Storefront artwork, featuring the game's characters and art style
|Release||September 27, 2018|
Wandersong is a puzzle adventure video game developed by American-Canadian indie developer Greg Lobanov. A music-themed game, it follows The Bard as they go on a quest to gather pieces of a song that will save the universe from destruction. In the game, the player uses The Bard's singing to affect the environment, solve puzzles, and defend against enemies. Developed in GameMaker Studio, the game was inspired by Lobanov's experiences on a cross-country bike trip across the United States and juxtaposes a positive atmosphere and protagonist with an apocalyptic setting. Games such as Kirby's Epic Yarn and animated cartoons such as Over the Garden Wall and Steven Universe informed the game's tone, pace, and art style. The game's audio was co-produced with A Shell in the Pit; Gordon McGladdery, who worked on Duelyst, Parkitect, and Rogue Legacy, composed the game's music and Em Halberstadt, who worked on Night in the Woods, directed the game's sound design. Wandersong was released on macOS, Microsoft Windows, and Nintendo Switch on September 27, 2018, and on PlayStation 4 on January 22, 2019.
Wandersong is a side-scrolling puzzle and adventure game that uses music as a puzzle-solving mechanic. The player character can sing to cause events to occur in the environment around them, using a coloured "song wheel" with eight directions, each representing musical notes spanning an octave, which is controlled by the mouse on a computer setup, or the right thumbstick on a controller. Certain challenges in the game involve the player matching notes or tunes with a non-player character's song, similar to a typical rhythm game. Functions that allow the player to perform dances also exist, but do not actually serve a purpose in gameplay. Wandersong is set in a universe created by a goddess named Eya who "sang the universe into existence." Every epoch, Eya sings a brand new song that destroys the universe and creates a new one. The player character, known as The Bard, makes an attempt to gather the pieces of the "Earthsong", a composition that, when sung, will allow the universe to be preserved. The game is estimated to be 14 hours in length.
Wandersong was developed in GameMaker Studio by Greg Lobanov, who had also built a custom level editor and audio editor to create the game. It marks Lobanov's return to story-driven games, a milestone that had been a goal of his after years of learning game design skills developing games such as Perfection and Coin Crypt. Development on the game started in October 2015, and was inspired by a cross-country bike trip Lobanov took across the United States from October 2014 to March 2015. Lobanov wanted to translate the "feel of that journey", where he had met various people and felt overwhelmed by their perceived kindness and generosity. Lobanov originally went for a more literal interpretation of the cross-country bike trip that inspired him, developing games about biking. He was ultimately dissatisfied with these early concepts, feeling that they were "missing the spirit of the trip", and opted to create a game with a "really hippy, dopey, joyful rainbow message" that resembled his experiences on the trip. Lobanov's tenure in the "Indie House" in Vancouver, British Columbia early in development had an influence on the game's direction, as Lobanov shared his ideas with, and received feedback from, fellow game developers. Wandersong was funded through a Kickstarter campaign that successfully raised US$21,936 from 989 contributors in February 2016.
Lobanov invented the game's "song wheel" mechanic as a way to encourage the player to experiment with the environment, as opposed to the specificity of other music-related mechanics in games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The wheel was designed with accessibility in mind; Lobanov designed Wandersong so that the solutions to puzzles would always be hinted at through direction, rather than sound and colour alone, allowing players with color blindness or hearing loss to solve the game's puzzles. The introduction of new uses of the song wheel in each of the game's puzzle areas compliments the absence of a consistently rising difficulty curve, allowing the game to also be accessible to players with a lower skill set in puzzle solving. Many puzzles in Wandersong were reworked from their initial, more complex iterations, after game testers and patrons at conventions, where the game was showcased during development, found them difficult or hard to understand.
