Soundtrack Preview + Podcast Interview

Hey everyone, I’m checking in with this week’s Friday Saturday Sunday update! I know I keep slipping on these, mostly because I rarely have time to put together a blog post on Friday while trying to work on the game. I decided this week that I would start doing blog posts on Saturday … and then missed that date, too. But better late than never!

Anyway, this was a fairly slow week news-wise. The only new interview is with my friends over at This Is My Joystick, but it was a podcast instead of a written interview so that’s a bit of a change. Give it a listen if you’d like to hear us chat about the game. There are other games featured in the podcast, and The Novelist’s segment is at 1:34:40.

Neil asked for a bit of music to use in the podcast, and since I happen to have I spent some time last week tweaking the music I thought it would be fun to share a song here.

The music in The Novelist is created by an algorithm that randomly selects from a large list of scales to create a unique soundtrack for every player. Each time you start a new chapter in the game, the algorithm adjusts a large number of settings (tempo, the percentage of runs vs chords, the length of the runs, how linear or random the runs should be, and a bunch of other variables) and then starts a song that plays indefinitely without ever looping or repeating.

I really enjoy the effect; sometimes a surprising or beautiful musical passage will play, and I’ll feel a bittersweet twinge because I know that moment will never happen again. The music is completely transient, and you’ll never hear the same thing twice.

But while it’s pretty cool to constantly hear unique music, it also means that there’s really no such thing as a “song” in the game. For that reason, I created a debug mode where the game deletes all of the actors in the game and only plays music. It also selects from an additional set of criteria to break the music up into segments of traditional song-like length. The lengths are, of course, random, but right now it’s set to pick a length between 3 and 9 minutes. When the game is in this mode, it just sits there and plays different randomized songs forever.

Once the debug music mode is cruising along, I can then use a tool called Soundflower to directly capture the game’s audio buffer and record the music in real time. After doing that, I just have to go into an audio editor and clip the tracks up into individual songs. The debug mode creates a log file with the names of the songs (based on the scales) and some information about the tempos and lengths, all of which helps in editing them into individual tracks. For the official soundtrack release, I plan to use this method and generate a ton of songs, then go through and pick out the best ones to create the official score.

A month or two ago I tested out this methodology and recorded a handful of songs, and the track below is one of the songs I really liked (it’s based on the Aeolian scale, if you’re interested). This track is using an older version of the algorithm, and I’m still tweaking things to get just the right sound for the game (I’ve added some different types of runs and chord combinations since recording this track).

Be warned: this song may be mellower than what you’re used to in game scores. I want The Novelist to have a very ethereal, peaceful aesthetic, and as such the music is intended to be a background accompaniment, not a bombastic foreground component. So while this song might not make the best soundtrack for working out at the gym, it’s pretty nice for curling up with your favorite book.

If the embedded player isn’t working in your browser, or if you’d just like to download the song directly, here’s a link. I hope you enjoy the song, and I’ll see you guys next week!

One thought on “Soundtrack Preview + Podcast Interview

  1. Pingback: Paper Droids Q&A With Kent Hudson: The Passionate Mind Behind ‘The Novelist’ - Paper Droids

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