We were asked to create the music and sound design for Bafta award winning game studio Bossa Studios’ adventure-led puzzle platformer game for iOS devices. The game was conceived as a way to teach maths in a simple relatable way. The aim of the music was to drive the narrative events occurring within the game.
We were commissioned to write 7 music tracks in total, to reflect the 5 worlds within the game and one title track and one credits track. The style of the music was left relatively up to us with a few reference tracks discussed to set the tone. Seeing as the game was set in a mathematical world we decided to go with a lofi electronic feel. As the game was mainly geared towards children between the ages of 10 and 16 we decided to keep the instrumentation quite light and playful, utilising tuned pipes and perky percussion alongside faux 8bit electronic beats and bass.
As previously mentioned, composing this music was pretty challenging. We had to think about the music in snippets rather than as a whole piece. It was pretty clear that Ableton Live was the best DAW for the job as its session view makes working with loops and trying out different combinations of musical parts together super quick and intuitive. With this in mind we decided to use some of Ableton’s Operator synths and to create our sound palette and pitched drum kits. We also used an original gameboy with an LSDJ cartridge to source waveforms and drum hits for an authentic 8bit sound.
The music had to be dynamic; changing to suit the action on screen. Due to space constraints and implementation limitations, layering was out of the question. Instead we opted for a dynamic looping system. Essentially this meant that the problem was solved during the composition stage as well as the implementation stage. For us this was a new and interesting challenge and it forced us to think about composition and even production in a different way. The dynamic looping system works as follows: the music is made up of numerous short loops (between 4 and 8 bars or around 10-20 seconds long depending on the tempo and time signature of the track). These would have to be composed in such a way that any given loop could follow any other given loop; thereby creating an almost endless combination of possibilities. In addition to this, however, the loops were composed with different levels of tension and/or excitement; this was so that the music could change intensity relatively quickly, reacting to the player’s choices. Another benefit to implementing the music like this is that the soundtrack evolves in such a way that the player doesn’t hear the same long sections over and over. The music has the potential to never repeat itself during the playthrough of a level, however, due to the nature of the game players may become stuck or take longer to figure out a puzzle than anticipated. In this scenario it is important for the music to not become irritating due to repetition. Also the intensity of the music should be at its lowest point during these times. In these situations the most chilled loops are used and randomised as to not become repetitive.
world one playthrough
Client — Bossa Studios
Our Roles — Interactive music and sound design
Production Time — July/August 2013
Launch Date — 10/09/2013
Platforms — iOS