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7 methods wherein I used adaptive music to make FixFox extra enjoyable

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Adaptive music in FixFox

FixFox is a healthful Sci-Fi journey recreation with a Pixel Artwork aesthetic. It is a solo dev recreation made by Jaroslav Meloun and I took care of its soundtrack.

We used FMOD as middleware to implement all of the audio of the sport. This allowed us to get inventive with the methods we used adaptive music: the only was altering the depth or sound of the music, however in a few tracks we pushed the bounds of adaptive music in additional progressive methods.

Let’s dig into the sport and look at the place and the way we used adaptive music. You may hear the primary instance from the second you activate the sport.

Making a memorable first impression

“Oh, it will get me each time”, says YouTuber Zypher when seeing the title display in his gameplay video of FixFox.

As I defined in a earlier weblog publish about determining the FixFox’s soundtrack, first impressions matter, particularly within the period of Steam and straightforward refunds. It is by no means too early to create impression on the participant, and the soundtrack does not waste a second.

From the very starting, even while you’re nonetheless seeing firm logos, the music performs two repeating bell sounds and a brief melody. The logos fade away and also you see a single button. The bells hold enjoying indefinitely till you click on on the button.

And while you do it, you are greeted with the title display “booting up” (sound impact included), whereas the music goes in full swing with a well-known melody – the one you have simply heard earlier than, however absolutely developed. Enjoying the melody through the logos is a small element, you would possibly say, however one which makes this second barely extra satisfying – and the whole lot counts in relation to the primary impression.

Take a look at the primary seconds of this video to see what occurs on this title display in FMOD behind the scenes:

The bells loop indefinitely in FMOD whereas enjoying the 8-bit melody on prime of it as a separate occasion. When the participant clicks the button Unity adjustments the FMOD parameter “start_button” to 1, which tells FMOD to interrupt the loop and begin enjoying the total title display monitor.

What’s necessary right here is that I used FMOD’s synchronization to time it with the music, in order that the total monitor suits the rhythm of the bells no matter when the participant clicks on the button. This will imply a delay of virtually half a second between the clicking and the music transition, however the booting up sound impact camouflages it.

However one other fascinating facet of the title display music is that it switches between acoustic, 8-bit, and Hybrid 8-bit music relying on the submenu you are in. That is how I made it:

There are three totally different variations of the identical monitor enjoying on the similar time however solely one in all them does not have its quantity turned down. Altering the “display” parameter lowers the quantity of that monitor whereas rising one of many different two.

🪕 Worth 0 raises the quantity of the acoustic model, used on the “Proceed” submenu.

👑 Worth 1 raises the quantity of the Hybrid 8-bit model, utilized in the primary title display.

👾 Worth 2 raises the quantity of the 8-bit model, used on the “Settings” display.

This creates the impression that the music switches genres seamlessly. It is enjoyable, it is a good first impression, and it additionally offers the participant style of the Hybrid 8-bit sound of this soundtrack.

Now seize your instruments and let’s transfer ahead: we will use adaptive music to make fixing machines extra thrilling!

Creating a way of development with “I Can Repair It!”

Essentially the most distinctive recreation mechanic of FixFox is the puzzles wherein you repair machines utilizing uncommon instruments. Like a strawberry-flavored bandaid, or a glowing banana.



To present a larger sense of development and make it extra satisfying for the participant, I created numerous variations of various intensities for the music of those puzzles. Every time part of the machine is solved, the music will increase in depth; every subsequent degree of depth provides new devices to the music.

That is the bottom depth model of the monitor, which you heard when you have not mounted any machine half but:

Depth 2, now with heist-y bongos to make you’re feeling as when you’re in Ocean’s Eleven:

Depth 3, with additional percussion and 8-bit synths:

Moreover, every time you discover a machine that’s tougher to repair (Tier 3 or larger), the music will get funkier, additionally rising the depth as you resolve the puzzle.

Depth 1, with drums and funky guitar:

Depth 2, with extra heist bongos:

Depth 3, with Rock organ:

All of this was applied equally to the menu music. All monitor variations play on the similar time whereas a parameter managed by Unity adjustments the quantity steadiness of the tracks to find out which one you possibly can hear. Every mounted half adjustments the parameter, and so does the music you hear.

This makes it extra satisfying for the participant to unravel these little puzzles as a result of now she will hear the progress.

Let’s transfer on to bigger puzzles.

Informing the participant with “Jumbots, Assemble!”

Whereas “I Can Repair It!” performs whereas fixing small-scale puzzles, “Jumbots, Assemble!” performs whereas fixing greater scale puzzles. It performs contained in the junkyards, places which might be a puzzle on their very own. Due to this, my concept was to make an even bigger, heavier model of “I Can Repair It!”.

