DEVLOG#11 – Yapping about the music

‘Sup.

Zircon here. And no, it’s not my real name. It’s a code-name thingy one of our producer created. Yeah kinda silly I know, but whatever. In this blog I’ll be yapping about random bullshit nobody cares about, about my life, my favorite pair of jeans, and POSSIBLY something related to the game. Nah just kidding, I’ll be talking entirely about my life obviously.

So basically I’m the sound designer for the game. More specifically, I’m the one responsible for music composition, production, design, and everything related to those beautiful melodies you’ll hear in the final version of the game. That’s the plan anyway. Here in the team we’ve got two sound designers. The other (whose code-name thingy escapes me at the moment) will be responsible for other sounds such as SFXs and ambiences. He used to help in making the music and modifying my songs, but now it’s just me.

Moving on, let’s talk about the game itself, shall we? If you’ve read the other devlogs from our producer and script writer, you probably know by now that there are 8 main areas in the game. The idea is that for each area there will be a song, and the song itself will be modified to fit any other sub-area in it. The current total is 40 songs which I’ll have to finish by the end of the year. Woohoo.

The game is about the journey of a sentient Frisbee finding stuff for its female amputee friend so that the friend can conquer the world. Nothing screams “walking hockey puck“ more than the sound of a flute and an orchestra, obviously. Everybody knows that. In fact, the music for this game will have a lot of that. It’s essential to capture that beautiful and traditional sound the producers want from me.

We currently are working on the starter bundle for Game Developer Gathering Prime in Bandung next week, so it’s kinda busy right now. Busier than the usual day, I mean. In the bundle, there are some cool things you’ll get if you happen to be coming next week, and one of those things is a music CD. With 10 songs in it, the CD contains 5 themes from our past products, and the rest will be included in the final version of the game itself. Pretty exciting, eh? *awkward laugh*

Well, since this is my first time writing in this devlog thingy and I don’t know what I should write about, so I think I’m gonna talk about those 5 songs. The web developer said I can write as much as I like, so might as well writing about those things I’ve always wanted to talk about anyway. To be honest I don’t talk too much about music in my life because there aren’t too many musical nerds I know. Not saying that I’m a musical nerd myself, but when you live in place where people around you consider “Dream Theater” as a musical genre, knowing the differences between major and minor is enough to make you look like frickin’ Nikola Tesla. The five songs I’ll be talking about are called Metallic Knight, The City Beneath, Calming the Qualms, Forgotten Lullaby, and Reinforcement.

First on the track list is the theme song, Metallic Knight. The idea of the song is an imagery of the entrance to a new world, followed by the sound of a journey in said world. I split this song into two movements, creatively named as the Entrance and the Journey. For the Entrance, I put some traditional Celtic music flavor, topped with strings and English horns for the mystical sound. Also I believe I put a harp there, because it’s beautiful and everyone needs a little bit of harp in their life. For the second movement, it’s a more upbeat version of the Entrance melody, with timpani, cymbals, trombones, and other marching stuffs. Essentially this song is my depiction of what the whole game will be.

Next, The City Beneath. This is probably the most fun song I’ve ever make for this game and also my own personal favorite. Being the song for the biggest and main city in the game, I needed to make a song that is welcoming, not boring after 3 seconds, and as neutral as possible without altering one particular mood of the listener. The idea is simple, or should I say WAS simple; to modulate the root key from major to minor, and then modulate it to major again. It ended up being the most complex song out of the game so far. Well, theoretically anyway. The song starts off in F Mixolydian, modulating to F Aeolian for 1 bar and then to Mixolydian again. The second verse is my favorite part. The song modulates entirely to F Mixolydian b6, or as some people might call it, the “Hindu” scale, which comes from the fact that this scale is usually used in traditional Hindu and Buddhist music and/or chants. After that, it modulates again for a bar to F Aeolian before entering the chorus, which is also in F Aeolian. The tempo of the song is Andante, so yeah it’s very calming. The bells and the flute help a lot for the graceful sound of the underground city.

