In Depth: FAMAZE

The Choice of FM Synthesis

I had wanted to do an FM soundtrack long before FAMAZE came along. At that point, I had done a bunch of chiptune stuff but most of it was in a particular kind of style I had created that was inspired mostly by NES music. I had dabbled with FM here and there, but nothing too in-depth or serious. The intent with using FM for FAMAZE was to hearken back to a particular sound. It was something of a combination of 80’s film soundtrack music and early 90’s PC sound cards. It was, as often is the case for me with bespoke work, an attempt to marry my personal goals to what I thought would benefit the project.

Track Descriptions

I actually intended for the Treasury level music to be the main theme, but decided it was too uptempo and too jaded. So I came back to write this version of the theme which is more deliberate, and I think works better as a main theme.

Into the Maze.
This was also originally intended to be the title screen music, but it ended up working far better as the first level music. It takes the more formal presentation of the theme in the title track and brings things down into a more dungeon-esque vibe. There is thematic carryover between this track and a few of the others (FAMAZE, The Treasury, The Lost Book of Truth).

Sticky Sewers.
For this track I wanted to capture a sense of depth, and a sort of calm despair. I made the structure of the track a bit unpredictable to tie into that idea.

The Knight.
This was the last character theme I wrote. In a sense he’s the default character, so I tried to make it feel closer to the title theme than the other characters. I also wanted to use the song to give him a lot of perceived character. I tried to make him sound proud, pompous, and a little reckless, but also like he maintains some semblance of honor.

Goblin Grotto.
This song was an experiment in pushing the limits of what FM synthesis can do. I wanted to see if I could capture the sound of a bunch of goblins marching and clanging their weapons in a cave, only using synthesizers and reverb. There’s an extra horn blow at the end that I took out of the game version due to file size restraints.

Creepy Crypt.
I tried to make Creepy Crypt sound stagnant, lingering, and well, creepy! Lots of dissonant notes and tiptoeing lines, to try and capture a sense of caution and goosebumps. Oh my!

Off the Beat and Path.
In the game, I split this song into its first and second half, to tie into the gameplay of finding the key in the smaller dungeons. I wanted this one to sound kind of weird and mysterious, with descending lines, almost suggesting that the character is somewhat lost.

Mystic Maze.
For this song I pulled influence from some early 80s music like “Love on a Real Train” by Tangerine Dream and Goblin soundtracks. I wanted to capture a sense of being mystified by using repeating forms and certain chords and a light, interwoven melody.

The Thief.
I wanted to take the concept of what a Thief typically is in games and change it a little, by portraying the Thief character as a romantic, longing for a loved one, with a greater purpose beyond the dungeon walls.

The Laboratory.
This song is kind of like the older sibling of Mystic Maze. I went for a similar vibe, but tried to make it feel more sinister, like someone concocting a great potion, or raising a monster from the dead.

Twisted Tower.
This is probably the most dissonant song in the game. I wanted it to feel like someone was taking over your brain.

The Wizard.
The Wizard was the first track I wrote for FAMAZE. I wanted to instill a lot of inner turmoil in the Wizard character, to make him feel like he was fighting to keep his sanity, having spent so much time deep in the dungeons. As a result, the track sort of ebbs and flows through some different dark emotions, before turning upwards just a bit towards the end to signify that some semblance of hope remains.

Forsaken Fortress.
This track was written 6 or so years before FAMAZE, but for strings, and I never found a proper place for it, until now. I felt that it had the right vibe to capture a later stage of the game, where you are starting to tread into territory where you don’t belong.

The Root Cellar.
This song is based on some piano improvisations I recorded in 2006. I expanded it to try and capture a sense of uncovering something, and a feeling of great dismay. As the song progresses I try to have it reach a state where the character feels like they have uncovered their purpose, and have a duty to fulfill (in this case, rescuing Rutabagas).. **

The Treasury.
This was one of the first theme-based pieces I wrote, and the bravado meets march vibe proved to be a good fit for a “collect the spoils” type of level. I also like to think there’s a little bit of (Ennio) Morricone influence in this piece … a bit of a swagger similar to something in a Spaghetti Western movie.

The Lost Book of Truth.
This is a fanfarish recap of the game’s main theme. The in-game version loops, while this one has a nice little ending.

The Thief and his Traveling Troupe.
This is a bonus track, as it’s not used anywhere in the game. I thought it sounded a little bit like The Thief, and also like a traveling troupe of musicians, hence the title. It was one of the early ideas for The Thief’s music, that I couldn’t work into the final theme.