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The Weight of Music

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Hello all, How would you consider the weight of the music in a game? Currently I get the idea the music is not spend the aspect that gets much attention. Usually it music serves as kind of ambient sound in the background. Anyway, take for the example the old (but still entertaining) game: Warcraft 2. Just plain and simple midi-files, yet ultra-high quality (for 1995). For the ones who don't know them, here are some samples: Intro Horde 2 Alliance 2 Oke, I must give the credit it is Blizzard we are talking about, not the worse of the all, but other developers could also reach this kind of quality. Please note, I am not saying all the music must now be midi's or anything, No what I am try to tell that I find the general quality of music in game of these day, average. Music has a large contribution in the mood and when music has been slighted, then game seems so empty in some cases. What is your opinion about this?

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I see nothing wrong with music being "ambient sound in the background". In fact, like movies, usually if the audience notices the music the composer hasn't done his job well enough. It's there to enhance the ambience, and, in games (e.g. most RPG's, some Adventures) and situations (e.g. cinematic sequences (possibly player controlled), entering a mysterious place (ooooo... scary)) where it matters, I've usually found it well done. In other situations, I've found it mixed, but don't care, because during normal gameplay I usually mute the music (or turn it way down but not completely off) and play my own in the background.

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No I disagree, I feel that modern games have music better suited to their atmosphere.

However, I find midi music pieces more catchy, I certainly hum them more then I would the most atmospheric of pieces.

Also I think licensed music in certain games is also normally strong, and put to well use. GTA-Vice City would never of been the 1980's without it. I liked some tracks from Burnout 3 and thought they suited the game correctly.

I think music in games at the moment is 'going down the right track'.

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I think music is very important, perhaps even more important than graphics for setting the scene/mood. One great example of game music that I can think of is Chrono Trigger. Man, there were some great, great pieces in that. Sometimes I turned on the game just to hear a certain piece of music. Now THAT is how you can tell if a game has great music. [grin]

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I last played Warcraft 2 about five years ago and I can still remember the Alliance theme. :) I agree that I find tunes from older games more catchy in general, but it's probably easier to make music not "stick out" when you have more to work with than a MIDI synth.

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Music is not necessary. However, music can make any game at least one level better: i.e. from good to great or from average to good, or from bad to average.

It is therefore very important when you want to make the best game possible. The very best game cannot exist IMO without great music.

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Music is important if it's something you've considered and you know what you want to do with it in your design; or if the game designer knows what he wants to do with it.

If it's just going to be tacked on, better to not have it at all.

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There's been a lot of talk about sound and music lately... The question is why? I think a problem that has also been addressed numerous times lately is the fact that more and more gamers do not want to feel that they are being hand-held through the game (even if it is a linear storyline, they do like to have their options).

You are not a cinematographer. Period.

If you want to make movies, go apply at Pixar or some other CGI studio (ILM, et al, ad naseum). Rather than worrying about whether or not the musical soundtrack of a game is "catchy" or not, why not worry about brainstorming that ultra-cool new feature or idea that no one's tried or thought of before. Why not revolutionize gameplay itself, for the sake of the game, rather than just step up the graphics another notch and add pop 40 hits to your soundtrack?

How many of you, to this very day, can still hum the theme song to Super Mario Bros. or Tetris? How about Pong? Metroid? Asteroids? Some of these songs didn't even have soundtracks and yet, they are the most enduring symbols of video games the world will ever have. People are still making Tetris clones as their first video game programming projects. Why? Because the gameplay, the game is unlike anything that came before and only cheap, half-assed attempts at duplication have followed.

If you're going to make a game, then make a game, something that people will love to play because it has engaging gameplay that doesn't get old quickly, like so many of today's games. I was walking around the video game section today, noticing that there were few, if any, actually unique games there.

You've got N^1000 different FPS/3PS's where nothing has actually changed except the backdrop and the arsenal. You've got N^100000 RPG's that are only seperated by marginally different storylines and I won't even attempt to make a mathematical equation about how many different "SIM" or "Military" games there are, because it would hurt my head and probably fry my computer.