The game's "paper cutout" art style is primarily inspired by Kirby's Epic Yarn and its "physical feeling", the simplicity of which was also easier for Lobanov to work with as the game's sole programmer and artist. Characters flip over like paper when changing direction in the game's two-dimensional art style. The game's visuals have drawn comparisons by observers to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and the Paper Mario series. Its story, which Lobanov had planned the beginning and ending of from the start of development, is mostly constructed out of spontaneous ideas Lobanov had during development based on the game's core mechanic of singing, which were made easier to implement through the custom level editor and the minimalist art style. The apocalyptic setting of Wandersong is juxtaposed with an optimistic and positive atmosphere. Lobanov felt that a completely positive atmosphere would result in a "really empty experience", and decided to add tension through "really dark, scary, big things" to the game's story and opposing it with a "carefree, happy response" from The Bard. The game's non-intimidating tone and pace was informed by animated cartoons that incorporated music, such as Over the Garden Wall and Steven Universe. The cartoons also served as a reference for the game's animations.
The game's soundtrack was created by Lobanov and Gordon McGladdery, who is the director of A Shell in the Pit, a video game sound design and music production company known for their work on indie games such as Duelyst, Parkitect, and Rogue Legacy. Lobanov, who had not been traditionally trained in music, self-taught to compose and perform music for the game. Lobanov enlisted the help of McGladdery early in development after talking with and considering various composers. Lobanov's admiration of McGladdery's musical style and the convenience of both of them being located in Vancouver had attracted him to McGladdery. Early in development, the composition of music for particular levels and scenes in the game would take place after the level or scene was completed, with changes to the level or scene also being implemented to better fit with the music composed. An eight-track extended play featuring McGladdery's music for the game entitled Wandersong: Dreams & Wonder was released on November 8, 2017, and a 7" single limited to 750 copies featuring the tracks "Sailing with the Coffee Pirates" and "Dreamscape" was released by Yetee Records on May 17, 2018. The game's sound design was produced in REAPER by A Shell in the Pit's Em Halberstadt, who previously worked on Night in the Woods as a sound designer. The game was a departure from Halberstadt's ambient style and foley production for Night in the Woods and employed a more musical direction that also involved character voices. For each sound effect in Wandersong, an entire scale of variations were created in Kontakt to fit the scale of the background music that it would appear with.
Wandersong was showcased at GDC 2016, PAX West 2016, PAX West 2017, Day of the Devs 2017, and PAX West 2018. The game was published by Humble Bundle's publishing imprint "Presented by Humble Bundle", and released on September 27, 2018, on macOS and Microsoft Windows through the Humble Bundle store and Steam, and on Nintendo Switch through the Nintendo eShop. It was part of the first wave of games to be released with the GameMaker Studio 2 Nintendo Switch license, with Hyper Light Drifter and Undertale also being released for the Switch in September. The game was later released on PlayStation 4 via the PlayStation Store on January 22, 2019, and as a launch title for Xbox Game Pass for PC on Windows 10 on June 9, 2019. Wandersong saw a troubled release on Steam, as the game was erroneously tagged for review under Valve's policies against games that intentionally inflated users' statistics, such as achievements and trading card progression. Trading cards and achievements for Wandersong were inaccessible to players, who could not add the game to their "favorite games" lists as a result of the policy until January 9, 2019, when Valve, the developers of Steam, contacted Lobanov via email, describing the error as a glitch in which Steam did not update the game's store page correctly. Sales of the game on Steam were not impacted by the error.
Wandersong was named the 9th best Nintendo Switch game of 2018 and the 13th best PC game of 2018 by the magazine Paste. At the 2019 Independent Games Festival, Wandersong was nominated for Excellence in Narrative, and received honorable mentions for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Excellence in Visual Art, and Excellence in Audio. It was also nominated for the "Game, Original Family" award at the 2019 NAVGTR Awards, and for Most Fulfilling Community-Funded Game at the 2019 SXSW Gaming Awards. At the 2019 G.A.N.G. Awards, Wandersong was nominated for Best Interactive Score and Best Sound Design for an Indie Game.
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- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "Wandersong is a side scrolling adventure game where your ability is the wonder of music."
- Frank, Allegra (November 9, 2017). "Musical adventure Wandersong brings cuteness and quirk to Switch next year". Polygon. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
A sidescroller with a combat system driven by music [...] To do this, he'll have to defeat enemies and solve puzzles using his singing voice alone. [...] Players spin around a colored wheel in specific orders to enter new areas and defeat bosses..
