• Joshua Iyer

A Game and a Book - New Adventures!

Projects give me something worthwhile to spend my time on, and having other things in which music plays a smaller role help show me what more I can do with my degree in composition.

It has been a truly remarkable summer of experiencing music! Some of this has been in playing through The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, with its incredible orchestral score from 2011 brought onto the Nintendo Switch. The other half of it has been from the BBC Proms 2021 season, which I wrote an article about yesterday morning on my blog, if you'd like to check it out. This post will be more focused on my own creative projects that have potentially come out of these sources of inspiration, and my plans for these in the long-term.

This month, I have started "pre-production" on a number of new composition-related projects, including Violin TV, a piece that will be presented at our next New Music Collage concert this weekend. However, now that I am in limbo between college and job-hunting, I figured it's the perfect time to start working on two big things that can live with see for the next several years as I work out and settle into the next chapter of my life. Having these as sources of both comfort, productivity, and potential work experience for the future will be very helpful, and I hope I can regularly update this blog (and potentially this website!) with news on these projects.

The first project came about from my desire to continue with my love of video game music - make my own game! I have actually been working on small games for fun since 2008. Back then, I used a program called Game Maker Studio, and in 2010 I made a game called Super Ball Adventure, inspired by the local multiplayer co-op of Nintendo's New Super Mario Bros. Wii from the previous holiday season. In 2020, I got a trial for Game Maker Studio 2 and made a short Mario fan-game, including its own original score, although it was a very short-term project and I used a pre-established IP and engine. Now, in 2021, I am starting a sequel/reimagining of Super Ball Adventure, which I will code, work on art, sound effects, music, and gameplay mechanics myself.

The plan is this holiday season, similar to the Newer Super Mario Bros. Wii (ROM-hack of the original) developer team in 2011, to release a sort of "Holiday Edition" version of this new helping of Super Ball Adventure. It will contain two worlds with five levels each; three characters you can play as with your friend, with puzzles you must solve together; new gameplay mechanics and ideas not found in the original game; and an original soundtrack, in which I plan to at least record some solo violin tracks for (like the athletic theme) and possibly some violin sections, if I have time. I have written the game's main theme, and plan to include as many Christmasey elements as possible to truly make the game's subtitle of "Holiday Edition" worth it. Right now, I've done most of the general programming for the players, enemies, and bosses, and started some level design following my plan. I've been taking a bit of a break from the project for now, but as I get deeper into the music-making side of things especially, I will certainly be back with more updates. Depending on what happens, if I can get a trailer out in November or early-December, I may even add a special page on this site just for this game.

Beyond the "Holiday Edition", which I am aiming to be for Christmas and a free release, the plan is to have a fully fleshed-out game with more worlds, gameplay mechanics, perhaps a slightly bigger development team for graphics, more variety of music (and re-record/re-master 2021 tracks with better equipment?), and potentially release it as something people can buy, download, and play. That's definitely bigger picture, and we'll have to see what happens along the way. I also have plans to work on another game (probably mostly doing the audio) with a few friends as part of a small independent company, if we can get that started, so perhaps the full Super Ball Adventure: Redux (name not final!) could be a release under this company in addition to the other games we'll work on. It's really exciting to be focusing on video game music and make a start at a score that won't be lost as just part of.a YouTube video, but something people can listen to as they play the full adventure. Perhaps it will bee out by 2026 or so, which is my target release; but it's not a hard date and I really should take my time with it. I think it could really end up to be a lot of fun.

The second, less-important project is a story - a sequel to create a trilogy of short Doctor Who novellas I wrote in 2012 and 2015 respectively with the Doctor and a small group of characters we meet along the way. Like making games, I have always loved writing my own stories ever since I was young, and even took a couple of Creative Writing classes in addition to my Music Composition studies. I tried several times to start a third book, but never got further than the planning stages. This fall, and with NaNoWriMo coming up, I think I will put in a bit more effort into writing a grand book that spans a few different plot-lines on a single location that comes together in a finale, as if it were a series of the TV show.

Ever since I started composing I was always trying to tell a story or share a moment in time through music [re: my mantra from 2012: "Music tells half the story."]. Several pieces on this website fall into this category - Muse of Fire, following Shakespeare's Henry V; A Night in the Show, a piano film score for a Charlie Chaplin picture; Music for the Galactic Palace, taking a cinematic approach to my concert style; and so on. In 2013, for a Doctor Who Short Story Collection I was doing, I wrote some music to go along with various scenes for that. In a similar vein, as I work on this story, I could write pieces of music and embed YouTube links in the chapters so one can listen to that piece as they read. I have started planning the setting (a city-planet) that the two main characters will go to (the Doctor, and a character from my previous stories, Rebecca Catlaw), and decided a concert piece describing this world could be the first music for the new novel. Unless anything changes, the idea is this would be performed for our one-year anniversary concert of our New Music Collage concert series live in Boston, so there will certainly be a separate page on this site for that.

Ultimately, I'm excited to have these worlds, characters, and adventures from these two large projects in my life, and to integrate music-making in both as well. Of course, I expect both of these to take as many years as they need, and that they can live and grow with me as I do. This is a very different approach to anything I have done in the past: usually, when I take on a project, I work hard to complete it in as short a time as possible so I can reap the rewards or move onto the next thing. Having an indefinite time limit means I can slow down in my work, easily juggle and balance both worlds with the rest of my life, and make the revisions necessary to make sure both are the best they can be. I'm sure I'll continue updating this blog with more news on my game and my book (and, more importantly, the music of each) throughout working on them. For now, I will leave it at that, and thank you for reading this post to the end!