Author: Pablo Vega

Arcen Games Piano Collections, Vol. 1

I think it goes without saying that we have the greatest fans in the world. Arcen Games has been around since 2009, and from the very beginning, we’ve had amazing fans that have continued to support us throughout the years. As a small token of our appreciation for the support you’ve given us, we’re releasing “Arcen Games Piano Collections, Vol. 1”. 

This album is a collection of various themes from the Arcen Games library set to piano. You can listen to it for free or buy it now on Bandcamp for just $1: http://arcenmusic.bandcamp.com/album/arcen-games-piano-collections-vol-1
Track List:
1) AI War Theme [AI War: Fleet Command]
2) Voyage To Zenith [AI War: The Zenith Remnant]
3) Midnight [AI War: Fleet Command]
4) Sleepless Children [AI War: Children Of Neinzul]
5) Tidalis Theme [Tidalis]
6) Adventure Intro [Tidalis]
7) A Valley Without Wind Theme [AVWW 1]
8) The Night Light [AI War: Light Of The Spire]
9) Ancient Shadows Theme [AI War: Ancient Shadows]
10) Shattered Haven Theme [Shattered Haven]
11) Falling Down [AI War: Vengeance Of The Machine]
12) The Home That We Once Knew [Bionic Dues] (Bonus Track)
13) To One Who’ll Stand And Fight [AVWW 2] (Bonus Track)

Once again, thank you so much for your support throughout the years. You are the best!

Skyward Collapse OST Breakdown

The Skyward Collapse OST is very different from other soundtracks that I’ve composed for our games. To start with, this is the first soundtrack that I’ve co-composed with someone else. Ted Hardin is a good friend of mine, an incredibly talented guitarist, and a master of melody in my humble opinion. By that I mean that with even the most simple chord progression, he can wield some unbelievable themes and melodic lines. Collaborating on this album was a lot of fun, and also opened up my eyes to a genre of music that I haven’t delved in too much. Because the game is focused around building, we wanted the music to emulate a very relaxed and calm environment. Much like the music of Sim City or even Sword & Sworcery, we wanted a laid back atmosphere for our players as they create their realms. In order to accomplish this, we decided to have a lot of the music based around the acoustic guitar (a fantastic suggestion from Mr. Arcen himself, Chris Park).

Along with that acoustic, relaxed feel, Ted and I also wanted to relate the music back to the basic themes of the game (it is a game soundtrack after all). So, as you can see from the titles, and from hearing the music, we brought in the Norse and Greek elements throughout the soundtrack and fused those themes with our relaxed, acoustic genre.

 
Track List:
1) Skyward Collapse Theme
2) The Arrival
3) Rise And Shine
4) High Noon
5) Afternoon Stroll
6) Late Night
7) Norse Summer
8) Greek Winter
9) The Architect
10) Running In The Sun
11) The Earth And The Sky
12) Follow Me Down
Skyward Collapse Theme
The main theme of the game is based around text from the “Hávamál”,  a collection of Old Norse poems from the Viking age. The poems are said to be the words of Odin, presenting his people with advice for living, proper conduct, and wisdom. The particular passage that I chose is one of the more famous passages from the collection:
Deyr fé,                                     Cattle Die,
deyja frændr,                             kinsmen die,
deyr sjálfr et sama;                   you yourself die;
ek veit einn,                              I know one thing
at aldri deyr:                             which never dies:
dómr um dauðan hvern.           the fate of the honored dead.

This passage worked perfectly for the theme. When reading it, all I could think about was a viking warrior about to go to battle, and these words being his final prayer. With that in mind, I composed the theme with the lyrics sung as if they were the warrior’s last lament. I did research on the pronunciation of the old words, and recorded the vocals (they should be pretty accurate).