People have been ranting about it for a long time now, and I guess it's my turn, but the game industry really needs a breathe of fresh air. Of course, they'll never get it, seeing as the average member of the herd is quite happy to be culled by simply better graphics and 7.1 digital surround sound. If you took offense to that, well then, you probably deserved it.

This isn't meant as a flame against the OP, just a general rant that I have needed to get off my chest for a long time now. I'm hearing-impaired, nearly deaf actually, and so, sound doesn't really make too much difference to me, as I usually can't have it turned up too high without missing the phone ringing or something. Not to mention, even if you get a symphony conductor to arrange your music, there's a very high probability that your players will simply substitute their own MP3/WMA files for your soundtrack anyway (at least one would hope they would). Why? You ask? If your game has any manner of replayability, then it goes without saying that you simply cannot contain enough sound data to keep the music ever changing, and the music will in the end become redundant and perhaps even a tad bit annoying to the player, so they'll turn it off and go listen to the newest hit single by Britney Spears.

My two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk

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Original post by Vopisk
There's been a lot of talk about sound and music lately... The question is why? I think a problem that has also been addressed numerous times lately is the fact that more and more gamers do not want to feel that they are being hand-held through the game (even if it is a linear storyline, they do like to have their options).

You are not a cinematographer. Period.

If you want to make movies, go apply at Pixar or some other CGI studio (ILM, et al, ad naseum). Rather than worrying about whether or not the musical soundtrack of a game is "catchy" or not, why not worry about brainstorming that ultra-cool new feature or idea that no one's tried or thought of before. Why not revolutionize gameplay itself, for the sake of the game, rather than just step up the graphics another notch and add pop 40 hits to your soundtrack?

How many of you, to this very day, can still hum the theme song to Super Mario Bros. or Tetris? How about Pong? Metroid? Asteroids? Some of these songs didn't even have soundtracks and yet, they are the most enduring symbols of video games the world will ever have. People are still making Tetris clones as their first video game programming projects. Why? Because the gameplay, the game is unlike anything that came before and only cheap, half-assed attempts at duplication have followed.

If you're going to make a game, then make a game, something that people will love to play because it has engaging gameplay that doesn't get old quickly, like so many of today's games. I was walking around the video game section today, noticing that there were few, if any, actually unique games there.

You've got N^1000 different FPS/3PS's where nothing has actually changed except the backdrop and the arsenal. You've got N^100000 RPG's that are only seperated by marginally different storylines and I won't even attempt to make a mathematical equation about how many different "SIM" or "Military" games there are, because it would hurt my head and probably fry my computer.

People have been ranting about it for a long time now, and I guess it's my turn, but the game industry really needs a breathe of fresh air. Of course, they'll never get it, seeing as the average member of the herd is quite happy to be culled by simply better graphics and 7.1 digital surround sound. If you took offense to that, well then, you probably deserved it.

This isn't meant as a flame against the OP, just a general rant that I have needed to get off my chest for a long time now. I'm hearing-impaired, nearly deaf actually, and so, sound doesn't really make too much difference to me, as I usually can't have it turned up too high without missing the phone ringing or something. Not to mention, even if you get a symphony conductor to arrange your music, there's a very high probability that your players will simply substitute their own MP3/WMA files for your soundtrack anyway (at least one would hope they would). Why? You ask? If your game has any manner of replayability, then it goes without saying that you simply cannot contain enough sound data to keep the music ever changing, and the music will in the end become redundant and perhaps even a tad bit annoying to the player, so they'll turn it off and go listen to the newest hit single by Britney Spears.

My two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk


You bring forth some very valid point. I agree that music doesn't make the game all, it is still the refreshing gameplay that should be doing that and replayability. When designing a RPG, so many features have tried out before (perma-death anyone?!?). Brainstorming for a new features is needed process. Sometimes I get the feeling that all the really usuable features are all being used now.

In order to make your game stand-out it has to have something unique OR have more 'good' features then any other game with the same genre. Graphics are not the thing you can live on, because it might only impresse the player the first 3 days, but I still get the feeling the ambient background is so much more important the the actual graphics, because they set the mood and the when the graphics are of an level good enough to bring over the scenario, then you succeeded. It is very natural, when you are, for example, hearing-impaired, you got other priorities.

