Design Soundtracks which are supurb/subtle/subliminal

I'm completely and helplessly obsessed with "Red vs. Blue." I listen to it almost every night while I'm falling asleep. If Netflix had a "view count" mine would be in the thousands (for seasons one through thirteen, anyway.) If you have a Netflix subscription: I recommend watching/listening to Season 11 for a half-hour or two get a "feel" for what I'm about to say. This video contains several big spoilers and explicit content: but it's a good example of what I'm talking about.



This show has one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. The "OST" doesn't capture it... at all. And what makes it so outstanding is almost subliminal. If you've ever watched RvB you're probably familiar with the short "guitar licks" they use to separate scenes - but in the "Chorus Trilogy" (seasons 11-13) they took it to another level.

It's almost as if the guitar player (who I believe is Nico from Trocedero - but don't quote me on that) is a one of the show's characters. The soundtrack both captures and sets the mood... thorough-out the entire production. There are quiet acoustics playing in-between and during conversations - which you don't really notice until you start paying attention to them - and then you can't unhear them.

I've started following along on my guitar and trying to "play along" with him. In the process: I've come up with a few original motifs. If I ever find the time to create an ARPG: I want to create an "OST" entirely on an acoustic guitar.


I'm not 100% sure why I created this topic. Partly: To provide inspiration for others, and share a recent experience. Partly: To begin a conversation about this type of soundtrack (which I'm not entirely sure how to define) and games which utilize it. Lastly: I'd love to learn more about how "procedural generation" works, and discuss how this "effect" could be accomplished with GameMaker... but feel free to digress and talk about "video game music" in general. I do love a good tangent. :cool:
 
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Examples and Inspiration:

Red vs Blue: Season 13 - Episode 13 - This video contains major spoilers, and strong language... but it's a solid example of what I was discussing in the OP.

Enter the Gorgon

The treble gets turned low when you enter a menu.

Banjo-Kazooie

A lot of games has multiple versions of the same track and cross-fades between them to match the situation... the iconic example would be Banjo-Kazooie's Treasure Trove Cove level where you have the normal version, the underwater version, the pirate ship, the hermit crab's arena and the lighthouse ambience all have different arrangements of the song that fades in as you get close to the point of interest. It's not super difficult to implement in GM either (the naive implementation is to play all of the sounds at once, lowering the volume of all except one to zero, and then fade one up to 1 and the others down to 0 whenever you pass a point-of-interest trigger).

Apart from the "each area sounds different" implementation, many games has an alternate implementation where progressing deeper into an area adds more
depth
to the soundtrack. For instance, you might only hear the bass and drums at the antechamber of a dungeon but when you finally enter the main room you get more instruments, and when you enter the final big puzzle before the boss it adds strings and cymbals to feel more epic building up to the conclusion.

Legend of Zelda
  • Most games in this series play a distinctive sound (motif) when a secret is found.
  • Sometimes, they're also used as a hint (to let the player know where secrets may be.)
  • Link's Awakening did this well, in my opinion.
 
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curato

Member
I haven't really got that far with my project, but I did have an idea for the music like that. Something soft and dungeon like that is really subtle in the background that isn't distracting then be able to layer something over it for certain key events so like it has continuity throughout but you can change the mood. I am not sure how practical my idea is, but what you are talking about reminded it me of it.
 
I haven't really got that far with my project, but I did have an idea for the music like that. Something soft and dungeon like that is really subtle in the background that isn't distracting then be able to layer something over it for certain key events so like it has continuity throughout but you can change the mood. I am not sure how practical my idea is, but what you are talking about reminded it me of it.
I'm not sure how practical it is either... but I believe that we're thinking along the same lines. Similar to the iconic sounds utilized in The Legend of Zelda - but expanded beyond simple "auditory hints" to other major gameplay events?

Personally, I think it could add some depth/personality to NPC interactions, as well - both inside and outside of dungeons... Especially in a game with branching dialogue options. A short riff could play whenever a decision is made; which would provide the player with an additional layer of feedback pertaining to the NPC's reaction.

Thanks for the reply, and good luck with your project! Feel free to post about it here once you gain some traction. I'm curious to know more about it.
 

Yal

šŸ§ *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
A lot of games has multiple versions of the same track and cross-fades between them to match the situation... the iconic example would be Banjo-Kazooie's Treasure Trove Cove level where you have the normal version, the underwater version, the pirate ship, the hermit crab's arena and the lighthouse ambience all have different arrangements of the song that fades in as you get close to the point of interest. It's not super difficult to implement in GM either (the naive implementation is to play all of the sounds at once, lowering the volume of all except one to zero, and then fade one up to 1 and the others down to 0 whenever you pass a point-of-interest trigger).

Apart from the "each area sounds different" implementation, many games has an alternate implementation where progressing deeper into an area adds more depth to the soundtrack. For instance, you might only hear the bass and drums at the antechamber of a dungeon but when you finally enter the main room you get more instruments, and when you enter the final big puzzle before the boss it adds strings and cymbals to feel more epic building up to the conclusion.
 
I love the effect in enter the gungeon, where the treble gets turned low when you go to a menu:)

Is this (9:40) what you're referring to?

A lot of games has multiple versions of the same track and cross-fades between them to match the situation... the iconic example would be Banjo-Kazooie's Treasure Trove Cove level where you have the normal version, the underwater version, the pirate ship, the hermit crab's arena and the lighthouse ambience all have different arrangements of the song that fades in as you get close to the point of interest. It's not super difficult to implement in GM either (the naive implementation is to play all of the sounds at once, lowering the volume of all except one to zero, and then fade one up to 1 and the others down to 0 whenever you pass a point-of-interest trigger).
I loved that game, and almost forgotten how good the Treasure Trove soundtrack was.

I spent a lot of time there as a young lad, lol.​

Apart from the "each area sounds different" implementation, many games has an alternate implementation where progressing deeper into an area adds more depth to the soundtrack. For instance, you might only hear the bass and drums at the antechamber of a dungeon but when you finally enter the main room you get more instruments, and when you enter the final big puzzle before the boss it adds strings and cymbals to feel more epic building up to the conclusion.
Either I didn't notice that or I've forgotten it. I'll have to "let's play" or something. Thanks! That's a great example of this concept "done well."
 
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Yal

šŸ§ *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
Either I didn't notice that or I've forgotten it. I'll have to "let's play" or something. Thanks! That's a great example of this concept "done well."
The two examples of this off the top of my head is Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (N64) and Zelda: Twilight Princess (GCN/Wii). MNSG is worth a play just because of how bonkers it is, but it's got one of the best non-Rare, non-Nintendo soundtracks on the systems as well (the multiple arrangements per dungeon, having multiple songs with vocals, and just a lot of really good music).
 
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