shawn's blog

(About) Seven Minutes of Music

Posted in Music by Shawn on January 28, 2016

During one evening last week, Wednesday or Thursday, I’m not sure, I starting thinking about a lot of the things that I enjoy trying to do, but never feel great about for various reasons. Thoughts then drifted to all the things that I’m mediocre at, then to what probably felt like 4 hours, but was really 5 minutes, of  ‘How am I ever going to get better at any of these things?’

Luckily, I stopped myself from going any farther by reminding myself of a plan that I told myself that this year to finally commit to. It’s basically:

Whenever I question myself and ask “Why am I even doing this?” in a self-doubting way, I double down and push even harder with whatever it is I’m doing.

Of course, this can’t be applicable in every situation (Hrm, why am I robbing this bank? Well, I’m doubting myself, I guess I’ll just fully commit do this!), but so far, it’s seemed to help me deal with a few of the new things that I’ve started recently.

I also remembered a recent Gamasutra article which talked about spending one hour and composing a minute of music. Now, I enjoy making music, but don’t think I’m very good at it, and when trying to compose something, it takes me hours, or even a few days, to find 10 seconds of music that I’m happy with, or that I feel is worth pursuing. When first reading the article, I figured ‘This is something I’d never be able to do’. But last week, I finally thought, hey I should give this a shot.

So, what I’m not committing to, for as many days in a row, is to spend an hour a day, no more, maybe less if life is pulling me in too many directions, and use that time to work on a minute of music. Sometimes, it might be over a minute, just barely, because I don’t want the song to end oddly halfway through a measure. It’s a simple premise, and because of that, the rules aren’t going to be that strict. But, it is interesting to see where this could go, and to see if I can actually get better at this whole music thing. Anyway, here are 7 one minute-ish tracks composed between January 21st and January 27th. A lot of these are weird, unpolished, and I’m pretty sure I hate it all, and would rather just delete them. But instead…..here they are:

Thursday, January 21st

Well, this is going to be rough. I wasn’t sure how much would get done in an hour, and with the way I work, it turns out that it wasn’t a lot. There was too much time trying to combine pre-made tracks/loops, and not throw too much on top of that, fearing that there wouldn’t be enough time to actually make anything significant. The end result is something I’m really *not* happy with. In fact, I really want to delete it.

 

Friday, January 22nd

Not sure what the direction was for this minute. Again, I spent too long trying to figure out what sounds I liked. What was settled on wasn’t something I was comfortable with. Because of that, I feel like this minute is a bit erratic?

 

Saturday, January 23rd

I forgot what song I listened to earlier this day, but there was something funny about it that I wanted to try and pull from. Whether that was accomplished, that depends on if I can remember the song. Definitely not happy with this song either, but I do feel like it’s much less static and monotonous than January 21st.

 

Sunday, January 24th

Again, I heard a song that I wanted to pull from, and again, it was in passing (I should really start taking notes). The ending is kind of abrupt, but I wanted to keep it as close to the minute as possible, even if the music didn’t fade out properly. That’s my fault, and it should have ended earlier in order to keep everything contained to a minute.

 

Monday, January 25th

Boy, this is awful. I have a guitar, but I don’t have my microphone, or any other way to plug it into my computer at the moment. With time, I could have found the sound I wanted, but because I didn’t have the time (too much time trying to find something I was happy with), I just settled.

Actually, there’s a lot I don’t like about this, so I’m just going to stop here before I start ranting on how awful this is.

There’s nothing redeeming about it.

 

Tuesday, January 26th

This minute makes me laugh. It’s probably the only good thing I can say about it right now.

 

Wednesday, January 27th

It took me about 40 minutes to find any sort of sound that I was happy with. Which is why this minute sounds so empty. I’m actually really disappointed, because I feel like there’s a hint of something neat, but I couldn’t find it.

Also, it’s 55 seconds because of a last minute temp change, and a lack of readjusting on my end.

 

This week was fairly rough. I spent too much time trying to find things I was really happy with, and didn’t feel confident moving forward. The goal for next week is to find sounds that I’m happier with earlier, which should hopefully allow more time for developing those sounds into something more meaningful.

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Experiments with music

Posted in Music, Other by Shawn on April 25, 2013

I’ve been working on a new project which has been full of a number of experiments. From musical experiments, to hardware, to controls, and even how players will interact with each other. My biggest fear with this current project is whether or not I’m trying to branch out too much in regards to too many unexplored areas in a single project. Now, these are things that many people have tried, or may have attempted, in the past, both successfully and unsuccessfully. Whether or not I’ll emulate the path of success has yet to be determined, but I hoping for the former.

