Hi people! To mark the release of Astro’s Playroom’s official digital soundtrack later this week, I thought it would be fun to take a little look behind the scenes of the song-making process that players responded to with the most enthusiasm – the Song GPU.
Most of the music featured in this article doesn’t actually appear in the game or on the soundtrack – these are top secret, slightly embarrassing sketch clips that were never meant to be heard by the ears. from anyone other than my Asobi team. collaborators. But I hope that’s also what makes them interesting!
The Jungle GPU was the first area of the game I tackled – while it was still a work in progress at this point, the gameplay felt most advanced to me, so it felt like a good place to start. My first attempt was a fairly traditional approach to scoring a jungle stage, with the required pan arrows:
The team’s feedback was that it was a bit too predictable. It did have a catchy tune, however, which is what we look for in Astro Bot games, as these are, at their core, “ old-skool ” platform experiences. So, before we move on, I tried to make it sound a bit more “digital” or synthetic:
It certainly seemed more appropriate for Astro, but we still worried that people who were unfamiliar with video game music culture might not “get it”. So I started to explore something a little more contemporary and I started playing around with the idea of writing a song.
Before I even started working on the game, I had thought about personifying the PlayStation 5 console by giving it a voice. It tapped into the idea that you may have always known the PS5 or encountered it before, as if it was your true love. But I had kept this idea for the CPU Plaza area because it seemed to me to be the most suitable place. But now that I was starting over with music from GPU Jungle, I saw an opportunity to present this concept to the team. Here is my first sketch:
The lyrics are there:
GP-You and GP-Me, here among the trees.
GP-You and GP-Me, as far as the eye can see.
Voxels and sprites; the pixels delight; perfectly shaded.
GP-You and GP-Me.
GP-You and GP-Me.
Which is intriguing, but the overall tone was too closely aligned with the concept of “true ethereal love” mentioned above, which didn’t suit GPU Jungle. So I did not share this with the team (it will be the first time they will hear it too – surprise!). But I stuck with this as a starting point and came up with this:
The feedback on this version was that while it was playful, it lacked fun, went too far the other way, and got too serious in tone. Oh! However, the team really liked the main riff at the end and figured we might find a home for it in the CPU Plaza area.
Starting over, I felt like I had tested the waters in two different directions and found where the lines of acceptability were. I could now come up with an approach that would hopefully offer the best of both worlds. I always wanted to try and make the idea of the song work, but rather than lead with that and parallel myself, I started with the drums and bass groove to get the energy needed, then I worked on the lyrics and the melody. Here is what I sent to Nicolas Doucet, Creative Director of Astro’s Playroom (with the assurance that I was going to add a vocoder to my voice!):
It’s tough and ready, but even at this point, there was something going on and we were excited to try and make it work.
When I was writing it I was thinking of the genius graphics coders I know or have worked with and wanted the lyrics to be something they recognize as at least vaguely authentic. But I also knew that this couldn’t just be a shopping list of render terms because most people can’t relate to it. I’m not sure how much I realized that the love song idea I had explored before could be adapted, but I remember getting excited to make the lyrics work on multiple levels, because that’s what chamferes the technical edges and makes the song palatable.
Getting the track right tone took a few iterations – it was difficult to add stuff to the core I had established without them taking something away. Here is a version of this exploratory production phase:
You learn something from every little misstep, and if you stick with it, each one leads to something that clicks. Rinse, repeat. Then at some point you realize it’s done! Here’s a preview of the final version found on the soundtrack album:
I’m incredibly grateful to have such brilliant and confident people in Team Asobi who give me the encouragement, time and space to explore ideas like this and then use their skills and know-how to find ways to integrate them into the project in a holistic way. fashion. Not all of the pieces I write go through such a roundabout or long gestation period – being the first thing I tackled, this track had to bear the burden of finding a direction for the whole project. .
But I also wanted to take the opportunity to shine a light on a creative process so often hidden from view – composers tend to discuss work through the prism of the finished product, but our ideas rarely, if ever, come to life fully. form. Musical direction is obtained through a journey.
Thanks for coming for the ride! Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of my world. Official Astro’s Playroom Soundtrack, Released by Sony Music Masterworks, Will Be Available Digitally here March 12 – good listening!