- Rochefort, Simone de (January 22, 2018). "Wandersong is a musical game inspired by cartoons like Steven Universe". Polygon. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
Wandersong is a whimsical puzzle-adventure game. The player character can sing a full octave of notes to solve puzzles. [...] the development team looked to cartoons that incorporate music, such as Steven Universe and Over The Garden Wall, for both the aesthetic and the non-intimidating tone and pace.
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "Most of the puzzles in Wandersong utilize music. [...] The Bard can sing whenever he wants to see how that interacts with the environment."
- Frank & Lobanov 2018, 1:55, "So, if you're playing on keyboard and mouse, it's the mouse, and if you're playing with a controller, its the right thumbstick."
- Macgregor, Jody (September 15, 2018). "Wandersong makes being a bard not suck for once". Archived from the original on September 27, 2018. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
To sing you push the right-stick in one of eight directions that represent different notes which appear around you in a color-coded wheel (you can also use mouse and keys). Sometimes it's just the direction that's important [...] and sometimes it turns into a rhythm game where I have to match someone else's tune to impress them, or hit notes in time with sliding blocks of color to perform a specific song. [...] I've found no use for the dance button yet, but even if I never do, that's OK.
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "A long time ago, a goddess sang the universe into existence. But now she figures that it’s had a good run and it’s time to erase everything and start again."
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "You play as The Bard, a cheerful musician who’s decided that they want to try to save the world. They wander throughout the land and attempt to find little pieces of what’s called the Earth Song, which will allow existence to continue."
- Andriessen, C.J. (September 9, 2018). "Wandersong is music to my ears". Destructoid. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
...and with an estimated 14 hour play time [..] Wandersong wasn't even on my radar before PAX West...
- Chan, Stephanie (May 24, 2018). "YoYo Games will publish indie titles made with its GameMaker Studio engine". VentureBeat. Archived from the original on September 6, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
Dumb and Fat Games used GameMaker Studio to develop its musical adventure Wandersong.
- Lobanov, Greg (2017). "Wandersong (press kit)". Dumb and Fat. Archived from the original on September 6, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
Wandersong was first made by Greg Lobanov, inspired by his 5,000 mile bike ride across the United State], and went into development in October 2015. [...] The game is made in Gamemaker: Studio [...] but expanded with a wide array of in-house dev tools including a shape-and-color based level editor and fairly advanced audio editor.
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "...an important thing that I have to be mindful of is that I’m the only person doing art and animation and everything for the game, and so I need something that I could make a lot of easily. [...] So a lot of the style was a carefully managed design of something that looks really appealing but wasn’t super complicated to add more into, and there’s a level editor where I can draw the shapes that go into the game."
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "He’s developed other games before, like the puzzler Perfection, but Wandersong is different from all his previous titles. It’s a culmination of all the skills he’s taught himself over the last few years as an indie dev."
- Kline, Nicole (December 17, 2013). "Coin Crypt: Interview with Local Indie Game Developer Greg Lobanov". Geekadelphia. Archived from the original on September 6, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "The inspiration for Wandersong came from Lobanov’s experiences on a cross-country bike trip. He wanted to capture the feel of that journey..."
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "..it exposed me to a lot of people, and a lot of people's kindness and generosity. I just met lots of different people across the country and was really overcome with appreciation for how nice people tend to be when you get down to it."
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "The first things I did were (games) about biking, and they were really literal, but they felt like they actually were kind of missing the spirit of the trip. [...] It's kind of a really hippy, dopey, joyful rainbow message - I just wanted to make a game about that and like that.
- Bowman, Mitch (January 16, 2017). "Closing Vancouver's Indie House". Polygon. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
- Usher, William (January 24, 2016). "A New RPG Has Players Saving The World By Singing". CinemaBlend. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
- Hartling, Paul (February 8, 2017). "Wandersong Will Have You Singing to Interact With the World!". Bemanistyle. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
The Kickstarter was released for the game one year ago and was successfully funded with $21,936 pledged out of the $18,000 goal.
