Making the Music Cont. 3/4

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After my last blog post, Alex placed the music in the game to see how complimentary it would be in-game. It is fascinating to see how a game – and even the music – changes when they are brought together. After a few highly competitive trial rounds, we ran into a problem….

When we listened to the music on its own, we collectively agreed that it would be a great fit for the socCar level. It had a nice electronic sound, seemed to have a soccer anthem within it, and we couldn’t wait to see how it played. Since it was a backbone, there was initial feedback asking for some more depth and added sounds. ß do we need this? I’d say get rid of it.

BUUUUUUT………as soon as we began to play the game with the music in it, we realized that intead of adding personality to the game, it actually slowed it down. The game seemed to drag, the cars felt slower and scoring a goal didn’t feel as exciting as it should. The music needed to be faster, with more energy.

At this point there are two ways to handle the situation: 1. trash everything and start from scratch, or 2. make some changes to what you have in an effort to salvage and recover.

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Now I am the kind of guy who crumples the whole piece of paper up and tosses it frustratingly at the waste bin. Luckily, my friend Mike – who works with me at Ivory One – stopped me from what I call “rage quitting”. With a simple tempo adjustment, and an added melody, he actually turned the song around. Not only did the song grow, but it now met the requirements we’d set for it after our initial test run.

I brought it to the team, plugged it in the game, and I could see the smiles grow as they raced the soccer ball from one side to the other, smashing, crushing, blasting anything that got in their way. Goals were accompanied by physics defying jumps and wrestle mania taunts. The music no longer got in the way, and the game could breath again. Goooooaaaaaal!!!!

Check out the latest version here:

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Making the Music Cont. 2/4

So, the last time we spoke I gave a brief overview of how I create the music for Super Truckin’. As promised, starting today we’ll begin a more in-depth look at that process, as it pertains to each individual level. Although my mind changes depending on my mood, the Future Soccer level is my current favorite, and thus we will begin there…

Imagine playing soccer in space. What would that sound like? This was the challenge Alex and Jason brought to me for this level. A futuristic setting calls for some type of electronic music, so I immediately knew I wanted some nice synths. I didn’t, however, want to lose sight of the fact that this was still a soccer match…it needed an anthem, something with a catchy melody that would be easy to chant. What I needed was the lovechild of the Fifa’s Ole’ and Depeche Mode. Inspiration in hand, I went to work. Once I achieved something that I liked, I used a place holder synth to hold that melody and put it on repeat. With that on loop, I can start to play around with some new ideas.

Next, I started testing out drum patterns until something felt right. Often, I don’t know what I am about to play and begin by just simply hitting random notes. Hearing them play will often spark an idea – as if I am not really playing it, only listening and anticipating what the music might do next. I expected to come out of this song with a simple 4 to the floor kick, with a snare on 2 and 4 (which is common in most electronic music), so I am pleasantly happy with the drums because they have a bit of a hiccup by dropping the last kick.

So at this point I have a melody and a basic drum rhythm…which means it’s time to add some personality – a little bit of flair, if you will. Creativity and an open mind can go far, but patience is really the key in this department. I found this sound that when held sounded neat, but when played percussively had such awesome and different character. I’m a big advocate for trying every avenue when you are creating something – you’ll never know when you’ll create something beautiful out of an idea you almost dismissed for insanity.

Now the song is at a point where it is ear friendly – basically meaning that it’s listenable and easy to understand.  At this point, I’ll let the team listen and get feedback, as well as any concerns. Compliments never hurt either 😉

Our journey for the week is at an end and I’m pleased to share all the put together pieces that make up what I consider the backbone of the music for the Soccer Level.

On an ending note….a word of advice. If I ever find myself overwhelmed and hitting a wall, I either take a break, or start on a different song. It can be frustrating, but even a little bit of progress can create momentum towards completion and sometimes taking a step back is the best thing for the big picture.

Creating Music For The Game

I consider several things when writing music specifically for a video game. Who is going to play the game? What is the content of the game? And most importantly, what does the client want?

Usually the first source of inspiration comes from the people making the game. In this scenario, I ask Alex and Jason what they want to hear. They are good at feeding me ideas that help me understand the feeling they would like to capture. Since the game has various levels – each with a unique theme – we want to make sure to complement each level with the appropriate music.

It is also important to consider the audience of the game and its content.  For example, Super Mario Brothers would not be the same without the iconic kid-friendly melodies that accompany you through the game.  In Super Truckin’ – much like Super Mario Brothers – we hope we can appeal to our inner child in a way that will transcend generational gaps. Because of this, the music will need to have catchy melodies, upbeat rhythms and extend the character of each level.

Giving music structure is important. I don’t sweat the details until I know I have a strong foundation. I typically have at least half of the song composed in some sort of crude fashion before I attempt to perfect anything. In the coming weeks, I will share pieces of music from each level. These examples will show the initial structure of the music. But don’t worry! These are only the crude rough drafts of what will eventually evolve into the stuff that sticks in your head.

I liken my music making process to that of an untalented sculptor. I throw a bunch of stuff together…start to mold and shape it…get rid of anything that isn’t attractive…smooth out the edges…and hopefully end up with something that I wouldn’t mind putting in my garden.

So, I have to write 3 songs for the levels that are currently in Super Truckin’. The team has brainstormed and we have a grasp of what we think will work.  Ill check in next week with my progress. I should probably get to work writing music instead of this blog…

Oh yeah! If you would like to hear some of my music you can check out the following websites:

Latest Track from Ivory One:

www.ivoryone.com/portfolio/

www.dommin.com