MQC - Guardians of the Realm Portals: Music Using Horizontal Resequencing
It's been a while since I've done a blog post, been busy with other projects (which I look forward to sharing here when the time comes) as of late but taking some time to do a post that I meant to do way back when I shared this track on Soundcloud. So today I'll be talking about the music of MagiQuest Chronicles: Guardians of the Realm Portals, particularly the behavior of the music in-game, called "Horizontal Resequencing". So before or while you read the rest of this post, here is good example of Horizontal Resequencing in the music for the dual with Bandyshanks, the Goblin King:
So this music is playing as you combat the Goblin King, and you'll notice that the music isn't structured as a traditional western song would be (ABABCB, aka Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, and Chorus). The music definitely fluctuates in intensity or impact, but otherwise it has a consistent, drone-like quality to the structure/sound. This is purposefully done for how I used the Horizontal Resequencing technique in this application. I've mentioned Horizontal Resequencing a number of times, what is it already?! This will be a super simplified example at the start, it's a bit more work than this but: Say we write out a similar piece of music to the one above. What we then do is go through and split the music up into little sections (could be different lengths depending on the material) such as every measure or 2 bars/4 bars/8bars, etc. What we then do with our bank of smaller music clips now is load them into specific software (and what I used for this project was the Psai Music Engine which specifically does this method of music triggering), and we can play back the music clips in a somewhat random fashion. Therefore we now have music that is constantly changing in structure, or Resequencing, much like how some DJ's use Ableton Live (a Digital Audio Workstation more so used for live performance). Here's a quick link to the Psai Music Engine site: http://www.homeofpsai.com/
I say "somewhat random", even though you could leave it to be random playback of any music clip, this might not always be the most musically pleasing or acceptable thing to do. But what we can do, and what's nice about the Psai Music Engine, is we can set acceptable paths from one clip (a) to a number of other clips (b, c, and d) that sound well coming after our first clip (a), so we set up branching paths. This way the music flows a lot better and won't transition into odd sounding clips. And, knowing how this branching clips idea works, you can better write your music to seamlessly change pace or mood, reacting to what's going on in-game. Having the traditional western music structure wouldn't work well with this dynamic triggering method since it is written to be a set structure, with the more static (granted loudness and instrumentation change) approach and writing music with Horizontal Resequencing in mind, the music will end up a lot more flexible in terms of what branching paths you can choose. What's also really nice about this technique and about Psai Music Engine is the ability to have specific "Start Segments" and "End Segments", so when the game engine calls for the music to play, with the Start Segments we can have a specific fade in or a big crash, however we want the music to start it will play through this before jumping into the main branching hierarchy of our music clips. Now the reverse happens when the game calls for the music to end, when the current music clip has played through it's entire length it will then jump to the End Segments where we could fade out, crescendo up, big crash, or even just completely stop, whatever we want to do. And we can have a number of these Start and End Segments so each time they are triggered we can have different clips playback each time, thus adding something new every time you play a specific level.
There is definitely more that goes into Horizontal Resequencing with how you set clips up to trigger this way, Pre- and Post- beat fades, higher priority Themes to override the current music, different States for if you are exploring or in combat, etc. It's a pretty lengthy subject and at some point I'll make a more thorough post about how to use Psai Music Engine, or at least how I've used it and pros/cons of the technique or vs. other techniques such as Vertical Remixing and so on. For now, and if you are interested in Psai Music Engine and Horizontal Resequencing methods via that software they have a number of tutorials showing off their features and how to use the program on their Unity Asset Store page (good to mention it's for Unity 3D and only works for Windows OS): https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/24788 Thank you for reading, hope this post was informative, and I'll post more stuff asap! -TMR