I’ve been trying to compose and create music for quite some time now, before game development, so the musical experiments may be the area that I am currently the most comfortable with. What I’m trying to do can actually be compared a bit to a previous project, Tone Def: Revenge of the Square Bots (sidenote: I think that game is actually going to be a free game with volumes added at later dates…..). TDROTS required a bunch of music shifting and blending. Music had to fade in and out, while sounding good. What was easy about this, however, was all I needed to do was create individual song which could basically be stripped for parts as I put them in the game. The song would be composed, then I would import the bass track, the harmony tracks, and the melody tracks separately. When you would start playing, you would know that there was something missing, thus, leading to a more rewarding feeling when you eventually progress far enough in a level to where the entire song is playing. Normally, this meant that you were doing well in the game, so in addition to receiving the explicit rewards of a job well done, you were rewarded with a full musical piece which enforced the success of destroying your enemies. On the flip-side, when you did not perform as well, the songs felt rather empty and lonely, begging to have a harmony or melody to accompany it.

Now, with the new project, I’m starting out in a slightly similar position. You still have an effect on the music that plays in the game. However, the music is not a secondary indicator or whether or not a player is doing a good job or whether they’re failing. Rather, the music corresponds to a certain option that the player has picked.

To explain in more detail, there are two players in the game, and they each have the same set of options. For now, let’s call them, Red, Green, and Blue. When a player chooses Red, then they will hear track 1; green plays 2 and blue plays track 3. Players can cycle between these options as often as they would like, and the tracks would follow them as they cycled the colors used in this example. They could even both choose Red, and both have track 1 play at the same time.

The experimental part, for me, comes from trying to create a song that will sound like a complete musical experience as long as it always has two tracks playing at the same time. This means that any combination of two tracks will need to complete the auditory experience. The individual tracks need to be compelling enough as to where it can be played with the accompanying drum track (which is played throughout an entire song, regardless of options chosen) and stand on it’s own. However, if also needs to be compatible with a different track, for example, if player one currently has Red, and player two currently has Green.

I’ve also placed a few restrictions on myself in order to try and keep this from getting out of hand. I have a tendency of making things overly complicated, and the same goes for songs. It may start with adding a bell or two, and end up with multiple synths paralleling what the strings just played, except, this time, in time to the new drums that came in halfway, as opposed to the original set of drums. Instead, what I’m planning on doing is always have a drum track that plays consistently throughout a level, have a bass track as a musical option, and have a melody/harmony mix, either composed of one or two instruments. In the song I’m working on now, I have the drums and bass, while the melody and harmony are handled by the same instrument.

In addition to the tracks complimenting each other, they need to be shuffled in and out rather quickly, akin to a DJ mixing up an individual track. Quite often, a DJ will take out the bass of a song, or the vocal melody, which simplifies a track, while still keeping it interesting. Or they may mix in the harmony of a different song to the one that is currently playing. What I need to do with this project is balance them both carefully. Furthermore, it needs to be determined whether or not this musical shifting is actually something that fits in the overall game, or just sticks out like a sore thumb, detracting from the entire experience. I will say that during some moments, such as when both players choose the same colors, the track playing does get amplified, since there are two audio sources playing the same track. It seems to create the feeling of, “Hey, there’s something a bit more direct that we need to take care of”, and it actually does reflect the current state of the game if players find themselves forced to pick the same option.

But that’s it for now. I do hope to continue this musical experiment, and really do hope that it is successful. Of course, only time, and play testers, will tell. Over the next week or two, I may put up some samples of music that I’m working on for this project.

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What happened in August?

Posted in Music, Tone Def by Shawn on September 7, 2012

Well, who knows what happened in August? Now that I think about it, I don’t really remember. But I can pick out a couple of key things.

I updated some elements of Tone Def again

What’s different? Well, a new font, for one. This was created at FontStruct, probably the only place I’ll go to from now on for font. You can create your own font! If you see something that someone made, but wish it could be different, you can edit it! It’s really a great font experience. The font has been updated all throughout the game, and I’m pleased with how it’s turning out.

One major change which I feel added to the game feel x10 was the addition of a custom mouse. I wish I added it earlier.

