Friday, February 10, 2017

Wait... He Likes Me?

It's almost Valentine's Day, and I'm feeling romantic! Yes, in spite of the fact that it's the occasion everyone loves to hate. So let's talk about video game romance.

Better Than... Multiplayer

I'm not ashamed to admit that one of the things I love (uh, pun unintended) about CRPGs are the romances. Let's face it, love's what makes the (real) world go around for most of us, and for a game with any kind of depth to skip that part of humanity would be just weird, because if you throw a bunch of people together for long enough (i.e. a party of adventurers), usually some of them will end up together. Bioware sometimes gets a bad rap because of its "dating simulators", but certainly a well-written romance arc will add immensely to a gaming experience (notice how I said well-written, and not necessarily one with a happy ending). And, as long as the content is optional, everyone wins, right?

When Obsidian announced that there would be no romances in Pillars of Eternity, I wept inside. Like, you put a good-looking chap with a shield into my party, and he doesn't even acknowledge my character as female? Pfft. Screw you, Edér. (Well, at least it's not nearly as frustrating as almost-but-not-quite-romancing Bishop in Neverwinter Nights 2. Now that caused some permanent damage.)

Speaking of Bioware, it was one of their games that first made me discover that romances in video games were a thing, namely, Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark. Ah, the suspicious Valen and his powerful neck muscles. How my character strived to prove to him that she was trustworthy! ;)

Valen Shadowbreath by AnnaHelme on DeviantArt

When it comes choosing favorites, it's difficult to decide, but the first prize would probably have to go to Garrus Vakarian from the Mass Effect games. I really liked him in the first game, and when I discovered that you could romance him in ME2, I was just giddy. Garrus is absolutely badass, funny, and, at times, awkward.

Yes, Garrus is an alien. More precisely, a Turian. Turians look like a cross between an eagle and a cat. Luckily, he doesn't sound like one.

Original Romance Theme: Rogue Heart

Now that we've established that I'm a hopeless and unapologetic romantic, it should come as no surprise that what I do best is compose sappy-yet-sad pieces, where I get to wallow in the tragedy of love.

Ah, love. Don't you just love the thumbnail? Especially the red-headed Triss with Geralt. So cute.

This particular melody kept playing in my head until I just had to "put it onto file", and I knew from the start that it would have to feature at least one instrument from my favorite family of instruments, the oboe family. There's just something special about their warm and rich, yet clear sound. So, there's two (the oboe, and the english horn, or cor anglais, if you're feeling fancy).

In my opinion, the end result resembles a romance theme from a fantasy RPG (in fact, there was a time when I was a bit worried I might have "borrowed" something from Jeremy Soule), so I named it after the fan fiction I've been writing about Neverwinter Nights 2. No vocals this time. I love this as it is - and I have to admit that overall I do prefer to listen to instrumentals myself. Duh, it's why I love game music in the first place.

The video shows this piece being played back in both the notation software I use to create my midi files, and the digital audio workstation (DAW) I then use to flesh them out with sampled sounds. Note that I use the notation software just to create midis, so some of it may be unorthodox (such as the numerous pppps, which you don't really see in notation that much). Also, forgive me if the footage recorded in Ableton Live isn't entirely in sync, I couldn't get OBS to record the sound (apparently has to do with the ASIO driver) so I had to guess from the visuals, and combined with the crossfading, it was a bit tricky to get right.