

With the beta point releases in May, I plan to focus primarily on Adventure mode by creating additional quest types and tuning its navigational systems. During that time I’ll also be working on two secret features that intend to launch with the game. Finally, the weeks leading up to its mid-June launch will address outstanding bugs and polish the overall experience.

I’m looking forward to sharing more soon. In the meantime, stay healthy, stay safe, and stay informed.