Making Music to Elevate the Pixel Art

(This week’s blog post arrives a day late because Tuesday was a national holiday. Happy birthday to 99-years-old Finland!)

Last week the soundtrack for Riptale got finished. The challenge with the combination of modern day audio tools and pixel art is restraining yourself from all the thrilling possibilities a plethora of plug-ins presents. We wanted to do something retro-sounding, but not quite chiptune.

Stylistically, the music was very much inspired by the soundtracks of early Mega Man games and melodic heavy metal. We were trying to┬ákeep the chiptune feel where each instrument could only play a single note at any given time. When it comes to the sounds, there’s of course plenty of directions you could go in. If chiptune is too simplistic and harsh, one might try stepping up a generation or two with the retro game synthesizers. But that was not the sound we were looking for.

The early game synths have a distinct sound to them, but suffer quite a bit from the limitations in the technology of the era. Game music has since grown out of the restricting synths of those days but the basic sounds found in chiptune music are still used to an extent in modern pieces. We were looking for something harsh that would convey the energy of distorted guitars found in heavy metal. We also wanted to sound a little bit more modern while still retaining the feel of FM synthesis that chiptune is known of. It was an interesting experiment but we are pleased with the results.

Like most everything in game development, creating the music for Riptale was an iterative process. Only a third of the themes that were worked on made their way on the final soundtrack. We wanted to make sure that the music actually fit the stages they were planted in. Some of the themes might work in another game, but we felt that they had no place in this title. Could they be recycled? It’s possible… but unlikely.

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