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "As opposed to games like, say, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, where you learn songs to use abilities, Wandersong takes a different tack. It encourages you to experiment..."
- Frank & Lobanov 2018, 12:31, "So, we never hint with just sound or just colour, and always with direction, usually. So, if you're colourblind or hard of hearing, you can still get everything."
- Frank & Lobanov 2018, 9:59, "Instead of going up in complexity, we'll just introduce something new..."
- Frank & Lobanov 2018, 8:45, "...there were earlier versions of all these screens where it was really more complicated and tricky, like 'you have to use this minor detail in the way that [the plant] grows' [...] no one ever got it..."
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "...other than the happy paper cutout visuals..."
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "Kirby’s Epic Yarn is probably the biggest visual inspiration. I just love the look of that game and I want more game that have that really physical feeling.
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "It has the flat design of Paper Mario or Wind Waker..."
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "I have an outline of how I want the game to go, and I’m filling in the outline on the fly, so the best things in the game are when I have an idea and I think "what if this happened." [...] I write this text and get the scene going and suddenly it’s in. This would not have been in the game, and suddenly it’s in the game just like that."
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "...the result is a game that’s unabashedly about optimism and positivity. That doesn’t meant that it shies away from the negatives. The world is about to end, and many of the characters The Bard encounters are mired in their own problems."
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "If everything was happy all the time, it would be a really empty experience, I think. [...] There’s a lot of tension in the story with really dark, scary, big things that are happening, and then this kind of carefree, happy response to that."
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "I was 0/3 on guessing which inspirations Greg noted he may have taken from, instead citing Earthbound, Over the Garden Wall, and Totoro as spiritual influences."
- Frank & Lobanov 2018, 3:42, "I was definitely more inspired by comics animation than games when I was making this..."
- Davenport, James (December 28, 2016). "Listen to the best game music of the year". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on September 6, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
A good selection of the best game music of the last few years has all come from A Shell in the Pit, serving up lovely soundtracks for the likes of Duelyst, Rogue Legacy, Parkitect, and more.
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "[Lobanov] wrote a lot of the music and also had help from collaborators such A Shell in the Pit, who has worked on titles such as Night in the Woods and Rogue Legacy."
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "Lobanov isn't a classically trained musician, so he had to teach himself."
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "We had a lot of people coming in - we didn't even have open call for submissions because i had already 4 different musicians I was already talking to and looking at, but other people sent me stuff so I started considering more people..."
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "A Shell in the Pit (Gordon) was someone I started talking to early on and I liked him a lot because he was local in Vancouver, and his music fit the game really really well. The sound, but also the way he makes music."
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "For now, the way it works is we have all this game play done and he kind of comes in and I show him the game and give him an idea of the way I think things sound like, and we have a conversation. He makes the music, we adjust the game to make it fit with it..."
- Cunningham, James (November 9, 2017). "Wandersong to Sing its Heart Out on Nintendo Switch". Hardcore Gamer. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
Wandersong released an eight track Dreams & Wonder EP on Bandcamp yesterday
- rpbtz (May 17, 2018). "The Wandersong EP is now available to order from Yetee Records". Blip Blop. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
- Pillon & Halberstadt 2017, "My most important tool is my DAW [Digital Audio Workstation] Reaper."
- New, Daniel (March 23, 2018). "GDC 18: The sound design of Night in the Woods". Thumbsticks. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
- Pillon & Halberstadt 2017, "In Night in the Woods I focused heavily on the ambiances and foley because the world is based so much around the location. With Wandersong it's more about the music, and we'll also be doing character voices, which is a pretty big undertaking."
- Pillon & Halberstadt 2017, "For musical sound effects instead of just a few variations I'll have to create the entire scale the music is in. I'll usually do that through a program called Kontakt, on a keyboard."
- Manthorp, Ross (August 9, 2018). "Nintendo Switch Open Beta Now Available". YoYo Games. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
We’ve already seen the first wave of GameMaker Studio 2 titles announced for Nintendo Switch, including Hyper Light Drifter and Undertale...
