Hi there, my name is Filippo, I am a composer and sound designer living and working in Munich, Bavaria. I’m very excited to be creating the audio for Tridek together with my long time colleagues and friends the Bit Barons and the team at dreamfab, as we will be experimenting with technical and musical solutions that far surpass the “standard” audio treatment in mobile games.
I’ve structured this introductory post into two segments. In the course of development, I’ll be checking back with specific examples and follow-ups to what we’ve discussed here. All this is subject to modifications obviously, since we are always optimizing development, but I hope you will enjoy this first post nonetheless.
Tridek’s Sound Aesthetics
We’re envisioning an electronic score for Tridek that can also incorporate elements of the savage, raw nature of the planet in form of acoustic percussive elements. The overall genre though, if we had to pick one, will be techno/downtempo style, depending on the game situation. Tridek being a trading card game, we need these two paces in order to accommodate for longer playing sessions, and hey, I’m a huge fan of everything downtempo anyways (think Portishead, Massive Attack, Kruger & Dorfmeister, Röyksopp and the like)!
The percussive elements can be sampled, and pretty “dirty” in my opinion. I love the tension that’s created between hyperpolished synths and raw samples. With PD (see below) we can even have some melodies play and adapt to the game situation in real time.
Will there be a central musical theme in Tridek? We don’t know yet. It depends how the characters and the universe will evolve. We certainly won’t force a thematic structure on a game that may not need it. The shift to a more electronic style is very welcome on my part, since my last projects and most current ones have a very acoustic-centric sound aesthetic. I love the idea of tinkling with more synthesizers and creating beats, it’s been a while! Plus, our artist Alex Widl is himself a talented Trance music producer, so we’ll be exploiting this synergy as well.
The core of it all: Puredata
We’ve decided to use Puredata, an open-source visual programming language originally intended for composers and visual artists, as the audio engine for Tridek. This means that it will run in parallel with Unity on mobile platforms. Our resident programmer Sebi managed to interface Unity and PD on the Prototyping level, and PD is now running on Android and iOS as well, using libpd.
Why Puredata, though? At first, it seems cumbersome to do all this prep-work for the audio part. Interfacing PD, making sure the programs can communicate between each other, porting the whole thing to mobile, etc. etc. why?
The answers are many. With PD, I can singlehandedly “program” my own audio engine. I can construct synthesizers that play music in real time in the game. I can add effects, use samples, build interactive music structures…you name it. It’s the (geeky) game composer’s dream come true. Especially for a synth-based score, we can expand the interactivity of Tridek’s music and sound effects dramatically by using PD.
Of course, all the usual suspects to programming apply in this case, too: real time synths consume processing power, so we’ll have to keep it all nice and lean, and we’re still experimenting with what will be just “too much”. Our initial tests make us optimistic, though, since PD via libpd is very compact and stable. Nice!
I’ve recently played around recreating the NES sound chip in Puredata and porting it to mobile, and it works just nice. It’s under 100k, so you could make a whole chiptune soundtrack with this thing using almost no space at all, let alone samples of any sort!
Using PD every day it becomes clear that really, anything is possible as long as you know how to build it. I’m very glad I can also take away some work from our programmers, as I know they have enough to deal with anyways, and frankly the last thing you want is a crazed composer coming to you asking for some ridiculous audio gadget! ?
In the next weeks, we’ll be experimenting with different applications of interactive audio structures. Maybe we’ll be throwing in a bit of generative music too…anything that complements the upcoming game well. Stay tuned.
On a more philosophical note, I firmly believe that the future of game composers lies in taking real control over the technical aspect of game music structure, DSP and all that good stuff. Not just to show off that you can do more than putting notes together, but to perfectly blend your composition with the game- which needs, as we all know, very specific considerations compared to all other forms of music nowadays. This is what makes composing for games so challenging and exciting!