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Old May 14, 2020, 06:08 AM
p3r02d3r0 p3r02d3r0 is offline
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Default How we make adaptive Romantic orchestral score for our upcoming RPG

Hey guys!

I'm Igor from Gamechuck, and this is my very first post here!

Today I'm here with something pretty cool we did at Gamechuck for our upcoming RPG, Trip the Ark Fantastic.

Music plays a massive part in the game, and we've decided to have an ADAPTIVE Romantic style score. Our very own classical music composer Fenton explains in detail how we do it, and we have even developed an online tool where you can mix and match the score by yourself.

You can try the tool here:

So why is making a 19th-century orchestral inspired challenging to make adaptive for a game like Trip the Ark Fantastic?

First, let’s look at an example of a Romantic score (a YouTube video).

Below is a section of the score from Movement 4 of Brahms 2nd Symphony. This part of the score is about 0:35” seconds in length and you can listen to it in the video linked below at 1:33” (the score starts at 1:36”).

There are 4 distinct sections here.

The Green section is continuing the leading melody (the purple block) in the 1st Violins in the key of A Major, with counterpoint and backing from the rest of the Strings and Bassoons.

The Yellow section introduces the rest of the woodwinds and half of the horns to slowly build the dynamic and tension.

The Orange section continues to build on this and starts off with a forte (loud) dynamic and raises the melody we’ve been hearing a whole octave as well as adding a D Sharp to the harmony to increase the intensity.

The Red section then reaches a climax by changing the key to E Phrygian, hitting a dynamic peak, and changing the phrase from a rising melody to a falling melody.

All these sections of music are different in many musical aspects, and very importantly, it never stays the same, but is always in a constant state of changing motion.

How they start, end, and follow into one another is always different too, meaning we could not just switch different phrases around, or even insert a new piece of music without disrupting the whole phrase itself.

So why is this important? Because in order to make the score feel authentic, we must give the music room to breathe and complete phrases.

So we’ve taken the decision to sacrifice immediate transitions, such as crossfades (the quietening of a current piece of music and the loudening of a new one), in order to achieve this and make it feel as if the music is truly being “written at the moment” for the player and telling their story.

So the solution here is to create the music into a “form of blocks”, with each block representing a fluid musical phrase distinct in character, and then to create moments of ‘equilibriums’ between those blocks, which offer the score an opportunity to transition to something else should it need to.

(To add, we also couldn’t use ‘Music Layering’, a popular technique first developed in LucasArt Video Games’ iMUSE, as this requires the music to be comprised of short and static music phrases, which would not work for this type of score).

And what do we mean by ‘equilibriums’?

These are defined as moments where when a musical phrase (or block) ends, the succeeding musical phrase starts in a similar way. It is essentially something like a game of Dominos in how each connected Domino block needs to match. In a linear musical sense, you can imagine it as somewhat similar to the equilibrium between the troughs and crests of waves. Let’s look at an example of this.

In the slider below, Picture 1 shows a part of the score for a section of an early area of the game.

The green section represents the end of the first musical phrase, whilst the red section shows the beginning of the succeeding musical phrase. And finally, the blue section is our ‘equilibrium’ that joins both of them.

Notice how it is a staccato rhythm played on the bassoons, violas and celli at a mezzo piano (moderately quiet) dynamic in E Major.

If we look at Picture 2, we now see an ‘Exit’ transition from this equilibrium into something else. Notice again the staccato rhythm from the bassoons, violas and celli in similar dynamic and key.

In Picture 3, which is an ‘Enter’ transition for the music that is used in Picture 1, we again see this musical ‘equilibrium’.

By using this technique, we can put transitions that will (fingers crossed) go unnoticed whilst you’re playing the game, and therefore (fingers crossed) help you sink and be immersed in the game.

Whilst each piece of music must be composed in blocks, we need to create a similar construction for all of the music in each area of the game. Therefore, we must construct a flowchart that can show the potential paths a player can take within each area, which helps us understand the potential linear progressions of the music. Below is a current flow-chart for the score that we saw earlier.

Our Lead Developer, Piet Bronders, has designed a musical tool that enables the music to go through varying transitions depending on the players actions, and we wanted to share this with you so you can see for yourself how the music will work.

Here is the link to the tool again :-)

The current score is in MIDI form and therefore an early representation of how the score will roughly sound (but we are extremely excited that this will be recorded by a Croatian orchestra at some point!!).

Thank you for reading! If you have comments, questions, any kind of feedback, please let me know!
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