So, I needed to come up with a way to deliver a complex, thematically driven score in a manner that would adapt to the players’ current status and predicament. I began thinking about how I score films, and how various recording sessions I have been involved in have handled multiple takes, “punching in” new takes, and layering recordings over each other, and I realized that, if I didn’t want to have to rely on looping short clips of music over and over, I would have to devise a system that was made up of smaller pieces of music, stitched together on the fly. Taking my inspiration from my earlier non time-locked scoring attempts, recording session punch-in techniques, and the concept behind Lucasarts‘ iMuse adaptive music system, I sketched out the basic concept for three “Tiers” of in-game music, some menu music, and victory/defeat/specialty cues.
This would be a collection of calm, relaxed cues, that could be played in any order, setting a background mood, and driving the players to action, without too much drama or tension.
This would be a more dramatic, tense, and driving tier, being, essentially, a several minute through-composed (non-repeating) piece made up of several smaller cues, each building on the previous, until the whole tier finished. If the drama passed, the currently playing cue would be allowed to end normally, and the following cue wouldn’t be played, the music relaxing down to a Tier 1 cue. If, however, the situation got more intense, the music would move up a tier.
This was the most dramatic and intense bit of music for the project. Designed to function in the same way as Tier 2, with each section building on the one before it, unless the situation calmed down, Tier 3 built to a climax, then had a softer, subtle coda ending, to better lead back into Tier 1, 2, or something special.
Now, each of these tiers was set up in a specific way, but they would each rely entirely on the game’s programming knowing when to switch tiers, and how best to accomplish that, I had no idea.
Enter Thomas Robertson.
Robertson designed a very clever system that used one simple measurement to gauge and govern the on-the-fly score playback. He called the measurement “tension”, set it on a scale of 0-100, assigned different ranges to each musical tier, and made the level constantly fall, unless increased by an outside source. Outside sources would be things like, raising shields, firing weapons, being targeted by an enemy, and so on. Some sources would “snap” the tension rating to a specific number, while others added to whatever the current rating was. Coupled with some extra rules for employing certain cues, triggers for unique cues, some fine tuning, and some menu music, we had our score.
More on this next issue, for now, enjoy a limited-time mockup of Tier 3’s music for Artemis: The Spaceship Bridge Simulator, and stay tuned for the official soundtrack release on iTunes and Amazon, complete with new content, bonus WIP tracks, and early sketches!