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Pre-Production thoughts on Breath of Life

Breath of Life Logo created by Rhys Sellars

I accepted this second game project as I was being briefed about the first one, so it's been quite a busy week for me so far and it's only going to get busier. With the inclusion of this project I now have approximately 10 music tracks and over 20 sound effects to produce by week 12. That's only 6 weeks away as of me writing this blog, lucky for me I've just about finished my project plan and it looks like I've given myself enough time to complete these tasks, with just enough time for revision. I've also got to remember that I'm working on a podcast and two other productions which I will be writing blogs on as I complete them as a way to critically reflect on my process.

With that out of the way...

Breath of Life is a mobile game being developed as a solo project by Rhys Sellars who is the production manager of the other game I'm working on called Dish-Pig Dilemma, so we'll be seeing a lot of eachother over the coming weeks. Rhys is a dedicated individual and I'm looking forward to working with him on both of these projects. In Breath of Life the player must command a lost spirit back to its lifeless body while avoiding traps along the way. I'm to write 7 pieces of music for this game and am under some strict guidelines which I will discuss in a moment. Along with with these tracks I'm to provide 9 sound effects to draw the player into the experience, which I will also outline below. Before I get into the Sound Design and the Composition techniques I plan on using for this project I wanted to talk about something else of importance that I need to consider for this project.

The game is being developed for mobile devices which means I need to think about the frequency range a mobile phone can produce. According to a discussion I followed at Harmony Central, the average frequency range of mobile speakers is 300Hz to 4kHz which will remove a lot of the really high and really low content from any sound effects and music that I create. Although there are a lot of people who use headphones with their mobiles, which will give them a slightly larger range especially in the top end, I must create assets that can be heard with the device alone.

MachinimaSound - Winter Dawn

The example above is the main reference track given to me by Rhys, it's called Winter Dawn. From what has been explained to me this track is almost exactly what they want in terms of feel, instrumentation and pacing. The music must convey a sombre tone and the piano is to be the only instrument used in the entire soundtrack. I've been given freedem regarding effects and the amount of pianos, however no other instruments are to be included. This provides a very interesting challenge to me as a composer, being unable to make my piece interesting by adding new instruments will really test my abilities and my knowledge of music theory.

Secondly the developers would like an evolving track which will provide another interesting challenge. The in-game music must become increasingly happier as the players spirit draws closer to its body. I'm really excited to experiment with this idea, as of now I'm thinking of layering a melody line over the top of a minor chord progression that is in the relative major of that key and seeing what effect that gives when introduced slowly as the game progresses. I'll see what else I can come up with and I'll definitely be writing a long blog post about my process when I'm finished.

Most of the sound effects are various breathing and blowing sound effects so I think I'm going to be using my own mouth to record variations of this and then adding in an ethereal-sounding reverb to make them sound ghostly. I might consider using something like Valhalla room for its superb reverb:

Valhalla Room - Demo by Vincenzo Avallone

I think the challenge in the sound design will come from making sure the breathe-ins and breathe-outs go together even if they're randomly paired together and that the reverb is consistent between all sounds. I think to do this I'll put my reverb onto a seperate channel in my DAW so that all the effects go through the same reverb. This will allow me to adjust the reverb on its channel and in turn effect all the seperate sound effects.

Having carefully considered the full asset list of this new game project I'm very eager to start composing some mournful piano music and recording some haunting breath sound effects. I'm really keen to see if I can overcome the compositional challenges this project has presented me and also to see if I can work on two small projects at the same time because I can imagine I will need multitasking skills if I'm to become a succesful freelance game audio specialist.

I look forward to giving you all my next update!

Until then, take care.

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