Behind The Scenes: The Music of To-Tum [Updates]

Posted on in Development Post

This week I’m once again going to be talking about the music for To-Tum and how things have changed since my last music blogpost (which you can read HERE).

The revisions that we’ve made are in regards to the interactive music system I mentioned last time; our plan is still to use vertical re-orchestration with 3 stems, these layers still being triggered by a player’s progression through a level; however, after playing the game intensively I felt there was more we could do with the music to support the player’s experience!

I have no doubt that many among you will remember (and even own) such popular consoles as Nintendo’s Gameboy and SNES; these consoles along with many others, had a relatively small space in which to store files and game data. Now you may be wondering where I’m going with this, but when developing modern mobile games we can sometimes find ourselves with very similar limitations; less space means less art, a smaller overall game and of course less space for audio than what might be achievable with games for big name consoles like PS4, Xbox One and PC. It has never been more important to get more mileage out of music for games and it is to this end that we’ve revised our layering system!

Like many popular mobile games, To-Tum features a series of levels separated and spread out over certain themes, in our case: sky, forest, ice, desert and fire. Each of these themes defines colour schemes and level decoration, and now thanks to our revisions, each theme is also defined by a particular musical instrument! This instrument will only feature in levels belonging to that specific theme, for example, only in sky levels will you hear the sound of a solo harp.

But instead of writing a completely new playlist of tracks for every single theme, we’ve decided to work with a number of ‘core’ tracks, each split into loopable stems; a base layer, a progression layer and a reward layer. The base layer will play from the very start of the level and will not change with each theme, similarly the reward layer will always be the same for the base layer that it accompanies, however it will only trigger once the player has acquired all the collectables in a level. But, the progression layer, that plays only as long as the player is heading in the right direction, will feature the theme specific instrumentation. It’s through this system that we’re going to be able to get more mileage from each track; the core track will be recognizably the same, but thanks to the variations in the progression layer, will fit with each theme change.

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(Screenshot of Pro Tools, the lines across the waveforms showing how volume automation can be used with vertical re-orchestration/layering, note how we’re now changing our progression layer with each theme (Ice, Forest, Sky, Desert & Fire/Lava) but keeping the base and reward layers the same!)

Similarly, we’ve also decided to have our main map music change with each successive theme. This way when a player returns to the game after having not played for a little while, the music will serve as a reminder of what set of levels they got to last time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little behind the scenes music update for To-Tum. Keep up to date with all my music going’s on over on Twitter (@DougWatersMusic) and be sure to follow Insert Imagination too! (@Team_ii) – we’d love to hear your thoughts on To-Tum!

– Doug

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