After that we have Calming the Qualms. This one is actually the evolved version of the first song I made for this game. The first version sounds too much like an ancient Chinese music, and while sounding like Chinese music is not bad at all, I just don’t think it fits the atmosphere of the game. So I changed some of the notes from minor pentatonic to major and now the team loves it. I don’t really understand why though, I mean it’s probably the simplest song I’ve made so far. The song is in Bb major with 4/4 time signature, verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, and without any other variation at all. There are harp, glockenspiel, and bells in it though, so it really is calming (hence the name. Ha! I’m a genuis!). I personally don’t like it that much, but whatever. I hope the player will love it too.

Forgotten Lullaby is the evil ghastly defective twin brother of the previous song. My producer said that for the area this song is played, it needs to be pretty creepy. Well that only means one thing: The Whole Tone scale. This scale is so creepy, that I’ve heard a story that this scale was banned in some churches in the past because it was believed to be able to summon the Satan. Yeah that’s right. They actually believed that by playing a melody constructed with this scale, you’d be able to make a crack on the Earth which went through the hell and summoning Lucifer Himself. If that’s not your definition of what the word “badass” is, I don’t know what is. Google it yourself, I’m not kidding. Well it might be true though, because making the scale sounds good requires you to sell your soul to the Devil. Hahahaha, just kidding. It’ll never sound good regardless. Nevertheless, it’s really fun to mess with this scale. I’ve accidentally used it in one of my own song, and I was like, “wtf is that? That’s awesome!” In this song itself I use it at the last verse before the loop occurs (oh btw the songs in the bundle have an ending, but in the game I’ll take it away so it can be looped) to leave the creepy impression in the player’s head. The song contains some key changes. It starts at Eb minor with some chromatic notes in the melody and chromatically descending chord progression, then modulating to F# minor, Db minor, and back to Eb. The key changes 6 times I think. Unfortunately, no crack to hell was made in the making of this song.

Finally we’ve got Reinforcement. Making this song really felt nostalgic. This is something I’d make back in the middle school, when my playlist contains songs from Iwrestledabearonce to Panic! At the Disco. This was the phase when I’d arrange a church song to a technical death metal song, put a little Bossa Nova before changing the time signature. You know, fun times. This song is the theme for the forging area, so it HAS to be a metal song. Throughout the whole song I just play some generic drop D guitar riffs, but I also put another influences here and there. In the intro I put some strings over the riffs, because that’s the main theme of the game. In the verse I take the strings away, put some metallic percussion, and palm mute the riffs so it sounds pretty heavy. There’s a blues sounding flute melody mid-verse as well. For the pre-chorus, I decided to put marimba and fill it with melody in D Javanese pentatonic scale. No, it’s not a typo. Not Japanese. Javanese pentatonic scale, the scale mainly used in traditional Javanese and Balinese music, is what I use (fun fact: did you know that Bali is actually an island in Indonesia and not the other way around? Yeah, crazy right?). The Japanese pentatonic scale, or the Hirajoshi, does sound really similar to the Javanese pentatonic scale though (the locals call it “Pelog”). They differ only by one note, which is the 4th note. In Hirajoshi the interval between the 3rd and the 4th is two whole tones (in western musical system of course) while in Pelog it’s just one. So the formula (if you “translate” them from diatonic major scale) is 1-3-4-6-7 vs 1-3-4-5-7. I hope that makes sense because to be honest I’m not really fond with this kind of things. Well anyway, after the pre-chorus I put another bars of riffs, change the pre-chorus riff a little with another marimba melody on top of it before hitting the outro. I like to think this song as what Willie Adler (the guitarist from Lamb of God) would make if he drank too much rice wine from Bali at a small village in Solo while playing Crash Bandicoot.

I think that’s pretty much everything about the songs so far. There’s more to come, so stay tuned. The game will be out sooner or later. You should check it out when it’s released. It’s cool and fun if you’re into brain teaser and exploration kinda game. And if you aren’t just check it out anyway, because my songs are in it. I don’t know why that’s important and relevant, but seriously you should check it out. Well, that’s it. It’s kinda fun writing about random things you love. You should do it yourself, because I think if you manage to read until this paragraph then you must be bored as hell. Either that or you just skipped the entire thing. Anyway, thank you so much for being here. You’re awesome and I love you ❤

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