Finding the Main Theme
We'd like to think that Composers magically know exactly what the developer wants, and can express it musically, immediately.
Or if the developer isn't sure what's right, that a Composer knows what would fit the game perfectly. While a Composer might have a better means of experimenting and finding what's right, and a greater awareness of musical options, there's usually a bit of a process to find the right feel for the game.
Because the goal isn't to find something that only "works."
The true goal is to create music that fits the world of this game better than anything else.
And that can be a process of experimentation and discovery for the Composer as well as the Developer.
We're nearly able to announce a title we handled all audio tasks for, but the game hasn't been released yet so I can't go into too many details about it at this point. BUT, I can tell you that our process for the main theme started with a few references:
This gave us a great starting point in terms of tone, instrumentation, mix, genre and general mood. Both of these references have a ton of energy and attitude, so our first stab at the main theme focused on that.
While this was in the right "area," it was too aggressive and intense. There were a couple passages that they really liked and wanted to keep, but the drums were over the top with energy and the kick drum was very low and present. The developer mentioned that right now it felt like the music was punk rock or even slightly metal. What they actually wanted was something more pop-punk.
With that feedback in mind, we took a stab at reducing the intensity, making it feel a little less serious while maintaining a few passages they were really excited by.
Exactly what the developer was looking for. They had some notes on exact structure and when certain moments and climaxes happened, but this was the feel they wanted.
Alright, we're gonna create a bunch of pop punk. Wicked!
After a little time, however, the team realized this fit with other games they thought were cool and that inspired them, but was ignoring their game. During this time they had also flushed out the narrative a bit more and wanted things to be a bit more moody with the world and story they were creating.
Yet, they loved the rock feel. So the question became how to keep it rock but incorporate that moodiness (dare I say, maybe a tad of Emo?).
While the team loved what we did with their feedback, they immediately realized that this wasn't right for their world. They wanted emotion other than energy and aggression and fun, but weren't sure how to give that slight twinge to it while maintaining the energy they had.
We suggested trying out strings. They were hesitant, but ultimately trusted us and our instincts.
And that version became the main theme...
And stay tuned for the next stage in this musical process!