Tracking Sounds

As many of you know, I am a huge nerd and love gaming as well as making noise.

This year, I’ve been lucky enough to get actively involved in composing music for indie games.

Composing music for a game is a very different beast to the looping riffs and chord progressions I’ve been used to when writing remixes. It’s been eye-opening and I find myself paying more attention to soundtracks in games as a result. For many years I got comfortable finding a single 4 bar progression and sticking to it for the entirety of a song; While this is generally the ‘norm’ in a lot of music today I think doing so harmed my creativity and writing style.

So when I got the opportunity to write music for Dungeon Deities I was both elated and daunted. On the upside, I now had the opportunity to give a game a soundtrack. On the downside, I now would now determine how the game ‘sounded’.

Yikes.

So I started off as I always do – completely winging things with no set goal or plan. I got to take my creative ball and run with it as far as I chose, which allowed me a lot of freedom in the music. I got to model specific dungeon themes to sounds and soundscapes, which has probably been the most enjoyable aspect of the entire project. From the Ice Dungeon with glistening glass marimbas, water splashes and cold cutting plucked strings, to the industrial drums and mechanical whirrs of the Machine Dungeon track, I’ve managed to create a wide and varied sound to the game which will hopefully keep players listening and enjoying the soundtrack for many months to come. I’ve also written a few tracks in there that I (somewhat narcissistically) have listened to on repeat many times myself – Dawn in the Throne Room in particular.

That being said, soundtrack work has presented a lot of challenges. This is partially due to the fact that I have been taking more of a songwriting approach, as opposed to the ambient backgrounds that are sometimes used in games instead. The challenges and speed bumps have varied from extending my songwriting style, to managing seamless loop points for songs to repeat, to nailing the ‘feel’ of a segment in the game in order to heighten the emotion or impact. But as a result of these I’ve learned so much; I find myself wishing I had pursued composing game music much earlier to break out of my stagnant mold of 4 bar lather-rinse-repeat.

So now I’m onto writing the last remaining tracks for Dungeon Deities, and now frenziedly writing the music for Anna’s Quest as well. There’s always the creative element of self-doubt when embarking on these things – that little voice in the back of your head that asks you if you can actually do justice to the project with your music. I think it’s this desire to prove that voice wrong that keeps pushing me on.

That, and the desire to make you feel something when you press the play button.

2 Responses to “Tracking Sounds”

  1. AlexPants July 18, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the sequenced boss music you’ve done for this game is brilliant.

    What kind of input do the game creators have with the music? As in have they ever turned anything back or suggested changes, or has it all been loved?

    • jflamestar July 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

      Thanks :D
      Originally the devs for DD just gave me the roughest of ideas ‘we want orchestral with electronic’ and sent me on my way. As I did more tracks I took more of a lean towards orchestral only and they were still happy with the end results so I’ve just settled into an ‘anything goes’ feel for the dungeons as long as they are thematically linked.
      In terms of tracks they’ve knocked back, there has only been two thus far – the dungeon defeat track (which has yet to be re-written) and the Red King’s theme (it was originally Dawn in the Throne Room but they felt it was too sombre for what they wanted, so I wrote Scarlet Splendour instead). Asides from those they’ve been pretty happy with everything submitted so far – I think I’ve only made two minor changes to tracks outside of the re-written ones.
      I don’t expect to have this much creative freedom on future projects so I am enjoying it while it lasts :D

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