SWM Devlog #2 : VST in sight

November 19th, 2018, all posts

Hi everyone,

So what happened during the last couple of weeks in the development of Squarewave Maker.

We finished the automatic level testing system we talked about in the previous post and we went back on the creation of playtest levels.

The underlying goal we have for these playtests is to investigate the gameplay choices we made for sure but we also want to demonstrate as much as we can of the musical potential of Squarewave Maker. This means that we must demonstrate the musical expressivity and quality you can achieve within it.
This is strongly related to the virtual instruments and FXs available and this is a problem for us right now.

Having one subtractive virtual analog synth and several FXs (chorus, delay, reverb, compressor...) is pretty cool but it’s not enough because it’s limiting us regarding the musical styles we can use in our levels.
We need to create levels with segment of music in different styles to properly demonstrate the sonic capabilities of Squarewave Maker.
For example to demonstrate dubstep kind of groove and related rhythmical gameplay with only a subtractive synth is quite difficult. But if you have a sample based synth instead the problem is solved.

We plan to build lots of different synths with enough different synthesis algorithms like FM or wavetables (think Serum or Massive) but creating synths take lots of time and we don’t want to delay further our playtest build.
That’s why we decided to add VST support in Squarewave Maker.
We are almost half way throught the integration and we soon be able to use VST instruments and FXs in the game.

For the moment we see VST as a development only solution because we won’t be able to port the game on other platforms like consoles if everything is relying on them.
We’re not sure yet if the game will be PC only, but if it’s not the case and that we want to keep VST we can think of allowing platform specific content. It means that if someday we do a Switch version of the game you won’t be able to play PC levels that use VST.
By allowing level sharing with VST it also means that levels need to use freeware otherwise each player who want to play your creation will have to buy the VST you used which can be pretty costly. But even in that case we can add warnings about the VST you’ll need to have in order to play a specific level.

That being said VST is solving so much problems right now that we chose to go for production efficiency and delay all these content related decisions further.

VST will help us in our plugin validation process, e.g we will able to test for example Serum and try to build levels with it. If it’s cool enough then we will be able to validate synth architectures that are really fun to play with in the game.
It will simplify our synth and FX development process because for example we will be able to use very cool on the shelf signal analysis tools directly in the game to easily debug them in situ.
We will also be able to perform easy comparisons of plugins or FXs techniques we want to draw on. For example if we go for wavetable morphing oscillators will be able to test our own algorithms against the ones in Serum and see if we did our job well quality wise.

That's all for now folks and don't forget to let us know what you think on our Discord.