Inspiration and Postmortem

What I Wanted to Accomplish

I decided I wanted to try and write a small track for this prototype to use with Wwise. With this in mind, the question was more on what type of music I would look at for inspiration, and this came in two forms. 

One inspiration was the rhythm game Friday Night Funkin, specifically the songs featuring the Lemon Demon character. 

These songs have distinct layering of varying instruments, but the notes themselves are what the characters are singing, as opposed to representing a drum beat like in Taiko No Tatsujin. Additionally like in a pop song, there is still repetition in certain phrases of the music. However, the beat map does vary slightly between these segments, adding in some variety for the player while not throwing them a massive curveball between segments.

The other inspiration I have is the Castlevania theme song from the animated TV show, which keeps the gothic mood that comes with vampires while still creating a faster paced, high intensity song that one might associate more with organ music. They a lot of staccato notes with good articulation over a consonant base, building in intensity as the piece goes on. 

This high intensity, tone based music is what I wanted to focus on for this short rhythm level.

Where I Succeeded

I believe I succeeded in creating a small, interesting segment of music that could be used in a gothic themed rhythm game. I decided on a few base instruments I wanted to use (an organ, and an electric guitar), and then picked instruments that I felt were complementary to it in sound. 

I figured out early on what sort of chord progression I was planning on using, and layered on top of that in multiple loops to create a cohesive song that built on top of itself. I did modify how the guitar ended up sounding from the midi instrument via Garageband's amp designer controls to make it a bit sharper to the ear. In the end, I only completed a roughly 30 second segment that met the mood I wanted, which I then decided to loop so the beatmap could be altered slightly for the second iteration of it. 

As for the beatmap itself, I set the various note triggers to be aligned with the notes that I thought should be provided the emphasis to the player in each segment. This took some adjustment to create something that was reasonably varied, and with just enough complexity to add some challenge while being possible to sight-read the gameplay. 

After multiple trials in Unity to see how the beatmap adjustments felt, I made some minor quality adjustments that improved the gamefeel considerably. These include:

  1. A camera that looked directly down at the notes, to make gauging timing a little bit easier
  2. Changing the colour scheme to be more reflective of the tone of the track
  3. Adding in very rough button indicators so the player could see in game what buttons they needed to press for each row of notes
  4. Having the timing of each note show up on press so that the player has some feedback to how well they're doing before their score at the end of the game. 
  5. Adding a little bit of juice when the player does well!

What I Can Improve

The UI is still very lacking, as is the general theming of the stage. Some theming changes I would have liked to have made are have the pulsing box (to indicate the beat!) be an anatomical heart, and have the notes themselves be represented by something other than spheres. Additionally, I would have liked to include 'tracks' behind each section of notes, just for clarity on which button they each belong to.

Additionally, there are a few segments that still feel as if the emphasis is on the wrong notes, so I would like to revisit this in the future in another iteration. I would like to be able to write longer music in the future, and this is a skill I want to improve on (as I tend to veer into writing 'lo-fi' style songs whenever I do make music for games, being able to expand my horizons into other genres is a huge plus!)


Here is a video of the prototype (though I recommend you play it yourself before giving this a watch!)

Files 23 MB
Mar 07, 2022 35 MB
Mar 07, 2022

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A nice short, coherent track and beatmap and a gothic-themed rhythm games is an interesting idea! I wonder how the cue design could visually and mechanically support that theme. 

The main critique I can give here is maybe how to polish the beatmap a bit. There are a couple places where you're either missing a cue or have a cue that doesn't clearly map to any sound. First, the very start of the song where the organ enters should maybe have a cue; I don't see it as meaningfully different than the following attacks in the organ. Second, after the first set of doubled cues on W and E, you have an E and then a W, and I don't hear any sound on the W. It feels like maybe you intended that to be another doubled W+E. Last, a more subjective point, the Q+E doubles don't feel justified to me. They seem to be based on the piano, which isn't chordal or especially emphasized.

Also, on the topic of repetition, I understand the appeal of varying how you map a repeating section of the music, but in many cases it can be better to repeat previous mapping patterns. It's good to remember as a composer/mapper that you are spending a lot more time with your work than the average listener/player, so what feels overly repetitive to you, might feel good to your audience in that it lets them build familiarity. Also, it matters less for easy maps like this, but especially for higher difficulties where a player might have to process more information in a shorter amount of time, introducing arbitrary variation that isn't reflected in the music can feel unfair to some. 

Of course all this feedback comes from a sort of "traditional" way of thinking about beatmapping, which definitely isn't the only way of doing things. So as it goes, I'd only follow this sort of thinking as long as it's useful.