Alright. It’s time for a new series of articles where I look for inspiration and ideas. I’m probably going to waste your time again but read on anyway. It might not all be rubbish and you could learn something. Yeah?
In this new series I want to discover where ideas come from and what inspires them in the first place.
Ideas can come from anywhere and often appear when you least expect them, like that time I started getting unexpected boners back in 3rd Grade. I lost my job at the school but that’s okay cause I’m doing this now. I want to explore ways we can inspire our brains to conjure ideas itself, rather than waiting for them to unexpectedly appear in our laps.
In part 1 of a new 22 part series we’ll begin with something that inspires my brain to come up with new ideas – music. As our game’s terrible writer I consider music to be my most valuable tool.
Most people suggest that when faced with writer’s block you should just stare at a blank screen and wait for an idea. This is a great tip but I’ve noticed it works much faster if you play some music first and let the winds of inspiration blow through your hair.
For me, writing is all about being in the right mood for the right scene. Sure, if I’m writing a sad scene I could just think back to that time a bigger boy stole my Boba Fett figure. Or, I can avoid wasting 6 years of therapy and instead play some emotional music to trick my brain into feeling sad. Once in that state I find it much easier to write than I would ordinarily. Music can trigger any emotion to inspire you during the writing process, you just need to find the songs that work for you. A warning: constant emotional changes can cause permanent damage. My mate Phil abused this trick and now he only smiles when he listens to Stevie Wonder.
Using music to keep your mood aligned with the tone of your story is a great technique and makes ideas flow like, I don’t know, something flowy.
The original reason behind this article was due to an inspiring moment we had a few weeks ago, thanks to some music.
For our next game, Project Point Bleep TV, we are intending to recreate our old Ludum Dare entry ‘How to Cope With Boredom and Loneliness’. We hadn’t really discussed how we would meaningfully extend the game yet as we are still working on other parts of the project. But then, a few weeks ago Rodo wrote a moody alternative version of the stupid folk song from the original game. He only did it for fun but upon listening it instantly triggered a moment of inspiration. We suddenly imagined a whole new path for the game, a slightly sinister path…
Listen, if you want…
Race Car Bed (original)
The new orchestral demo
If you haven’t played the game, it is a create your own documentary sim based on Harold Fletcher, a 42 year old man who has been grounded to his bedroom for the past 30 years. You have to select subjects for Harold to discuss during the documentary to find out how he copes with boredom and loneliness. The original folk song simply plays during a performance Harold gives to the film crew, a song about his race car bed.
Whilst listening to the moodier orchestral demo we had a vision that to extend the game maybe the film crew accidentally drops a camera that’s left recording. We’ll get to see what Harold and his Mother are really like without the film crew there.
We don’t want to go into the lurid details of the “found footage” or what the new game-play is, the point is the new music inspired us to quickly imagine a new section that we may not have thought of otherwise, not without staring at a blank screen for a while at least. I’m not saying the song is all inspiring or the idea amazing, just for us hearing the old song in a new style helped us visualize something new for our game. It was a nice moment. Then that moment inspired me to write this rubbish too. Isn’t music powerful?
The above incident happened once before when Rodo and I were making a chiptune album together. We were trying to name one of the songs and due to the somewhat sci-fi nature of the track, Rodo said it gave him a feeling of “Intergalactic Loneliness”. This then inspired a simple story we created about a man stranded alone in space we called ‘Vic Raider & The Intergalactic Loneliness’. Having never made a game before we thought we should turn our little idea into a game. A few years later, we still haven’t finished the game, it was our first project so it’s way out of scope and needs 200 people to finish it, but it just shows how music can influence your imagination.
Since Rodo and I write the music for our games we like to consider the musical style while we are brainstorming a new project. For ‘The Mind of Marlo‘ we knew early on that we needed something relaxing, but with a touch of sadness. Then due to wanting to do anything besides gamedev, we wrote the music before the script. When I did finally write the script, instead of turning to Spotify to find some music to get me in the mood I turned to the music we had wrote. Being able to write the script while listening to what would become the background music allowed me to really get a sense of how the scene would feel and helped tremendously with writing the dialogue. Like a film composer uses the film to guide their score we use the score to guide our story.
Music is often left till the end of development but I heartily suggest starting early on and use your music as your concept art. Let the music guide your imagination.
We’ve learned how music can inspire ideas and emotions that you can use to assist the writing in your game. How else can music inspire us during game development? Sadly, to my knowledge, music benefits no other part of game design and as such the remainder of your game should be built in silence. Thanks for reading. Join us next time as we explore further ways we can inspire ideas, including drugs and plagiary.
Did You Know?
Music was discovered in the late 1700s by Pope Clement XI who inadvertently invented beat-boxing during a choking incident. The Pope, though shaken, was so inspired with the discovered rhythms that he gave Casio his blessing to create a device to help record this new phenomena.
It was during this time that a man named Victor Schlur discovered that he was able to change the tone of his voice by simply squeezing his throat whilst screaming. Before he strangled himself to death it was rumored that Victor had discovered over 50 musical notes and invented the first melody. Unfortunately, many of his research books were lost yet one book containing throat positions for the universally accepted 27 notes we use today survived. These notes were emailed to Casio, who with the help of Pope Clement XI created the Casio CK-200.
After experimenting with different notes and rhythms the researchers found the tones rather inspiring. That’s when they thought of a name for this new concept.
Muse because the sounds were a source of inspiration and ic because one of them stepped in something sticky. They dropped the E and hyphen since it looked stupid and settled with Music, a word still in use today.
300 years later and popular music has come a long way from the sounds of someone being strangled over rudimentary beat-boxing. Nowadays, the beat-boxing is quite good.
Play ‘How To Cope with Boredom and Loneliness’ if you’re curious – Free