Some moments within the junkyards embrace driving Jumbots (large, heavy, cool machines). When the participant does so, a special model of the monitor performs, one with a layer of heavy percussion added on prime of the unique music. To make this transition seamless with out stopping the circulation of music, we used FMOD to decrease the quantity of 1 monitor and rise the quantity of the opposite the second a parameter adjustments. It is the identical precept as within the earlier circumstances, simply utilized otherwise.

This can be a easy use of adaptive music nevertheless it serves two capabilities: it informs the participant of its present state (driving a jumbot), and it reinforces the concept Jumbots are heavy machines. In Pixel Artwork video games we usually get restricted visible data, so it’s at all times helpful to consider methods wherein the music can reinforce the environment and vibe the visuals are attempting to realize.

That is the traditional model:

Which then morphs into this when you’re driving a Jumbot:

Subsequent, I am going to present you one thing musically extra complicated. This is the place the true enjoyable begins!

Portraying conflicting ideologies with “Pirates and The Order”

That is maybe essentially the most fascinating use of adaptive music in FixFox.

There are two opposing factions within the recreation. The Pirates are chaotic and insurgent. The Order is methodic and stoic.

Jaroslav’s concept was for every one to have its personal theme, very contrasting with one another (okay up to now). And likewise that when each events work together with one another, each themes play on the similar time.


However truly, it is a genius concept. Essentially the most logical and efficient method when you’ve two totally different and equally necessary identities that work together with one another, every one with their musical theme, is to easily play each on the similar time.

Environment friendly, however onerous to execute!

Fortunately, and like every composer would inform you, one does not grow to be a composer as a result of they like simple issues. So I composed each tracks on the similar time, double-checking each observe to verify the whole lot would match collectively. It was like making a thousand-piece puzzle, the place each piece suits with the others solely while you put it in the suitable place. This was onerous. And enjoyable.

The Order theme is deep and solemn. To make it sound monk-like, I added vocal samples of a vocal approach known as diphonic singing utilized by Tibetan monks. Test it out, it is fascinating:

However I wished The Order to really feel ridiculously over-the-top, so I added apocalyptic-sounding horns to crank their (obvious) seriousness to 11. I additionally layered myself shouting “huh”s and “hah”s (as if a gaggle of monks was coaching) and a contact of navy snare, each to mirror the extreme dogmatic self-discipline of The Order.

The end result seems like one thing a parade of monks with a brass part and percussion would play – and nicely, there’s the 8-bit factor too.

See how I destroyed my throat making it:

My flatmate Isa occurred to be an exquisite trumpet participant and he or she helped me make this monitor shine. She additionally recorded a few of the background choir voices you hear on the finish of Vix’s theme.

That is the total theme:

On the opposite excessive, the Pirate’s theme is wacky, jumpy, energetic. It has drums, an lively piano, and 8bit synths.

See how I made it:

And right here’s the completed model of The Pirates’ theme:

In case you’re obsessive about Remaining Fantasy IX like I’m (why would not you?) you would possibly discover a sure affect from Zorn and Thorn’s theme. In spite of everything, they and the pirates are equally whacky (although the Pirates do not flip into a large abomination that tries to kill you – whoops, sorry for the spoilers).

And now, as promised, let’s overlap them! That is what performs when each Pirates and Order are current onscreen.

That is how I applied these tracks in FMOD:

I discover this idea very thrilling and I might like to discover it additional in different video games. I believe it has numerous expressive potential and I do not recall seeing it in any recreation (when you do, please inform me!).

Telling a narrative with “Bryn and Artor”

Right here I additionally used the idea of “stacking“ themes as in “Pirates and The Order”, however as an alternative of utilizing it to characterize ideologies, I used it to painting two characters and their story.

Bryn and Artor are two brothers. I am not going to get into particulars now to not spoil something, however all I am going to say is that they’ve reverse personalities (a however just like the Pirates and the Order however on a extra private and intimate degree). Bryn is delicate, inventive, and carefree, whereas Artor is daring, critical, and calculative. They each come from an aristocratic household.

As within the earlier monitor, the thought was that every one had a theme and they might play collectively in some vital moments. As within the earlier case, whereas one theme was enjoying the opposite one ought to have the ability to be layered on prime at any level.

For Bryn’s theme, I made a decision to make it a solo piano monitor. Why? 4 causes.

Purpose 1: a solo instrument could be simple to mix with Artor’s monitor, which I suspected could be orchestral.

Purpose 2: the piano permits for very delicate and expressive elements that mirror his fragility.

Purpose 3: he is from an aristocratic household. Piano equals (typically) aristocracy.

Purpose 4: how can we mirror his creativity? By associating him with a genius. I attempted to make this piece sound in order that some elements remind you of Mozart. (emphasis on tried).

The monitor begins shy and evolves right into a playful classically sounding piece, with a barely darker (however nonetheless classical-sounding) ending.

For some elements that also break my coronary heart after I take into consideration them, I made a sadder model:

That is Bryn.