The Arrival
For the last few years, I’ve had an intern from the local high school Durham Academy. After the seniors at DA finish their AP Exams, they have a week or two to do an internship in a field that they’re interested in pursuing. This year my intern was Austin Mack, who will be attending Northeastern University in Boston to get his to degree in music composition and technology. He also happens to be a talented violinist, so we recorded the main melody of this piece with him on the violin. (Last year my intern was Jared Anderson, who is now at Berklee College of Music getting a degree in music technology. He recorded the electric guitar on the A Valley Without Wind 2 OST).

The Arrival is supposed to be the player’s introduction in to the world of the game. The feel for this intro was inspired by the amazing wallpaper art for the game created by Daniette “Blue” Wood. That same wallpaper is on the cover of the OST.

Stages Of The Day Tracks
The next four tracks are based around different times of the day in the game world. From morning until late at night, we wanted to compose pieces to paint a picture of these various time stages. These tracks introduce the main feel of the game, with the focus around the acoustic guitar, and our relaxed building-game music genre. Ted really outdoes himself with the guitar-play.

Rise And Shine – We start the piece with some bells to represent the disappearing of stars. The strings that kick in represent the rising sun and the start of the new day. The guitar adds the rhythm to the track and creates the feel of waking up to a sunny day overlooking rolling fields.

High Noon – The guitar does most of the magic in this piece, creating an almost “western” sound. The synth pad in the intro and throughout also adds depth and helps create that feel of the midday hot sun beaming down.

Afternoon Stroll – The laid back guitar in this creates that “afternoon stroll through the fields” feel, along with the bongos playing quietly in the background to add a little motion. The bells creeping in represent the sun going down and the reintroduction of the stars.

Late Night – This piece was our homage to midnight, quite possibly the most creative time of day for any musician. So, we found our tempo, hit record, and let the late night creative juices take over. Most of this was improvised on the spot, with a few things tweaked here and there and overdubbed. This is one of my favorite pieces of the whole soundtrack.

Norse Summer, Greek Winter
In any realm of composition, opposing themes are always a cool idea. In this case, since the game is the Norse vs. the Greeks, what better way to pay homage to that then to have opposing themes from both sides. The Norse Summer theme is basically all Ted on the guitar. We recorded the background guitar first, and then overdubbed him on the melody on top.

The Greek Winter track is the complete opposite of the Norse Summer. As opposed to having a lot of motion in the backgrounds with a fluid melody, the piece is stagnant (almost cold sounding). We added the drone in the background to represent emptiness and almost a chill that passes slowly throughout. The guitar on top is based on Greek bouzouki music. Very free-form, devoid of tempo, and almost haunting in spirit. 
The Architect
The Architect was my version of the city-building music you hear in games like “Sim City” (hence the name). Simply put, it’s just feel good music that grooves and gets you excited about creating your realm. It’s very happy in nature and a good addition to a laid back soundtrack. 
Motion Tracks
The last three tracks were all composed based around the idea of motion. 
Running In the Sun – Starts with a fun, in-your-face percussion, almost like the ticking of an old clock. Ted’s rhythm guitar really gets the idea of motion going, and then the introduction of a moving percussion helps solidify it. This track was a lot of fun to put together!
The Earth And The Sky – While the earth is our rock, it is in constant motion. The way it moves with the sky was a really cool notion to play with. So for this piece, the interweaving of the background guitar with the melody represents this idea of the earth constantly moving, counter to the motion of the stars, the sun, the moon, the clouds, and sky.
Follow Me Down – For this piece, we thought about motion in terms of gravitational pull, but on a more human level. The earth’s gravity pulls us down, but people also gravitate towards each other. We tried to represent that by having the guitar being the “instigator” in the music, and having the piano counter its melodies. This track is probably my favorite as Ted and I really got to play around with the push and pull of the music. Much like how people pull each other in, music can ebb and flow in a similar fashion.
Be sure to check out the soundtrack on BandCamp, or pick up a copy of the game to get the music in real time. As always, thank you for your continued support!
Pablo Vega
Composer & Lead Sound Designer, Arcen Games

Shattered Haven OST on sale through Band Camp!

