Here are some movies I’m looking forward to this year. I won’t be able to afford to go to the theater as much as I’d like, but I did get some gift certificates for Christmas, so I can at least go to a few for free. (Thanks to my brother from the very same mother!)
This comes out this week! Read the book last year and thought it was good. I also loved the director’s last two films. This is about a kid whose mother is dying. But fortunately an imaginary friend comes along to help him out. Although it sounds terribly cheesy if you say it like that. Maybe: To help cope with his mother’s inevitable death, the mind of a young lad breaks and he begins hallucinating a destructive monster that tells him to do bad things. OK, that’s not really it either. Just watch the trailer. I look forward to seeing it sometime this month.
The animated film was one of the first movies I ever remember seeing in theaters. There’s no way this can beat the animated version, but I’ll still be interested to see it. I’m glad they’re including the songs, even though they were all already sung to perfection by the original animated voice cast.
Since being pleasantly surprised after seeing Batman Begins in theaters while I was in college, I’ve made sure to see every Christopher Nolan film in theaters. Interstellar is his only film so far that I thought was less than stellar; it had such a silly ending. I’m sure this upcoming film of his will not have a similar ending. I really don’t care about the story or anything, I just like Christopher Nolan’s work.
This is yet another movie I want to see only because of the director. I really enjoyed Colin Trevorrow’s last two films. I have no idea what the plot is for this film, and there doesn’t seem to be a trailer out yet. I just hope they don’t push the release date back yet again.
Guardians of the Galaxy is so far the only live-action Marvel film I thought was enjoyable. Probably has something to do with its more sci-fi-ish setting. Tight-suits and skyscrapers just seem bland to me. So I would like to see this sequel…
The Lego Batman Movie looks partly stupid, partly hilarious. Want to see. Then there’s Cars 3. I’m not so sure about yet another Cars movie from Pixar. I didn’t think the first two were all that great, but I’ve been seeing all Pixar films in theaters since Toy Story when I was 9 or 10 years old, so can I really stop now? Pixar also has Coco coming out this year, which IMDb says is about a 12 year old boy guitarist who does something interesting or something. Well, whatever, it’s Pixar! Then there’s Despicable Me 3, which I hope will be as good as the last two, which were both hilarious.
I think that’s it. I guess the ones I would definitely like to see in theaters include A Monster Calls, King Arthur, Dunkirk, and the two Pixar films. Only five. Not too bad, I guess.
Hello, and welcome to Composer’s Corner, where I say something about music and/or my composing process. Today I’m answering a question from Michael who writes:
I have a question about your use of chord progressions, from the first exercise you recommend.. [in this post] You said “So that was my method: find chord progressions that sounds good, write melodies for them, and vary the orchestration in different ways, all through trial and error.”
Can you elaborate on this. I’ve been working on this and what’s not clear is does one just repeat the chord progression over and over? or are there other chords mixed in?
I’ve found the hook theory website to be useful for studying chord progressions:
They say the most popular is I V vi IV. Would you give them 1 measure each which would make a total of 4 measures? And just repeat that over and over? When I analyze the chords in some songs I like, sometimes there is two measures of a chord and sometimes it’s just a half measure, etc. But I want to start simple.
I’m not able to “hear” the chord progressions in your songs. I think that’s something I need to work on. If I knew which chords were where, that would make it easier to understand. For most of my favorites on your first album I don’t think you’ve published the music. But if you can just describe a bit about which chord progression you used and how that would be very helpful.
Many thanks for the questions!
To answer the first part:
what’s not clear is does one just repeat the chord progression over and over? or are there other chords mixed in?
Either way. Some songs do indeed feature just the same chords over and over again. One of my first compositions, “The Workshop” (MP3 here), is just vi-vi-IV-V over and over. Another example is of course Pachelbel’s Canon in D, which is I-V-vi-iii-IV-I-IV-V over and over again. (Though I think he actually sneaks in an inverted I to replace the iii in some measures.)
Using the same chord progression over and over again may get monotonous, but one can add variety to the melodies and orchestrations. Pachelbel’s Canon manages to stay consistently interesting (in my opinion at least) because of the wealth of variety in the melodies. When I was just starting out composing, my pieces were a bit monotonous. But they helped me learn, and they were still fun to write! (Plus, there’s minimalism, a whole style of music dedicated to monotony! So it’s a subjective thing anyway.)
That said, my guess is that most songs feature multiple chord progressions to help spice things up. Maybe a chord progression for the verses, another chord progression for the chorus, and yet another for the bridge. They may be still be quite similar; maybe a few chords are just substituted for other chords, or they’re mixed around. After all, usually the style of music doesn’t change drastically between verses and chorus.
One common way to add variety is to start a new chord progression on a chord other than the tonic, commonly the V or vi, sometimes the IV. For instance, if you’ve been using I-iii-IV-V for a while, suddenly starting a new melody on vi with something like vi-V-IV-V may be quite interesting.
But, like I said, my first pieces featured chord progressions repeated over and over. It made things simple. I was practicing writing melodies to fit chords, so it was good practice. I wasn’t able to let chords and melodies inform the creation of each other until perhaps after a year or so of composing, after I got a feel for what sort of patterns I preferred.
They say the most popular is I V vi IV. Would you give them 1 measure each which would make a total of 4 measures?
Firstly, if you click on the examples on that website, you’ll see that that progression is often used as part of longer progressions rather than just by itself. But we can certainly use it by itself if we want to…
Anyway, to answer the question: Yep, one bar for each chord would work! Really, you can do anything you’d like, but one chord per measure or two chords per measure is very common, at least for the style of music I write. (Mozart, on the other hand, may go on the I chord for eight measures, IV for four measures, back to I for another four measures, then V-I-V-I-V-I-V-I on eighth notes squished into one measure; very different style!) As you observed in the examples, there can be a variety of squashing and stretching of the chords, but sticking to one or two chords per measure works fine for starting out. In fact, just one or two chords per measure is mostly what I still do.
Also, I typically write 8-bar melodies (which is probably the most common in modern songs). If I wanted to use just I-V-vi-IV, I’d probably double it, so it’s I-V-vi-IV-I-V-vi-IV. Of course it also depends on tempo and time signature and what rhythm you’re using; Pachelbel’s Canon melodies sound like 8-bar melodies to me, yet the scores I typically see have them all squished up into two bars.
I also pretty much never end melodies on the IV chord; it sounds very weak and pop-music-ish to me. I typically go for I or V, and sometimes iii or iv. So I was actually curious to try this out and so I just tried writing two melodies for I-V-vi-IV-I-V-vi-IV:
Ooh, that was fun! I might have to work that into a full piece, it seems kinda catchy to me…
So the first melody is a repeated 4-bar phrase:
And then to try it out with an 8-bar melody:
Just by trying that out, I found that in the last bar, it sounds (to me at least) pretty bad to end the melody on the root of the IV chord; sounds much better to end on the fifth of that chord (which is the tonic of the key) as I do in the first melody, or the third, as I do in the second melody (though that sounds a bit weaker to me). Anyway, just my opinion from some brief trial and error. (I could postulate some music theory reasons for why this might be so, but all that really matters in the end is how it sounds to me.)
So it definitely seems possible to write a short piece with just I-V-vi-IV repeated over and over… you’d probably just have to add in a V-I at the very end if you want to end on a strong cadence.
I’m not able to “hear” the chord progressions in your songs. I think that’s something I need to work on. If I knew which chords were where, that would make it easier to understand.
Yes, I think that can develop with experience and practice as you get familiar with how different chord progressions sound. Honestly, when listening to other people’s music, I often can’t hear the chords either, depending on what they are. I can usually hear when it changes, and if it’s major or minor (I reckon everyone can at least subconsciously, as it’s one of the driving forces of music), but to know exactly what it is in music theory terms, I need go look it up, or try playing it on a keyboard (and I’m not much of a keyboard player, so I’m usually too lazy for that). However, sometimes I can catch popular chord progressions, such as Pachelbel’s chords. And after I’ve been composing for a while, my ears will be a bit more sensitive to chords, but then my sense of them will fade away again. It would definitely be convenient to have perfect pitch for harmonic analysis! But, alas…
But if you can just describe a bit about which chord progression you used and how that would be very helpful.
An easy piece of mine to see the chord changes in is “Across the Kingdom”:
In this piece, all the chords are in root position, doubled in octaves in the cello and double basses. They’re just playing staccato notes throughout the entire piece, so basically anytime those two bottom lines move, it indicates a chord change.
So we start with the I chord, which changes at 0:20 to V (going down a fourth). Then up to vi, down to IV for a half measure, back to V for the second half of that measure. (Hey, lookey there, we got a I-V-vi-IV progression right there, hahaha, a nice coincidence!) The second half of the melody starts again with I, down to V, up to vi for a half measure, down to V for a half measure, and back up to I to end the melody on the tonic.