Anyway thanks all for the input.

Regards,

Xeile

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The importance of music varies depending on the game and the situation. In dramatic or cinematic situations without a lot of dialogue, often in cutscenes, I think it is crucial. In Homeworld, for example, I remember the cutscene when that alien ship appeared in the nebula; the mysterious music really set the mood and made it memorable. During gameplay, I don't really consciously notice the music, but I think I would notice its absence or if it was really horrible. Also, in at least one game where the music changes when you're being attacked I have actually used it as the first warning of an attack.

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There's been a lot of talk about sound and music lately... The question is why? I think a problem that has also been addressed numerous times lately is the fact that more and more gamers do not want to feel that they are being hand-held through the game (even if it is a linear storyline, they do like to have their options).

You are not a cinematographer. Period.

If you want to make movies, go apply at Pixar or some other CGI studio (ILM, et al, ad naseum). Rather than worrying about whether or not the musical soundtrack of a game is "catchy" or not, why not worry about brainstorming that ultra-cool new feature or idea that no one's tried or thought of before. Why not revolutionize gameplay itself, for the sake of the game, rather than just step up the graphics another notch and add pop 40 hits to your soundtrack?

How many of you, to this very day, can still hum the theme song to Super Mario Bros. or Tetris? How about Pong? Metroid? Asteroids? Some of these songs didn't even have soundtracks and yet, they are the most enduring symbols of video games the world will ever have. People are still making Tetris clones as their first video game programming projects. Why? Because the gameplay, the game is unlike anything that came before and only cheap, half-assed attempts at duplication have followed.

If you're going to make a game, then make a game, something that people will love to play because it has engaging gameplay that doesn't get old quickly, like so many of today's games. I was walking around the video game section today, noticing that there were few, if any, actually unique games there.

You've got N^1000 different FPS/3PS's where nothing has actually changed except the backdrop and the arsenal. You've got N^100000 RPG's that are only seperated by marginally different storylines and I won't even attempt to make a mathematical equation about how many different "SIM" or "Military" games there are, because it would hurt my head and probably fry my computer.

People have been ranting about it for a long time now, and I guess it's my turn, but the game industry really needs a breathe of fresh air. Of course, they'll never get it, seeing as the average member of the herd is quite happy to be culled by simply better graphics and 7.1 digital surround sound. If you took offense to that, well then, you probably deserved it.

This isn't meant as a flame against the OP, just a general rant that I have needed to get off my chest for a long time now. I'm hearing-impaired, nearly deaf actually, and so, sound doesn't really make too much difference to me, as I usually can't have it turned up too high without missing the phone ringing or something. Not to mention, even if you get a symphony conductor to arrange your music, there's a very high probability that your players will simply substitute their own MP3/WMA files for your soundtrack anyway (at least one would hope they would). Why? You ask? If your game has any manner of replayability, then it goes without saying that you simply cannot contain enough sound data to keep the music ever changing, and the music will in the end become redundant and perhaps even a tad bit annoying to the player, so they'll turn it off and go listen to the newest hit single by Britney Spears.

My two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk

No offense meant (especially since I'm stealing someone else's words for this, heh), but that seems like a kind of narrow view of gameplay. It doesn't seem fair, to me anyway, to describe a game solely in terms of its mechanics and system. I definitely don't think it's fair to lump game music in the same category as NEWER FASTER HARDER TO RUN GRAPHICS and what have you. I mean, there's a big difference between a coat of glossy paint on crap and artistic aspects of a game that add to it even after the first ten minutes.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. A lot of people liked Half-Life (referring to the first, here). A LOT. Whatever your personal feelings on the game are, it's impossible to argue that people liked the game because of only its mechanics alone. You shot dudes. Dudes shot at you. Okay. That happens a lot. Yes, it had good A.I., but sometimes people who will say they loved the game won't even mention that! What Half-Life had that separated it from the pack, what it had in spades, was atmosphere. The environments, the sounds, all of it was made to give the player the feeling of being trapped in a military complex quickly falling apart, filled with only a few allies.

