Music for the Microbe Stage

I wanted to bring some discussion here from the discord, so we could reach a team decision. The topic has come up by several devs (myself included) to both add songs to the Microbe Stage soundtrack, plus potentially update some of the current ones. I can give my personal feedback on the topic.

First of all, I want to make it clear that I really enjoy the music for the game so far, and always get a nostalgic kick when I hear that familiar melody at the main menu. Plus, I think the themes of the Microbe music match the stage really well. I think the Sound Team has done a great job so far. However, I know my personal experience when recently playtesting the game was that gameplay while swimming around had a repetitive feeling to the music. I think I only noticed this recently because, well the game only became fun enough recently to make me play for several hours. In earlier versions I rarely if ever played up to an hour. This is a pretty good sign cause we’re finally starting to approach a damn fun game.

There are two ways we could add more music to the game. We could simply add more tracks for gameplay during the Microbe Stage, or we could add tracks that are specific to each biome. However, we’ll want to keep it within a reasonable extent to not bloat the filesize of the game. I think there are currently 3 gameplay tracks for the Microbe Stage, and by gameplay I mean they play when not in the editor. What would be a good number? Perhaps 5, or 6?

Another suggestion I have is that the track “Unicellular Organisms” be replaced. I don’t mean anything personal against the people who participated in creating it, and I really appreciate them working to contribute to the project. However, I think that by the iterative nature of this game we have to be ready to accept improvement throughout the game. Just as we’ve replaced and iterated upon older and lower quality code, organelle models, user interfaces, and game systems, so too should we be ready to update the SFX and/or music if need be. I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s the instruments used or the audio quality, but there’s something off about the Unicellular Organisms track that makes it not very enjoyable during gameplay. If we’re able to create a new Microbe Stage gameplay song that matches the themes of the stage and sounds better, I don’t see why we shouldn’t use it to replace Unicellular Organisms.

Anyways, these are my decisions on the topic, please feel free to leave feedback! One reason I bring this topic up is because we’ve been lucky enough to get an influx of talented new composers and sound designers who can help produce new music, so if we decide we want new tracks for the Microbe Stage production on them will be able to start sooner rather than later.


There are actually 6 tracks already in the game for the microbe stage:

And 5 microbe editor tracks.

So is the problem more that they sound too similar?

I agree that adding biome specific ambience tracks is a good idea.
But @Oliveriver said that it is a stylistic choice that the microbe tracks use less instruments so that it makes a nice progression once your species develops and primitive drums get added, and later other instruments. I like this overall idea for the soundtrack.


Oh that’s true, perhaps I was looking at an old wiki page for interpreting which songs were allocated to gameplay. Going back and listening to them directly from the game’s directory, I think the problem is that the six sound very similar, so when I’m playing the game and not consciously thinking about the music it starts to feel repetitive.

EDIT: Regarding your second point, yeah I agree I think that’s a good choice. For example as you mentioned primitive drums work well for Awakening, and then in Society we can introduce choral music, symphonic music, etc. However, I don’t think that means that the Microbe Stage music should be too repetitive or too simple, we could find a happy medium. I think there’s a lot of good examples of simply “nature-y” songs out there that I’ve imagined would’ve worked well for the Microbe Stage. Since I’m not too familiar with musical terminology, I can’t tell you what exactly those did right but I’ll have to find examples to show what I mean.


I think new music would definitely be a great addition, and would also give all of our new excellent composers something they can for sure have put in-game right away! I think it’d be nice to have a good mix of biome-unique tracks as well as tracks that play anywhere.

Actually it’d be pretty cool if each track could play in a number of biomes, so some lighter track could play in most of the biomes near the surface, while another could be intended just for the cave, and thus would only be heard in there, alongside whatever other (probably dark and creepy) themes are also assigned to the cave biome. It’d save a lot of work making unique themes for each biome, while still giving each varied yet thematically consistent music.

(I would like to mention that I did make a theme for the abyss quite a long time ago, though it’s really not that good at all, it does show I’ve been thinking about biome-specific themes for a while)


Hey guys, wanted to give my two cents on this topic:

I feel that with the current music in thrive, and all the songs written for the future stages etc, there seems to be a lot of good work done and thought put into why songs sound like they do.
I do agree that there should be maybe a bit more variety to the songs, especially since others are noting that the 6 seem a bit similar. I’d like to make a few suggestions in light of the whole revamp idea we have going here, especially if we’re bringing on new composers/producers (which is awesomesauce!)

