Writing Background Music for a Game

I have been working on a music track for Startup Freak using Fruity Loops which you can hear an early version of on SoundCloud. Already I realize I may be going a bit off course and here is why:

In another life (when I was much younger) I was trained in classical piano. Something that was instilled in me from those days is a listening approach to music that is more active than passive. I don’t often listen to music while I’m working, because I’ll find myself stopping work and actively listening to the melodies, chord progressions, textures, and so on. While I do enjoy all kinds of music, I often go back to classical because of the complexity and richness of those things.

I think that also affects my own compositions. I’ll often use very distinctive sounds, melodies, drums…things that can be quite “in your face”. An example is that obnoxious synth sound that kicks in about half way in the above track (and clearly needs to be changed).

This poses a bit of a challenge for a game where you want to enhance a certain feeling with the music, but don’t want it to take center stage. Some of my favorite game soundtracks include games like Civilization 2, Age of Mythology, and Rise of Nations, where there is a good mix of memorable melodies and themes, mixed with more mellow ambient music, all of which enhance and reflect your current state of progress in the game.

Some other challenges I’m finding with creating a soundtrack:

  • I don’t have a MIDI keyboard at the moment, so I’m literally inserting the notes with my laptop keyboard and mouse. That’s sad but luckily MIDI keyboards are pretty cheap these days.
  • One of the worst things you can do as a composer (I think) is to keep listening to your own music but not really changing anything. It really starts to mess with objectivity. But it so hard not to…
  • I’m still not quite sure how many minutes of original music I need to create for this game. 10 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour? I think a lot of that will depend on the length of an average game which I’m hoping will be longer than an hour.

Maybe I’ll just go the whole nine yards…

Other Updates

As always I’m keeping track of my progress over at Trello. I have decided now that I have basic game loop, to take a breadth first approach and implement several of the main game elements. Here is what I have managed this week:

  • A very simple system for generating new employee candidates each turn. Skills are randomized but there is some weighing there to make sure you get a reasonable mix.
  • I’m starting to experiment with modelling employee personalities and what affects their happiness. I have decided to loosely base it on the HEXACO personality model which, as incomplete as it may be, does give me a place to start.
  • Employees are now assigned workstations (chair, desk and computer).
  • Game objects (such as furniture, people, etc) get assigned to layers to ensure correct rendering order.
  • The shopping store is coming together. Store items are loaded from a Json file and show prices (some items also have an ongoing monthly cost)

My goal for the next couple of weeks is to put 5 minutes of actual gameplay together.

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