The blog is being migrated and merged with multiple Imphenzia blogs so the format and content will be inconsistent for a while.

Music for indie games - Nostalgia Dubstep Level Kit released

As an artist I released my new track "Nostalgia [Dub Chill Edit]" yesterday. Today I found the time to create seamless loops and music hits of the track and released it as a Level Kit under Imphenzia Soundtrack. This means that the music is available for non-exclusive licensing at a ridiculously low prices for indie game developers.

The easiest way to check out all the loops and music hits is to visit the Nostalgia Dubstep Level Kit page where you can listen to all the stuff in high quality. You'll find a full length theme track (4:09 in duration), 7 seamless loops, and 3 music hits. It's all available individually so you only need to license the ones you want to use - not the entire level kit.

The music is suitable for futuristic games and games with attitude.

Once Upon a Platform - Level Kit released

The goal that I set in my post yesterday was to finish off the Once Upon a Platform level kit variations and release it.

It's now 1:55 am and I have just finished the task. It wasn't easy because I spent much of the day with my son (I am on paternity leave) and once he was in bed I watched a movie (True Grit) with my wife.

So what did I accomplish today?

I composed the following short pieces of music (in addition to the loops I composed yesterday):

  • Game Over loop

  • Menu Music loop

  • Boss music loop

  • Life Lost music hit

  • Get Ready music hit

  • Stage Completed music hit

I then down-mixed and mastered all 13 variations where 10 variations are seamless loops that have to be cropped (thank heaven for my seamless loop cropping script =).

Once all the mastered audio files were in place I watermarked the 13 tracks and created OGG and MP3-previews for my site. Then, of course, I encoded the audio files that you get in the license mail which is WAV, OGG 128kbps, OGG 64kbps, and MP3 190kbps versions for each variation. While uploading all the newly encoded files I also entered all the details, keywords, descriptions and meta data about each variation into the database.

All in all I am very pleased with my effort today and to finish it off I also had a few moments to spare to create a news slider for Once Upon a Platform. It uses some graphics from my friend Kenny Lex (thanks mate =)

[caption id="attachment_273" align="aligncenter" width="620" caption="Once Upon a Platform - News Slider"]Once Upon a Platform - News Slider[/caption]

What next?

I'm truly enjoying making music at the moment and Imphenzia Sountrack allows me to vary the music genres a lot. The other day I was making orchestral battle music, today it was retro styled arcade music, so I'll flip my 9-sided coin tomorrow and see what the next genre will be. Any requests??

Mood Switching Platform Game Music

Today I've been working on a new addition for the non-exclusive music library and to totally switch from the orchestral music I composed yesterday I have taken a memory trip back in time. "Once Upon a Platform" is a new Level Kit of music mainly designed to be used in happy cheerful and cute platform games.

So far I have composed the short, medium, and long stage loops - but during a discussion with a good friend of mine, who listened to the preview of the long loop, he noted that the long loop varied quite a bit in mood - as if it should be split into two separate tracks. My initial intention was to keep the long loop interesting by alternating the music quite a bit, but I have to admit that he was on to something.

When he added (I translate from our chat conversation in Swedish) "In my mind I have just sorted out the first transition in the track... He [the player] just ate a mushroom."

This spawned the idea. Yes, [email protected] it, it's a classic Super Mario moment and what I'll do is break out the two loops into separate pieces of music and, since they run at the exact same BPM, encourage the game developer to play them simultaneously during game play (keeping them in sync) and cross-fade between the two to switch the mood.

Dim the lights please...

...and allow me to demonstrate with this simple video:

Before creating the video above, I must admit, I almost bought some stock Flash animations to put together a little demo video of a platform character picking up a power-up. After 2 hours of browsing for suitable animations to buy I gathered my senses and thought - let's just focus on what I really do - make music instead and just do something "good enough" for a change =)

More about "Once Upon a Platform"

If I've kept you reading so far, maybe you are sold on retro game music as well? This morning I launched Cubase with intention to create a set of music hits and loops for cheerful, child friendly, platform games. This meant a simple beat, a nice little base line, retro feel added by some background arpeggios, and a saw lead with portamento (gliding.)

It didn't take long until I had the beat and bass-line in place and after striking the keys on my Roland FP-7 stage piano for a few minutes I also had a cheerful piano added to the mix. I don't actually use the sounds from the FP-7 (other than while playing freehand.) Why not, it's a great sounding instrument? Yes it is - but I just can't bring myself to have ANY external audio hardware as it would spoil the amazing Audio Mixdown feature in Cubase which just renders the entire song into a WAV file much faster than in real-time.

Passion for retro game music

I use my headphones when I make music, a pair of Sennheiser PXC 450,  so neither my wife nor my son could hear what I was working on. I always get a big smile on my face when I create (or listen to) retro style game music. It's something about the melody and the sounds, an in combination with my child hood memories that flips the little switch in my head making it impossible to remove the grin. This is when my wife walks into the room. I unplugged the headphones to reveal the source of my smile and let's just say that she doesn't share the same passion for this as I do. She is, by the way, pregnant again and she muttered something about that she'd rather give birth, with a long and painful labor, than listen to that ["that" being MY cheerful retro platform music].

