Jonathan Fischer

Construction Derby

January 2020

“Construction Derby” is a game made for Global Game Jam 2020 by Carnegie Mellon’s Game Creation Society. The theme of the jam was “repair”, so in Construction Derby you can crash your car into another player’s vehicle to knock off a part such as an engine, bumper, or wheel and then drive over it to add it to your own vehicle and power it up (or, in the case of the most important part, enable you to honk multiple horns at once). There are also a number of hazards present that will knock parts off your car as well.

There were two musicians on our team, so we split the sound effect and music work between us — both of us gathered and edited SFX, but we each produced one music track separately. We also pair-programmed the sound manager code.

The contribution I made that I’d like to highlight is “Collision Course”, the background music for the main gameplay. The visual theme of the game was quickly decided as being a Mad Max-esque demolition derby with fire and dust, which informed an early idea of what I wanted this track to be like: dirty, intense, and loud. I remember thinking something like, “Yes! Finally, I can try out all those dirty bass Logic presets!” since my typical musical style doesn’t find many uses for that sort of sound.

At the time, I was starting to listen to drum ‘n’ bass music, whose influence should be immediately clear by the two-step rhythm of the kick and snare present throughout the whole track. I then threw a large reverb and an echo onto the snare and hi hats to give the impression that the drumbeats were echoing around a giant arena or sports stadium. Construction Derby is a sport, after all. It’s not a sport with rules or teams or even really a goal for the competitors other than causing pure mayhem… but it’s a sport!

Writing up to 1:05 was fairly easy once I found the right sound for the main melody. The track probably could have looped there, but I thought this might get stale very quickly. Since the drum rhythm had been pounding away for that whole minute, I decided to cut out everything except the bass, pads, and arp (a technique I use quite often), but had the synth from the main melody stab back in as a lead in to the upcoming bridge, where the kick drum returns before the second verse begins shortly after.

I wanted this second verse to feel familiar, but definitely different. To this end, the arp and drum machine play the same rhythm as the first verse. However, there’s a new chord progression and a new player: a synth pluck riff, heavily overdriven with Logic’s Pedalboard plugin. I don’t use this plugin often, but I was very satisfied by the crunchy distortion it let me add to what was otherwise a mild-mannered synth. This riff accompanies the second melody before the track finally loops from the top.

Like most of my work, I didn’t name “Collision Course” until I finished it. One other name I considered was “Automotive Collider”, which I felt was too formal and science-y. Another was “Rex Auto”, which was trying to evoke the feeling of being king of the arena or driving a monstrous T. rex of a car. “Collision Course” at first felt a bit basic and generic, but it fit the general gameplay of Construction Derby so well — intentionally trying to crash your car into someone else’s — that I still felt it fit better than all the other names I came up with.

You can download Construction Derby for Windows from either the Global Game Jam or Game Creation Society pages linked below.