So (if I group half-measure chords into parentheses) the whole chord progression for that first melody is I-V-vi-(IV-V)-I-V-(vi-V)-I. And then it repeats along with the melody.
At 1:12, we have a new melody with a new chord progression, this time (I-IV)-V-(I-IV)-V-(I-IV)-V-I-I.
At 1:39, yet a new melody with yet a new chord progression. This chord progression is one of my favorites. (I-vi)-(IV-V)-(I-vi)-(IV-V) This repeats with various 4-bar melodies, until…
At 2:34, rather than repeat the chord progression, we get a slight variation of: (vi-iii)-(IV-V)-(vi-iii)-(IV-V).
After that variation, at 2:47, we’re back to what we had before, (I-vi)-(IV-V)-(I-vi)-(IV-V), until…
At 3:01 we go back to our minor variation, (vi-iii)-(IV-V)-(vi-iii)-(IV-V). This repeats until…
At 3:29, we’re back to (I-vi)-(IV-V)-(I-vi)-(IV-V)… at 3:43, the key itself jumps up a major third, but the chord progression itself is the same, just in the new key. And we pretty much stick with this very same chord progression, until ending the piece on the I. (On a side note, I love shifting the key up a major third in between melodies. It always seems exciting to me.)
So that whole piece only has 4 chord progressions, the great bulk of it being that (I-vi)-(IV-V)-(I-vi)-(IV-V) repeated over and over. I could write melodies for that chord progression forever.
As to how exactly I came up with those particular chord progressions, I couldn’t say off the top of my head. There’s always quite a bit of trial and error for me, and after you’ve been composing for a while, you start to get a “feel” for where your subconscious wants the music to go. I probably composed the first melody on the keyboard, then found chords for it that I liked, then sort of let my subconscious guide me from there. Sometimes it seems to flow from the subconsciously rather nicely; other times, I can be experimenting for hours and hours before I get something that I like. Many times, if you can come up with a melody in your head or on a keyboard, you’ll find that it naturally fits multiple common chord patterns, then it’s just a matter of what you prefer, how fancy you want to get, and how much time you want to spend exploring the possibilities. Just I, IV, and V cover all the tones of a particular key, so you could possibly harmonize any diatonic melody with just those chords. (Though that might get boring pretty fast, but you could. Mozart did it sometimes!)
When I was just starting to compose, I’d go searching on the internet for chord progressions to try from guitar tab sites and such. I also bought a couple “fake books” just for the chord progressions; those can be handy. And I like the website you linked to, Hooktheory. I hadn’t visited that site in a while; they’ve expanded quite a bit since I last visited. I still go scrounging around on the internet for chord progression ideas now and then. I’m trying to use more chords borrowed from other keys and more seventh chords, for instance. It’s always fun to find the chords to a song you like, particularly a specific part that you enjoy, and find out what exactly is going on there, and then try to use something similar in your own work.
OK, I hope that wasn’t too long-winded! Hope this helps!
Like I did last year, here are all the movies and TV seasons I watched in 2016! A list of all 234 titles can be found here. 234 is now my new record. Wow, what an accomplishment. I will put it on my resume!
Of the movies that came out this year, my favorites included some that were a bit thematically shallow, but had serviceable stories and work as fun popcorn flicks. These included Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (Edit: Ha ha… I just now realize these are all films in series, titled with colons, the new fashion. Coincidence?)
Movies with stronger stories included the live-action remake of The Jungle Book, which, unlike the cartoon, actually had a cohesive narrative and an interesting theme about man’s relation to nature. I was pleasantly surprised. I thought Risen managed to be less cheesy than most overtly Christian movies, and served as an interesting reminder of just how human the followers of Jesus were; being raised Christian, there’s much about Christianity that’s easy to take for granted. It’s difficult to imagine how radical (and maybe even insane) Christ’s teachings must have seemed to those who met him face to face without the comfort of a two-thousand year old institution to support them. I also thought Hacksaw Ridge was a great film; an army medic refuses to hold a gun, yet manages to save many lives on the battlefield.
