How dynamic music and capturing the sound of brushstrokes help bring the world to life.
It’s clear that Chicory: A Colorful Tale is full of visual beauty, but when it comes to games there’s so much more that goes into making the experience immersive. Hi, I’m Lena Raine and I am going to tell you about the fun audioscape built for Chicory. I’ve worked on a lot of past titles such as Celeste, Minecraft, and Guild Wars 2. For Chicory, I did all of the music composition and soundtrack recording for the game. We also got to work with sound designer Em Halberstadt (Night in the Woods, Untitled Goose Game, Wandersong) who, along with Preston Wright, designed all of the sound you hear in the pleasant, cozy, and even spooky areas of the game.
There’s a lot of tradition associated with music composition and implementation in screen-based adventure games like Chicory: A Colorful Tale. While composing for Chicory, I wanted to hold true to some of those traditions while also pushing conventions by drawing inspiration from the dynamic music of free-form open world games.
Dynamic music helps give a sense of place between each screen of the game. While each major area has its own looping theme that enters alongside its title card, we made the transitions between areas feel much more smooth and gradual. So instead of simply hard cutting or fading between tracks, we have what we call “outskirts” areas that let each major area’s music drift away.
Depending on where you come from, the music changes to a more subtle, low-key version of the music. Stick around long enough, and the track will simply fade away. But if you enter the same screen from another direction, that other area’s music will become more low-key. By making some screens music-agnostic, we’re able to help bridge the gap and smoothly transition between areas as you explore.
Some places even have progressive music that changes and evolves as you explore, so keep an ear out to hear how the music follows your adventures!
As a fun fact, every woodwind you hear in the score was recorded live by Kristin Naigus! Here’s every instrument she recorded from the soundtrack all lined up, which joins an ensemble that also includes violin, viola, cello, and many more.
With Em’s input on the sound design side of things, the musical transition between areas was also intended to give the player a moment to sit back and listen to the ambience and all the detail we put into the paint sounds. We wanted the sound effects to help the player feel like they really are painting, so Em really made it as tactile and detailed as she could.
Em’s process for sound design is pretty great and her process for Chicory was no exception. To start, she had a big recording session with a can of paint and some glue to make it thick and globby. Most of the paintbrush, interactable objects, and menu sounds are made out of the squishing and slurping that came out of that session. Even the darker moments in the game use those recordings, they’re just pitched down and reversed to sound more ominous. The physical nature of the sounds helps make them satisfying.
It was really important to make the brush feel nuanced and realistic, so the paint sound follows the speed of your brush, and all the different brush styles and stamps have their own special sounds. We made all the paint related audio come from the DualSense wireless controller to really make it feel like you’re using your hands to color this world. The vibrations contribute to this as well. While this is all subtle, it comes together to give you an experience where you can relax easily if you want to and take some time exploring your creativity. Regardless of how you play, the pops and bubbles you’ll hear as the world reacts to your brush will tickle your ears.
Players are all going to approach the game differently, and we’re looking forward to seeing them all! Whether you’re adventuring and puzzling, or relaxing and painting, we put a lot of thought and care into making Chicory a world that sounds great for you. With Game Help keeping you on track, and the cozy-rumbly controller vibration features, we think it’s a world that players can feel comfortable in.
And don’t be afraid to use your Share or Create button because we’ll be watching for everyone’s artwork on social media! Chicory: A Colorful Tale is available tomorrow, June 10, on PS5 and PS4 in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portugese and Russian.