You may have read my previous post about how Allan Zax made the music for the cities in Super Space Galaxy. If I were a more conventional Game Designer, the story of how the cities got their music would probably have ended with that post. However, I try to go the extra mile, so Allan and I ended up making four new variants of the same music.
I chose to do this because I wanted to ensure that the cities in the game felt different from one another. They already had different layouts and could vary their colours, but I thought this still wasn’t enough if their music was all the same. Back when I was playing games like Zeliard as a kid, finding a new town felt like a real discovery, partly because each one introduced new music as well.
But what would be the best way to distribute these new music tracks? The galaxy-maps in the game generate about 14 cities, and we didn’t have time to make 14 or more music variants. With an unknown number of cities, and not enough music to go around, how could we best make each city feel unique?
For a while, I considered combining layers of music together in different combinations. Your location on the galaxy-map would determine the balance of the 5 different tracks you’d hear. I spent an evening making a ‘City music tester’ widget to try out how they might sound. As it happens, the equations needed to make this work are quite similar to the ones I already used for the planets.
I shared the tool with Allan, but he told me the tracks he’d made weren’t designed to be played on top of each other. I tried to find a new system. As usual, I plotted things out in a geometric way, toying with the idea of concentric circles, angles, or a spiral. Eventually, I realized that none of these orderly shapes would achieve what I wanted. Any of them would leave cities that had the same music close together, but what I wanted was cities that were close to have different music.
That idea became the inspiration for the true solution. When a new city is first placed, it examines the list of cities and notes the closest instance of each music variant. It then picks the one that is the furthest away possible. The end result is that you’ll never find two cities that have the same music next to each other.
Like I have before, I set up the map to colour the different city-music variants differently. This helped prove that it was working and let me find bugs more easily. Once I’d got it working, I could see with my own eyes that each city had different music from its neighbours. Mission accomplished!
This city-music system has only been implemented recently so I haven’t had time to experience the whole effect, but I’m confident it’ll add to the sense of exploration in Super Space Galaxy. I don’t expect players to think explicitly about how the music is distributed, but I do predict that they’ll notice how the different music-tracks make them feel.
I’m pleased with the amount of variety Allan managed to get into each variant as well. Quite often when I find a song I like, I look up a few covers so I can hear variants of the same thing. That’s why it was especially exciting to hear multiple variants on the original city-music I’d commissioned.
Have a listen to the variants in the video below. As usual, Allan has added a cool background to the video too!
Thanks for reading,