The Shattered Haven Original Soundtrack is now on sale through Band Camp! If you enjoyed the music, check it out at:

http://arcenmusic.bandcamp.com/album/shattered-haven

Thank you for your continued support!

AVWW 2 OST and AVWW 2 (Extended Edition) OST On Sale!

A Valley Without Wind 2 OST and A Valley Without Wind 2 (Extended Edition) OST are now on sale through Bandcamp!

AVWW 2 OST is on sale for $5, and includes the following select tracks from the game:

1. To One Who’ll Stand And Fight
2. Ocean Shallows
3. Henchman Elder
4. Craggy Highlands 1
5. Desert 2
6. Level Up Tower 1
7. Overlord Final Fight (Part 3)
8. Skelebot Research Facility
9. Thawing 1
10. Swamp 1
11. Underground Theme
12. AVWW 2 Theme [Bonus Track]







AVWW 2 OST – http://arcenmusic.bandcamp.com/album/a-valley-without-wind-2

AVWW 2 (Extended Edition) OST is on sale for $10, includes the original 12 tracks, and has an additional 36 bonus tracks from the game:

AVWW 2 (Extended Edition) OST – http://arcenmusic.bandcamp.com/album/a-valley-without-wind-2-extended-edition

 Thank you so much for your continued support of Arcen Games. We hope you enjoy the music, and please spread the word!

A Valley Without Wind, Vol. 1 soundtrack on sale!

After a long year, the first soundtrack to our game “A Valley Without Wind, Vol. 1” is now on sale! 

It’s available through iTunes (search for “A Valley Without Wind” in the iTunes store).


It’s also available for purchase at Band Camp: http://arcenmusic.bandcamp.com/
Or you can purchase it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Valley-Without-Wind-Vol/dp/B0079G0N1E/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1329318756&sr=8-4

These are remastered high quality versions of the in-game tracks. Thank you all for your continued support, it means so much to us!


Creating 8-Bit Sound

The soundtrack for “A Valley Without Wind” is getting off to a great start. For those of you who have heard some of the music in the trailers, you’ll notice the key component in all the pieces: the 8-bit melody. It’s a sound that is not only fun to play with, but nostalgic for any one who grew up in the Atari/Nintendo age and can still hum all those classic game themes.
Most of the composers for the early games used Mod Trackers to generate these classic sounds. At first I thought about using some, but then found a great way to create these sounds in Logic.
The steps:
1) Open a new empty project
2) Create a “software instrument” track
      * The default software instrument track that Logic creates is “EVP88 Electric Piano”
3) Hold down the I/O “EVP88” button on the environment window on the left side of the screen. There you will see a variety of different options to choose from. Choose “ES P (Polyphonic Synth)->Stereo”
4) On the “ES P” window you will see a ton of different options. These are the settings you want:
5) Next, open up the “Mixer” window
6) Under your newly created 8-bit sound, hold down one of the empty “sends” boxes, and click on “Bus 1”. A new track will appear in the Mixer called “Aux 1”
7) On the new Aux track, hold down one of the empty “inserts” boxes, then go to “Reverb->PlatinumVerb->Stereo”
8) In the PlatinumVerb window, look at the top and you’ll see a button that says “view”. Click on it and select “Controls”. These are the settings you want:
9) You’ll notice in the Mixer Window that “Bus 1” is now highlighted inside one of the “sends” boxes.  To the right of the highlighted box is a circular dial. Click on it and set the dial to “-8.0”
And that’s it! Now you have an awesome, classic 8-bit sound to play around with. The last few steps in adding reverb are not necessary, but I like to use them because it makes the harsh 8-bit synth sound mix better with other instruments. Be sure to turn the volume down as well, the default “0.0” volume setting in the Mixer window is loud.
If you have Logic, try this out and play around with the 8-bit sound. It’s a whole lot of fun and brings back a ton of memories!

