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