As the Indie game soundtrack composer of Rats Time is running out, I’ve stumble to the task of equally represent the arcade mood (think Pac-Man, Gauntlet), the suspense, the comic style and the fast pace of the game in development. So I start to think of a concept while I was watching all sort of old bank robbery movies and playing lot of classic arcade style game. I know that I wanted to use 8-bit and 16-bit synth mix with real instrument and fast drum programing (drum and bass). I have to keep in mind that the game is based on time. Everything cost you some time and you have a limited amount of time to complete the robbery.
At that time I had ingredients but didn’t had the recipe to do my cooking. I experienced with all the information collected about the kind of soundtrack I wanted. I finally got my recipe and it goes like that:
1/3 cup of blue note from all the old black and white movies about bank robbery.
1/2 cup of electric guitar in a twang amp
1 teaspoon of 8-bit synth
1 pound of mixed continuous fast tempo beat and his train effect (I’m gonna explain this later)
1 teaspoon of suspense chord progression.
1/2 teaspoon of a orchestral instrumentation like in the Roadrunner TV show.
1/3 of low frequency horn punch
Direction: Put all that in your head and in your DAW after that play, record, program and the most important test your music on the game.
You can download all free vsti in this article by clicking on the image!
In introduction theme you can ear the blend between Jazz blue note and 8-bit synth jam over the guitar.
In this theme who appear in the beginning of the game I slow down a little bit the tempo to be right on the sweet spot for the difficulty of the level. I push up the tempo as the game became harder and faster. For the arcade feel of this theme I just double my bassline with this free synth: tb_peach.
I tried to stick with a simple bass line in the way of oldschool chiptune song.
For this Bonus level we’ve got the big Police Cat that runs real fast after you in the beginning of the level until the end. This fact remind me the always willing Coyote running after Road Runner. So I’ve use my memory and Youtube to ear the soundtrack of this classic TV show. In the theme you can ear that I put windwood in the mix with in your face detune chiptune synth.
Now with this theme you can clearly ear the bass drum at each time of each bar. That’s the train effect that I mentioned earlier. The first time I’ve heard of this term it was in a interview with Johnny Cash where he define is style by the ongoing beat that remind us a train keep going forward. It’s exactly what you need to do to succeed in Rats Time is running out, keep going fast forward. In this song I used these two synth.
A synth which double the main melody play originally by a asian mysterious instrument.
One rhythm blop thing:
Drum and bass is here so you know that the level is more complex and need more speed.
I tend to replace the bass in this song by a orchestral instrument that amplify the comic style of the game. In the kid show that I was watching practically all bass lines were made with loud orchestral instrument that made jump swing bassline all the song.
I double all the bass line with this chiptune synth:
And use this synth for 8-bit soundfx:
This one is special to me because I really don’t know how I ended up with this fake gypsy gangster theme. I’ve started with the fast Drum and Bass drum programming and like always I jamed over with my keyboard or a real instrument. My difficulty was, at this speed, it’s always hard to have a melody that will not break the feeling of urgency that the beat have. Guess what the only one instrument that is almost part of all Rats music was the better to jam over this fast beat? A guitar in a amp twang of course! For the 8-bit part I’ve made a simple ostinato to remind to the player that the rooster and the cat are always ready to catch you.
The fast tempo of almost all music was a no brainer with the focus on time in Rats.
You can ear a lot of Rats music here.
The best way to listen Rats is in game for sure and you can also have the soundtrack as bonus from the pay what you want deal if you beat the average price paid for Rats time is running out Alpha3.
I wish you learned something or at least have new toys to make chiptune music.