Hello everyone, the project is now at 88% funded and at this rate we should hit the target soon! It's exciting to be so close to the goal now but even more exciting is the fact that more than 200 people have already told me that they believe in what I'm creating and this means a lot to me!
All my previous development stories have been about the visuals, which is what people usually notice first about the game. For today's update I thought it would be cool to talk about making the music for the game. So if you're a music fan get ready to do less looking and more listening.
I've always been interested in music and when I was 16 or so I started playing around with making music on computers. A little later I also started taking guitar lessons for a bit and began investing in my own little home-recording setup. I've been doing this stuff for almost 15 years now.
There's a lot of really talented composers out there, and finding a gig as a game composer can be tough, especially as an enthusiastic hobbyist musician. As you may already know, the reason I started making games in the first place was so that I could finally make music for games. So making the music for my own games has always been a highlight of the whole development process for me.
My initial concept for the music in Jettomero was to try to do something entirely procedural and generative. Similar to the way Sound Shapes builds up a soundtrack from smaller parts, only I wanted all my samples to be interchangeable as well. After prototyping with this for a while I realized I was being way too ambitious. The music for a system like this could have easily been a 2-person job by itself. I also felt that making the music entirely generative greatly limited the amount of control I had over the tone, which was something I didn't want to sacrifice too much.
My new approach was to just make music that I liked that was inspired by the themes of the game and then go from there. This was how I had made the music for my previous game Soul Power and the results had been very satisfying there.
I had recently started playing with Analogue synthesizers after picking up a very simple synth at a boxing day sale. My latest synthesizer was the Korg Minilogue which was a lot of fun to shape sounds with and it quickly became the main tool for most of the music in Jettomero.
I recorded a lot of music when getting started on the Jettomero soundtrack. But none of it was quite right. I recorded 22 demo tracks in 3 false starts on my way to to the final soundtrack. Here's a few of them:
I really liked where this track was going on its own, but after recording almost 10 demos in a similar style I didn't feel it was the right direction for the game.
Boards of Canada were a direct influence for almost everything I did try, but it was tricky finding how to channel that influence into my own sound. Beats were always an important elements as well. Again, I recorded about 10 more tracks in a slightly different style but it wasn't what I wanted.
I tried out some slightly weirder stuff too. At this point I had spent a lot of time starting tracks but none of them had panned out to be something I wanted to use.
I don't even know how I eventually landed on my final sound. On top of Boards of Canada, I had been listening to a lot of Phantogram, which may have led to guitars becoming a more important part of the music. The first track that I recorded for the final soundtrack was Children of the Cloud. As soon as I finished this one I knew I had finally found what I wanted.
Process is an extremely important part of making anything for me. I like to set up constraints or templates to help guide me once I figure out roughly what I'm going to do. To give you a bit of a clearer picture of how my process broke down I've broken one of my tracks into several parts so you can hear different elements separately. Personally I love it when artists do this for their music because it can be hard to pull things out when everything is mixed together and it's fascinating to hear where certain sounds are coming from.
You're probably already familiar with the track I shared on the main page and in the game's trailer, The Feeling of Life. But here it is again as a whole.
Now here's just the drums and bass isolated. (These are the tracks in their entirely so there may be silent areas where the soloed instruments aren't present). For the drums I used the Volca Beats and the Volca Sample - small hardware drum machines. The Volca Beats provided an analog electronic set of percussion, while I used the Volca Sample to play drum sounds recorded from real drum kits. Each of the drum beats stacked over one another but would sometimes drop out to feature a single kit. I recorded a basic loop from each one which I repeated over the course of the track. However, I manually chopped up the beats in lots of places to mix things up for fills and to add anticipation for transitions. I also ran both percussion tracks though a digital plugin which would fluctuate distortion/filter/repeats/delay randomly throughout the track. This really helped breath some life into the drums and made the loops far less repetitious. I don't have much to say about the bass here - it was played using the Minilogue. My favourite part of the bass starts around 2:32.
You may not hear it immediately but almost every track in the Jettomero OST has at least 3 layers of guitar. The track below features the isolated guitar parts. I don't consider myself a very good guitarist but I love using tempo-synced delay to build up complex rhythms. For the Jettomero tracks I also ran most of the guitars through synth fx, which helped them blend in with the Minilogue and gave everything a more space-like feeling. On some tracks I also used an Ebow to create more of a drone from the guitars. One of my favourite thing about using guitars in my music as opposed to synthesizers is how physically bound their sound is, coming directly from the vibration of their strings. There's a lot of nice variation that comes from playing a guitar part since even small things like how I'm holding down the string and how I pluck it will effect each note that gets played.
Now for the synths, below again. I created a wide range of voices using the Minilogue but they were often soft and warm tones with slightly fluctuating pitch or a detuned edge. I also used a Microkorg on almost every track, but I would sample it onto a Roland RC-505 looper and then mutilated it using the on-board stutter and gating fx. I would generally chop up these parts and re-arrange them where it felt right.
Here's a screenshot of the project file for The Feeling of Life.
Some parts I played in larger chunks, and other parts you'll notice I chopped them up a lot (the drums are on the top 2 bars). I usually compose tracks on the fly by re-arranging parts that I've already recorded. Personally I don't like working with pre-programming MIDI notes so I record everything played by hand. This means it's not always so tight but I like that aesthetic. I also really value spontaneity in my tracks which is why I recorded each track in a single 4-5 hour session. I would lay down a beat, play a basic chord progression on the Minilogue, and then rip through the rest of it playing more parts as I felt them out. I find it to be a very fun and satisfying process.
It's been another long update again so I'll draw things to a close. A couple things first though! There's just over 2 days left for the early-bird tiers. If you've backed the basic game tier this will be your last chance to upgrade to the game+OST bundle while taking advantage of the early-bird pricing. Additionally, for all backers whose rewards do include the OST, I decided I'll be throwing in the 22 demo tracks that never made it to the final game. This will be an exclusive Kickstarter reward since I don't have plans to make these tracks available elsewhere. They're not nearly as polished as the final tracks in the game but I think there's some interesting pieces in the mix that I hope you enjoy!
Until next update!