Thumpies: The Making of an Odd-Ball Rhythm Game (Part 3 of 4)

“Voices In Our Heads”

One of my most memorable experiences during the development of Thumpies was the night Kalon and I were invited out to Dave’s house to help create voices for the creatures in the game.  Dave is the producer/designer on Thumpies and he has his own recording studio set up in his basement full of keyboards, guitars, drum kits, and other more quirky instruments.  Dave and his wife Maggie hosted a little dinner for Kalon and I beforehand, and we also took turns playing the game on an iPhone plugged into a really nice sound system.  This was a huge change from the tiny mono speaker on the iPhone itself and the music was loud and in stereo and it sounded really awesome!

We had a few drinks and loosened up a bit before getting to the voice work.  I had dabbled in recording crazy fake radio shows as a kid with a tape recorder so I knew I had some wacky voices in me, but I was having doubts that I could pull them out in front of other people.  Kalon our programmer on the Thumpies team had seemed to be a relatively quiet guy so I was quite shocked by some of the wild voices he excised that night.  I brought along a list of characters that we had created so far and some notes about a few others that I was still planning, that way we could record voices for them too while we were at it.

When we got down to starting the voice recording Dave sat at the computer and walked us through the basics of level limits and testing out how loud we should and shouldn’t be to capture the best sound quality.  Dave did a few sample voices to get us more comfortable with the idea of looking so goofy in front of each other.  I stepped up to the mic and the first voice I recorded was for NoObiE.  I went with a high-pitched and devious voice.  I was babbling crazy baby-talk with a lot of purring and rolled ‘R’s.  One of the phrases that came out of me was something along the lines of “Rrrddahtoot-Rddaaaahtrah!”  I also tried a few voices for the green zombie Thumpie called RawT.  First I did some mindless gurgling moans and then instead of having him cry out for “Braaaiins” like a typical zombie might, I made him cry out for “Vegetables.”

(Chris E. voicing some Thumpies)

After a few more recordings Kalon stepped up to the mic next.  I was completely blown away when he belted out the loudest crazy clown laughter I’d ever heard before.  This was for the YucKLeS character and I never would’ve guessed that voice would’ve come out of Kalon.  He recorded voices for a bunch of characters like the bipolar FLipPy who has two faces, one happy and one sad.  Kalon did kind of a radio DJ voice for the maniacally happy orange face.  He then did a groaning and whining voice for the extremely downtrodden yellow face which is on FLipPy’s backside.

(Kalon voicing some Thumpies)

We decided to mostly stick with a gibberish non-language throughout the character voices and song titles.  This saved us on having to worry about translating them for the game’s eventual release in other languages, but it also helped make the Thumpies world its own unique creation that would hopefully be equally foreign to everybody.

Next up Maggie recorded some trilling and hooting for the purple owl Thumpie named TawooO. He was named this as a small reference to another childhood favorite of mine.  In Mr. Dressup (an 80’s kids TV show) there was a framed painting of an owl that would open its sleepy eyes and say something in rhyme like “Tawit-tawoo, Tawit-tawee”.  Maggie also recorded the voice for the lone female Thumpie called Anyanka, named after the pug puppy I had at the time (which in turn was named after a character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Maggie did some girly sighing, flirty kissy sounds, and her genuine laughing from between takes also made it into the game.

(Maggie voicing some Thumpies)

We then each took a crack at voicing most of the remaining characters.  Dave recorded a voice for BoOoo who kind of looks like the ghost of a bowling ball.  Kalon voiced the nerdy looking Kal (no relation) and also did the yelping and whimpering dog-like voices of FurFace.  I did a voice for the shark-like Gahwg and imagined him choking up a car’s license plate as I gurgled.  Kalon recorded some amazing voices for RhooTz who is a plant like Thumpie with branches for horns, grass for fur, and has a couple ladybugs hitching a ride on him.  RhooTz has this really cool wheezy inhaled voice that sounds like a dying old man made out of bark.

(Dave and Kalon voicing more Thumpies)

We got to thinking that the final Thumpie to be unlocked in the progression of the game should be a little special so we decided a “chief of the Thumpies” might be neat to see.  I recorded his voice (before he was designed) in this gibberish that sounded like a mix of Swahili and backwards English.  A phrase that came out of that recording was “Ch-ch-ch-kartoof” so I named the chief Thumpie KarrToof and the next day I modeled and textured him, giving him florescent green on black face paint that spirals around to his back, and bright purple and blue feathers tucked where his ears might be.  I think I had just seen James Cameron’s Avatar and was inspired by the colourful war-paint.

(Chris voicing KarrToof)

In the coming weeks more Big Blue Bubble employees came out to record the remaining character voices.  Chris M. was the cat-like ChesH and the albino snow monster iziT.  The little soother-sucking baby named Gooie was voiced by a couple of Claudette’s kids and one of my favourite phrases from Gooie’s recording goes something like “You-got-unda-wear-on-your-eye?!”.

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