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A Few Helpful Tips: "Is My Music Useful To Game Dev?"

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#1 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4319

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 07:13 AM

Recently there have been several posts where members are asking if their music would be useful to game developers. This can be a loaded and often very vague question. And it seems those posting are really basically just asking if their music sounds good. Well "good" is highly subjective, isn't it? There are so many other factors that come into play that determine if a game developer would find their track useful or not. First the client needs to like the track, naturally but then they have to be able to use the track.

Edit: This doesn't apply for those that currently just want to know how their music sounds. That's more than fine to ask! But if you're also wanting to know how applicable your music is for video game projects, then the following items apply:

- Does your audio fit the tech needs of the project? If you're hoping to write for hardware with speakers, does the music sound good on those speakers?

- Does it loop seamlessy? I have yet to see a single one of these kinds of posts feature their music looping. If the client wants it to loop, can you make it do that?

- Does your music fit the genre(s) you're aiming for? Note: sometimes doing something new and unexpected works great so you don't always have to align to expectations and cliches.

- Is your track the right length? This can be really hard to know when writing music without a project but play some video games and take note of how long the tracks are. For example an open world RPG usually has fairly long tracks. If you look at the Oblivion OST, for example, there are four tracks over the four minute mark then most are either about 1 minute to 2 minute marks. If your track is 7 minutes long then it might not be used in many kinds of video games. Likewise if your music track is only 20 seconds long and fairly repetitive content-wise then it might get really annoying in some games.

- Here's a good tip: take your track, place it on loop then do something for 20-30 minutes. If you're still able to listen to the track and not be annoyed or want to change things, you're good! If you're ripping out your hair by the end then that particular track wont work well in a long, looping situation.

- Can your music be made interactive? If a client asked for it, could you create stems which the client would be able to toggle on or off and make the music sound natural and appropriate at all levels? What about transitions from song to song?

- Does your music leave enough room for sound effects? The audio engine and other sound crew will hopefully help with mixing, ducking, etc but you want to be mindful of other audio elements in the game. If you make the music too active it will sound cluttered once the sound design and any dialogue is added in.

- Do the old A/B comparison trick. Let's say you're really wanting to write something that would work in a racing game. Draft something up then compare/contrast your cue against a racing game cue you really like and respect from a well known AAA title.

Simply asking if something is "useful" or "good" is so subjective that you're most likely not going to get the type of feedback that would really be helpful. Instead give us some more info. As you can see by this relatively short list - there's so much more than goes into making useful, appropriate video game music than how it sounds.

Thanks!

Nate

Edited by nsmadsen, 06 May 2012 - 07:26 AM.

Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

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#2 Moritz P.G. Katz   Members   -  Reputation: 1053

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 05:29 PM

Great advice - and good idea to make this a sticky!

Cheers,
Moritz

Check out my Music/Sound Design Reel on moritzpgkatz.de


#3 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4319

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 07:23 AM

Thanks Moritz!

I'd like to clear up one item: I'm fine with folks posting songs just for feedback. It may seem like I'm splitting hairs here, and perhaps I am, but my focus was aimed at when folks specifically ask if their music was useful to devs or specific video game projects - without giving any other info. There's probably an easier way to say all of this:

Video game music production has tier essential tiers:

1) It must sound good. (This is assuming what you've created aligns with the project's vision, design document, etc.)

2) It must work within the project's tech and in-game systems.

If you hit those two marks, you're well on your way! I post this because I don't want people to feel like they have to apologize or go super in depth if all they're asking, really, is if their music sounds good. That'a legit question! Go for it! But if you're asking if your content can be used by a video game, that's when we need more info to really be able to help you out.

Edited by nsmadsen, 06 May 2012 - 07:24 AM.

Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

#4 MackNeumann   Members   -  Reputation: 157

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 10:04 PM

Another great Post! I will continue to read your posts Nate!
Media Composer Mackenzie Neumann

#5 Lloyde   Members   -  Reputation: 109

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 11:34 PM

Wow this is great! Thank you for posting it. :)

#6 liftedCREATION   Members   -  Reputation: 114

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 02:29 PM

Nice post Nate,

You make some very valid points and concerns to think about while gearing up to make production music for games. Personally I am having a hard time knowing what game designers are capable of, for instance...what can and what can't they do...

Basically I am viewing this as a "choose your own music theme". We start with themed intro, then basic background loop,then A-E transitional themed elements to -> A-E loops (A = Ambush, B = Alerting, C = Find Clue...etc..D, E)...then to A-E outros -> back to basic loop, at some point the end.

While programming this in-game, do/can game developers just loop .wav files and can pick and choose, with-out glitches? Would it be better to Fade out and Fade in for transitions...like you said,

- Does it loop seamlessy? I have yet to see a single one of these kinds of posts feature their music looping. If the client wants it to loop, can you make it do that?


Also on a quick side note. What about special effects, for instance, reverb and the like, do game designers like to add their own in-game audio effects?

Can they play more than one track at a time? For instance, We have our awesome background track....and in come some drums because there is a surprise or something...are they capable of timing the music with the background track, fade in and out, etc.?

One more thing...what about naming and sorting all these music files? Does anyone have any preferences?


