A while back I was graciously asked by my friends Neven and Matt to do the music for their retro-styled, totally droptacular iOS game, The Incident. Me and music have a strange relationship — I love writing songs but don’t typically like for anybody to hear them. But it’d always been a dream to do game music, so I shushed my brain and did my best.
To match the 8-bit visuals, I returned to my roots: I plopped out a Bootcamp partition with Windows XP, installed a copy of Famitracker — a music app that emulates the original Nintendo sound chip — and started typing (yep, qwerty) some songs in classic “tracker” format, just like my Amiga days.
It was nerdy-cool to think that this music could actually be compiled and played on an original Nintendo if someone so desired. In other words, there’s no post-production trickery here — I stuck to the limitations of the format, which means two Square wave channels, one Triangle channel, one Noise channel, and an extra channel that could kind of play PCM samples. (I also “cheated” on a few tracks by enabling the little-used Konami VRC6 sound chip to get two bonus square channels.)
For anyone who enjoyed The Incident, or just enjoys bleepy-blippy things, I’m pleased to finally provide the soundtrack!
1. Title Screen
2. Main Theme
This entire song materialized, fully formed, in my head during a jog to work, so thanks to whatever makes that happen. I’d describe this as “urgent noir”. (Bonus for the curious: my goofy voice memo in the office trying to save the idea.)
3. Game Over
It takes death to tango. (Here’s the piano sketch.)
This is somehow, for me, the most enduring of all of these tracks…
…as I love playing this on the piano where I weirdly turn into a kind of 60′s dance number. I recorded this for Shaun Inman for some reason:
5. Tweet Sheet
Later, when Neven and Matt added the ability to Tweet your score, I added the Twitter Song. (There were actually lyrics to this at one point?)
6. The End
By far the trickiest track because it required movie-like scoring to picture, under very difficult technical restraints — i.e., hitting “Play” in Quicktime then desperately trying to mark transition points on the fly in Famitracker. If you’ve ever seen the ending to The Incident, though, I think this music helped seal the mysterious deal.
7. Endless Mode
Later, these guys added an “Endless” mode where players go for a high score rather than beating levels. This meant another theme, a little more stressful.
8. Endless Freak-Out (w/vocals)
Now here’s an easter-egg that virtually no-one has heard, until now.
I had the idea that, if the user was doing really well at the endless mode, in the zone and about to nail a high score, it would be my duty to try to throw them off of their game.
My idea? The 8-bit music suddenly gets a little piano. And the piano suddenly gets some goofy vocals. And out of the blue, the game starts singing you a weird kind of piano rock opera track, existentially discussing your gaming performance. And this, hopefully, freaks you out and makes you die.
Hear for yourself:
Matt scrambled the file so that this song couldn’t easily be ripped from the bundle. As far as I know, only a single player of The Incident experienced this trick!
That single e-mail was exactly what we were hoping for:
“Hi! I was just playing The Incident and got a new high score of 299 metres in Endless Nightfall! (I’m sunrun on Game Center) I have a strange question: I’m *sure* that while I was playing I heard a weird song with singing or something. I had the sound down low at the time and didn’t think to pause the game so I could turn it up to hear it better. Am I out of my mind, or is there a hidden song in the game?! It seemed to then revert back to the normal music. If I’m right, is it possible to hear it somehow? What are the circumstances under which it plays? And if I’m wrong and there isn’t a hidden song, maybe it means I’ve been playing this game way too much!? -Lance.”
9. Main Theme (Swing Version, Unused)
A failed experiment with hilarious white-noise jazz hi-hats.
10. Bonus: El Incidente y El Tema del Amor
An amazing acoustic guitar cover from Pete Bosack, I love this so much.
11. Bonus: Fallin’ Up (Look Out for Love)
An equally incredible buddy cop cover from the ever-talented Adam Lisagor.
Download It All!
I’ve put together all of this music, my voice memos, and even my Famitracker source files, into this convenient zip. Download here: