Undertakers: Columbia College Chicago 2013 senior game development project.

As both the Music and Voice Over lead, I had to wear a couple of hats on this project. For music, I was responsible for music composition, interactive music implementation, recording, managing musicians, supervising other composers, and working directly with product owners. As Voice Over lead, I wrote scripts, held auditions, cast and directed the actors who gave the performances. I also worked directly with the project lead to establish what the VO needs of the game were.

This video shows the interactive aspect of the score, and explains the decisions we made in creating the score design.

Music

When I first heard our project was going to be a LAN FPS game, I was somewhat crestfallen. My immediate reaction was that first person shooters are music-phobic. Once gameplay starts, the music stops. I didn't want three menu stingers to be my legacy senior year. We resolved to push the amount of music a game of this type could contain, and to make Undertakers the most musically ambitious project of any Columbia College Capstone.

Artistic Direction

Undertakers is an agoraphobic, lonely experience. The town is called "Abandon", the environment is harsh, it's just you, the gold, and the people in your way. With this in mind, I chose to utilize bright, noisy, affected textures and extended techniques. I chose the flute to reflect the lonely whistling wind, the violin as a cultural signifier of the old west, and the cello for it's pathos and ability to speak rhythmically.

Successes

In spite of my initial fears, in the final build of the game, we have music nearly constantly during gameplay. Player feedback was positive, we received no complaints that the music was too present, many players didn't remember hearing music, despite the music's presence in the mix. The general reaction was that the timbral choices were effective, and the dynamic implementation subtle enough that player's didn't feel they were being whacked on the head.

We brought our ideas to the rest of the team very early in the process, much earlier than may be possible in most settings. This instilled in the rest of the 30 + person team a sense of confidence and involvement in the musical direction, giving us a great deal of autonomy.

In their post-mortems, my teammates frequently cited the music as something which had gone well, which humbled me deeply.

Failures

My original vision for the score design was much more extensive, but it eventually became clear that the scope was simply too large. In the end, I was proud of how much music we managed to get into a genre that can be music-phobic.

Originally, I intended to have each instrument correspond with one of the four characters. If one of them was dead and waiting to respawn, the instrument associated with their character would fade out of the mix. The implementation was ready to go, but code lock was reached before our programmers had time to write the necessary checks.

Implementation

Here is a screenshot of the Wwise session in which I prototyped the interactive music. The final implementation ended up being very similar to this. Each track is it's own entity, capable of mixing in and out independently, enabling a rich reactivity.

This piece is a simulation of the gameplay music during the daytime level of undertakers. It consists of 50 short pieces which the Wwise middle-ware stitches together with varying intervals of time between each piece. Instruments performed by Monte Weber, Marissa Dietz, and Joe Larocca. Fiddle improvisation by Monte Weber.

This piece is a simulation of the musical even which is triggered by the approach of the game end scenario. The higher the player's score is, the more tracks fade in. This recording was created using the Wwise session in which the music was implemented. 

A test piece for a game end scenario, similar to the piece above. This is intended for a possible nighttime level. 

Another test piece for the night level. This time, to accompany normal gameplay. 

This was one of the first test pieces which informed many of the stylistic elements of the current gameplay music. There have been significant changes since this first piece, including favoring staccato over legato, the segmentation of the pieces, etc.