Innovation in Indie Games Music


Since his early origin, Music has been considered a medium to evoke emotions in the listeners. Even if researchers still argue wheter it elicits emotional responses in the audience, or wheter it simply represents emotions, they agree that music provides a sort of emotional experience and affects our moods (Sloboda & Juslin, 2001).

Fig 1: Cover art designed by Bryan Lee O’Malley for the game FEZ (Polytron, 2013).

A new Dimension

Fez offers to the player a highly dynamic world with levels that consist of non-euclidean spaces known as “Rooms”. Gomez, the game’s “protagonist”, is a bi-dimensional figure who lives inside a two-dimensional world. Similarly to the protagonists of 8-bit and 16-bit games such as Super Mario (Super Mario Bros., Nintendo 1985), Gomez has impressive jumping abilities, which serve as the main element of gameplay in a world composed of various types of platforms. After a brief introduction, he encounters a mysterious being known as the “Hexahedron”, who give him a magical fez hat that allows him to perceive the third dimension, which rotates the gamer’s perspective at will. As Gomez experiments with his new ability the Hexahedron unexpectedly fractures and explodes, causing the game to glitch, freeze and reboot, complete with BIOS screen. Gomez awakens in his room with his ability to perceive and manipulate a third dimension intact, and is charged with the task of recovering the scattered fragments of the Hexahedron before the world is torn apart. Depth, or the Z-axis, is only visible to the player in the rotation of perspectives, and is not a factor in the actual obstacles and chasms which Gomez must traverse. The player must manipulate these perspectives to explore the world of FEZ and collect thirtytwo cubes in the form of ‘cube bits’, ‘whole cubes’ or ‘anti-cubes’. In Video 1 it is possible to see how the rotation of perspective allows the character to reach platforms too far for his bidimensional sight (Mack Enns, Academic Paper, University of Ontario, 2013).

Video 1: Gomez is blocked on a platform but rotating the perspective, he can reach the top and collect the Hexahedron cube.

Music composition as note proximity instead of order

In a workshop presented by Pyramind Studios and Game Audio Network Guild entitled “Philosophy of Music Design in Games” made in September 2012, Rich Vreeland, talks about the process he used to compose the score for the game. He notes that:

Video 2: The video shows the music system used for the outside area of the Temple

FEZ Music System Tools

Sequence Context Menu

Fig. 4: The picture shows the Fezzer editor related to the Music Room. When a block is right-clicked, it appears the context menu (R. Vreeland, Conference 2012).
Fig. 5: The figure show the window for the Script Browser inside Fezzer (R. Vreeland, Conference 2012).
Vid. 2: Gomez ascends the first Music Room by jumping to bright red blocks as they appear.
Fig. 6: The main composition sequencer window. This example is from work on one of the Puzzle Rooms, which uses the song “Cycle”, (Renaud Bédard, Fez Technical Post-Mortem Slides, 2013).


  • Sloboda, J.A. and Juslin, P.N. (2001) Music and emotion: theory and research. Oxford: OUP.
  • Rich Vreeland, Philosophy of Music Design in Games: An Audio for video games workshop — Fez, 2013
  • James Swirsky, Lisanne Pajot: Indie Game: The Movie, 2012
  • Super Mario Bros., Nintendo 1985
  • FEZ, Polytron Corporation, 2013
  • Celeste, Matt Makes Games, 2018
  • John V. Guttag, Introduction to Computation and Programming Using Python, 2016
  • Renaud Bédard, Fez Technical Post-Mortem Slides, Polytron, 2013
  • A. Berndt, K. Hartmann, Proceedings of the Audio Mosty Conference - a Conference on Sound in Games, 2006 Sweden
  • Mack Enns, “Game Scoring: FEZ, Video Game Music and Interactive Composition”, Academic Paper, University of Ontario, 2013
  • S. Domsch. Storyplaying: Agency and Narrative in Video Games (2013)
  • S. Egenfeldt-Nielsen, J. H. Smith and S. P. Tosca. Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction (2008)
  • J. Juul. Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (2005)



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