The Making of DEVICE 6: Music

With all the talk about the music of DEVICE 6, we thought it would be cool to show you some of the tracks that didn’t make it, and various tests and demos. So today we’ll have a guest-blogger: composer of DEVICE 6 music, Daniel Olsén. Take it away Mr. Olsén!

I was really excited about this project. The idea of doing a score full of brass and strings inspired by the 1960s was really appealing to me. That is something I had always wished I could do, but had never tried. Before starting to write the music, we created a collaborative playlist on Spotify and I didn’t listen to anything else for weeks.

For different reasons I couldn’t start right away, so when I finally sat down I was full of inspiration and ideas. The concept was, broadly, ”1960s inspired spy music with analogue synthesizers and Latino beats, played in cellar bar in the middle east filled with opium smoke”.

Because the game was so different, and I had only seen a few screens and concept movies, I didn’t really know what it would be like to play it. I had read the script and Simon had explained a few scenarios and how it would work, but it was still hard to imagine the “gameplay”. So I came up with this imaginary scenario that I was writing a movie soundtrack independently of the project, and that it just so happened that Simogo wanted to use all of it for their game. This idea together with the very inspiring setting and project’s concept itself really worked to get my mind going. So before the first chapter was even done I think had written about 20 songs. Simon then picked songs that would fit with different scenarios and others were discarded.

I remember Simon told me early on: “We want to do unexpected things. Like, where would you least expect to see the stuffed bears? On the bridge. We want contrasts like that”. I tried to have a similar approach to the music as well, and I think it had an impact on more or less all of the songs.

Early versions and tests

The first song I wrote became the main theme, and intro song. We all felt like it was spot on right away and from there I could just continue developing the sound. Here is the first version of the DEVICE 6 theme, that I sent Simogo’s way April 21:

It went through some changes later, but as you can hear from the final version the core stayed pretty much the same:

Here is an early version of Code Erotica. As you can hear it’s quite different from the final one. The bass is played one octave up, it lacks swing and the melody is not as jumpy and playful as in later versions.

And the final version for comparison:

One of the interesting thing about working with Simon is that he will sometimes mess with my songs to show me what he is after. I had a hard time with this on our first projects but now I really appreciate it. It makes me have a more relaxed approach to writing music and feel less like everything is carved in stone. When I first sent Code Erotica to him, he pitched it down, turned it backwards and sent it back to me.

That pitched down version actually inspired me to write Revelation Haze which is one of my personal favorites from the game:

Something similiar happened with Revelation Haze. Simon mixed it with Eisenhower’s Farewell Adress speech, and sent it back to me, to communicate the overall feel of the game. I think we all got goosebumps from it! This became one of the corner stones of audio inspiration for the game.

This is the first version of “Ritual Tape” had an analogue synthesizer playing along with the organ. It works pretty well, but for the final version I removed the synthesizer, to fit better with the scene where it would be playing:

Sound Effects

While Simogo did most of the sound effects themselves, I was also asked to create some material for them to use as sound effects. Simon asked me to do a some 60’s computer noise and bleeps. Here are some of those:

I was also asked to create a message tone that would catch the attention of the player. I thought it would be fun to take inspiration from the iPhone message tone, given the theme of the game. Here are the versions I sent him. I think it turned out quite iconic!

This is the first jingle I made for obtaining the mask, but it ended up too similar to Zelda. Here are a few versions of that:

So I made a few different takes and the second last one of these made it (the organ jingle in this one would end up being used another place in the game, though!)

Discarded songs

Quite a few songs and concepts for songs were discarded, and here are a few of them.

This is a really early song that didn’t make it. I think it has kind of a 60s cop show vibe to it. I think we skipped it because there were better songs to include instead.

You probably know Jonathan Eng wrote a fantastic pop song for the game. But Simon also also asked him to record some random twangs on the guitar, like the ones at the beginning of a chapter. I got some of the recordings and tried to write something with it. This song almost made it in to the game.

The game also needed some classic “shopping music”. I wrote two versions for it, but we thought they were a little too much, and settled on a simple version of Lounge Meringue.

I made many variations of the main theme. This one was considered for the credits briefly but, although we really liked it, it didn’t really fit the mood of the game.

This is another version of the main theme. Simon wanted a piano lounge version. But again I felt I didn’t have the skills to pull it off so I didn’t want to use it. Part of this one is actually used in the game anyway, but kind of hidden.

The strangest request I got, was when Simon asked for the main theme done in the style of the song “The Stripper” for the credits. I spent a lot of time on it, but I felt my music skills were insufficient and I didn’t like how it turned out. So it was cut.

And that’s probably a good way to round off! It ended up being quite a long post, but I hope you enjoyed it!



Daniel also provided us with his own piece of DEVICE 6 fan art:

OK! That’s all!

The Making of DEVICE 6: Art

Now that a few weeks have passed since the release of the game, and a lot of you have had the chance to play it through, we think it’s time to show you some early concepts and tests. Hopefully we can do more than one blog post about this, but for this first one we’ll focus on art. Some of these pics will be really rough.

At first, the game was going to have a somewhat different story, and as such the art was also different. Here are some early tests, with a much more “visual” direction. We were planning to have graphical elements mixed with the text, before coming up with the black and white “windows” into Anna’s world. And we had not figured out the “text-map” concept yet. The game was going to play a lot more like Year Walk.

This might very well be the first visual concept. We were using our own Year Walk font before having decided which font(s) we should license.

Words forming shades.

