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Default General News - Is Game Music All It Can Be?

November 9th, 2012, 00:30
Gamasutra features and article on game music. How to do it right, how to do it wrong and how it can be enhanced, with plenty of examples to demonstrate the effects.
There is plenty of evidence of the many ways in which video games can be enhanced by a better take on their scoring, elevating them to much greater heights than they have previously attained. The score truly can be another character in the story, adding interjections and subtext of its own. How can we go about effecting such change?
I think the first thing is mere education. Being able to recognize and discern good uses of game music and how they work, and picking them apart from bad, is something from which all video gamers can benefit. Ideally video game reviewers and designers themselves will begin to pick up on such nuances as well, but only if gamers writ large begin to demand it.
As we dip into the uncanny valley and emerge on the other side at nearly photo-realistic visuals, it's no longer enough just to have "good graphics". Over the next decade it will not be good graphics that win recognition, but good and cohesive art design (in truth, this is already happening). The singular artistic vision, contributed to by many — just like a movie — is the future of growth in games. This should — this must — include a much deeper understanding of visual-oriented music scoring and how it can enhance the gaming experience. We must create more immersive, more supportive scores, and the time is now for it to happen.
More information.
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November 9th, 2012, 00:30
Not so fast there, Slick. Personally, music makes no difference to me. In fact, one of my first tweaks in the Settings is to turn it off. It's a distraction. When I'm role playing, I don't want or need a score to cue my emotional responses or game actions. When I'm sneaking around the wasteland or some interior, do I really need some heart-pounding music to raise my tension level? No. Dead silence in Sneak Mode is all I need. It can be excruciating.
If all I'm doing is sitting in front of my wide-screen TV watching a zombie flick, then music is fine. Same with a Western or James Bond movie. To me, music and action are movie, not a game experience.
The Gothic music score is supposed to be some big earth-shaking masterpiece, same with some other AAA games. For me, no game music score has made any impression on me whatsoever. It's all story, game play, combat, role playing for me. Save the music for a road trip in the car. JMHO.
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November 9th, 2012, 03:44
I hear you on effectiveness of environment, but I think the breadth of your music preferences (none) is pretty unique. And honestly I think that the author made a lot of really good points worth consideration. Maybe used properly (not a bombastic bludgeon), it'll actually be less of a distraction, complement your play, and make a convert out of you. Who knows?
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November 9th, 2012, 04:11
Out of all recent modern games I've played, the one that I thought handled music the best was the first Two Worlds. When you're in the wilderness, there's nothing. Maybe some long, barely discernable chords here and there. But once you enter a town, the music would start up to serenade you while you did more mundane things around town like walk around, shop, and talk to folks.

By itself, that made a great system, but what made it extra special was that there were some REALLY great compositions in that game. I have the rather shallow view that good music depends on a good melody hook, and there were some real gems in that game. Often, I would dally around town a little longer than I needed to just in case one of my favorites came back up.

In terms of all games of all times, for me nothing compares to the Ultima games on a Commodore system. It's been…what…25 or 30 years now, and I can still hum 3 or 4 of those songs off the top of my head. The Ultima 4 intro, the town music, the underworld from Ultima 5… just great, great stuff.

