Sound Design of Roses Are Red

🌹 Roses Are Red is a relaxing experience where you play as Mother Nature and fill the world with flowers. Play the game on

🖋️ In this devlog I’ll elaborate on the sound design of the project: how the desired feel is achieved, how I did the vocal recording, my workflow for creating a game soundtrack, and finally the soundtrack structure for this project. Enjoy!
Also see the other devlogs about art design & what I learned from the project.

🎵 Feel of the Soundtrack

The target player experience is a very relaxing and wholesome one. This is achieved with only music and no sound effects at all, since I was quite happy with the music by itself and fear that sound effects would only detract from the experience in this case.

The relaxing feel is achieved by picking a slow tempo, using mostly orchestral instruments, and having spread out chord progressions.

🎤 Vocal Recording

To make Mother Nature feel goddess-like, I opted to include vocals in the soundtrack, more specifically a slow and slightly operatic kind of soprano vocals. I collaborated with Valerie De Kempe - the singer of my band - to record these. The lyrics are taken from a very fitting poem “Mother Nature” by Emily Dickinson (1896).

The recording process was overall a nice experience. Because this project had zero budget, we recorded in our rehearsal room with a regular stage microphone. This worked out really well though. I also learned some things from the experience:

  • Preparation is important. I created a vocal score fairly last-minute, which luckily worked out, but I’ll make sure to do this sooner in the future. Getting the recording gear & monitor mixes set up also took some time.
  • In classical music, singing high & soft is actually a lot harder than singing high & loud. This may seem counterintuitive, but is a result of how vocal technique works. I knew this theoretically, but found out how much this is true first-hand: we spent most of our time on the soft verses, while the bombastic epic verses were done after only a handful of takes.

Recording the vocals in our band’s rehearsal room

🎹 Soundtrack Production Workflow

It might be interesting to read how a soundtrack is created, since this process can be a black box for lots of game designers.

  1. 🧠 Decide the feel of the soundtrack & brainstorm about the main motif for the song. This happens away from the computer. You can either start with melody, lyrics, or chords, it really depends on the person and the project. For Roses Are Red, I started with Emily Dickinson’s poem and created a melody that fits the words.
  2. 🎵 Expand the motif into a demo song. Decide the song structure, tempo, chords, key signature(s), and record a scratch version of the motif with some harmony into your DAW. Use two instruments for this: one rhythm & harmony instrument (often piano or guitar) and one melody instrument (often scratch vocals or a synth lead). For Roses Are Red, I used a piano for the chords and a keyboard flute patch for the vocals (since that timbre is quite close to soprano vocals). To create the structure of the song, it’s perfectly fine to copy paste & adjust existing recordings, since this is a scratch track anyways.
  3. 🎹 Produce the instrumental. In this phase, you use the demo song with scratch instruments as a guide, and replace them with a full instrumental production. First decide on the instrumentation (what instruments are used, and where), then gradually record them bottom-up (first rhythm instruments, then harmony, then melody). What often works best is to play the instruments on keyboard, and then finetune & correct the MIDI notes in your DAW.
  4. 🎤 Optionally record a real (acoustic) instrument. It’s recommended to do this for at least one lead instrument, to add that human element to an otherwise digital production. This takes a lot more time & effort though compared to playing something on keyboard. I did this for the vocals, by recording a singer. The workflow here is to create a score (sheet music), get a recording room & equipment, record multiple takes until every line has at least one good take, and finally comp (edit) together all the best takes.
  5. 🎧 Mix the soundtrack. Getting great at mixing takes a lifetime, so for bigger projects always hire a professional. In this case I mixed it myself, and I’m fairly happy with the result.
  6. 💻 Implement the soundtrack in the game. Depending on the level of adaptive music, this can go from a simple looping track to a complex configuration inside audio middleware. For this project I had the song split up into 13 files, half of them looping and cutting away on triggers, the other half ending into a different section. See further for the details.

Excerpt from the vocal score for “Mother Nature”.

🔁 Structure of the Soundtrack

  • The soundtrack is written in a very adaptive way, so as to closely resemble the different stages in the game. There are five areas in the game world, each with its own flower type to complete, as well as a sixth hidden flower type (the jasmines). Each of the flower types has its own verse, which is triggered when completing the corresponding flower area.
  • The six verses all have lyrics, corresponding to the original 6 paragraphs in Emily Dickinson’s poem. Each one is modulated in a different key, to accentuate the game milestones with the music. The production of the soundtrack also builds up in intensity in every verse, going from an intimate felt piano to epic orchestral strings & percussion.
  • After a verse with vocals is done, an alternative instrumental verse will start playing, which is looping and has a more ambient feel to make sure you don’t notice the looping. This instrumental part of the music will cut to the next vocal verse on the first musical downbeat after an area is completed, so as to not cut off the music abruptly. It’s still not perfect though, since I implemented it using Unity Coroutines, which only execute once every frame, and thus have a noticeable error margin of 1 frame / 60fps = 17ms. This could be solved by using multithreading or by using external audio middleware.

The structure of the soundtrack, as viewed inside my DAW.

Thanks for reading!
💬 Comment below to share your thoughts & suggestions.
🎮 Check out my other games & devlogs
🎨 Check out my other projects

Have a nice life ❤️
~ Tijmen

Files 42 MB
Dec 01, 2022

Get Roses Are Red

Download NowName your own price

Leave a comment

Log in with to leave a comment.