For Artor, I made a critical orchestral piece. This represents higher his stoic and critical persona in addition to his aristocratic ascendancy (and nicely, his kinda boastful habits). It performs in a reasonably low register, which inserts nicely beneath Bryan’s higher-pitch piano elements.

Listed below are each Artor’s theme and Bryn’s theme collectively. This performs every time each are collectively:

To take issues a step additional – and by now you possibly can guess I like to do this – I composed the tracks in order that after they play collectively they inform the story of the 2 brothers. The subsequent three paragraphs have minor spoilers, so when you intend to play the sport please skip them!

The monitor begins with Bryn (the piano) being playful however uncertain from 0:00 to 0:09, whereas Artor (the orchestra) helps him from beneath, static and stern. At 0:10 Bryn begins getting inventive and explorative, whereas Artor follows Bryn one step behind, imitating the notes that Bryn performed earlier. He does so with rising depth, not as versatile as Bryn however with willpower.

At 0:27 Bryn shines, enjoying the central melody of the piece, the “refrain”. In the meantime, within the background, Bryn follows him, however he retains doing the identical – he’s nonetheless the identical. At 0:36, a well-known state of affairs repeats: Artor lastly catches up with Bryn (the orchestra strings play the melody) however Bryn is already one step forward with a flourishing melody.

At 0:45 issues get darker – their variations convey them huge ache. Bryn takes the initiative with a turbulent piano half, Artor quieter within the background, not current sufficient for Bryn. However at 0:54 Artor comes again with a tragic, orchestral model of Vix’s theme. Why? As a result of Vix is the catalyst that lets them full their story. With out Vix, Artor would have stayed without end misplaced in area, and it’s Vix who helps him amend issues. Vix influences Bryn too, be it by way of Artor’s actions or herself, so at 0:56 Bryn (piano) echoes Vix’s and joins Artor in enjoying it.

Finish of spoilers!

Is that this overthinking? Completely. However typically these little particulars slip by way of the participant’s unconscious and assist the story have a larger affect. Generally the distinction between an OK and an awesome soundtrack is simply spending additional time discovering methods to make it mirror higher the sport’s world.

One other high quality of soundtrack is that it by no means feels repetitive. And I got here up with somewhat FMOD trick for that!

Conserving a loop recent without end with randomized solos in “It’s Cozy Right here”

It is Cozy Here’s a monitor that performs usually through the recreation. It is performed in pleasant places and settlements. Every area has its personal model (the unique one for the Salty Desert, a model with kalimba for the Bitter Woods, one with banjo for the Candy Fields, and one with detuned piano for the Bitter Mountains), plus an extra one for Vix’s ship at first of the sport. You may hear all of them right here.

However I took issues a step additional so as to add extra selection:

  1. I recorded 26 little guitar solos/melodies.
  2. I programmed FMOD to set off them randomly at first and center of the monitor.

Test it out:

Which means each time you hear the monitor there are little variations, which retains it recent longer. It is not a panacea, however I believe it is a very environment friendly approach to make use of the facility of FMOD so as to add selection (or Wwise, you can do precisely the identical).

This can be a little trick I got here up with and that I would prefer to see used extra usually (if you understand any examples, let me know!). As at all times, be happy to steal it.

That is the total monitor from the OST album (although this model doesn’t have the any of the randomized solos):

We’re arriving on the finale. And like in any good story, we will rise the stakes for the sake of pleasure.

Elevating the stakes with “Life.Demise.Information”

This monitor performs in numerous elements of the sport every time there’s some type of thriller or unsettling location. Sooner or later (I will not spoil it) issues escalate and so does this monitor. Quite a bit.

The essential model is a synthy 8-bit mysterious monitor. A few of its up-and-down arpeggios may remind you of “Floating in Area”, one of many area tracks I confirmed earlier than:

It additionally has some unsettling ascending patterns beginning at 0:34 – I received this concept from those you possibly can hear within the dungeon theme from The Legend of Zelda:

This monitor has 5 totally different intensities, with the final one going everywhere in the prime into hybrid orchestral mode.

Depth 2:

Depth 3. Issues begin to amp up right here:

Depth 4:

Depth 5 (All aboard the Epic Sci-Fi practice!).

This final one was truly a last-minute addition to make a selected climactic half extra satisfying – the sport deserved it! Because it deserves all of the care and a spotlight put into its adaptive soundtrack. If you have not executed it but, I like to recommend you to learn this text the place I clarify the story and inventive course of behind this recreation’s soundtrack.

You will get FixFox on Steam, take heed to the soundtrack on Spotify / AppleMusic, and obtain the OST album (plus a secret monitor) on Bandcamp (pay-what-you-want).

Aleix Ramon is a recreation music composer from Barcelona (Spain). Comply with him on Twitter and Instagram, the place he teaches recreation builders methods to use recreation music higher, and be part of his e-mail checklist to be a part of a small bunch of inventive minds.