Animated movies I enjoyed included: Kung Fu Panda 3, which was hilarious and featured another great musical score. The Boy and the Beast came out last year, but only came out in the US this year. A boy enters a parallel world of beasts (monstrous anthropomorphic animals, mainly), and trains to become a fighter. His rebellious personality provides the appropriate challenge, both physically and emotionally, for a skilled but jaded fighter who needs to get his act together himself. But growing up in the world of beasts has its price, and when the boy grows into a teen and tries to form and/or mend relationships in the human world, he runs into new difficulties. Very fun fantastical feature that you’d never find in the US. Also featured a great orchestral soundtrack. Finally, I really enjoyed Kubo and the Two Strings. A wonderfully bizarre fantasy with beautiful visuals. Since stop-motion puppets tend to have something naturally creepy about them, it’s easy to make dark (The Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline) or “stylistically cartoonishly ugly” looking characters and worlds (James and the Giant Peach or ParaNorman). Kubo manages to actually make the characters and the world look good without being overtly creepy. I loved the ancient Japanese setting, and the bizarre fantasy elements were a lot of fun. My only complaint was the ending; it didn’t make much sense to me, and seemed too simple. Still, great animated film, definitely Laika’s best.
Of movies that came out last year, but I only saw this year, I loved The Revenant; beautiful cinematography. Simple but enjoyable plot. Although I know some found the slower pace to be a bit too much, I really enjoyed that aspect; the film wasn’t in a rush, but didn’t slow things down with pointless filler either, and you really got to get the sense of DiCaprio’s character slowly healing after the devastating bear attack. I also really enjoyed In the Heart of the Sea for similar reasons.
Of older movies that I just saw for the first time this year: I loved The Fall from 2006. A suicidal man in a hospital forms a friendship with a young girl by telling her a long fantasy story. He’s just making it up as he goes along, but the story ends up becoming very meaningful to the girl. But remember, the man is suicidal! So drama ensues! The film featured a great blend of fantasy and real-life, and how the two can inform each other, a bit like in Finding Neverland. I love stories like this, and The Fall became one of my all-time favorites. (I’m eagerly awaiting to see A Monster Calls, which also blends fantasy stories with real-life death-drama.) Noir-wise, I enjoyed the classic Laura from 1944, a fun mystery film with a great twist about two-thirds of the way through it that left me slapping my head thinking, “ah, of course!” which was great. I couldn’t guess who the killer was until it was revealed. They don’t make ’em like this anymore! Also great was Wait Until Dark from 1967, starring Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman and Alan Arkin as an evil killer. The killer wants a doll stuffed with drugs, which is somewhere in the blind woman’s apartment. Great Hitchcock-like thrills ensue!
I greatly enjoyed The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a slice-of-life documentary about Studio Ghibli. Although I disagree with a good deal of Miyazaki’s personal (or cultural?) philosophies, his perspectives can still be interesting and thought-provoking. And it’s fascinating to see how this Japanese studio approaches film making as opposed to how, for instance, Pixar does things.
Finally, there was only one TV series that I really enjoyed, and that was Netflix’s Stranger Things. Had a great 80’s feel to it and a fun plot, at least for sci-fi / fantasy lovers (parallel worlds and mind powers and all that). Honestly some of the young actors’ acting was a bit forced at times, but overall it was easy to binge-watch. And the story actually came to a conclusion! Although it left a couple loose threads, it didn’t end on some stupid gimmicky cliff-hanger! This was very refreshing. I’m sick of the J.J. Abrams-style cliffhanger nonsense, where stories never end but just warp into different questions. It’s just crappy writing. So it was awesome to see a TV season that was actually (mostly) self-contained. I look forward to the next season.
Yesterday I released my new album, Storybook Overture, into the wild, where it can be free and roam the mountains and valleys of magical [monetary] possibilities. It’s on bandcamp here. (You might see that I changed the cover ever so slightly, giving the background a bit of a gradient so it’s not so flat. I’m no great artist.)
At first a bandcamp release was all I had planned for, but on their uploading page they recommended DistroKid (that’s a referral link; you get 7% off, and I get a few bucks!) for getting into digital stores like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon MP3, etc. It looks like DistroKid has been around for a few years, but I had somehow never heard of them. I had used CD Baby for Voyage of the Dream Maker. CD Baby charges you a fee for each album you want to release and takes a small royalty on any income you make, the trade-off being that you never have to pay them again after the album’s set-up fee.