The mouse pointer for Tone Def

This isn’t just an abstract mouse pointer, however. Each thing I do for Tone Def does take a lot of thought and consideration. One thing I try and do is related everything to something musical, if possible. This mouse pointer is no exception. At the base of the pointer, you can see a conducting baton. The mouse pointer itself is an abstract version of the path a conductor’s hands/baton takes when conducting a 4/4 piece of music.

A single for Tone Def has been released

And the name of this single is called Night Bots. It’s only $1.00 and currently on the OriGaminc bandcamp page……so far, no one has purchased it….*sigh*

Well, I actually have a bunch of codes I can give out for a free download…..

But it was a fun song to make, and it’s in a really cool level  for Tone Def. It’s called Night Bots for a reason.

Monster music for other games

I’ve been asked to make music for two other developers and their games in the Philadelphia area. Needless to say, I’m extremely honored, excited, and very inspired. One game is called Monsta Punch, an iOS brawler. The title screen music, which I’m calling “My Monsta“. I still need to polish this before I can say it’s complete, but this is what it’s going to sound like.

The other game I’m composing for is called Monsters, which is actually currently being Kickstarted (so go Kickstart it) If you want to hear my track, which is currently nameless, then watch the video and wait for the actual game cutscene to start. As I am with most of my musical tracks, I’m not done with it, and will most likely finish polishing things up until I feel like I’m going crazy over that song. I also have a second track for that game which still needs  to be finished.

Philosophically thinking….finally

This didn’t really happen in August, but I should probably mention this. A couple of weeks…er…months ago, I wrote this post, saying that I was going to write longer pieces based a a book called The Little Black Book of Design. And I still plan to do this. Actually, I plan to start within the next few days. It’ll almost be like going back to school, something that many others are experiencing currently. It’ll also be an excuse for me to read more about other things.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Let’s hope the next season is a bit more consistent!

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Tone Def Iteration 3

Posted in Music, OriGamInc, Tone Def by Shawn on June 14, 2012

Looks like I’m getting to the end of iteration 3. Iteration 3 has been going on for quite some time, and I believe that I have made progress.

Progress is a vague term, and I guess I should narrow things down my specifying it as significant/little progress.

I think it has been better than bad. The iteration began with a few task, but at this point I am at 60 task for this iteration. Of course, this is a longer iteration that other ones, which makes sense with the increase in things I have to do for this specific iteration. These past iterations also lined up with important dates, which is why they haven’t really been consistent. However, now that I have no more ‘non self-imposed’ deadlines coming up, I will start to set up my iterations with a dedicated interval most likely every 2 to three weeks.

So what was done this iteration? More music, more levels, more modes, more instruments. However, what I really want to include is a decent tutorial system, rather than what I have now- temporary slides that show you how to play.

In other news, I’ve been planning out the details for the soundtrack to TD:ROTS. Most of the music is designed to loop smoothly as you complete the level, but that does leave something left to be desired when listening to the tracks. The goal is to have multiple versions of almost every track, one being the looped version, the other being a version that plays out a bit more traditionally; it would include an opening/closing, and possible some more tidbits which would be difficult to include in the game.

Oh, and I’m currently looking for play testers for TD:ROTS. In person only!

And there’s an interesting (at least, I think it’s interesting) article in Technically Philly, feature Tone Def. During that, I realized that I like to talk about my game too much.

But that’s it for now. I need to become a bit more active with this blog. I’ll probably do that after they add that often requested 25th hour to the day.

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Midnight

Posted in Music, Tone Def by Shawn on March 28, 2012

So, I finally have my midi controller, and I can work on making music a bit faster now. By faster, I mean that I can create something faster, then throw it out earlier, instead of take much longer to create a piece, only to find out that I didn’t like it 4 hours later.

Regardless, I have a new piece, called “Midnight”.

The song is designed to be looped, as are most songs composed for Tone Def.

That’s it for now though. I just wanted to share this others!

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Planning for the next month

Posted in Music, OriGamInc, Other, Tone Def, Unity by Shawn on March 19, 2012

So, my laptop’s screen is definitely broken. Pretty good timing too, I guess. The last time I had laptop issues, the deadline to the IGF was quickly approaching. I was out a laptop for a good week, which meant I couldn’t do a lot of programming.

This time, the deadline for IndieCade is coming. What are the plans for IndieCade? Well, I hope to submit two games, Mr. Condyle’s Escape and Tone Def. So, the problem is, I have two games to work on, can’t work on them full time, and have no laptop. Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t do other things, in regards to planning, designing, organizing and more. After I get my laptop back, I do plan to, as they say, ‘kick it in high gear’, I think. That means I’ll have a lot more content to share, on the design front, as well as other aspects.

