While adventuring as anthropomorphic dice in the Dicey Dungeons demo at E3 2019 via the Indiecade showcase, players were also treated to a superb chiptune beat. In an interview with Gamasutra, designer Terry Cavanagh said that the game’s composer and sound designer Chipzel (also known as Niamh Houston) “suggested the game show setting” for Dicey Dungeons. At E3, Chipzel took a moment to detail what led to that decision, and its influence on the sound of the upcoming game.
From Super Hexagon to Dicey Dungeons
“A lot of people know me for my chiptune music specifically,” Chipzel said.
However, she described herself as basically an all around audio person. According to the Verge, her career includes concert performances and studying sound design.
“Terry [Cavanagh] and I worked previously on Super Hexagon,” Chipzel said. “It was the game that got me into the game scene.”
In light of their prior work history together, Cavanagh reached out to her for help with Dicey Dungeons. She now handles both music and audio direction for the game.
“Wanted to give RPG elements for the overworld screen, again to complement the art,” Chipzel said.
Cavanagh was also a fan of her chiptune music, which influenced the Dicey Dungeons score.
Feeling a Game Show Vibe
On top of that, Chipzel shared that having the game in early access affected plans for the sound of it. The team wanted to do regular updates for players while Dicey Dungeons was in development.
“Got me thinking what the essence of the game is early on,” Chipzel said.
Chipzel explained that whenever she played Dicey Dungeons, she couldn’t shake the feeling of ‘90s game shows. To her, the game’s “huge focus was luck of the draw.” In the Gamasutra interview, Chipzel also mentioned that the game’s “cute visuals, colors, and ruthlessness” reminded her of ’90s game shows. So, she went in that direction for sound effects.
“I imagined old gambling machines with cards, where you would play blackjack against a computer to win money,” Chipzel said. “That was sort of the vibe of the game I was getting as it stood in the early stages. We started to run then with the concept of a game show as a direction for narrative and music.”
Dicey Dungeons now revolves around an iteration of Lady Luck transforming human adventurers into dice to play her bizarre game show.
Sounds of the Times
But what does a ‘90s game show even sound like?
“A lot of digital sounds, a lot of classic synth sounds—over the top, sort of exaggerated sound effects,” Chipzel said. “Like stereotypical game sounds, but adding my own flare to it, to give it some sort of unique character.”
Chipzel added that she also had a “vision of a little cartoon band playing along with this game show” after going over her work.
“There’s gonna be some additions to all the music, with the idea that there’s a band playing,” Chipzel said. She described it as “the vision before release.”
Toying with Synthesizers
Chipzel shared that making sound effects has probably been her favorite part about the game, and detailed the process behind them.
“I have a Eurorack system and a bunch of synthesizers that are extremely fun to play with when you want to explore sound design,” Chipzel said. “A lot of it has been me toying with things and recording, and shifting through recordings for interesting sounds, sounds that could be on a game show, or aesthetically pleasing to me.”
Chipzel explained that she would want to be in charge of all the audio again on another project, adding that she loved the challenge and doing new things.
“I’ve never been in charge of all the audio, so it has been incredibly rewarding to see it come together [for Dicey Dungeons]. It’s been a little bit trial and error because of that,” Chipzel said. “When you find something that works, it’s a really great feeling.”
Dicey Dungeons is scheduled for release this summer on PC and Mac.