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  • Game Audio 101: Lode Runner Goes Mobile

    [12.16.10]
    - Ben Long
  •  "In the early days, there was Lode Runner...my favorite for many, many years. Every level was a real puzzle with its own mechanics, its own dynamics, its own kind of solution. This combination was done absolutely right. I can't imagine any other game with such inventive and unusual design." - Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris Creator - Edge Magazine Nov 2007

    I can clearly recall wearing out Lode Runner as a youngster in the early '80s. There has always been a certain rush associated with grabbing the gold and running for your life. The bad guys kept you on your toes and even the slightest contact with them brought certain death. To be honest, this game frustrated me to no end in the '80s but kept me, as well as an entire generation, coming back for more. It's pretty difficult in comparison to other games from the same time period and was one the first games in history to include a level editor.

    Lode Runner has one of the most rabid followings of any game, but who would have ever dreamed we'd be playing this game on a mobile telephone? Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Tozai Games and Studio Voltz on the official release of Lode Runner for the iPhone. After releasing a slick, new version of the game on XBLA, they decided to take the original code from the 1983 version and create a mobile masterpiece. The retro gameplay experience was kept intact and futuristic design elements were added to compliment the iPhone. My task was to preserve the original in-game sound effects and create brand new music for the menu. This brought a unique set of challenges that yielded some interesting results!


    Fig 1.1

    The Starting Gun

    Once the build was loaded on my iPodTouch 3rd Gen, I was greeted with a menu screen featuring an animated runner on a scrolling brick platform. Both the runner and the floor were 2D pixel style but the Lode Runner logo had more of a modern look, with an occasional sparkle animation moving across the letters. It was a nice mix of both old and new graphic styles. To me, a game menu screen is like a lounge area. It should give a feel for what the game is all about and allow the player to chill out for a minute, maybe do some stretches or go grab a beverage, etc. The main challenge was staying faithful to the original, while supporting the slick new menu. This menu animation felt pretty serious when first watching it in silence. Here you have the main character constantly running for his life. Is he running from the bad guys or just really motivated by gold bars? Maybe both! After becoming hypnotized by the silent title sequence, I started to image how the music could sound. In my mind, I started hearing a vintage analog arpeggiation with a pulsating rythym to match the runner. Maybe I was having Blade Runner flashbacks?

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