A New Look Into Old Sounds

It’s been argued that there is no such thing as “original” music anymore. That everything you hear on the radio, films, games, commercials, musicals… all of it is just a recycled revision of something already written. This copycat theory is incredibly troubling for me as a composer because I’ve dedicated my life to writing, and because I know that no one wants to hear “Pablo Vega’s version of Koji Kondo” when they could just listen to the master himself. People are constantly looking for a new original sound, and it’s the very thing that I and all other composers strive for every second of our lives. In essence, we want to play God to music. We want to be the originators of something so unique that people will recognize it as if it were a brand. I will be the first to admit that a lot of times when I listen back to finished pieces I think to myself “that melody in the first section sounds a lot like the Shadowland theme from the Lion King!” or “the bouncy rhythm in this intro reminds me of the ‘Discombobulate’ theme from the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack…” (Fantastic score by the way. Listen to it when you get a chance; Hanz Zimmer has a quirky side!)

So what do we do to get around this troubling theory? How do we explain to cynics that there is no way our music is inspired by a previous work? The answer is that there is no way to explain it; we are always inspired by something else.

With this logic, it’s very easy to think that all composers are frauds or plagiarists. I’d like to think, however, that all those musical thoughts and sounds that come to my head daily are not necessarily the regurgitation of something great that came before, but rather an inspired collection of new ideas.

The soundtrack for A Valley Without Wind is by far the most challenging one I’ve worked on.  To explain this a bit more, I’m going to talk a little about how I got started with Arcen Games musically.

When Chris asked me to come on board and compose the soundtrack for the original AI War: Fleet Command, I was both excited and a little scared. Being only a year out of college, I got the opportunity of a lifetime that many composers don’t come across for years. Even though I majored in music composition and had been writing music since I was in 8th grade, getting on board with a project of this magnitude was incredibly intimidating. Not to mention I’d only really had one semester of studio/recording training with ProTools.

About a week into the project, I had a moment where I hit a brick wall. I was very quickly humbled and realized that I was in over my head thinking that I could score a video game soundtrack. All the composition classes, lessons, and training didn’t quite prepare me enough for this. Now, that is not to demean the study of composition, because in a heartbeat I can whip out an original, solid work; tailoring music to a video game is a completely different beast.

What to do… what to do? Well… I could throw in the towel, or I could think back to some of my composition lessons and see if there was anything I could use for assistance. Besides the obvious tools to create themes and motifs, I remembered one thing that my teachers would have us do religiously… RESEARCH. Why hadn’t I thought about this before? Especially when the tools are right in front of me. For the next month, I did nothing but listen to game soundtracks, play video games, and slowly got inspired to create my first real work. The first few drafts of the AI War theme finally got on their way, and I was starting to get even more excited about what I was doing. After some back and forth with Chris about what he wanted for the “feel” of the game, I finally put together the theme that would stick. Like Scrooge McDuck’s first dime, the AI War theme is my most treasured possession. It was the launching point of my career, and will forever be the piece I am most thankful for.

Like most things in life, once you accomplish a great feat, it’s much easier to continue to do it. You not only build up the necessary confidence, but you also start to figure out how to improve on what you previously did.  With the completion of the AI War soundtrack, I had a whole lot of material to look back on. I had to figure out what worked, and also what didn’t.

Luckily, there were a great many people out there who took to our games. With all the praise of this innovative new series, we were on cloud nine and started work on the first expansion almost immediately. Along with the praise, however, came all the harsh criticisms. If there was one thing that composition lessons and classes taught me, it was how to take criticism and use it to my advantage. There’s no point in moping about one negative review when there are twenty great ones out there. There is also something to be said about negative comments that have substance. Most of the time, I just ignore comments like “Well, the music just wasn’t good” because that tells me nothing. When critics take the time to explain WHY the music was or was not good however, that’s when I read carefully and take notes. I owe a lot of my musical progress to good critics who have helped me understand my mistakes. That’s the only way to grow and get better.

