Friday Dev Update: Music and Audio Direction

9:51 AM Will Sterling 5 Comments

Music has always been one of my favorite aspects of video games. Developers can use music to invoke emotion, create intense moments, or calm the player at different points in a game. It can help to facilitate the theme of the game and create memorable experiences. Today I want to talk about our choice in the music and audio direction of Salt, and give you an inside of look at that process, as well as what that will look like going forward.


I think every game should have a unique 'sound' to the music, while also integrating with the theme of the game. In Salt, I wanted the music to feel epic. I wanted you to feel awesome when you were manning the helm of a big ship crashing through the waves in the open sea. At the same time however, I didn't want the music to be like very other epic orchestra composition you hear. It needed to have a foundation that was different. That foundation ended up being a piano sound. 

In Salt, most of the music you hear will have an underlying piano sound to it. It's heavily laden with reverb and trails off for a while, leaving a melodic undertone behind the strings. This, blended with the more modern orchestra sounds, gives Salt a unique but still epic soundtrack. My overall goal in doing this is so that when you hear the music, you instantly know it's from Salt. 


We like your experiences and 'moments' in Salt to be spread out. A common theme you'll notice in the game is a stretch of relaxation and exploration, followed by intense moments of adventure and challenge. We wanted to ensure this design element translated over into the music as well. For this reason, we chose to keep music somewhat scarce. 

I went back and forth on this design decision for a while. On the one hand, I liked the idea of some melodies playing while you explored islands, but on the other hand I didn't want to over-stimulate the player. I think far too often games have music occurring all the time. And therefore no moments really stand out with the music. 

You'll notice that most of the music that occurs in Salt happens while sailing in the deep ocean. We thought this was a great place to implement the music. It creates an epic feeling when sailing on the big waves and helps as a time passer while traveling long distances. For exploration on islands, we opted to use atmospheric sounds and really immerse the player in the world. 


As with many other mechanics in Salt, music is conditional. Depending on where you are and what you are doing, will determine the type of music that plays. For example, different music will be play depending on whether you are sailing in the day or at night. 

My favorite area to use these conditions on are bosses. When you fight a boss, you will hear specific music for that boss. This music will reflect the nature of the enemy and invoke a certain emotion to go along with it. These sorts of mechanics can also create a "learned response," where the player hears certain music and it instantly brings in a flood of emotion based on their previous encounters. 

As we go forward with Salt, more music and atmospheric sounds will be added into the game, maintaining with our theme of exploration and adventure. 

- Will Sterling (Game Audio and Design)


  1. I think that it's a very good idea to mute music on islands and just playing atmospheric sounds, and keep music for the sea travels and specific events like bosses. It would give life to the game and let the player explore islands at his own rhythm.

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