Monday, October 15, 2007

Horse Life is out!

All downloadable music in this post is protected under copyright from Neko Entertainment & myself and presented here for self-promotion purposes with kind authorization from Neko Entertainment.

Music for the Nintendo DS

Download MP3 excerpts from Horse Life:
> Building Trust
> A New Friend
> Like The Wind!
> We Did It!
> Epilogue

If you happen to have used the parisian metro sometime this week, you might have noticed an ad for the DS game on the picture below.

Well, I made the music for this one! I composed 21 different songs for this game, and only 3 of which to be ashamed of! :) (which is a surprisingly small number :). The style is somewhat country but not really, everything is driven by harmonica and violin, supported by piano and guitar. I kind of grew uninspired towards the end of the project, hence the 3 ill-conceived and repetitive songs I mentioned. :) This is a modest game, made by smaller companies and scored by a smaller composer. But nevertheless, this project is important to me. Why? Because I think it's the very first time, at least in some years, that I've scored a video game with the client letting me be absolutely free. I could decide how many cues were needed, what style to chose, what pace to give to each cue.

If you're reading this and you're not a professional composer yourself, you might think "Well, isn't that just normal? Is it not what they pay you for?". Heck, YES it should be like this, but sadly it's been rarer and rarer to be able to work this way since a few years, for reasons I've been ranting about way too much lately (but let's not forget that collaboration with knowledgeable and sensitive producers can be a truly great experience sometimes). But this time, it happened: I was 100% on my own to create a entire game soundtrack with nobody interfering. It was probably for the wrong reasons though, but it happened anyway and the outcome is simply this: I think it's the best work I've done for a video game in a long time.

Since no one was interfering, it made a world of difference. I would start working on a piece, and sometimes even after a full minute of finished music was done I would notice it wasn't right for the corresponding moment in the game and I would start over on my own, I would spot my mistakes myself and fix them in an informed and creative manner, before some executive would try to make his own piece of music by using my body as a vessel.

The songs, while not being the finest pieces of music in the world, work really well while you're playing I think, which is my absolute primary goal when working on a game. This is why, eventhough the music isn't necessarily the best I've ever done, I think I succeeded in creating a good GAME soundtrack.

Thanks to good, up-to-date coding practices, I could make changes to the game's audio without programmers even being aware of it , and without endangering the project until up to the last minute before the master was compiled and sent to the client.

The client, Neko Entertainment, was nice enough to allow me to share the music on the internet once the game would be released! Quick facts if you're not familiar with the technical aspect of video game music:
  • - Everything is made 100% using Nintendo's NitroSoundMaker, the native DS music sequencing format (.SDAT). Which means it sounds a bit like "MIDI" music, it's not CD or MP3 quality. The music you hear is actually being performed in real time by the Nintendo DS (The client still thought it was MP3 until very far in the development course:).

  • - As usual with any kind of sequenced music I programmed and sampled all the instruments myself and by hand, this is where being a former Amiga musician came in handy. On the song called "Like The Wind!", pay attention to the piano and the guitard chords, getting "midi" instruments to sound like that took me countless hours. I learned a few valuable tricks along the way, and my next DS soundtrack will be only better.

  • - My greatest triumph here: The whole sound archive for this game fits in a little less than 700 KB (all 50 sound effects included). There are just a couple environmental streams stored as well on the cartridge but they're not part of the sound archive.
I hope you like them! This is only the beginning, this is only "gotta-eat" stuff. Right now the team and I are working on some MUCH more interesting stuff. Stuff that will perhaps finally allow me to show off a little bit in terms of interactive sound design. More in a few months, I hope.
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