Another example! Fallout. The core gameplay of Fallout was as follows: you created a character. You talked to people and chose certain dialogue choices. You shot people. People shot you. Sometimes you shot each other in the crotch. Endearing, to be sure, but if you ask fans of the game why they loved it they're not going to say "you got to choose dialogue and shoot people" and leave it from there. Fallout, too, had atmosphere. The graphics were primitive, certainly, but all carefully made to actually make the world seem desolate and dying. The soundtrack, though pretty minimal, added a lot to the game in the right places-- another question of atmosphere. It's not something I'm smart enough or experienced enough to put in words, but the fact that a lot of people who love this game will point to this or simply say that they can't explain why they love it solely in terms of the battle and character creation.

Now I'm going to take a counter-example, Doom 3. Maybe it's not fair for me to judge something so obviously subjective-- I mean, look at how many good AND bad reviews the game got-- but a lot of people will tell you that Doom 3 really kind of sucked compared to some more critically acclaimed FPSes. My personal favorite way of describing it is as an extremely successful tech demo, so obviously I'm about as biased as biased can get. But say, why do I dislike Doom 3? You shoot people, no? You shoot people with a wide array of guns with many different noises. Sometimes you chainsaw them in the face. All of this is exceedingly boring to me. The environment is extremely samey, there is nothing there in terms of music or art (never mind graphics for now, I'll get to that in a bit). I only really realized this halfway through, and it let me put a finger on why I didn't really like it. Frankly, I didn't really MIND enemies in trapdoors and all those other little Doom things. They're kinda cute in their own way. But the game was, well, it was almost totally lacking in character.

Okay, so if I chose Doom 3 as an opposing example, you've probably guessed by now that I don't really disagree with you. Actually, for the most part I agree with you, and I kind of wish more gamers would take your point of view so that we could get more System Shocks and less Doomalikes. I mean, Doom 3 technically had really great graphics, and I'm saying that that didn't do a damned thing for the game itself in my mind. After you're done goggling at new methods of bump mapping you still have a GAME to play, right? And all those fancy vector whathaveyous don't make doing the same thing for five hours any more fun.

But! But what I'm saying is that there's a difference between games boasting of super high poly count, improved normal mapping, n.1 surround, whatever and games with great art direction, music that you remember, music that fits. There is a REALLY BIG difference, in my mind, between adding a new coat of lustery paint to the same old thing and adding artistic elements that genuinely contribute to the game. Artistic elements, art direction, whatever, that can make a game what it is. It can do more than raise it above the pack: it can make a generic model that's worked before into something massively popular and successful and even good in my mind (again, Half-Life is my favorite example just because it's such an easy comparison-- even if you don't like Half-Life, you have to admit that there must be something there for it to be so popular compared to other FPSes very similar in terms of gameplay).

So in short: I agree with most of your rant, but I think it's unfair as applied here. Music, good, fitting music, along with sounds, do a lot for a game's character and my feelings on playing it. Just as music by itself can change my mood and my view on things, music and sound in a game can change how I feel about the game at that moment and what I'm doing in it. It's something that's difficult to explain if you're hearing-impaired... good audio in a game is one of those experiences that can only be explained by example (okay, or neurobiologically I guess, but I don't know if we've reached the point where that would help anything). It's not at all like a new graphics update or a new layer of gloss... much more akin to good ART, even good writing, the things that made people rave about what would seem like vanilla games otherwise (Planescape: Torment, Albion, whatever).

Okay! To the Original Poster(tm), I guess it goes without saying that I think music has some weight? But in my view, it doesn't really make or break a game as a CATEGORY, it's just something that really shines and stands out when it's good (as in WC2!). I definitely appreciate it when it's there and good, but it's rare for ambient audio to be so bad as to actually detract from the game (as it often is with writing and art direction, for me at least).

So! That's my... cent, I guess, really. Sorry for the long post. If someone can tell me how to put my opinions down without taking forever, I'd appreciate it.. this is what I get for sleeping in English all through school, I guess =(

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Original post by Vopisk
You are not a cinematographer. Period.


No, but many people like the Final Fantasy experience, which has much in common with cinematography. Especially when it comes to music.

