Composing Game Soundtracks That Move 'Faster Than Light'

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This weekend, independent video game developers and fans gathered for the international IndieCade Festival in Los Angeles.

One of the featured speakers Saturday was sound designer Ben Prunty, who integrates audio into some of the most popular independent video games. Prunty composed the soundtrack to the computer game Faster Than Light, which was nominated for IGN's Best Overall Music and Best PC Sound of 2012.

In the spaceship simulator game, players get to explore the galaxy, while acting as captain of the ship. "You're commanding your crew, you're telling your crew to go fix the engines or go put out this fire in the room," Prunty tells NPR's Arun Rath.

Prunty says he aimed to create a retro sound in the overall feel of the game. "The game itself looks retro," he says. "It looks like a PC game from the '80s."

He hunts through online sound libraries to find unusual sounds to build texture. "I found a sound library that was all just recordings of light bulbs being struck," he says. "It's really strange, but it made for unique sounding percussion, and it's giving the game a very unique sound that you won't hear ... anywhere else. "

When the crew has to take on enemy ships, special music accompanies the battle scenes.

Prunty says there are special secrets to getting all of the sounds to blend together. For example, he'll write two versions of the same track, but one has an extra element, like percussion.

"While the game is going, [the tracks are] technically both playing at the same time, but then it cross-fades between the two," he says. "So when the battle starts ... it just sounds like it's suddenly changing to a more exciting piece."

The soundtrack tune "Milky Way" has become a fan favorite, and Prunty says he's not really sure why it's caught on.

"We included it in the trailer, so it was the very first thing that everyone heard. It's very retro."

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