DistroKid, on the other hand, charges you $20 per year (for a single artist), takes no royalty at all, and allows you to upload as many albums as you want in that year. The trade-off here is that if you don’t pay another $20 next year (assuming they don’t bump up the price), your albums might be removed from the online stores. Granted, if you’re not making at least $20 a year from your releases, that’s not much of a loss. And $20 is cheaper than CD Baby’s set-up fee for a single album (and TuneCore’s prices are just awful; I’m not sure why anyone uses them).
So I decided DistroKid would be worth a try, especially since the $20 also allowed me to upload my 2014 EP, A Dream Half Lost, for no extra cost. I also hope to release at least one album in 2017. So I’ll just have to see if I can recoup that $20 within a year… and every year following, I guess, at least until I’m not so broke that it matters. This will mainly depend on people actually buying the album through iTunes or Amazon or wherever; streams make such little money, I’ll be lucky to make a few dollars. For comparison, in the last year I’ve made almost $18 through CD Baby for Voyage of the Dream Maker. That’s one half from one full album purchase and two single track purchases, and the other half from a bunch of little streams. So, if CD Baby didn’t take a small percentage, a year’s worth of revenue might just barely cover my DistroKid cost. Of course, that’s for a six year old album that’s also on bandcamp, so maybe not the best comparison. Point is, at my current level with my sort of music, paying $20 a year is still a significant cost to consider.
Anyway, if you search for them, you’ll find the album is already on iTunes and Amazon! That’s some fast distribution. (Still waiting on Spotify.)
Also, I uploaded the tracks and artwork to CreateSpace to try their CD-R service. Still awaiting approval for now. They’re a bit more expensive than Kunaki, but I think their CD-Rs also look nicer, plus they handle all distribution through Amazon themselves, so no need to worry about that. And anyway, all those expenses are passed on to whomever buys the CD. I think I listed the price at $10.99. If anyone buys the CD through Amazon, my share would only be $1.09. All the rest goes to CreateSpace and Amazon. (CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, but they’re still a separate company, so when you buy through Amazon, Amazon takes a fee on top of CreateSpace’s production costs.) Terrible margins. But better than nothing at all. Anyway, I look forward to seeing how it turns out.
So… that’s that! Feels great to finally have released a new album.
Patreon has helped a lot; knowing there are people out there not just looking forward to new material but willing to actually part with some money to support it has been very encouraging. A huge thank you to my Patreon supporters!
I hope to release my second full-length album next Friday, December 2nd, 2016. A digital version will be available through my bandcamp page, and I also hope to try releasing an audio CD through Amazon’s CreateSpace. I’ve never tried their CD service before, so I’ll be interested in how it turns out. (That might take a little longer as I don’t know how long it will take for them to send a “proof” copy… we’ll see.)
STORYBOOK OVERTURE, the title of one of the tracks, seemed like an appropriate album title, as many of the tracks were inspired by my book series, Insane Fantasy. You’ll also see I’m reusing the artwork I did for the book on the album cover.
Here’s the track list:
The Storm Cometh
A Stargazer’s Lullaby
The Stormbringer’s Apprentice
Broken Wings and Distant Things
Journey by Moonlight
Lullaby of the Westwind Woods
Secrets of the Ancient Seas
Lullaby for a Quiet Village
As you can see, I’ve already released all but tracks 9 and 10 to YouTube (and track 10 will probably be my next YouTube upload). The total playtime of these tracks comes out to about 70 minutes, so it’s a pretty full album.
It’ll probably be a while before I get the album on iTunes, Spotify, etc., as it’s not really worth the cost with the amount of listens I get (less than 1,000), but I’d like it to be on iTunes and Spotify eventually. It’ll just have to wait for a bit.
Also, I’ll try to email free bandcamp download codes to any Patreon supporters I have at that time. (They can already download most of the tracks on Patreon anyway.)
Seems like the Trump victory has brought out all these fears that Trump is Hitler and that there’ll be some kind of terrible purge or something. I don’t understand what sort of powers some imagine the POTUS has.
One thing that’s popping up quite a bit in my Facebook and Twitter feeds is this notion of “privilege.” I usually see it in the context of ad hominem attacks. (e.g. “You have white privilege, so you cannot understand why this or that policy is racist, and are not allowed to have an opinion on it.”) I think we can all agree that that sort of ad hominem attack gets us nowhere.
But now I’m seeing it come up in otherwise heartfelt comments seeking understanding.
So, for the sake of understanding, can someone please explain what exactly this “privilege” is?
My current understanding is that “privilege” is the idea that a person of a certain sex, race, religion, whatever, naturally experiences more societal privileges, the idea being that these are unfair and must be counteracted.