Too often, games today use music to try and set a mood, but I just find that boring. I much prefer when there's a good melody, and when some work is done to find a good place for it in the world to add to specific experiences.
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November 9th, 2012, 04:31
One of the first things I do upon starting up a new game is turn music off. Why is there music in my cave? Give me the sound of my footsteps, the streaming water, and whatever creatures may be there.
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November 9th, 2012, 09:08
Originally Posted by SonOfCapiz View Post
One of the first things I do upon starting up a new game is turn music off. Why is there music in my cave? Give me the sound of my footsteps, the streaming water, and whatever creatures may be there.
I mostly agree. I leave it on at around half volume for a while in case the music is particularly good but I don't like atmospheric music getting in the way of immersion or a change in music letting me know combat is beginning.
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November 9th, 2012, 11:11
I actually turn up the music volume when playing games like Gothic. The music is fantastic, and a huge part of creating that special atmosphere.
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November 9th, 2012, 11:22
Recently, Skyrim and Deus Ex: HR both used music in absolutely fantastic ways. Just brilliant.
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November 9th, 2012, 12:39
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Recently, Skyrim and Deus Ex: HR both used music in absolutely fantastic ways. Just brilliant.
Agreed those games simply wouldn't be same without music.All elder scroll games have excellent music that add to atmosphere a lot.
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November 9th, 2012, 13:00
As far as I recall the best music I've heard belonged to Arcanum. I can't even imagine this game with no music sound… given that situation I would never have been impressed of it that much because in this game, music was a key factor has been relied on to deliver a great atmosphere and that's why you could hear it even during the conversations and even in the main menu. Using an appropriate musical instrument (violin) was one of the best decision Arcanum devs made and that's one of the main reason which made it unforgettable in my mind.
Deus Ex, The Witcher 2 and NWN are other honorable mentions IMO.
Originally Posted by SonOfCapiz View Post
One of the first things I do upon starting up a new game is turn music off. Why is there music in my cave? Give me the sound of my footsteps, the streaming water, and whatever creatures may be there.
I don't think that music cause you not to hear the other sounds.

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November 9th, 2012, 16:07
To me music is very important and ever since I was a kid I always pay a lot of attention to the soundtrack of any media so putting effort and resources into the music department is a must IMO. In my case, music can make or break a game or movie.

Originally Posted by Vahid View Post
As far as I recall the best music I've heard belonged to Arcanum. I can't even imagine this game with no music sound… given that situation I would never have been impressed of it that much because in this game, music was a key factor has been relied on to deliver a great atmosphere and that's why you could hear it even during the conversations and even in the main menu. Using an appropriate musical instrument (violin) was one of the best decision Arcanum devs made and that's one of the main reason which made it unforgettable in my mind.
Arcanum's soundtrack seems to be quite a notorious case as some love it while others hate it. Personally, when I first played Arcanum, I considered the music to be limited in its effectiveness as a soundtrack and blamed the developers for making certain bad decisions.

You say that the use of a violin is one of the best decisions whereas I think that the use of a limited set of instrumentation (i.e. string quartet) was a bad decision as I believe that a wider set of instruments, albeit of similar accoustic or orchestral nature, would be better suited to represent a wider array of concepts, environments, moods, etc., which IMO would benefit the game.
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November 9th, 2012, 16:26
I always give in-game music a chance, and will listen to all of it before passing judgement. If I like it, I'll leave it on, if I don't like it, I'll turn it off. If I find some music good and some bad, I'll turn it down the music when in areas with the bad music. If I play a game a lot, I'll even take out the music I don't like and replace it with music from other games that I like, if I can.
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November 9th, 2012, 17:02
I like game music, but - The greatest impact of music for me is always when it is in-game. The sining bandits at Gothics old camp campfire (and even more so the special concert appearance of In Extremo). Or hearing a lonesome radio play in FO3.
The camp song by whats-her-name in Dragon Age. The bards in Skyrim.
I wish this were done more often.
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November 9th, 2012, 21:04
Music can be extremely important to the overall atmosphere of a game, and I'll never comprehend anyone who claims otherwise. Gothic, Baldur's Gate, The Witcher, etc, … wouldn't have been the same without the fantastic soundtracks that accompanied them.
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November 9th, 2012, 21:38
Originally Posted by Zephyr View Post
Not so fast there, Slick. Personally, music makes no difference to me. In fact, one of my first tweaks in the Settings is to turn it off.
In the cinema as well ?

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November 10th, 2012, 22:58
While developing my game, finding the right ambient music and sound effects is quite the process. Without them, games lack quite a bit of atmosphere.

I find myself going over sounds for hours to find the right audio. This is not easy. It would be nice if I could hire someone and tell them what the mood I want is. I find myself even chopping the music I use up like making it fast, lowering the pitch, getting it to start suddenly, etc.

To this day every once in awhile I still get Ultima III's Wanderer stuck in my head. A good score can really add a lot to a game.

Would this game have bene anything without its soundtrack?

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