Hello again everyone! My name is Kent Jolly and I’m the Audio Director on SimCity. I wanted to take some time and talk about the music of SimCity in a little more detail. I’ve worked on the SimCity franchise since SimCity 3000, and there has always been great music. Obviously, the new SimCity is no exception. All the music has been recorded and is in the game now. Our composer Chris Tilton (who has worked on popular TV shows like Fringe) has done an amazing job, delivering not only great compositions, but compositions recorded with interactivity in mind.
The music in SimCity works a lot like the previous ones in the sense that there are full length tunes that are chosen to play back at random, like a jukebox. The difference is that in this version the “jukebox” is a little more intelligent. Rather than just picking a tune to play, we look at the population of the city and pick a tune that is suited to the size of the city. As your city grows, so does the playlist of music, and you get tunes that feel “bigger” and more dramatic as your cities grow larger.
In addition to the playlist changing based on city size, the music changes based on your zoom level and whether or not you are viewing the game normally, are in the region view, or using the ploppable editor, the in-game editor that allows you to customize certain buildings (for more info, check out Art Director Mike Khoury’s blog from last week). We did this by splitting the music up into several “stems” that can work in conjunction with each other, but also can stand on their own. So, when you go into a “light” data layer (where we showcase small visual elements like power/water traveling to buildings), we add percussion, when you go into a “heavy” data layer (where we show off more data-focused charts and graphs) we play up the electric guitar, drop other elements completely, and process the percussion with effects. When you are zoomed out we use the orchestra, but when you zoom in it gets replaced with guitar. It’s much easier to hear this than describe it! So I’ve provided an audio track below with added commentary.
So that’s the music design in a nutshell, it was a blast to put this together, and a real treat to go to Warner Brothers and sit in on the recording sessions with Chris Tilton. I’ve included a shot from that as well. I hope you enjoy the music in SimCity as much as I do!