Just as quickly as my wife left the room, my 1.5 year old son walks in. Apart from scattering some soil from the large plant onto the floor, something he feels compelled to do every time he walks past it, he walks straight over to me. I lift him up onto my lap and he listened to the full loop, twice, totally mesmerized. He is either frozen in shock (wife DNA) or unable to move in amazement (my DNA.) I choose to believe it's the latter. It's all the convincing I need to be sure I should continue and as a result I have now released the preview video.

Why the name?

I initially called my project "Platform Heaven." As I was out driving in the afternoon I had time to think a bit more about it. I remembered that some of my recent tracks (that hint on what game genre it may be suitable for) have the genre at the end of the track name, not in the front. I should stick to this pattern.

Coincidentally, this morning I also searched the internet for a web shop to buy the DVD box "Il était une fois… l'Espace", a french cartoon from 1982 that I fell in love with as a kid. The english name for the series is "Once upon a time... Space" and I plan to buy it so I can re-watch it myself and, of course, force feed this amazing series my son. I can't foresee any problems competing with the super hi-tech 3D animation masterpieces of today.

It goes without saying that I put half and half together = "Once Upon a Platform." which also reflects the retro aspect to the track. There. I said it anyway.

Equipment and Software used

As usual, I use my trusted Cubase 5.5 as a sequencer and apart from the percussion (which I use the Cubase native Groove Agent One for) it's all exclusively Nexus2 (by ReFX). I use the original sound banks along with the expansions Omnicron 2 and Omnicron 3. The SID / chip style arpeggios are also Nexus2 leads with arpeggio enabled with a rate of 64th.

This is what my project looks like at the moment (the combined loop of casual and uplifting moods): 
Once Upon a Platform - Cubase Project View

I hope to finish Once Upon a Platform tomorrow and upon completion I will add it to the library of non-exclusive game music.


Level Kits - New Concept for Game Music

It may not be a new concept in the game industry itself, but creating what I refer to as a Level Kit is a new concept for me. Previously I've mainly created full length tracks and seamless loops of various lengths and styles but I suspect that game developers may appreciate these new Level Kits.

The idea is to create variations of a track or theme which will cover most stages and situations of a game. Today I have composed and released Battle Zone Level Kit which is an orchestral military style set of music files:

Of course you can license each variation individually and it's the developers preference whether the Stage Short Loop should really be the Menu loop and so forth, but all the moods are for the various music hits and loops are custom designed to be suitable for the different game stages. As I continue to release Level Kits I hope to offer a very wide selections where you may license all the music necessary for your game.

Battle Zone from a composer's perspective

If you are interested to find out how the music was composed, read on. I use Cubase 5.5 with my full EastWest Symphonic Orchestra Gold keyswitch template (described in this post) along with Stormdrum 2 percussion, drone sounds from Quantum Leap Goliath, and additional patches from the Hollywood expansion for Nexus2 by ReFX.

Stage / Game Play Loops

The stage loops are fairly static and background like with marching drums, strong percussion, and tense strings and brass. The boss loop which could be used for especially hectic situations and, of course, boss encounters is 20 BPM faster with many french horn rips and violin effects to emphasize the danger.

Music Hits

The Stage Complete Music Hit is more melodic with a positive mood portraying success and accomplishment.

The Game Over Loop is a longer version of the Stage Complete Hit with more melodic and emotional strings and brass to emphasize pride and glory. String ensemble playing in marcato behind the lead instruments in both of these hits also establishes heroic courage.

The Life Lost hit is short with just failure written all over it due to the rips and crecendo strings and horns.

The Menu Loop is a very mysterious soundscape with drones from the Goliath library mentioned above. The same drones can also be found in the long stage loop. Plenty of reverb and a deep bass note playing adds to the tension.

The Get Ready hit is just a simple marching snare with some additional percussion and repeating double bass strings.

Create seamless loops for game music

Making seamless loops is an essential part in creating music suitable for games. Loops will keep the distribution size of games to a minimum and it also makes the audio cheaper to license which is crucial for smaller indie game developers.

Although I've been making music as the trance artist "Imphenzia" for 14 years, which is starting to sound like a very long time also making me sound old, I've only been releasing music for games during the past 3-4 years as "Imphenzia Soundtrack." I mention this for no apparent reason at all, so lets move on.

I've created a video tutorial of how I go about when creating a seamless loop. In this case it's an orchestral movie-style piece of music that will be added to my library of non-exclusive music. I use Steinberg Cubase 5.5 and Sony Sound Forge 10 to create the loop but you will probably be able to replicate the steps in your sequencer and audio editor of choice.

Time for the tutorial - have a look at it and don't forget to watch it in 720p so you can read the options better.

I hope the tutorial helps you to create perfect seamless loops of your music. Some of the important things to stress are:

  • Repeat the music you want to loop three times in your sequencer, exactly 3 times down to the measure. Why? It's because you want to ensure a good loop including any trailing audio at the end of the music piece, it could be decay, reverb trails, and echo.

