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How To [Picture of crossed wrenches]

by "Cajun" David Richard
Swoop, our most recent game, handles sound differently than our previous games. Our Australian buddy Dave Wareing has created an interesting sound system with the help of a friend of his -- Geoffrey Peters -- who is rather versed in the composition and structure of music.

Swoop has three different soundtracks that you can choose from. And there are two different ways you can select them. This issue's How To will focus on how this is done, and also how the Swoop music differs from the music in our other entertainment titles (Maelstrom, Chiral and Apeiron).

There are two ways you can select the music in Swoop. The most readily available method is via the Music item under the Options menu (found by pressing the space bar while at the title screen or command-M). In the dialog box that appears (shown below), you will see four choices: Silence, Minimal, Techno Beat, and Flight of the Parrots. By choosing one of these and restarting Swoop, you will change the soundtrack.

[Swoop's music dialog box]

But there is another way to change the sound. As you will notice in the previously mentioned dialog box, there is a description field that changes with the change of music choice. In each description are the memory requirements for each track. Make a note of these: 2.3Mb for the minimal soundtrack, 2.7Mb for the Techno Beat, and 3.6Mb for Flight of the Parrots.

These amounts are critical. The reason being is that if you set the memory requirements of Swoop to one of these amounts, Swoop will automatically know which soundtrack to load when you launch it. This is handy to know because you will not have to launch Swoop to change the soundtrack, and then quit it and launch it again to load the sounds in. You can simply set the memory to what you have available at the time (assuming you are limited on RAM space).

The music in Apeiron and Chiral is much different than the music in Swoop. In Apeiron and Chiral, there is a lead-in sound, and then a loop that plays over and over again until you finish the wave (or lose your man). Swoop's music is broken up in little pieces. Why? Well, have you noticed that the music in Swoop kind of changes as you progress through the wave? This is seen most with the Techno Beat soundtrack, because this was the track that the system was built around.

The program has about 12 different pieces of music to choose from, and when you start a wave it begins to play a section, and prepares the next one to play when the first one finishes. This allows the game to play more robust sections of music when things start getting crazier. As the game changes, so does the music.

As I mentioned before, this system is optimal with the Techno Beat soundtrack, since this was the original music for Swoop. Flight of the Parrots came later, and was also segmented, but because the music was not designed for the system, you do not notice the changes as much. But towards the end of a wave, you can hear the parrots a comin'.

Obviously, this makes it a little harder to create third party sounds, as many of our users like to do. This was another reason why we have a couple of options with Swoop. But anyone is welcome to try it. I would suggest paying close attention to how the sounds are broken up, and how they fit together. I am always available for questions, so feel free to write.

"Cajun" David Richard
Technical Services Manager
Ambrosia Software, Inc.

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