- Emory & Lobanov 2016, "I first played Wandersong back at Game Developers Conference 2016, when it was part of The MIX, an annual celebration of indies."
- Green, Holly; Douglas, Dante (September 5, 2017). "The 10 Best Games at PAX West 2017". Paste. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
- Chan & Lobanov 2017, "Lobanov has demoed Wandersong at a few gaming events such as PAX West, and it'll be at Double Fine’s upcoming Day of the Devs gaming festival."
- Hayes, Matthew (November 9, 2017). "Humble Bundle Reveals Wandersong, a Musical Adventure Coming to Nintendo Switch and PC". Comicbook.com. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
- The Star staff (September 27, 2018). "Video game releases: FIFA 19, Wandersong, Life Is Strange 2, Dragalia Lost, Pathfinder: Kingmaker". The Star. Archived from the original on September 25, 2017. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
Wandersong For Nintendo Switch, Windows PC, MacOS from Sept 27
- Romano, Sal (September 6, 2018). "Wandersong launches September 27". Gematsu. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
Musical side-scroller Wandersong will launch for Switch via the Nintendo eShop and PC via Steam and the Humble Store on September 27
- Romano, Sal (January 16, 2019). "Wandersong coming to PS4 on January 22". Gematsu. Archived from the original on January 16, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
Wandersong is coming to PlayStation 4 via the PlayStation Store on January 22...
- Brown, Matt (June 9, 2019). "Xbox Game Pass PC Games List". Windows Central. Archived from the original on June 11, 2019. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
All the Xbox Game Pass PC titles available for Windows 10 [...] Wandersong
- Frank 2019, "It's the victim of a policy that launched last June, made to explicitly combat games that were intentionally “inflating achievement and game counts for users to display on their profiles."
- Tarason, Dominic (January 9, 2019). "Steam may have flagged Wandersong and others as 'fake' for months". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Archived from the original on January 16, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
...it wouldn’t be eligible for full Steam store perks such as offering trading cards [...] Lobanov has since been contacted directly by Valve, who say that this was a bug...
- Frank 2019, "...leaving players unable to access regular Steam features for it, like trading cards and achievements. [...] The list includes limitations on achievements and items, as well as preventing players from adding it to their favorite games lists.
- Frank 2019, "In this case, we uncovered a bug for some games where the actual access to developers was updating correctly, but the store-page notice wasn’t — that is now fixed."
- Grayson, Nathan (January 10, 2019). "Steam Bug Keeps Popular Indie Game From Being Recognised As 'Real' For Five Months". Kotaku. Archived from the original on January 16, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
...he learned from Valve that his game’s visibility was not impacted by the bug...
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Excellence in Narrative
- Nunneley, Stephany (January 5, 2019). "Grand Prize finalists for 2019 IGF Awards include Return of the Obra Dinn, Minit". VG247. Archived from the original on January 16, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
$30,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize; Excellence in Visual Art; Excellence in Audio
- Fogel, Stefanie (January 3, 2019). "'Return of the Obra Dinn' Leads IGF Awards Nominees". Variety. Archived from the original on January 16, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
Seumas McNally Grand Prize; Excellence in Visual Art; Excellence in Audio
- Milligan, Mercedes (February 13, 2019). "'God of War' Leads NAVGTR Awards Nominees with Record 22 Nods". Animation Magazine. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
Game, Original Family; Wandersong
- Singletary Jr, Charles (February 11, 2019). "2019 SXSW Gaming Awards nominees announced". Shacknews. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
Most Fulfilling Community-Funded Game; Wandersong - Greg Lobanov / Humble Bundle
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Most Fulfilling Community-Funded Game; Wandersong (Greg Lobanov / Humble Bundle)
- Lagumbay, Emmanuel (February 14, 2019). "2019 G.A.N.G. Awards Finalists". Game Audio Network Guild. Archived from the original on February 17, 2019. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
Best Interactive Score; Wandersong - Greg Lobanov; Best Sound Design for an Indie Game; Wandersong - Greg Lobanov