I spent most of the time I had available this week planning out Pandemonium– It was an incredibly chaotic week, all told, and I wish I’d been able to get more work done than I did, but I’m quite excited about the ideas I’ve come up with. That is, the idea for Pandemonium– I just started in on The Interstice, and I have a lot of concerns about the ideas which I’ve come up with. It remains to be seen whether those concerns will melt away or solidify on further reflection.
Ideas… Even if they don’t work out, they tell you something. It’s splattering ink to find a hidden message. It’s part of the process. It’s okay.
This is the first DevBlog digest in several weeks where I don’t have a story ready. Actually, in point of fact, with how long and detailed Pandemonium turned out to be, and with how short The Final Story was, there may well be enough room in the game for one more story. I don’t want to bother unless I can make it good and make it important, but that’s probably going to be achievable since I’m encountering a couple of new concepts in planning The Interstice that I didn’t think to incorporate into the stories. So, one more may roll along in a week or two.
Those are always fun to write.
Instead, I thought I’d take a bit of time to discuss some of the ideas I’ve had for the soundtrack of the game. Way back in DevBlog 20, the first weekly digest, I shared a moderately complete musical sketch of what I wanted the first area to sound like. Here it is again, in case you don’t feel like digging back through:
There’s a few characteristic style choices I’m trying to establish for the game’s soundtrack, some of which are audible in this piece. I’m also going to be linking some similar pieces which are serving as inspiration and reference, though some of these ideas for musical approaches predate my exposure to these pieces:
First: The delay effect (it sounds like an instrument repeating itself slightly quieter after each note, for those of you not familiar with sound processing nomenclature). This isn’t tied to a particular instrument necessarily, but will mostly be used for bells and other chime-like instruments. The effect is applied to glockenspiel and vibraphone in this piece. This tends to have a sort of ethereal effect, I find, which suits the setting well.
Example: Thomas Was Alone Soundtrack – Freedom
This doesn’t apply the effect to actual chimes, but to synths in the same frequency range. I’m also going to be referring back to this piece, in particular, when it comes to the strings and simple piano accompaniment.
Second: Slightly detuned synth. Quite prominent in my music sample, the lead synth is set to detune rhythmically in time to the music. This is off-putting if done crudely, but as a subtle touch provides an otherworldly and distinctive sound which I find very appealing. I’ll probably be trying to apply this one basically across the board as a way to promote a subtle unity of sound between the different-sounding areas.
Example: Lycantropen Themes – I
This piece, in tandem with an unfinished musical sketch I found in my archives, provided the main bulk of the inspiration for my sketch of the first area’s soundtrack.
Third: Strings. They’re cliche as hell, but nothing gives cheap and easy emotional impact like a bunch of strings playing off each other. You can hear this approach in particular in the later parts of my piece above.
Example: The Walking Dead (Game) Soundtrack – Alive Inside
What can I say? If you’ve played the game, you’re probably already tearing up a bit. If you haven’t, I would highly recommend that you a) avoid following through to that video, since the comments are full of spoilers, and b) play the goddamn game, since it’s super good.
Fourth: Drums. The percussion will provide the main forward momentum of the pieces, with an approach a bit more tribal than rock or jazz– though, since I’m not following any particular tradition, whatever works works. I do want to emphasize the drums and have them bear the main weight of the beat and the motion.
Example: Jookabox – Light
This was the first track I heard that gave me an idea of the kind of wild surrealism I want to capture for Eve’s score. Admittedly, my impulses are a bit more melancholy and atmospheric, but it’s still a valuable touchstone.
Fifth: Pulsing bass. This is as distinct from a rhythmic bass-line, which is why it bore mentioning that percussion would have to hold a bit more weight than it normally does in terms of rhythm and drive. That is not to say that it will be arrhythmic, but just that it will be a more constant legato presence than a staccato rhythm. The latter parts of the previous example showcase this reasonably well.
Sorry if I failed to explain any of those well– my musical education is sufficient but spotty.
Now: Some of those are relatively recent decisions, but for the most part I’ve had something along these lines in mind since the beginning of the project. Thus it is that, without writing anything new to accommodate these examples, I actually have some of my own music, not posted on the blog before, to share.
Why haven’t these been posted on the blog before?
These pieces, at least one of them, have been up til now earmarked for fairly late segments of the game. However, having now planned out those segments, it’s now clear to me that these pieces will in all likelihood be insufficient to their jobs without some modifications. Therefore, I figured I may as well share these now. Consider them a kind of beta test or preview– the final versions will in all likelihood be very different, but you may hear some familiar themes in a year or so, when the game is finished!
Well, that’s it for this week. My, but I do go on sometimes when I get excited about music stuff. Hope it was as interesting for you as it was for me!
There was a great war once of old between man and beast it is told the beasts were not winning and man he was grinning in victory's clutches so bold A conspiracy led by a raven treason 'tween beasts in a cave an' man wins a war in exchange for granting these creatures safe haven Thus the war soon was ended man helped by beasts he'd befriended dogs who guarded horses who rode asses and oxen to carry the load sharp eared cats and clever rats and birds who told secrets they knowed But some beasts don't easily tame and continue to hunger the same and if some men vanish in a manner not mannish might be there's a raven to blame