If they’re not unfair and don’t need counteracting, I’m not sure what the point of the term is. Men can pee with more convenience, for instance, and are on average naturally physically stronger and thus more capable of being construction workers or joining the army. These are “inequalities”, but they don’t make one sex superior to another.
Are these sort of inequalities considered “privilege”? Are we supposed to do something about them?
Wikipedia makes it sound like a conspiracy theory:
According to Peggy McIntosh, whites in Western societies enjoy advantages that non-whites do not experience, as “an invisible package of unearned assets”. White privilege denotes both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice.
If it’s “invisible” and “less obvious” and distinguished from “overt bias or prejudice”, then how can we ever know it exists? It’s like Freudian analysis, defined in such a way that it can never be disproven and everything can be analyzed through its lens.
Am I supposed to believe that I have some sort of natural privilege by virtue of being a white male? What “privilege” do you think I have? Are you assuming that I have suffered less and therefore owe you something that you don’t owe me also?
Because of course all humans suffer, and suffer differently depending on their circumstances, but so what? Is suffering supposed to be equally distributed? If you feel others are suffering less than you, shouldn’t you consider that a good thing?
If you are being treated unjustly, whether or not it’s because of your sex, skin color, religion, etc. isn’t that the real issue? Such behaviors are unjust precisely because all men and women are equal in terms of natural worth. But I’m not sure I understand how sexist or racist behaviors are the results of “privilege.” They’re the result of people being sexist or racist, aren’t they?
(Or am I to assume everyone is naturally sexist and racist even if it can’t be shown, because they just are?)
If you can’t point out specific behaviors because the effects of “privilege” are more shady and invisible, then how can you blame anyone for not quite buying into the notion?
I honestly fear people are making themselves more miserable by imagining society is just naturally against them by virtue of their sex or race or whatever, and then whenever they suffer something, they blame, even if only in part, the nefarious shady “privilege” of others. But if we can’t point to specifics, even if everyone understood and agreed with the notion of “privilege”, how would anything get better?
Regardless, isn’t the “remedy” for “privilege” to just do what you should be doing anyway, which is what Christ taught? :
Jesus replied, “This is the most important: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
None of these are real arguments. Just personal attacks.
If there’s any silver lining in regards to Donald Trump winning the presidency, I hope that maybe, just maybe, it’s a sign that the effectiveness of these sorts of attacks is already beginning to diminish. We should be capable of having civil conversations about our disagreements without assuming that the opposition is just bigoted and hateful, naive and stupid, privileged and racist, etc.
Eh, maybe it’s only a fool’s hope. But it would be nice.
Last year I learned the basics of jMonkeyEngine, and though I intended to create a 2D game with it, I only ended up creating the MIDI animator mentioned in my last post. But for a tile-based 2D game, it’s really not ideal. It’s certainly capable of producing such a game, but as an engine, it’s not really designed for it, and I realized I’d have to spend a considerable amount of time just programming a custom framework for such a project.
So last month I began learning LibGDX, which is certainly better suited for the sort of tile-based 2D adventure game I’d like to create.
So here’s what I’ve got so far (the art is temporary, simply a free tile set I found out there, though I think I’ll be aiming for tiles that are 16×16 pixels as well, so this represents the size I’m hoping for):
Doesn’t look like much, but I’m still learning and programming the basics I’ll need before I actually start programming the actual game play. What I’ve learned and/or programmed so far includes:
loading and displaying a tilemap (a .tmx file from Tiled)
dynamic window resizing (or resolution changing) without completely screwing up the aspect ratio (trickier than it may sound)
basically it will always render with a resolution of 1280×720, which is then rendered as a texture to whatever resolution the user sets; handy for Android devices which may feature differing resolutions which cannot be changed
using Box2D for character movement and collision detection
animating the character as he walks (much easier with LibGDX; I had to program a custom shader with jMonkeyEngine)
real-time A* pathfinding (hope to use it with NPCs)
text (as you can see at the bottom there) to be used with menus, dialog, etc. (nice little font called Munro) (this is also much easier with LibGDX)
custom shader to make object tiles “light up”
Still lots to program, but I reckon that’s an OK start. The to-do list before I can actually begin programming the actual game-play logic includes:
have interactable objects “light up” as the player nears them, along with a small pop up menu with available actions (pick up, talk, examine, activate, etc.)
design and implement a menu panel / status bar (along the black panel along the bottom)
this menu will switch to a “dialog mode” when the character is talking with someone (as in The Secret of Monkey Island, for example)
pause menu with save, load, quit, settings, etc.
camera movement for when the player walks off the screen
loading another tilemap for when the character leaves a village or enters a house, for example
I need to try sticking an NPC in there and having it play through some scripted material, utilizing the aforementioned A* algorithm as necessary
real-time combat system
cast a spell or swing a sword to injure attacking enemies (the combat will be simple in this game, nothing fancy)
That’s all I can think of at the moment, but that’s plenty, isn’t it?