  1. We should set a suggested guideline for the type/genre of instruments to be used in compositions (I say suggestion because if I say “no jazz sax” and some guy comes up with a dope jazz sax theme that somehow works into the microbe stage, im not gonna say no!) Just something to give new musicians a good entry point, and get the ball rolling for their work. Basically be like: “here are some suggested synths, bass, string etc… plugins that work well”

  2. I strongly suggest in addition to this we bring in a unifying feature to compositions for this stage. Here are a few of my ideas, which I’d love to get input in from other composers:

  • Work with certain scales or chord progressions. For example you could find a pentatonic melody and suggest that be in every piece (albeit thats a bit jazzy but honestly really good since pentatonic stuff i easy to compose to), or you could suggest lots of p4 p5 type progressions similar to renaissance stuff. I can go into more detail if you care

  • Pick a leitmotif to work into every song. This is basically why undertale rose to fame with its music - it provided a really good connection between every song. Id even go to say that there should be a main theme for each stage that plays at the start (and possibly at random times) that has different versions of this leitmotif in it. The great part about leitmotifs is you can be super super creative with them, which again works great if you have lots of composers working on different tracks for one game.

Thats about it for my main 2 points on how we can coordinate our music. If we think this is worth more discussion i can probably discuss it more and maybe get some rules down.


I suppose I should chime in here.

I have a complicated relationship with the Microbe Stage soundtrack. It was very early work for me and doesn’t reflect my current ability as a composer, but at the same time I don’t think I could really recreate it now.

Mostly that’s my own fault: many of the tracks were exported from one project, then messed with as pure audio (using Paulstretch, phasers, flangers, reversing, etc.) with parameters that I didn’t save. So it would be very difficult to go back to the original project and come out with something that has the same recognisable characteristics at the end. Not to mention, some of the original projects are likely corrupted now as they’ve moved through two new PCs and the instrument settings sometimes get lost with each transfer.

On the other hand, I do still like most of it. I get what people are saying about Unicellular Organisms for example, but I’m still too attached to it. LegoHoss came to me with the original track and I thought it needed something else, and that turned out to be reversing the track and playing it simultaneously with the original in each stereo channel. The end result is a track that’s a perfect palindrome. I know it’s silly of me, but I still find that cool and don’t want to give it up.

I’ve considered the Microbe Stage soundtrack done for some time now for a few reasons:

  • It’s available on our Bandcamp page and YouTube channel as the full soundtrack. It strikes me as wrong to go messing with that after we’ve given people the “final” version of something.
  • I personally don’t want to go back to producing music in the same way. Again, that’s mostly the workflow - making fundamental changes to a track by editing the exported audio is not how I want to do things anymore.
  • Even so, doing it all that way did give the whole thing a nice coherent aesthetic, which is more than can be said for the rest of the soundtrack. Creating more tracks in the same vein might be difficult as I’ve moved on and adopted different musical preferences.

All that said, the arguments in this thread are convincing.

If people are truly in favour of a revamp, I guess I could go looking through the original projects to see what could be salvaged or recreated. If that doesn’t work, I could always “remaster” the audio. I think Unicellular Organisms could be made less grating with a few filters and stereo narrowing. I’m also continually cursing my decision to put flange on the entire mix for some tracks, as it totally messes up the bass frequencies in a way that almost hurts. I can correct that with just the audio files too.

As for new tracks…maybe I’ll have to let go and say we can change the track listing after the fact. I definitely agree with all of @psychochef’s guidelines for anything new we make, especially the leitmotifs which I wish I’d included in the original soundtrack. I can even suggest a few more but this post is long enough as it is so I’ll wait to see what everyone thinks first.


@psychochef Said it better than I could, and I think those are definitely some good ideas to implement for the Sound Team.

@Oliveriver Thanks Oliver we appreciate you understanding our point. It’s nothing against you personally, or the fantastic work you’ve done. In fact, I wouldn’t want to overburden you with having to remaster the entire old soundtrack, or compose an entire new set of songs. With the addition of all the new members we got on the Sound Team it can hopefully take a lot of the work off of your plate.

I was thinking it would just be good to open up the Microbe Soundtrack to the addition of new music tracks. Then if any of the new composers or sound designers who joined our team recently were interested, they would be able to contribute songs towards the soundtrack, and if they were good enough they could be added to the roster. If they were really good, perhaps they could replace an old song that we no longer felt met the quality of the rest of the soundtrack.

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