Thank you in advance,




liftedCREATION

Edited by liftedCREATION, 12 December 2012 - 02:30 PM.

liftedCREATION
Royalty free production music

#7 liftedCREATION   Members   -  Reputation: 114

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 10:10 AM

I've come up with a list of possible in-game moments and some overall music needs for games. Please comment and suggest Thank you! - liftedCREATION

BEGINNING
Intro to musical arrangement - (Suitable intro with nice build-up to main theme 1:00 . Wav) { Light Orchestra } -> Blend in with “In-Game Music”

“In-Game Music” - (Subtle & Engaging / 2:30 Looping .Wavs) { Light Orchestra } -> “Ambience”, “Battle Music”, “Cut Scenes”
ENVIROMENT CHANGE
“Ambience 1, 2 & 3” - (Quiet & Subtle / 2:30 Looping .Wavs) { Light Orchestra }
“Battle Music 1, 2 & 3” - (Orchestrated & Epic / 1:30 .Wavs) { Percussion, Full Blown Orchestra }
“Cut Scenes 1, 2 & 3” – (In depth & revealing / 2:30 .Wavs) { Light Orchestra }

IN GAME MOMENTS
“Being Chased” - (Fast & Edgy / 2:30 Looping .Wavs) { Percussion, Horns, Trumpets } -> “Battle Music”
“Close Calls” – (Holy Crap Moments / :15 .Wavs) { Percussion, Strings, Bells } -> “In-Game Music”
“Character Dies” - (Sad & Emotional / :10 .Wav) {Cellos, Violins, Tuba } ->
“Character Lives” - (Incredible & Magical / :10 .Wav) { Horns, Flutes, Harps } ->
GAME SCREENS & MENUS
“Mission Success” - (Thrilling & Congratulatory / .30 .Wav) {Chimes, Victory Horns }
“Mission Failure” - (Disappointment & Regret / .30 .Wav { Strings, Sad Slow Horns }
“Continue” – (Engaging / :10 .Wav) { Light Orchestra } -> “In-Game Music”
“Load Screen” - (Hypnotic & Trance Subtle / .30 Looping .Wav { Strings, Light Percussion }
“Title Screen” - (Memorizing & Hypnotic / :30 Looping .Wav) { Percussion, Orchestra }
“Mission Screen” – Intense & Down to Business / :30 Looping .Wav){ Percussion, Orchestra }
“Menu Buttons”- (Click/Select, Over, Back, Up/Down, Error) { Bells, Chimes and Special FX }
OTHER
“Misc. Moments” - (Different Stabs and Scales - Misc. Music ) { Bells, Chimes, Interesting Instruments }
“Special Effects” - (Different Whooshes and Transitional Elements for Menus and Screens)

ENDING
“End Credits 1& 2” - (Conclusion & Relieving / 2:30 .Wavs) { Full Orchestra }

We don't make games, so these are mostly educated guesses to what you game developers might need and are looking for...Please advise further.
liftedCREATION
Royalty free production music

#8 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4319

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 11:30 AM

I've come up with a list of possible in-game moments and some overall music needs for games.


It all depends on the content, really. Without knowing how the game breaks down, I cannot really say if your list of proposed cues would work or not. This is more something you'd figure out along with the dev team.

While programming this in-game, do/can game developers just loop .wav files and can pick and choose, with-out glitches? Would it be better to Fade out and Fade in for transitions...like you said,


It all depends on the tech that's being used. Many decent tools, especially the 3rd party tools, can definitely toggle between tracks based on gameplay data.

One more thing...what about naming and sorting all these music files? Does anyone have any preferences?


Again, it all depends on the tech used. Naming a file isn't as important if you're working with, say for example FMOD, but definitely play a huge factor if you're working in XML or ActionScript. The reason why is FMOD enables you to drag and drop in the audio asset then set the parameters. Something like XML requires you to type in the file name so the more complex/longer you make it the more likely typos can break the code.

It also depends on if you're the only person touching the audio files or if you're working with a crew of folks. When by yourself, it's much easier to set up a system and know what is what. But when working with a crew it's important to establish a norm that everyone can understand and follow - especially when crunching!

Edited by nsmadsen, 14 December 2012 - 12:02 PM.

Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

#9 liftedCREATION   Members   -  Reputation: 114

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 12:42 PM

Thank you Nathan for the extra information!  Been playing with FMOD a little.  Very interesting stuff.
 
Brainstorming on the new collection of music we are making for the game developers here and we were hoping some of you would add to the list, however we are pushing ahead with our first “free” non-profit set for everyone here at gamedev.  Which will most likely include the above mentioned brainstorming.
 
  It’s a bit different coming from the “static” side of production music to something “interactive”.  Thank you again for the direction. 
 
 
Sincerely,
 
 
 
liftedCREATION
 

liftedCREATION
Royalty free production music

#10 the incredible smoker   Members   -  Reputation: 382

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Posted 28 November 2013 - 12:11 PM

Hello, in addition i also have some points to make your music more useful in a game,

this is what i found out :

 

- Use lowcut on your basses, to leave room for the sound fx, wich does contain sub bass.

 

- in addition to : - Does your music leave enough room for sound effects

Dont use sound fx in your song, it may sound if it was a sound effect in the game.

 

- Dont use vocals in your music, it might get.to hectic, in combination with the game voices.

 

Ofcourse there are exeptions, just trying to help.


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