How much music is enough?
Obviously, as a game designer, I have grandiose plans and want the best for my game. On the other hand, as a startup business that is run part-time and has grown to the point where it covers its expenses (and a little profit beyond), there isn't much in the way of budget for music at this point in time.
Rather than using royalty-free music, I've decided that this 2D space shooter game I am working on needs its own custom music. The musician I'm hiring has graciously agreed to work within the bounds of my meager budget, provided I can commit to pay off the balance as the game sales roll in and the game becomes profitable. I have agreed.
As a person who prefers "cash on the barrel" as a way of doing business, I really want to minimize the balance I'm going to owe when the work is done. So I want to do the minimum amount of music necessary for the game's success.
So here is my question: how much music does a space shooter really need? The game will have 40 levels, and each level will probably be fairly short (able to be played in 3-5 minutes, assuming the player doesn't die).
Earlier this year, I looked at some other space shooters to make sure I wasn't reinventing the wheel (and so my game would be somewhat unique). I looked at several games - Astro Avenger 2, Astrogeddon, Desperate Space, and Swarm - but I wasn't quite sure how much music there was in each of those games. Perhaps the authors of those games can chime in with some input. How much music was produced for those games? Did customers complain about the music being too repetitive?
40 individual levels? or 40 levels themed in, say, five groups of eight levels?
With the latter in mind I'd go for five two-minute loopable soundtracks. Something for the title screen and a couple of stings for 'life lost', 'game over' etc.
I'm having the same dilemma with Magicville, except I've got over 140 levels to contend with.
Plus you have to watch the download size. I'd say Desktop Gaming's estimate is good plus one for "level complete" and maybe a game finished sequence + intro if you have one. Possibly one for a select level/map screen and story screens.
Have your musician create "loopable" music. And make each track 1-2 minutes long with a few dynamics. The end user will never realize it's a short tune, because of all the on screen mayhem.
This is one of the reasons it's really important for an indie dev to find someone with at least a little experience here.
You can be very, very sparse. My favorite astroid clones don't have level music (if any) (Mealstrom if anyone remembers it), but it has Title music and level win/lose stingers.
You could get away with a one minute title and two 20 second stingers, if you wanted to, as long as your sound effects were compelling.
You could have Title, Menu, and Win/Lose stingers.
This is about prioritizing music and being able to do that means being able to understand what the music is doing for your game.
If you have a ton of crap going on all the time during the levels, music might not do much for you there. If your levels are very sparse, then you might want to fill the silence with a little mood and atmosphere.
Titles, for example, don't have many or any sound effects, and so music is ideal here. Level transition points, inbetween the actual gameplay, is also where there are a minimum of sound effects, and so you, again, might want some music there.
If you put the time into a dynamic music engine, then you could extend the life of backdrop music significantly.
At the same time, an excellent 70 minute soundtrack would be BAD ASS!
Apart from the menu music and some jingles for game over, etc...
for the level musics, you could get away with just two musics if they are long enough and good quality.
Thanks for the ideas guys. Fortunately, I am working with a good, professional musician, and he is certainly experienced. He has some good ideas about how to maximize the amount of music that we create for the game, so I think I'm going to trust his judgment.
I definitely appreciate the fact that he is willing to work with me on my limited budget, and that he wants to produce the quality and kind of music the game needs, even if it means he is working on credit so to speak.
You mean he wants to make hour-long masterpieces and give you good credit terms like paying over the next 5 years? ;-p
You can just use ambient "space" sounds as your background rather than loop a composition over and over again (which depending on the composition it could get pretty tiring). I think minimally, music could just be applied to your title screen, conflicts (such as coming into proximity with enemies), and end credits, and that's about it. In fact, your end credits could use the same music as your title screen.
If you want more varied ambient backgrounds you could just introduce more sounds into the mix.
From my experience, 4-5 tracks that are a 1-2 minute loop won't cost you more than $500 or so. I don't think you'd need more than that - just make sure the tracks rotate with a good amount if variation.
Also, if you have any sort of musical ear, and some sort of free software, you could easily create some of your own long-toned eerie space sounding loops. There's always some cool keyboards/synth effects that are pretty cool - and easy to mess around with.
So maybe you work with professional for a couple tracks, and then try to work out a couple tracks on your own.
Hah, you've been getting a deal, Cevo