MazeQuest 2 Original Soundtrack Cover

MazeQuest 2 Original Soundtrack

2018-09-28

 

In early 2018, I had an itch. A bucket list craving. I wanted to score a game soundtrack. I’d been focusing on remixes for years, even completing a few full-length arranged albums (such as the 5-year journey known as American Pixels). I felt that at long last, it was time to take off the remixer hat and put on the composer hat, should the right project arise.

From there, I put out some feelers. I’d made various contacts in the game industry over the years, so I started asking around, seeing if there were any projects in the works that could benefit from my quirky yet diverse style. It wasn’t that long before I was connected with OMB Media, who was in the middle of development on a project known as MazeQuest 2.

Now, before you read any further... yes. I am Mazedude. The game was called MazeQuest. THIS WAS A TOTAL COINICIDENCE. But, it felt like a truly awesome coincidence, I can tell you that! I could hardly believe it, it was just too perfect. So, we got to talking about the music, the genre, the styles, and early on it felt like this could truly be a chance to establish a new genre. Something with orchestral at the core, but with room for elements that were part gothic, part ethnic, and part electronic. If you know my flavor and inclination for fusion, this was right up my alley. I agreed to the project.

Let’s add another wrinkle. I proposed early on that the compositions be drafted in 8-bit. I thought that it would be fun to compose in the rawest chiptune format possible, and from there, finalize and fine-tune the actual musical core of each piece before taking it to any form of orchestration. I felt that if I started with the full orchestra sound from the start, I’d get trapped focusing on sample quality and ready-made orchestral samples in a way that would actually hinder the musicality of the work. What’s funny is that OMB Media was quick to say that they weren’t really fans of the 8-bit sound and in no way wanted it in the game itself, but in terms of the logic that I presented for the drafting process, they agreed.

Thus, composition began. Using square waves, triangle waves, and white noise, I started concepting themes using Nintendo sounds, trying to hit that classic RPG vibe. (I’ve even woven in subtle nods to various NES and SNES soundtracks; kudos to anyone who recognizes them!) The instruction was to craft works that would loop after roughly one minute, so the compositions weren’t overly long... but there was a lot of them. Multiple map themes, multiple battle themes, and a variety of other classic melody needs including the castle, the shop, the tavern, and beyond.

It was a fun process, but as other game composers can relate, it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I hit the nail on the head in my very first try, often surprisingly so with themes that I’d thought would take a lot of effort, such as the Boss theme. Other times, the theme itself had to go through several rounds of revision, or in some cases, a total restart. The Church theme and Map 5 would be couple examples of that phenomenon. (This also explains some of the bonus material, heh.)

Ultimately, most themes were finalized in 8- and 9-bit, and orchestration began. (In a few rare cases, orchestrated versions had started ahead of the chiptune phase, such as Astra’s theme.) I didn’t quite have the means to hire any live performers for this, so I had to do the best I could with samples. To be honest, faking an orchestra isn’t my favorite thing to do. I prefer making my electronic music VERY electronic, and leaving orchestral works to the actual performers, but, for the sake of the project I brought out my repertoire of brass, string, and gothic samples. Organs, lutes, harpsichords, and beyond merged with violin sections, trumpets, trombones, French horns, and much more.

Then, things got kicked up a notch with the inclusion of ethnic instruments from around the world. Few of them are actually featured, but lots of them were woven in for sake of color, including the flavors of koto, hammered dulcimer, saz, sitar, Tibetan bells, hurdy gurdy, Taiko drums, erhu, bandoneon, berimbau, Alpen horn, Apache shaker, tin whistle, steel drums, and more. Major kudos to anyone who can identify them as they appear in the mix.

I also had a lot of fun playing with wacky time signatures with this project. If you’re familiar with my remixes, then you’ll know that I often jump at the opportunity to mess around with rhythms, veering towards the atypical when possible. This game soundtrack is built on various themes constructed from the unusual, including melodies built on 7, 11, 15, and other fluctuating and pulsating meters. Hopefully none of them distract from the music, rather, my aim is that they lend a nuance that seasoned musicians will enjoy while listening. If you’re a fellow composer, my hope is that occasionally you may find yourself asking “wait a second, what meter is this piece actually in?” If so, nifty, and please let me know when and if you get to that point.

At the end of the day, the game may be an indie and low-budget venture, but as the above story hopefully indicates, I poured my heart into the project. I made this original soundtrack the very best I could given the limitations and needs of the game, while at the same time pushing to give the music the scope and grandeur that the original vision required.

All said, I hope you enjoy the music! (And, for fans of the 16-bit RPG, do check out the game!) Yes, it was a mountain of work, but I scratched my itch and was able to check another item of my bucket list. Up next, perhaps I’ll get my scuba license and explore a shipwreck... that’s on the list too.

The final soundtrack, complete with chiptune concept pieces and a surplus of bonus material, can be found on Bandcamp, coming soon to other distribution channels.

Tracks from this Project

Project Press

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