subaku is a simple puzzle game by Eric Koziol for iOS. We've been working together for the past couple of weeks on a cool new update which adds — you guessed right — music! While the game didn't have any music in it, I didn't necessarily see that as lacking: Eric designed subaku so that the only thing you need to hear is the notes you tap on while playing the game. You get numbers on the screen, from 1 to 7, and each note descends or ascends in response to what you tap.
I approached Eric suggesting that we work together to add meaningful music to the game; he thought the notion was good and we went from there. The goal was to create music that adds to the experience, even though the lack of music was by design. We juggled with a few ideas before arriving at the one we settled on: sound that evolves with time.
The game has two modes: Puzzle and Endless. In Puzzle Mode, you solve puzzles and slowly move your way up to more complicated ones. In this mode, you'll always spend your time thinking, so you're only going to hear one music track. It won't change, and it's there to simply amplify the ambiance of the experience. So far, nothing too out of the ordinary.
Enter Endless Mode.
The goal in this mode is contrary to the aforementioned one: instead of trying to make all the numbers vanish (emptying the board and therefore winning the puzzle) your goal here is to sustain the numbers and try to let the board stay alive for as long as you can. And here you'll notice our trick. The music will evolve as you spend more time on the board and will gradually become faster. Think Super Mario World: when you ride Yoshi, the music instantly changes to reflect the mood (and intensity) of the situation. Hop off, and the music is back to normal. No fading in or out; it's a seamless transition and sounds good to the ear. What we implemented here is similar, and adds a lot to the experience.
We worked with Eirik Suhrke to carry out the music direction we wanted for the game. You may know Suhrke from games like Spelunky, Super Crate Box, and recently Ridiculous Fishing. In working with Suhrke on the various Koopa Soundworks projects, I was impressed by his ability to come up with new tunes on demand: I'd tell him the mood — as vague as that may sound to you right now — and he'd carry out the request splendidly. With subaku it wasn't any different, and Suhrke's flair is apparent despite the mellow nature of the music. The end result is certainly pleasing. Tell us what you think.
I'll shamelessly ask you to buy the game in support of Eric Koziol and his fine art. Power to the indies.
(Game designers: in case you're wondering, I'm available to hire for your game as a Music Assistant. I come with a bundle of talented musicians. Get in touch.)