LongStory Chapter 2 - Hanna's Notebook Now Available on iOS and Android! February 13, 2015
I’m excited to let you know that the eagerly awaited second chapter of LongStory will be available to play on both iOS and Android on February 12th, 2015…hey wait, that’s TODAY!
Get it here for iOS
Get it here for Android
That means the LongStory soundtrack is also available on my Bandcamp page!
Now that I have a spiffy new blog, I thought I'd write a little bit about how I got involved with the project, and my process and thoughts for writing the soundtrack.
I met Miriam Verberg, the producer of LongStory, during a New Game Maker's incubator put on by Dames Making Games in Toronto. She remained an active part of the community after the incubator, and before long, she helped create LongStory, a queer-friendly interactive adventure game.
I had played the first chapter of LongStory previously and enjoyed it. I haven't been in high school for a very long time, but quite a few things resonated with me! I liked that the player character looked relatable. The writing felt strong, (at points it felt like I was even able to say some of the stuff I wish I'd been able to say to my peers back then, which was really cathartic!) and I totally had my own version of Hanniferjane! As a queer-identified woman, I appreciated that there was no gender limitation on who the main character could date. I think this game would have been a welcome addition to my teenage years.
So, I was really pleased and quite excited when Miriam asked if I'd like to write the soundtrack for Chapter 2! Not only was I happy to be part of what I feel is an important project, I was happy to work with a group of intelligent, talented and thoughtful women.
Writing the Theme Song
Miriam let me know that she wanted the cornerstone of the soundtrack to be the theme song. She wanted the theme to be similar to one you might see for a show on television, as the game also had an episodic format. She mentioned that she wanted something light, whimsical, Amelie-esque.
I usually work with MIDI and virtual instruments, but I decided that, based on what Miriam wanted, I would work with real instruments for the theme. I wanted the song to have a warm, personal, "real" feeling. I also decided that I would write some lyrics, to make it more like a television theme song. Recording real instruments and voice and writing lyrics are all hugely out of my comfort zone in terms of game music, but I actually ended up really enjoying the process!
I don't have a large selection of real instruments, but I DO have a cheap ukulele, which I decided would be the primary instrument for the theme. I thought it would provide the light, playful tone Miriam was looking for. Best part: I don't even really known how to play a uke! I do have some guitar experience though, so I tried my best to translate. I think I may have made the chord voicings up as I went along. I'M A PROFESSIONAL.
I started by playing a few chord progressions and working out a melody over top. I find that a having an established melody sometimes helps me understand how the lyrics will work. I figure out how long each line will be, how many syllables I have to work with in each line. In a way I'm creating a musical limitation for myself... sometimes it makes things easier!
I decided that, lyrically, I wanted to keep with the "Story" theme, the idea that, as in the game, you are creating your own story by the choices you make. Once I understood what the lyrical theme would be, everything came together quickly...I had the entire song down in one or two short sittings. I even had a pretty exact idea of the expanded instrumentation, including the trumpet line (which is my favourite part!) I couldn't physically play any of this out, obviously, but it was all up there in my head. Now I had to record it.
Recording the Theme Song
I mentioned that recording real instruments and vocals are not my forte (yet!). I knew someone who DID have the skills and gear though! Enter Robby Duguay, a local game composer and producer and all around awesome guy. Robby is a friend, and I knew that he would understand exactly what I was hoping to do, and help me get the the instrumentation out of my head and on to a recorded track.
He set up an impromptu recording studio at our co-working space, Bento Miso. We started by recording the ukulele track. My lack of uke skills were… rather obvious, but strangely I think it kinda works for the track; the idea of just trying to stumble along and find your way, best you can. Same with the vocals. I'm not a skilled vocalist, but time and money dictated that I take on the role for the track. This was the most painful part of the process for me... I still wince listening to my voice! Robby made recording it as painless as possible though!
Now that we had the bones of the song recorded, we moved on to the expanded instrumentation, the stuff that was in my head. The ukulele sounded higher and thinner, so I wanted to fill out some of the low end and also get the "groove" of the song happening! Thus, next was the bass line. Robby helped out a lot with this...I knew I wanted something jaunty and fun, and Robby selected a great instrument and played out what I was looking for.
Then I quickly came up with a simple guitar part to fill out the sound a bit. I hammered out the little glockenspiel accents during the bridge, and we got the shakers shakin'. That left the three parts I was most excited about: trumpet solo, harmonies and handclaps! These really brought the track together.
I knew what I wanted the trumpet solo to be. It just so happens that Robby plays trumpet beautifully. I hummed out the melody, and he played it perfectly, if I do say so myself!
For harmonies, I enlisted the help of Andrew Carvalho, another local game maker. This is one of the benefits of working out of a co-working space that caters to game makers! Robby, Andrew and myself all sang the chorus harmonies, and we were joined by my partner Hillary for the handclaps. This, I think, may have been one of my favourite musical times ever.
Recording the song was a just a tonne of fun, and I was glad to collaborate with friends that I highly respect!
The Other Tracks!
The other tracks on the album are meant to mirror/enhance the feeling of the main character (and hopefully player!) in specific situations they find themselves in, so obviously I used those feelings as direction for the general feel of the tracks. Ableton Live is my DAW of choice, and this is what I used here.
I let my own high school experience inform me for some of it! I was in a "rock-punk-alternative" band in high school, so I decided to take an electric guitar-focused approach to “Another Day” and “We Have to Talk”.
"Looking Back" was interesting... I don't really know how to play piano, but wanted to create a piano piece for this particular feeling. I hope I did okay.! Fun fact: I lost most of this project in between writing it and getting it prepared for Bandcamp. I had to re-write pretty-much all of it, based on an old export. Could never get the string accompaniment quite right again, alas.
"We Have to Talk - Choices" - This purpose of this track was described to me as essentially a boss battle, which I thought was a super interesting idea for this type of game! I decided to start off with the same serious, tense intro as "We Have To Talk", and then completely change it up, hopefully throwing the listener off balance, to hopefully increase the feeling of being unprepared. I used a more quick paced, electronic sound for it, and I'm actually pretty pleased with the way it turned out! Hopefully it helps add a bit of urgency to the scenario!
What I Learned:
I learned a tonne about recording while working with Robby on recording the theme. Actually, I learned enough to know I need to learn more, so I'm currently taking an Intro to Music Production course, and slowly putting a together a home studio that may be able to handle some light recording!
I learned to be more diligent about backing up my projects...ha....ha.
I learned I really enjoy collaborating creatively with friends!
Okay that's it I think! Hey, that was wordy but kinda fun. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about the soundtrack!