Maximum Tune-age: Your Game Needs Music!


Ableton Live WorkspaceFirst off, we'd like to apologize for the lack of frequent posting in our development blog. We've been working on the game very hard as of late, so it has left little time for updates. But, never fear! We promise to hop on every now and again to share our thoughts as the game continues to come together.

Texel recently completed development on the sound system for our game, so lately we have been implementing sounds and I've been writing some music for the game. I thought I'd share a little about this process, as it's been some of the most fun I've had working on our project! First off, I primarily use Ableton Live for my writing, and recommend that anyone with interesting in recording check it out! I've used Logic, Protools, etc. in the past but I really prefer Live and the way it seamlessly lets you try out different compositions. It's fairly user-friendly and there's some great documentation online for getting started with it.

As far as the style of music in our game, I knew that I wanted it to be reminiscent of past classics like Zelda or Ys, but I didn't want to completely ape the chiptune style. I also really enjoy symphonic scores in games, so I decided to incorporate a mix of string samples with old school synthesized sounds (primarily square and triangle wave). So far I've been quite pleased with the results, except for one major issue. Due to our desire to squeeze the maximum performance from our game, we decided to go with 22 kHz, mono .ogg files for our music. Initially, this lower quality did not make too much of a difference (many of the monosynth style sounds I use have quite a bit of noise anyway), but my string samples were really suffering. In order to alleviate the issue, I have had to make sure to stay within a certain "safe" range for my notes (nothing too high or low), as well as avoid too much violin in string sound. As a result, I think I've been able to get pretty good results.

The final thing I'd like to mention in relation to our music is the mastering process. I can't stress enough how important it is to spend some time mastering your music, and trying out different settings with whatever mastering software you use (I'm using some that came with Live). The difference between different levels of compression is pretty amazing, so its worth experimenting some especially when working with music that eventually gets crunched down to 22kHz mono. For instance, I have found that using triple compression (usually a technique used in the loudness war) works well for dealing with our limitations. Additionally, it really helps to have all music at a similarly normalized level, so you don't have to spend all day fixing levels in the game engine itself.

As a final note, we'll make the music from the game available as a full album once the game is released, so be on the lookout!