As Arcen Games nears its second year anniversary, I had already worked on five game soundtracks, and I began work on the sixth: A Valley Without Wind. Unlike the previous soundtracks with lots of instrumentation, Chris and I decided that for this game we would pay homage to video game music of the Atari, Gameboy, and Nintendo. This score would use a lot of that retro 8-bit sound and combine it with some of my own compositional styles that I had used in the previous soundtracks. The result: a very cool fusion of music.

So, why is this soundtrack so challenging? Well, for one thing, we noticed that download time for the last few games was a bit too long, and mostly because the sound files were so big. As part of the retro sound, I’m using a lot of chiptunes for melodies. Along with that, we’re making all the sound files mono instead of stereo. Fear not though, we found a great balance of quality and file size, and the music sounds great. Also, for those of you music buffs out there, I’m making a separate soundtrack of the music in stereo that will be available as a separate download (and on iTunes) later on.

The big challenge when composing and arranging mono tracks is making the music seem smooth and not cluttered. The beauty of stereo tracks (and surround sound on another level) is that you get to play with the instrumentation spatially to avoid clutter and clashing frequencies when working with sounds on the same octave range. The solution: make sure to include ONLY what is necessary but still fill the sound spectrum from top to bottom. Fortunately, percussion in whatever sound range fulfills its purpose and accompanies any other sound without clashing. But with the chiptunes, bass, and any other guest instruments, it’s very important to put them in their own octave without crossing over. Besides that, there are the obvious challenges of using that 8-bit sound without it being too piercing, and finding other instruments that are compatible not only in sound, but also in texture. As much as I love to use a legato violin sound in my music, the lush vibrancy (and range) would clash with almost all of the chiptune sounds. The compromise is having a low staccato cello to replace the bass since it has a strong attack without much of a release.  Now, for some of the more ambient tracks, there will probably be some synthetic string work, but since most of the music will be 8-bit melody driven, it will only happen a few times.

Another thing to look out for will be the difference in musical styles depending on the region of the map. On top of figuring out cool arrangements for the retro/modern fusion, there will be musical styles ranging from orchestral and ambient to hip-hop and rock and roll. Even though the technical aspects of arranging the music make this soundtrack challenging, the variety of musical styles just makes it so much fun. As a composer, sometimes it’s difficult to listen to the same thing over and over again. But with the spectrum of styles, the work never gets boring or tedious. It’s always fresh, and it has a helped me so much in putting this soundtrack together.

I hope this gives you a little bit of an insight in what to expect for the music of this game. The entire production staff will keep you up-to-date on the progress of AVWW, and we will continue to write these entries to keep all our fans in the loop. In the meantime if you want some musical previews, I will be posting them on my facebook music page “Pablo Vega Music”, as well as on my MySpace page www.myspace.com/pablovegamusic.

As always, thank you so much for your support of Arcen Games, and look out for some more great things to come!

Tidalis: Original Soundtrack

Hello everyone!

I wanted to take a moment to let you know that if you like the music from “Tidalis”, then the original soundtrack is now available on iTunes!

You can log on to the iTunes store from your personal computer and search for “Tidalis” or “Pablo Vega”.

You can also follow this link: Tidalis: Original Soundtrack

Thank you so much for your continued support!

Arcen Games Composer: Pablo Vega


Hello everyone, my name is Pablo Vega, and I’m the Composer and Lead Sound Designer for Arcen Games. It’s been an absolute dream working for Arcen and getting the opportunity to share my music with you! In the coming weeks, I’m going to be blogging more and more about the music and general sound of all of our games.

One way to follow these discussions is by visiting my facebook music page: Pablo Vega Music

I’ve already put up some previews of the re-mastered original AI War: Fleet Command and AI War: The Zenith Remnant soundtracks on the page (which will be available to all of you in a few months), and there are plenty more to come.

You can also follow me on twitter at: PabloVega8

In addition to writing articles here on our blog, I started a new Music thread on the forums as well. So, if you have any general music/sound questions about our games, this is the place to get answers: Arcen Games: Music/Sound

Thank you for all of your support, and I hope to hear from you all on the forums and on facebook very soon!