Post feature RSS Composition Series- #5 Tactical Combat

This entry in our music composition series discusses how we composed tactical combat tracks for Lord of Rigel.

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Tactical combat was the first part of the soundtrack I started writing way back at the beginning of the process, and it has pretty much laid the foundations for the rest of the sound to Lord of Rigel. The ambient backdrops, bass tones and the general textures used have all made their way onto the ambient and species tracks, or at the very least influenced them in some way.

Compositionally these particular tracks are the most developed in terms of form and progression and although they loop in game they have very obvious start and end points. This isn’t something you would normally do for music that will be looping several times during game play (usually you would create a seamless loop) but I think fading out and back in works just fine and isn’t distracting to the player, which I guess is the most important thing to consider.

With these being combat tracks, the main component of course is the drums. I have used taikos throughout, layering several drums of differing pitch in some cases to give a nice low end and also enough top to cut through the dense mixes. Parallel compression also comes in very handy to achieve a punchy attack and give a real energy to them. In most of the tracks I have used spicatto cello to back up the drum accents to give them a bit more weight or to act as part of the melody. I always find this technique works well for getting a solid and tight sound to build off of.

I have used a combination of orchestral and synth string sounds, along with bass and other textures. This is one of the decisions I made early on about the soundtrack in general. I didn’t want a generic orchestral sound and I’ve always enjoyed the way live instrumentation can blend with synthesizers to totally change the tone of the music. Thankfully having a purely orchestral palette was never the wish of Lord of Rigel designers, so it was quite fun playing around with sounds and seeing what worked. I still have one more to write of these so I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into that. I’m saving it until the end like a good dessert!

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