  • Export the audio to a Wav file (or a format of choice) and load it into a good sound editor.

  • Crop out the center third of the music, use sample precision to do this.

  • Remove any clicks by ensuring that the audio file starts and stops on 0 dB exactly (or infinitely low as Sound Forge describes it.) This is performed by fading in the start and fading out the end by only a few samples, 20-100 samples is usually suitable.

In the video tutorial I also mention a Javascript that I've created for Sound Forge that will perform the selection of the center third, cropping, and fading the ends to ensure a good loop point. This particular Javascript will be the topic of my next blog post so do come back soon.

Finally I'm finished with the new site design of Imphenzia Soundtrack

[caption id="attachment_191" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Screenshot of Imphenzia Soundtrack"]Screenshot of Imphenzia Soundtrack[/caption]

I’ve worked hard into the early hours every night for the past month but I’ve launched the new Imphenzia Soundtrack site. I already had my design template finished as it uses the same design as my artist site (and spacebox4096.com and beatball2.com) but it took a lot of time creating the new filter functionality to enable easy browsing of the hundreds of music tracks and sound effects.

I’ve taken a conscious decision to not add fallback functionality for visitors without javascript enabled. It simply takes way too long and there are so few of them that it’s not worthwhile. I also had a lot of troubles with browser compatibility but the site works in the browsers I have installed Chrome 13, Firefox 3.6, IE8, and I’ve had to force fallback to IE8 for IE9 browsers as IE9 hates me and jQuery =) I’ll deal with that some other day and I just wish the browser manufacturers could decide on using the same interpretation engine for html, css, and javascript.

There are some major differences between the new soundtrack site and the old one.

The new features are:

  • Discount Vouchers flexible to offers any sort of discount automatically on non-exclusive music and sound effects =) Let’s see how generous I become but I think it’s a good start with the current 70% discount offer to celebrate the new site (voucer: NEWSITE70)

  • Free Non-Exclusive Music License of the Month allows anyone to very easily get a free license of a randomly selected track every month.

  • New dedicated Non-Exclusive music page where all tracks can be easily browsed through and previewed. The page is “AJAX”-powered which means tracks can be viewed page by page without a full page reload.

  • Advanced search and filter functionality enables visitors to quickly locate music and sound effects based on criteria such as Keyword, Duration, Price, Tempo, Music Genre, Mood, Game Genre, Volume, Loops yes/no. When changing the search criteria the music and sound effect lists are updated instantly.

  • Search Engine Optimization, also making it easy for visitors to share links, for all tracks, track variations, and sound effects, e.g. http://soundtrack.imphenzia.com/non-exclusive-music/duplicate-my-soul/ and http://soundtrack.imphenzia.com/non-exclusive-music/fog-of-war/with-drones/

  • Indie and Commercial license model means only two pricing models (compared to a multi step game budget model before). It’s simple now, if you are an indie developer with an annual revenue below $250k every year you can use Indie licenses, otherwise you have to use a commercial license that costs 5 times more. It’s not that commercial licenses are expensive, it’s the indie licenses that are very cheap =)

  • Shortcuts to properties of music and sound effects means that you can click on music genres, tags, and other words to filter only audio files of that property.

  • Sorting functionality to sort music and sound effects on all columns such as Name, Music Genre, Category, Duration, and Price etc.

  • Audio Previews are now in much higher quality but the files are instead watermarked every 5 seconds. I’ve found out that audio was “stolen” even when it was in low quality so I think watermarking is the only way to go. The audio previews can be downloaded as 190kbps MP3 files and 128kbps OGG files to ensure they fit in your game.

  • License e-mails are sent directly following purchase (like before) but the download links to original WAV file, 128kbps OGG file, 64kbps OGG file, and 190kbps MP3 file, will now only be available for 7 days.

  • Exclusive Music Price Estimation Tool is available under Frequently Asked Questions on the Exclusive music page.

  • No more adverts. Google adverts were generating less and less due to their payment scheme so I’m sparing all my visitors by removing them and making a clean site instead!

Removed features:

  • Site accounts are gone as they weren’t used very much, it was hard maintenance, and I figure people have enough accounts on too many sites already. The download links to the audio files are sent instead to allow direct download from the e-mail. No more passwords and user names to remember.

  • Exclusive music can no longer be licensed automatically from the library. There are a number of reasons for this: 1) Exclusive license for a track resulted in all variations of the track being included in the exclusive license and these may not even be needed by the licensee; It would be a shame for some tracks to never be used. 2) Exclusive licenses are most commonly custom made for a game anyway, so the new Exclusive music page contains a show reel of exclusive music, a tool to calculate the pricing of exclusive music, and the contact details to discuss exclusive music for your game.

  • The “Imphenzia Audio System” for BlitzMax is no longer offered. If you want this code, please contact me instead.

  • Links page to games using my music is removed temporarily. I plan to create a better reference and promotional method for games using my music!

So I hope you enjoy the new site! Feedback and bug reports are always welcome – there are bound to be some issues with such a huge launch.

Thanks for reading… did you make it this far? =)