“That Sounds Great Man”

I love seeing other people’s great ideas. I REALLY love seeing other people’s great ideas and then getting asked if I want to get on board with the project.

I met Nate (vethan) a couple of years ago when at Bristol Uni together. I was finishing a composition Masters and joined a team in the computer science department making Beatshift, a rhythm/racing game for Xbox Live. I had a lot of fun making that game and stayed in touch with Nate who handled all the music programming. After a year or so, (during which I occasionally play tested some ideas he was working on) Nate approached me with a proof of concept for a gravity spinning 1st person puzzle/platformer.

Like I said, I love seeing other people’s great ideas. I was pretty much sold when he said ‘Portal meets VVVVVV’!


I came out of studying with one foot firmly in avant-garde classical music and the other in electro-acoustic, experimental sound design. I’ve been waiting for a games project to come along where I can draw upon those genres to create thrilling soundscapes. Usually indie game designers ask me to write silly songs or chiptune. Both have their place and can be enjoyable, appropriate and interesting, but nearly always rely on being ‘catchy’. I don’t mind writing this type of music at all, but when catchiness is the most desired commodity, it can be really limiting. However, with Standpoint I’m getting to indulge in all the most fascinating music forms. The tone of the game demands a more abstract sound. I’ve got a licence for my high art sensibilities to fly.

When first investigating those grey and blue symmetrical passageways I could hear the carpet of polyphony; spinning textures and timbres of strings and piano dancing in a broad scape whilst being mangled at the hands of tortuous electronics. I’ve spent enough time in dingy alternative venues and leftfield music festivals to know what can be created when chamber, jazz and electronics have an orgy: Ethereal landscapes encouraging abandonment and immersion. Twisted beauty, unsettling, disorientating, challenging. I want to give the player a moody sea of sound to plunge into and wrestle with.

Of course all this come at a price i.e. my sanity. Yesterday I was trying to experiment with metre and simultaneous time signatures but ended up banging my head against the table when mathematically working out how the hell I was supposed to notate this:


Clearly the sound palate I’ve chosen is going to be challenging to write. I’m on the edge of my comfort zone and pushing my abilities hard. After talking the talk, it really is all on me to get it working how I imagine it will, and that totally excites me!

But that would be too easy!

I’m made no secret in the past of how much I appreciate adaptive audio in games in past blogs. The opportunity for music and sound to react to plains of gravity is too good to pass up! There are many different models I’m experimenting with but will most likely employ various different patterns of adaptive music depending on the themes and structures of a particular level. I really want to make sure every decision I make is to done to compliment or reinforce the game itself. It’s all a balancing act, not just the music itself (how far is too far?) but how sound works within project as a whole.

With Standpoint, I feel we’re very fortunate that the writer (Mike), designer (Nate) and I were all involved from conception. We’re constantly throwing ideas around and suggesting improvements whilst envisioning how it will affect all areas of the game. I can’t tell you to treat games as art forms, but that debate is raging away and will affect everyone making games now somehow. I’m certainly treating Standpoint like it’s a work of art in that I see all elements as one unified experience. Narrative, controls, mechanics, graphics, art direction, music and sfx are all being created entirely within the context of each other. Again this makes for very exciting times.

Hope that gives a little bit of insight into the sound of Standpoint. You’ll get to hear it soon, look out for out public demo in Feb. Can’t wait!

Dan Murdoch

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