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  • Writer's pictureLockedOn

Catalyst Wake - Update 09

This week, I was able to complete all the music for "MIST", and recorded VO as well! I didn't have time for the sound effects, but that shouldn't take too long so it's no big deal.

I figure this post would be a good opportunity to go into depth on how I'm composing Catalyst Wake. Instead of one long track, the music is made up of short, repeating sections. Those sections are then crossfaded with alternate versions of themselves when I want to change the mood of the scene. It's basically what I did in Broken Minds during the final deduction scenes, just turned up to eleven.

It's pretty cool because, no matter what speed you're reading the story, the music adjusts right on cue. That's pretty essential for this project, because scenes usually alternate between drastically different moods very quickly. For example, an action scene with bits of dialogue dispersed throughout.

To create this effect, I compose sections of music that are designed to be able to fit over one another. Sometimes I do this by literally composing on top of the old section, then muting/soling tracks as needed. Or using a summing stack and building on top of the old section. However, usually I just copy and paste the full section of music, then tweak it in the next section. It allows for finer control, and I don't have to remember which tracks I soloed and muted if I want to tweak something later.

I also create various "stings". These are short bursts of music that are intended to disguise transitions between sections. I used stings extensively in Methods when I wanted a track to end more naturally than just fading out or abruptly cutting off.

In the image above, I've highlighted the sections to be easier to see. No, I don't actually work at this zoomed-out level, and I'm mystified by anyone who does. And no, of course I don't name my tracks. Who has time to do that??

The sections highlighted in blue are designed to fit exactly over the sections highlighted in red, and I'll crossfade between them later. That little green section is a unique intro I composed that flows into the next red section. And the pink section at the end has two stings I made to disguise quick transitions between sections.

In terms of coding, Ren'Py allows for a pretty good amount of control in terms of fading between tracks, using the music.set command:

$, delay=0, channel='music')

You can probably find out more about this online, but using this command, I can set the volume to anything I want on any channel I want, and using the delay, control how fast it fades. It's super useful!

That's about all the techniques I've used so far! I will continue to experiment to find new exciting techniques. I have a few more ideas on how to take full advantage of crossfading, for instance:

- Crossfading between keys, to create rising tension

- Crossfading between pans, to shift where the sound is coming from

- Crossfading between modes/chords/harmonies, to change the mood more subtly

- Crossfading one melody between two different instruments (I've done this a bit already!)

- Queuing across multiple channels (a bit tricky to pull off)

This is one of those areas where I have a huge advantage by being the composer and the game designer at the same time. Though it's entirely possible to coordinate something like this if you've hired a composer, being able to quickly iterate when a track isn't working or a sting isn't quite right is extremely helpful.

Until next time!

— LockedOn.

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