In this scene, the words were supposed to “fly” towards the player, forming a three dimensional staircase

I wasn’t satisfied with any of these, and quite frankly I dislike some of them.

This pic was something of a turning point for the project:

When we looked at this we started to talk about how cool it would be if that picture of the lighthouse was actually a little window you were looking through, with parallaxing objects.

Becoming somewhat obsessed with this thought, I went into to the office on a weekend to make a fast test of that, and this is what came out of it:

As you can see, we had decided on some sort of island setting this early!

I used a photograph I found on the net to keep things simple, but we thought using a photo like this looked rather amazing, actually. It was such a neat effect. After this test, we started to talk about these “photo windows” would actually be little video transmissions, and that really got the ball rolling with the story. We ditched the story we were planning (involving something about brain damage from experiments attempting to create “Super-Citizens”…)

I still felt like we were struggling with the art, but at least we had something a little more substantial now. I decided that we should change direction completely and go for something a lot more minimalistic.
With that in mind I started to look for new inspirations among album and book covers. I also thought things like blieprints, flowcharts and floor plans would be good inspiration to create a look of a 60s computer gone mad.

Here’s a collage of inspiration pictures for the art:

Designers and artists here include Sam Suliman, Neil Fujita and more.

Some of these things ended up being even more influential than we could’ve imagined. I think it’s safe to assume the Honky Tonk album cover inspired HAT’s logo. And there are things in the game that are obvious homages to some of the images in the picture above, as well. Can you spot them?

I started to think of the game’s art more as a collage, not in a literal sense, but I wanted the inspirations to shine through and be very obvious. This would run through the project as whole: you could say it ended up being a collage of different medias (books, games and even TV), things and places we stumbled upon (things at flea markets, a storage filled with Soviet film equipment … maybe a famous TV tower?) and friends helping out with voice acting, proof-reading, as models for photographs and even including one of them as a character in the game.

Early on we came to the realisation that it wouldn’t be possible to interact with puzzles directly in our “windows” due to them being too small, so we came up with the idea of using buttons (this would later tie in with the narrative as well). So that coupled with the new sources of inspiration, led to this:

By now we had already licensed the font used in the game

Ellipses became something of a theme of the art, and I thought growing circles almost looked like some sort of signals, which fitted the story perfectly.
With the story in place, and the art heading in the right direction we started to make the first chapter of the game as a prototype of how the rest of the game would work.

I still wasn’t 100% satisfied with the looks of the photographs inside the “visions”, as we had started to call them by now. I was going for some sort of retro look, either by color grading them very heavily or coloring them like those old cards of movie stars (do they have a name in English? We call them “Filmisar” in Swedish!).

Bear vision test

I had trouble to keep a consistent look. Every “vision” looked different from the next. I started to think about the video transmission things we had talked about, and realised that by using black & white photographs that creepy surveillance feeling would be conveyed better, and I would all look more coherent. And as a bonus, I’d be able to make them even faster!

So that’s how we ended up with this, the final look:

The visions photographs are often a mix of our own photos and pictures from licensed texture libraries (again: collages!). Me, Gordon and Jonas would photograph every little odd device, or a freaky toy that we’d come across (and surprisingly many are based on photographs I already had. I’m not quite sure why I keep photos of mannequin arms or creepy dolls…)

With the work done on the actual chapters, we still needed to work out how the stuff in-between the chapters would look. Things like the little introduction picture before every chapter, the tests and questionnaires.
Here’s a quick video test I made for some of those things:

This “chapter complete” concept is odd, and way over the top:

I made these black to contrast with the “reading-part” of the game. But they honestly felt a little boring. We thought it would probably be a better idea to take the opportunity to make something really colorful, to really contrast the chapters. We also decided to license another font, to really differentiate it. And so we ended with the final look:

… Aaaaaand I think that about covers it all for now. We’re hoping to do more of these blog posts. Perhaps on music, the logo and puzzles? Let us know what you want to see, and we’ll see what we can dig out!

“Anna” Single

This will be released next week:

It will feature the track Jonathan Eng’s “Anna” from DEVICE 6, plus an instrumental version (for those karaoke nights!) and Jonathan’s acoustic demo-version (featuring amazing mouth-trumpets). Joy!

DEVICE 6 Original Soundtrack is available now!

Daniel Olsén’s DEVICE 6 music is available for purchase NOW! And yes, it does indeed feature that song by Simogo troubadour Jonathan Eng!

You know what is extra neat about it? In the game a lot of the music loops, but on this record many of the songs are extended versions with bits unheard in the game (44 minutes in all!). The music has been mastered too, so it’ll sound super lovely in your fat speakers at home.

You can get it via:

A collection of longitudinal waves of pressure from DEVICE 6, created and crafted by our top audio designers and engineers. A distillation of what players love about the audio design of DEVICE 6.

We believe the DEVICE 6 Original Soundtrack is an innovation in music. An innovation that is extraordinary, a remarkable relationship between technology and culture. Every instrument, sound and beat have been considered and measured to make sure that they are truly enjoyable and enhances the user experience. Plug in your earphones, close your eyes, and embark on this journey through your own auditory system.

All tracks written, performed and produced by Daniel Olsén. Except track 18 Anna, which is written and performed by Jonathan Eng and produced by Daniel Olsén. Track 07 is a cover of Walkürenritt originally written by Wilhelm Richard Wagner.

Cover Art by Simon Flesser
Mastered by Shawn Joseph at Optimum Mastering

DEVICE 6 Original Soundtrack is an album by Daniel Olsén & Jonathan Eng containing 44:09 minutes of music.