Hi there, my name’s Chris and I’m the sound designer for Puny Astronaut!
Throughout the last three or so years, Skye has evolved in all aspects. Today we’ll be focussing on the iteration of the musical soundtrack of Skye. As the overall visual style of Skye has changed throughout development, the musical content of the game has followed suit by changing instrumentation, mix and even going so far as to drop everything and starting anew.
Early (Dare) Days
At the start of the development, we were creating a vertical slice demo to be shown to the public at the Dare to be Digital event. Our artistic vision was much different than it is now, the intention was that most of the environment and interactions took on a crystalline, almost stained-glass appearance. As such, the soundtrack adopted a sparkly and chorus-y tone and overall timbre. I would liken the music at that point to gems and crystals under a clear starry night. The first two iterations of this music track contain an almost Alberti bass melody which was edited to a higher octave but then completely removed by the third revision, as it sounded too plodding and not indicative of the free-roaming lightness that we were aiming for. It was also found that the tempo of the first two iterations wasn’t meshing with the laid-back atmosphere that we intended to convey, so the tempo was brought down from 130bpm to a more calming and lulling 100bpm. In the following revision, a lot more space was given to the instrumentation, softer timbres and reverb were employed to a greater degree in this revision of the track to intimate player freedom and the sense of light-hearted adventure and exploration. These four iterations can be heard below:
Expansion and Re-design
After we were certain that development would continue past Dare, we approached the project from afresh. We essentially started from the ground up, audio content included. The game world style changed from the abstract of glass and crystal to a more terrestrial setting, in a pastoral valley. The setting changed and with it, the music. The glassy, synth tones were replaced with more conventional instrumentation, harmonica, strings, flutes and xylophone being most prominent. The mood of play had changed through added quirkiness and an additional care-free nature. Instead of the large space between notes that was present in the Dare demo music, more frequent shorter staccato notes were used in this track, to convey an innocent adventurous atmosphere. Another method of pulling back to a more traditional music style was by time signature. As you probably heard, the previous Dare demo music was composed in 7/4 time signature, a distinct, fantastical and uncommon timing in music. It’s use in the previous track was mainly inspired by Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Returning to a regular 4/4 time signature allowed the music to go back to a more grounded and familiar musical style. Upon the second iteration of this track, the mix and performance data of the instruments was changed so allow the instruments to flow in and out of the forefront of the track, to add more activity to the track without making it frantic or too busy. These two iterations can be heard here:
Most Recent Work
Soon after receiving investment from 4J Studios, we began prototyping the new expanded score for the game with another vertical slice demo, in a similar vein to the Dare demo but re-designed, reimagined and informed from the experience we had all gained. The aim here was to create a complex-simplicity balance, to interleave several minimalist layers of instrumentation and melody to build an ensemble where different elements drift in and out of the foreground.
We'll be sharing some of our latest work on Skye in the coming weeks. In the meantime I'd be interested to hear any feedback from others working in sound. Thanks!