project vgm

Earlier this past fall I decided to participate in Project VGM:

It’s pretty neat. A bunch of people are helping out compose this fictional RPG soundtrack. You can checkout all the songs at the soundcloud page, as well as the project page at that blogspot link.

You get a few sentences description, some context with the rest of the game description and then you basically get to do whatever you want. The first piece I got to do (back in september) was the following:

77 Mustle
Beyond the forest is a series of tall trees that form a sort of village, where the majority of the mustlen live. This place still exists in the pocket dimension originally created for the mustlen race, and the only known portal is on the side of a cliffnear the ocean. The mustlen have slept here for the past few thousand years.

I’m glad I finished it but of course it’s been the part of a learning process in writing songs. It’s tough to make something listen-able if you’re using samples that aren’t professional quality (and I don’t have recording equipment to record myself playing any instruments at a good quality.) That being said, with the magic of synthesizers anyone with enough work (and that’s a lot of work, I’d say) can make a nice-sounding piece without needing expensive recording equipment!

The second one I’m doing (due tomorrow) is

52 Mort Highlands
The party follows Shane as he leads them through the Mort Highlands, a mountainous region that separates Gabbad from the north. Its distinct rock formations resemble arches and bridges, and many short cave

systems connect open, grassy areas to each other.

which was a tough one to think of a sound for. Initially I was using instrument samples, doing this sort of march-ish song with a piano backbone to it…but it got out of hand a bit too fast (started being kind of full-blown orchestral) and I really wasn’t seeing the Highlands image with it, so I scrapped it. Moved to a different idea a few days ago, but I’m glad I did.

It’s odd, really. It’s much more relaxed and it matches the image I have in my head but I don’t know if it’s a typical image of “Highlands” – there’s this light piano-like (in timbre, at least) synth keeping the pace of the song, with actual piano samples adding texture throughout, and this nice percussive-like synth that comes in at times. Dream-like you could say. It’s very simple, but I don’t think I would have thought of it if I didn’t go through the process of scrapping the previous idea. So that’s that.

And here it is.


Making levels is kind of fun. It’s a little tough – like problem solving but pretty satisfying. Right now I’ve been buckling down and just cranking out levels. The way I have it laid out, I’m not sure how many levels I’ll have in total.

There’s 5 tutorial levels – these just teach basic things like movement, running, variable height jumping, and the other mechanics in the game, the timer bar at top and the pick-ups. Then the first set of levels is mostly just basic application of that without too much cruelty, with a few things that I’m trying to drill into the player – 

1. There are branching paths which will become a staple of later levels. You can work on collecting all the notes in a level in one run, or just unlock the next stage by proceeding to the exit.

2. Slowly increasing the difficulty of jumps, and the consequence of missing. Currently the intro set of levels has a *generous* time limit. Of course that will change later. Moreover, missing a jump really means setting you back a second or two.

I guess getting the difficulty right is the hard part. The first few stages don’t have any instant kill stuff, nor is the timer really even an element. I plan to use the instant kill stuff sparingly (or at least as a part of the “unlockable” levels), so I can get as much out of the single platforming and time element. My hope is that any player will be able to do decently (at least 90% pickups) on the first set of levels. They’re laughable to any experienced player, but I’d like everyone to get some satisfaction from the game.

As for the second set…increase the platforming difficulty, some trickery with the run mechanics, maybe the occasional spikes. 3rd set, maybe I’ll get a bit sadistic.

As for the unlockable stages – ones you get for completing stages with all the pickups, and *fast*, well, no holds barred…:)


And what do the notes do?  Well, I have a few ideas.

1. Silly secrets. Kind of like Ratchet and Clank’s unlockables with the skill points. Maybe stupid things like a super-long trail following the player, spinning jump, different songs, other ridiculous things..

2. Alternatively maybe I’ll have the notes unlock extra stages, and the extra stages give you a different kind of pickup (for which you use for the “secrets”). 




Hm, and I’ve been looking at playtomic’s stat tracking. I wonder what to use it on. Obviously level plays to see how far people get, views in general. Person’s country would be interesting as well…