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If you want to make movies, go apply at Pixar or some other CGI studio (ILM, et al, ad naseum). Rather than worrying about whether or not the musical soundtrack of a game is "catchy" or not, why not worry about brainstorming that ultra-cool new feature or idea that no one's tried or thought of before. Why not revolutionize gameplay itself, for the sake of the game, rather than just step up the graphics another notch and add pop 40 hits to your soundtrack?


Because that's easier said than done. It's not particularly common in other media, either. Great movies don't usually revolutionize the movie industry. I'd say LotR was pretty great (I'm not as big a fan as most, but I won't deny it's a great movie), but it didn't do anything revolutionary. In fact, by emphasizing the romantic interests (which were not focused on in the books), I'd say they made it even "more of the same" than it could've been.

Quote:

If you're going to make a game, then make a game, something that people will love to play because it has engaging gameplay that doesn't get old quickly, like so many of today's games. I was walking around the video game section today, noticing that there were few, if any, actually unique games there.


I'd say that the video game section is usually the wrong place to be if you want the sort of engaging gameplay you're talking about. In your list, you didn't give an equation for the number of puzzle games (like Tetris), probably because there aren't many. If you want engaging games like that, you'll have much better luck with flash games on the internet.

Quote:

People have been ranting about it for a long time now, and I guess it's my turn, but the game industry really needs a breathe of fresh air. Of course, they'll never get it, seeing as the average member of the herd is quite happy to be culled by simply better graphics and 7.1 digital surround sound.


The problem is that many game connoisseurs seem to equate "better graphics" with "only better graphics".

Quote:

Not to mention, even if you get a symphony conductor to arrange your music, there's a very high probability that your players will simply substitute their own MP3/WMA files for your soundtrack anyway (at least one would hope they would). Why? You ask? If your game has any manner of replayability, then it goes without saying that you simply cannot contain enough sound data to keep the music ever changing, and the music will in the end become redundant and perhaps even a tad bit annoying to the player, so they'll turn it off and go listen to the newest hit single by Britney Spears.


If you keep it subtle, then the music won't get nearly so repetitive. The player won't even notice it most of the time. It'll just be there, calmly adding to the atmosphere. I'd say that this is why I think the LotR soundtrack was so great but not something I'd ever buy: I didn't notice it during the movies (except when you're supposed to).

Also, longer games will suffer from this less. Many RPG's have memorable songs that don't get old because you'll hear them only a few times during any play through.

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Original post by toroid
No offense meant (especially since I'm stealing someone else's words for this, heh), but that seems like a kind of narrow view of gameplay. It doesn't seem fair, to me anyway, to describe a game solely in terms of its mechanics and system. I definitely don't think it's fair to lump game music in the same category as NEWER FASTER HARDER TO RUN GRAPHICS and what have you. I mean, there's a big difference between a coat of glossy paint on crap and artistic aspects of a game that add to it even after the first ten minutes.


Why shouldn't they be lumped together? Better graphics add more opportunities to create atmosphere. In the same way, moving away from midi provides more options for the music side of things. Just because "Ultra-Realistic-Graphics" sells games and "Ultra-Hi-Fi" doesn't doesn't mean that graphics can't be artistic. I think American McGee's Alice used both to great effect (and I never really noticed the music unless I was listening for it).

And, for the record, I like Serious Sam because of the shooting of things.

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Why shouldn't they be lumped together? Better graphics add more opportunities to create atmosphere. In the same way, moving away from midi provides more options for the music side of things. Just because "Ultra-Realistic-Graphics" sells games and "Ultra-Hi-Fi" doesn't doesn't mean that graphics can't be artistic. I think American McGee's Alice used both to great effect (and I never really noticed the music unless I was listening for it)

Why shouldn't they be lumped together? Well, better METHODS of providing audio/video, of expressing the artistic intents of the team, are only tools with which to create these things. They certainly have value, but I don't feel they are the same thing at all. This separation of terms would be moot (silly even) if you rarely found "improved graphics" without genuinely improved graphics, or better audio encoding methods without any actual improvement in audio, but it's really quite common.