The game itself will be pretty short; I’ve tried to keep it short on purpose since even a short game is a lot of work, especially when you’ve never done it before and don’t have a pre-existing framework your familiar with to use. If I manage to actually succeed in this endeavor, I hope it will be easier to create new adventure games and/or RPGs in a similar style without having to reprogram these basics again, at least not from scratch.
The tentative title for the game is Memory of a Thousand Kings, which began as a half-plotted fantasy novel, but I think it will work better as an adventure game.
To use it, see the Readme there. You’ll need jMonkeyEngine, and understanding Java would probably help. (I’m not really interested in making a standalone user-friendly app at the moment; Stephen Malinowski’s “Music Animation Machine” is still available if you want that. I’m more interested in having something I can continually customize and play around with.)
In addition to perhaps being sloppy (as I never intended to share it), the source code is a bit bloated as it’s actually part of a larger project to create a MIDI editor that will feature my melody generator. But that’s a long way off; I’m not actively working on that at the moment, and probably won’t anytime soon.
So… there it is if anyone else wants to play around with it, or contribute their own improvements to it… feel free!
Also, it’s my first time uploading something to github, so I’m not very familiar with the platform yet… I hope I did it right.
I recently posted my latest composition, “Secrets of the Ancient Seas”! Check it out:
I write in the description:
This began as another track inspired by my novel, but the rapid string arpeggios and spirit of the melodies quickly began to remind me of an adventurer braving the seas, so I continued down that path instead. I even threw in some wind machine for some atmosphere, a percussion instrument in Garritan Personal Orchestra I’ve been wanting to try using but never really had the occasion for. I think it works well in this piece.
My favorite part of this piece comes at the 4:22 mark. At first I meant simply to contrast all the melodic material with some more atmospheric material, perhaps only wandering arpeggios, but I couldn’t resist adding some melodic phrases along with them in the form of descending minor thirds. With the minor chords forming the harmony, these descending minor thirds sound, to me, very haunting and creepy. Almost the way a child calls out “Where are you?” to taunt hiding prey. The sound of being lost at sea on a foggy night, perhaps? Vaguely hearing the call of the deadly sirens in the distance? Anyway, I love how it sounds.
I also like what’s happening harmonically, as it’s more chromatic than my usual fare:
We start in the tonic of B minor, then continually progress through the circle of fifths, to F-sharp minor, C-sharp minor, G-sharp minor, and finally to D-sharp minor. From here, we go back and forth between D-sharp minor and D major (the relative major of B minor), a transformation Neo-Riemannian triadic theory calls an S transformation for slide, as the chord slides between major and minor keeping the third of the chord as a common tone (in this case an F sharp). I think the major chord sounds particularly refreshing there, as so many minor chords precede it. Finally we get C-sharp major seventh for the final three measures, which serves as a secondary dominant in B minor (as it implies a resolution to F-sharp major, the dominant of B minor). But first the passage repeats, and the C-sharp major seventh is just as capable of resolving to B minor (although this resolution perhaps does not sound as strong, but that’s OK, the stronger resolution comes after the repeat).
When we do resolve to the dominant, F-sharp major, the opening phrase of the piece’s main melody is echoed, but it sounds rather exotic and dissonant being accompanied with the dominant chord rather than the tonic, and the clash propels the piece forward to the main melody’s final statements.
Although this little sequence is hardly revolutionary at all (and so may not stand out to any listener), it’s certainly not the sort of thing I’d usually compose, so I’m rather pleased with it.
Also, at long last I managed to upload a truly 60 fps animation thanks to Shotcut, a nice free video editor that will now replace my need for the annoying Windows Movie Maker. It’s not a super-advanced editor, but it does what I need (sync audio and add titles), it’s free, and it doesn’t come with annoying limitations to try to entice me to buy some deluxe version.