Creating the Temtem Soundtrack: Adaptive Music
This article was originally published in English in Gamasutra. It was translated by the author himself for exclusive publication on DeVuego.
Hi! I’m Damian Sanchez, the composer of Temtem, and in the next read I’ll share some uses of adaptive music in creating the soundtrack for this evolving adventure.
Temtem is a Pokémon-inspired massively multiplayer creature-collection game. Embark on adventures with your Temtem team in the enchanting Airborne Archipelago. Hunt all Temtem, battle other trainers, customize your house, join a friend’s adventure, or explore the world online.
In general, the music in Temtem follows the rules common to most RPGs. The cities, routes, special places and the fights have their distinctive melody
One of our main concerns at the beginning of development was “repetition”.
How can you ensure that the tracks retain their “freshness” for as long as possible during the gaming experience, without making their duration excessively long?
Adaptive music, simple but effective.
Using the FMOD middleware, I’ve designed a set of behaviors that make the music a little more sophisticated than a simple loop.
“Introductions”: the introduction every new location deserves.
Discovering a new area is, in my opinion, a unique experience that should give the player a boost of motivation to keep progressing in their adventure. That’s why I created a separate intro section for each song, which serves as an introduction to the area and its signature music.
As such, upon first visiting most new locations in Temtem, a short fanfare or musical prologue will be played to reinforce the sense of “discovery”. This is something you can only hear the first time to avoid sound fatigue.
For example, routes #1, #2, and #3 share a common exploration music, but each of them has its own intro.
(Special introductions for Deniz routes)
‘Random Start Points’: The first chord is not always the first.
Nothing is worse for the freshness of a musical idea than hearing it begin with the exact same notes over and over again.
To avoid this and to prevent listening fatigue as much as possible, after visiting a place, the music starts at a different point each time you return.
I developed a system that allows the audio engine to randomly select from several pre-defined cue points in the song each time your character enters a different play area. Each of these cue points has a corresponding “mini-intro” that helps create a more natural transition from the previous music.
As an example, here is a small demo how the system works from Zadar (muted music) to route #1.
(Special introduction and alternate entry points for Route #1)
“Alternative melodies”: same basis, different taste.
Several melodies came to mind for this chord progression, which one should I choose? I will use them all!
Probably the part of the integration I’m most happy with. Almost all tracks have at least one section where their main melody has different variations that can be played randomly every time we get to that particular point. This is a simple application of the “vertical remixing” technique that allows the audio engine to select from multiple melodic options that perfectly match the same part of the song.
This technique allows us to add richness to the song and keep the freshness of the song longer without having to increase the overall duration in exchange for just a little extra compositional work.
In the example below you can see how FMOD chooses between different melodic options for a fragment of one of the songs on the soundtrack.
(Arissola Alternative Tunes System runs on FMOD)
It is also very enriching for a composer to have the opportunity to use many of the melodic ideas that would otherwise be discarded in favor of just one of them.
As for the recording, I found a fairly effective formula for organizing the session material in such a way that both the musician and the engineer work as if they were recording a conventional linear song.
Here you have the recording session of the alternative violin melodies for Arissola’s music.
(Violin recording session for Arissola)
‘Alternative versions’: day, night and other problems.
Temtem will feature a day/night system that will not only change the visual realm, but also some aspects of the gameplay that will adapt to this situation. In the same way, the music of many “outer” places, mainly cities and routes, will have their version of alternative music.
[Spoiler de la historia en el siguiente párrafo y ejemplo de video.]
In addition, there are some places that are visited in different situations. For example, when you visit the Giant Banyan for the first time, the feeling is dark and dangerous because at this stage you face the Belsoto. Once defeated, the location turns into a more mystical and magical area where you have the chance to catch some “rare” Temtem.
Here is an example of the Giant Banyan’s music before and after he was freed from the Belsoto.
(Alternative versions for the Giant Banyan)
[Fin del spoiler]
Similarly, I use one of the most common adaptive techniques, “layering”, to dynamically add or remove some tracks in the area you are in by changing the song’s instrumentation.
For example, multiple tiers of instruments can be seen moving in and out as the narwhal is explored. The middle floor (Layer #2) has an almost complete instrumentation, as you go to the outside deck the music gets more intense adding drums, percussions and some strings, while in the opposite direction, as you go to the basement, the song empties darker and more mysterious sound.
Although it’s just a decorative thing at the moment, this will serve its purpose in the near future…
(Narwhal shift system)
I hope you found this article about the composition process for Temtem interesting. My goal is to create a soundtrack that is as immersive as possible, following the general premise of the traditional use of music in this type of game. So far the result has been quite satisfactory for both the team and the players who are already enjoying the “alpha” version of this adventure.
If you want to stay up to date on Temtem or its music, here are some links that might interest you: Temtem Twitter: https://twitter.com/PlayTemtemDamian Sanchez Twitter: https://twitter.com/_damiansanchezTemtem Discord- Server: https://discord.gg/Temtem
Thank you for reading!