Hello everyone, this is Daniel Sadowski, the music composer for City Of Steam. I am very excited to talk about the process of scoring the game. I have been working on the music for City of Steam for a few months now. It's been an amazing and exciting journey, to say the least.
Visual Art Inspires Music
On most projects that I work on, the development of the game is sometimes at a very early stage. It can be so early that all the company has to show me is art and some story text. You might think that not having any video or gameplay available would be put me at a disadvantage, but actually I find that you can turn it into a positive when composing. Sometimes having limited art can spark more of my musical imagination. Because I may only have 10 pictures or 1 picture (yes, it does happen) I have to use more of my imagination to create the music. What’s crazy is that 90 percent of the time, what I end up composing from just the art turns out amazing and the developer ends up loving it.
Of course if video and gameplay is available, then that is welcome. With City Of Steam they had pictures, video, and gameplay, so it was really great having a lot of information to compose music to. But a lot of the amazing and beautiful art that Mechanist Games sent my way really inspired musical ideas in my head.
I remember seeing the early videos of the game and really getting excited for what the musical score could be. The Gardenworks intro and "1st Battle Video" is what I first saw, and I immediately heard music in my head.Mechanist Games has been awesome in providing me with what I need as far as if I have any questions about a certain level or character. The overall aesthetic within City Of Steam really told me that I wanted to compose something different and unique because I felt all though the game was a steampunk game, it also mixed in different ideas. I really felt that the game was a hybrid of sorts unlike anything I had seen before. I did not want to do a traditional approach to the score. (Whatever "traditional" means.)
Music Can Influence Game Development
Yes it can! During the composing for City of Steam, the music I had composed for Gardenworks, Beryl's Folly and Ebonhold really blew away the producers. In fact the music started to inspire the team to go into new and different subtle directions with some of the levels as far as the art is concerned. It's an awesome thing to know that as a team player, your contribution to the game is actually affecting the game development in a creative and positive way. When this type of synergy occurs, you know the game will be something special.
Indie Games Are The Best
I love working for indie companies. Of course what exactly the word "indie" means these days is anyone's guess. Does it mean 3 guys working in a garage? Does it mean a company with a lower budget? To me, I think true indie companies are Indie because of how they operate, how they communicate, and how they do things in their own unique way. Mechanist Games is definitely a company like this. Everything that Mechanist Games does, they do it their way, and they make everyone feel like they are actually contributing to the project and to the culture. These are the greatest companies to work for and it has been amazing working with them.
The producers said that I can name drop a couple of other indie games that I am working on, so please check out Darkout, a new Sci-Fi game that is like a mix of Terraria, Metroid, and Minecraft, sort of... Please go to www.darkoutgame.com, and please join up at the forums at http://www.darkoutgame.net/index.php. I'm also working on an awesome indie 2D platformer game called Dusty's Revenge. It’s a mix of Steampunk, Western, and animals. Pretty crazy, awesome stuff. Please check it out at http://www.pddesignstudio.com/game.html
Music Tools, Music Tools
The amazing thing with music today is the fact that you can make quick decisions on the fly that can drastically alter the sound of an instrument or piece of music. With all of the fast computers that composers write on, the sky truly is the limit in what can be achieved. Sometimes when I am composing for a game, the schedule will be very tight, and there won’t be a lot of time. It's great to be able to quickly take feedback from the developer and change something to get it sounding the way they want it.
One such example is when I was working on some violin parts for the Main Theme called "City Of Steam." I wrote a very cool string part that sounded awesome, but I was having problems getting it to sound good within the rest of the music piece. The notes were written right, the instruments were sitting in the right place, but it just lacked something. After going through a bunch of effects and ideas, I figured out that I had the wrong kind of reverb on it and I needed something more warm and dreamy sounding. Also the reverb that I chose helped to "cover" the fake sampled string sounding "seams" and made them sound more cohesive.
Notice that the 2nd clip sounds so much better, and when you hear it in the main theme, you can really hear the emotional impact that it has because of the reverb.)
These are the types of choices I make all day. Even though the above example is a small decision, it can have a huge impact on the entire piece of music. After all, music is created from a bunch of small decisions.
Projects are bound to have some revisions. 90 percent of the time, most of the work I do will thankfully have little to no revisions. After writing a lot of video game scores, one gets better at understanding the different video game developer companies and what it is they want from you. With that said, usually there is always 1 or 2 pieces that seem to need a drastic revision. One such clip for City Of Steam was called "Gallows Cross." After reading about the location, in my mind I thought the music could go either way as far as being more darker, dissonant, or it could also be more melodic and nicer sounding. My first attempt I decided to make it darker and a little dissonant. I thought I had nailed it. Well, it turned out that the producers wanted it to be nicer and less dissonant sounding for that particular location in the game. I had to do a 180 on the piece, but the great thing was, it ended up being one of my favorite pieces in the entire musical score.
Here is the first version that was rejected:
Ok, well this concludes some of my thought on the composing process for City of Steam as well as the awesome experience of working with Mechanist Games.
I will be back for another blog on some other cool musical things as well!
Anything you want to tell Daniel? Why not go to the forum and speak out?