I'm not saying I believe these things are worthless at all. They have their downsides (people still fall hook, line, and sinker for polished turds, just as often as they fall for gems that also have revolutionary new engines), but I love that they allow for the progression of quality you're talking about, and it would be stupid to assume that technical merit and artistic merit are mutually exclusive (IME they're found together pretty much as often as not). Frankly, this sort of progression is essential-- I love Wasteland, but lord am I ever thankful that we have progressed beyond that stage technically. I'm just saying that I think that technical merit in and of itself is a very different thing from artistic merit.

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I quite like the way Half-life and System Shock 2 handled music, none for most of the game for a creepy atmosphere, but occasional bursts, and when you heard it you knew something interesting was about to happen. For example, meeting your first garg.

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Good music is super! But what makes good music good? I’m neither an experienced game developer nor a music/math guru, but I am a student of human behavior and perception. Maybe we can break the elements of musical effect down into categories that would be useful to game designers and programmers.
Although game designers aren't cinematographers, movies and television have shaped our expectations of what and how we are presented with a visual story line. I’ll use examples of these that hopefully most have seen and are able to relate to. However, there are also game unique issues that won’t relate back to anything but gaming. If we can explore what worked well and what didn’t work so well, we might use it to our advantage.

Is it evocative- I don't think anyone will disagree that music speaks directly to our imaginations. If it doesn’t, it’s just noise with a pattern.
A good example is the Star Trek Voyager theme. Who could doubt there was grand adventure ahead and sights to set the heart on fire! (There really wasn't but the opener still gives me goose bumps.) Orchestral music sets the stage for grand, larger than life, history in the making kind of stuff. Why does it do that? Is it the huge number of instruments involved, the degree of coordination between the different sections that create numerous running melodies and harmonies or the overall effect of a rich tapestry of sound being woven in front of you? Probably a little bit of all of it. A large sound, not particularly a loud one, heralds large events. We can use less complex music to accompany less important events. To truly be effective we cannot evoke one image in the imagination and present another to the eye.

Avoiding cognitive dissonance- When we use an evocative piece and present a conflicting visual we create cognitive dissonance. If we created a scene using our orchestral piece while showing a single ant with no background, the audience would be uninvolved and even a little uncomfortable. Show a teeming anthill, a little better. Bison from horizon to horizon…better. A zoom-out to orbital distance of a busy city…even better. Nebulas, uncounted stars and civilizations…wow! So the closer we can match the music to the setting or character or action the more effect we have on our audience/player.

Does the music match the setting- Environmental music shouldn’t be just background noise. Match it to the game setting and you have a DMA line into your players’ imagination. Environmental music has been around since the 30s. Despite its age we still don’t always match it up very well with the story. In some cases it completely changes the overall tone of the storyline.
In the 80s a show called the Equalizer brought in theme music made on cans, barrels and bottles. The percussive melody was fast paced and evoked images of urban streets, the setting of the show. Soon every other show had the urban-trash sound and it really lost its effect. Yuppies don't fit in with a "just getting by" kind of sound.
Firefly is a sci-fi plot with folks scratching out a living amongst the newest colonies. The writer’s vision of the future was of a merging of the Chinese and American cultures, living together just this side of the cusp of survivability. Interesting concept, so why did it get relegated to the bin of a “western-in-space”? It might be because the theme and environmental music evokes cognitive dissonance. The sets use Chinese ideograms on bulkheads and even have characters cursing each other in Cantonese (plus a little English linguist drift). However, the theme and environmental music is very reminiscent of the American pioneer period. The writer said he wanted a sound that spoke of home made instruments and folk melodies. OK, but from whose home, and when? Would a banjo be the instrument of possibility among Asian/American space pioneers and wouldn’t the unique Asian musical scale have an influence as well? Would the music have been more evocative with metal strings, cargo container percussion, harmonicas and Asian tonals?
The Fifth Element is another great example of how music can effect our perception of the story. The Fifth Element is a technical textbook of cinematic story-telling. Its plot is quite dramatic and yet it has the overall effect of a sci-fi comedy. The Fifth Element could have been quite a dramatic action film (with sporadic comedic relief) had the music had a less of a tongue-in-cheek quality about it.

