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Hi! This is Damian Sanchez, the music composer for ‘Temtem’ and, in the following read, I’m sharing some of the adaptive music approaches in the process of creating the score for this upcoming adventure.
Temtem is a massively multiplayer creature-collection adventure inspired by Pokemon. Seek adventure in the lovely Airborne Archipelago alongside your Temtem squad. Catch every Temtem, battle other tamers, customize your house, join a friend’s adventure or explore the dynamic online world.
In general terms, the music in Temtem, follows the common rules of most RPGs. Cities, routes, special places and combats have their distinctive melodies.
One of our main concerns in the beginning of this journey was ‘repetition’.
How would I stick to reasonable track lengths but making them sounding ‘fresh’ as long as possible during the playing experience?
Adaptive music, simple but effective.
With the help of the FMOD middleware, I’ve designed a series of behaviors through which the music becomes something a bit more sophisticated than a simple loop.
‘Intros’: the presentation every new place deserves.
Discovering a new area is, to me, a very unique ‘one time happening’ experience which must give the player a push to keep progressing through the adventure.
There is a special intro section for each song that serves as a presentation of the area and its distinctive music.
Thus, a short fanfare or little musical prologue will play the first time you visit most of the new zones in Temtem to encourage the sense of discovery.
This is something you’ll have the chance to hear once ingame to avoid annoyance. (Yes, pay attention because it’s not happening twice).
As example, routes #1, #2 and #3 have the same ‘exploring’ music, but each of them has its particular intro.
(Special intros for Deniz routes)
‘Random start points’: first chord won’t always be the first.
There is nothing worse for the freshness of a musical idea than listening it starting over and over with the same exact notes.
To avoid this, and preventing ‘listening fatigue’ as much as possible, once you have already visited a place, the music entry point will randomly change each further time you visit it.
I designed a system which allows the audio engine to select randomly from few available start points in the song each time the zone music trigger is crossed by your character. Each of those start points have their respective ‘mini-intro’ stinger that helps doing the transition from the previous track in a quite seamlessly way.
As example, here you have a short demonstration of how the system works going from Zadar (music muted) to Route 1: Prasine Coast.
(Main intro and alternate start points at Prasine Coast)
‘Alternate melodies’: same base, different flavors.
I came up with few good melodies for this chord progression, what should I do? I’ll put them all!
Probably the part of the integration I’m most happy about. Almost every track has, at least, one part in which its main melody has several variations that will play randomly each time you reach that point. This is a very simple vertical remix system that allows the audio engine to choose from several melody options that fit equally well a same part of a song.
That technique, allowed us to add richness and keep the freshness of the song longer without the need to increase the whole duration, in exchange of just a little amount of additional work in the track.
In the following example you can see how the FMOD event selects from several melody options for a given song fragment
(Alternate melodies system from Arissola working in FMOD)
Also, it’s really gratifying for a composer to have the opportunity to keep lots of those writing ideas that, otherwise, would become rejected in benefit of just one of them.
I found a really fast procedure for recording these additional melodies altering the structure of the song for the recording session in a way that both, player and engineer, can record as it was an usual ‘linear’ song.
Here you have the recording session for the Arissola’s alternate violin melodies.
(Alternate melodies Violin recording for Arissola)
‘Alternative versions’: day, night and other affairs.
Temtem will include a day/night system that will not only change it’s visuals, but some aspects of it’s gameplay that will adapt to this situation. In the same way, the music from most outdoor scenarios, mainly cities and routes, will have it’s alternative night music version.
[Story spoiler in the next paragraph and video example]
Along with that, there are some places you visit under different situations in the story. For example, when you first visit the Giant Banyan it feels a bit creepy and dangerous as you are facing some messing Belsoto grunts, but after beating them, it will become a mystical and charming place in which you’ll have the chance to catch some odd Temtem.
Here you have an example of Giant Banyan’s music pre and post Belsotos.
(Giant Banyan alternative versions)
[End of spoiler]
Similarly, I’m using one of the most common adaptive techniques, the layering, to make some tracks dynamically mix depending on the zone you are.
As example, you can notice several layers coming in and out while exploring the Narwhal. The middle floor has an, almost complete, arrangement (layer #2) that changes when you go outside to the main deck, where the music intensifies with the addition of drums, percussion and some strings (layer #3) ; and in the inverse way, when you go down to the basement the arrangement becomes way more ‘dark and empty’ (layer #1) .
Although now it’s merely decorative, this will have its purpose in the near future…
(Narwhal layering system)
I hope you all found interesting this post about the work in progress music for Temtem. My willing is to create the most immersive score possible following the traditional use of music in this genre and results, so far, are being quite satisfactory both for the team and the alpha players that are already enjoying this growing adventure.
If you wish to keep updated about ‘Temtem’ or it’s music, please check the following links:
Temtem Twitter: https://twitter.com/PlayTemtem
Damian Sanchez Twitter: https://twitter.com/_damiansanchez
Temtem Discord Server: https://discord.gg/Temtem
Many thanks for reading!