By mid next week, I hope to be in full swing with my music production. In the mail, coming my way, is a new Midi Controller that I plan to use with Reason, my current DAW. Rather, I should say ‘first’ Midi Controller. All of my work with Reason has been me using my mouse and keyboard. That doesn’t mean that I’ve haven’t been able to make music that I’m unhappy with. All it means is that I should be able to make music faster, which I’m looking forward to. Hopefully, later on this week, or early next week, I should have some new musical pieces that I can share via the blog/soundcloud. For now, I’m going to continue working on a cheaper borrowed, non midi keyboard, to help me get ideas out of my head. Also, I purchased the sheet music book for various Legend of Zelda Songs.

In terms of designing, there’s a lot that still needs to be done. The part that does make me a bit upset is that I can design some things, and put them into my game, then update them based on how they appear in game. I’ll have to do some waiting before I can see my ideas and plans in production. Each time I get a free chance, I muck about in my Redmine, doing a lot of organizing. The way I work is in 2-week iterations. I assign myself a number of task that I think I’ll be able to complete within the two week timeline. More often than not, I bite off more than I can chew, which is okay for now, since I’m my own boss. But, setting these goals and iteration time periods help me keep track of what I’m doing, how long it takes for me to accomplish a task, and helps me form a nice timeline of production. It also helps me figure out where something went wrong, and who to blame it on (I can only blame it on myself….).

In terms of actual planning, I have outlined what’s needed for Tone Def, thing the player will actually see. More instruments, more instrument effects, and new level types. Also, interesting light shows (more on that in a future post, hopefully). There’s more work behind the scenes that need to be done also. I recently starting to make more and more custom editors, and there are a few other thing that would work better for me if I had a few custom inspectors in this Unity project. Such as the aforementioned light show. I’ve been thinking about going into some detail regarding some of the editor scripting. I’m still on the fence about it, since most of the time I start writing a blog update, I delete it. This is actually the third time I’ve tried to write this particular one.

But that’s it for now, before I go ahead a delete this one. I’m hoping to move at a better pace, and have something good before the IndieCade submission date. I’ve gotten some feedback from others regarding Tone Def, and it seems like other people don’t think it’s terrible!

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Happy New Year and a change of plans

Posted in MCE, Music, OriGamInc, Tone Def by Shawn on January 3, 2012

Well, it’s the new year.

It looks like I’ve had this blog for a little under a year now. Which is surprising, at least to me. A lot has happened in a year, it seems like, and progress has been made. Do I have a game out? No. Am I closer. Well, technically closer than I was a year ago. Whether or not I’m happy with the progress I made is another story.

First off, it does not look like I’ll be able to meet my personal deadline of January 3rd for Tone Def. Which is upsetting, to  say the least. But if I take a step back and think about all that I wanted to do, it makes sense why I was not able to meet this deadline. First off, it takes a while for me to make music that I’m happy with. This version of Tone Def needed at least three pieces of music. With the amount of time I have, and the goals for this game, it was likely that January 3rd would be an incredibly hard deadline to hit. As I write this (January 3rd), I could technically still make the deadline, but the levels would not be balanced, and I’d probably hit a bug or 15.

So, I’ll need to push back the date of release to a point that I do not know. But, that doesn’t mean it’ll be put off into a nebula of some sort. I’m still aiming to push this out as soon as everything is ready/balanced/looking good.

What about those other projects? Well, Mr. Condyle’s Escape has a lot of work still to be done. I have put it on the back burner for now, but I plan to return to it as soon as I push out Tone Def. It’s difficult to work on two games independently, especially with limited time. So, instead of letting one suffer from only glances, it’s probably better to put it away for a while. If anyone  has any better suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

I’m expecting this first month to really dictate how the rest of this year will go. If there is a lot of work done all around (I finally beat Dead Space 2 last night. Turns out I was pretty much 15 mins from the ending), then it’s possible that this year could turn out productive. This is not a certainty, but I’d like to think that I’m able to get things started off on the correct foot. As of now, there is only one thing on the agenda, PAX East, which I’m excited about. I also do plan to attend any local game developmental meetups or the like in the Philadelphia area!

This has turned into a semi-rambling of what I think I may do this year.

So that’s it for now. I’ll come back when I have thoughts that I can string together. I’ll just blame it on all the partying that I forgot to do on the 1st.

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