Mar 4, 2011

About music and sound - part 2.

It is not a new invention to use two (or more) layers of music -one for ambient and another for action. The way how you implement could be new and exciting :)

We can synchronize the tempo of the two music (using the same bpm/tempo). We can use markers in the waveform to create syncpoints for fading in/out.
We can use a database with unique syncpoints, layer positions and music themes. We can make realtime calculations during in-game to change from ambient to action music. We can. Oh, yeah we can!
Or we can play the ambient music continuously then fade it out when a battle happens, throw a short action music in, loop it, and fade it out after the battle. These are simple but effective solutions for our problem.

My idea was to compose all music using the same tempo and same key note. Fading between them could be easy this way and the listener would’nt be confused with different, not common tonal and/or tempo changes. Plus the global tempo of the game will be the same and we could keep a constant, linear atmosphere-feeling.

I started with the in-game ambient music. It wasn't too hard to build up slow atmospheric pad sounds, but it was hard to make them interesting after 30 seconds. Evolving pads, filtered noises, reverberated sound effects are the key to compose cool ambient music and it was my goal, too.
There wasn't much movement in the music when I tried to add another other layers with drums, faster bass and killing distorted guitars.
Then I realized that it won't work without removing some of the deeper-lower ambient pads because of the sub-bass murmurring and colliding with drums.
Basically, this was the trick i did, composed a full track, filled it with a lot of instruments, this is the action layer. Later i removed the percussion and bass stuff and *pooof* the ambient layer was born.

Well, they sound great in game, cross-fading is flawless. But something was missing and soon i’d realized that we needed more music for wining/loseing and menu as well.
Okay, then let's compose a dark, sad piece of music for losing and a bit more upbeat and happy theme for winning the game.
These are much shorter (~1min long only) than in-game tracks (way over 5mins.), their main function is to give the feeling of winning/losing. Is that obtained..? :)

I must say, the menu music is my favourite. Why? Because there wasn't any expectation like "it should be exchangeable with another music" or "it must be sad/happy", etc. It is sharp, powerful, you hear this first when you start the game and it sets the mood immediately. At least, i hope it does the job :) ).

Attention! Unusual dry statistic data will follow:
  • key note is C minor
  • tempo is 120 bpm
  • .ogg compressed music files (quality 5, ~128kbps)
  • 44.100Hz, 16bit, stereo files
  • no animals were harmed during the composing period but...
  • ...tested on brother, friends and development team members :)
  • ambient and action music are 5:19mins. long, fully exchangeable at any point during play
  • flawless looping is a b*tch, it will cause nightmares, days after composing and after running out of tricks
  • bad, noisy, reverberated flat with idiot neighbors. priceless.
  • numerous liters of mineral water (still, not sparkling!)
  • countless hours of listening to Asura, Hybrid tunes and MissionControl webradio for inspiration
Used software and hardware:
  • M-audio FW1814 soundcard
  • Novation Ultranova synth
  • Emu PM5 pair with Adam Sub8 monitor speakers
  • Reaper DAW for composing
  • Adobe Audition for mixing
  • NI Massive VSTi synth
  • AAS UltraAnalog-1 synth
  • Korg Legacy collection
  • TC Powercore Virus VSTi synth
  • TC Powercore DSP VST effects
  • ToneBoosters VST effects
  • ImageLine Drumaxx VSTi
  • XLN Audio Addictive Drums VSTi
  • CineSamples CineOrch library
  • SIDizer C64 SID emulation VSTi synth :)
  • a lot of free loop sounds (.wav) from the internet (mostly drums)
I'll write some words about sound effects next time. Until then, here is a surprise to you all who like the music of 10 min space strategy:

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