Does the music match the character(s)- A classic piece to introduce children to orchestral sounds is the story of Peter and The Wolf, a Russian tale of a boy, a bird, a duck, a hungry wolf, hunters and other assorted characters, each represented by a different instrument in the orchestra which plays the various themes interspersed with the narrative story. For those who never heard it, I’ll give you a hint, the bird ain’t the tuba and the wolf ain’t the flute. We have a much wider range of sound sources to match our characters. But we need to take care that we try to match the character’s context as much as possible. For example a riverboat gambler could be represented by a banjo, an 1880s cowboy by a harmonica, a modern cowboy by a steel guitar, a cyberpunk by synth, a car thief by gangsta rap etc.

Does the music match the action- This is kind of obvious, with environmental music it can add to the enjoyment, drive you nuts, and even interfere with a player's reactions. Holiday for Strings was a piece used by Disney television a lot in the 50s and 60s. It evoked pictures of Sunday drives (gas was cheap then) and sun dappled suburbia and the future is so durn bright I need my shades! You remember I’m sure, kind of a Leave It to Beaver meets Prozac kind of thingy. So it really wasn’t a surprise to hear it or variants of it, for car commercials or travel shows of the times. The Sims 1 used a variant very reminiscent of it when a player entered the build mode of the game evoking feelings of “Wow! I’m really shopping now!” (Which is maybe why so many females played it...ahem). Anyway, the compulsively cheerful ditty would drone on and on and on finally resulting in everyone within earshot of the player to forcefully request the sound be turned “OFF!!” For areas of a game where you know replay will be high it would be a mercy for all involved if there are at least 3 options that are either randomized, user selected or imported.
Matching music to a characters action is fairly straightforward. You don’t want a Japanese drum chorus for an old gal doing her folding at a laundry-mat, but a country western “you-cleared-out-the-bank-account-before-you-left-you-bastard-you” thingy might fit well. Japanese drum choruses are great with combat scenes, try substituting industrial sounds at the same pitch and tempo for an interesting armored sequence. But, you don’t want too strong of a rhythm when your player has to real-time combat. I must have fought a Zelda baddy a gazillion times before I realized I was inputting to the beat of the background music. I could NOT divorce my thumb from the rhythm and finally had to turn the sound off to get through the level. If you must use a blood-pumping, percussion based music background, please don’t make it one that will get your player flattened. Time after time, after time …..

Music can be a MIGHTY important part of any story, and the variations we use matching characters, locations, time periods and actions can open a huge area of exploration and creativity! OK, I shut up and go away now.

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Cybergrape-

I think that you hit the nail on the head, you really did. You just gave a mind-boggling example of why music is important to the cinematic arts. But we're here to talk about games and so I'll make my rebuttal in that field.

First and foremost, when you go out to the theatre, you're going there knowing that you're going to be told a story, maybe it won't be good, maybe it will be, hopefully it's at least worth the $10. When you buy a game, especially most modern games, you should be going into it not thinking that you are going to be told a story, but you are going to take part in a story.

There is a very key difference here. Life doesn't have a soundtrack, if I'm speeding and don't realize that there's a stalled car directly ahead, the music isn't going to pick up pace or spike to alert me to incoming danger. This however, doesn't mean that there's not music going on the radio, this doesn't mean there's no hum of the engine roaring down the highway, but none of that will change (until I slam into the stalled car and there's a whole different set of sound effects:).

I think that I misrepresented my point in my previous post, although it did a good job of stirring up the conversation seemingly. My real point is as some others have said, the music should not be a point of emphasis, it should be something added in only the most final of stages, perhaps to complete the grand picture. I do not believe that music should have a wait. If you can't make a game good without the music, then it's just not a good game. As others have said also, music can make a game better, but it should not be one of the featured aspects of the game. I'm reminded by this of the recent GTA game that actually sold numerous different soundtracks to its game in stores.

I really shouldn't care about the soundtrack. If it's there, it should be so oblique that I hardly notice it. Something that bothers me about a lot of movies/games/etc... is that the music is overbearing, seemingly compensation for something that's lacking in that particular scene/level/whatever. I bothers me no end when there's a sequence in a movie or television show and all of a sudden there's all this music coming from somewhere, supposedly adding to the suspense when in reality, the stark silence of the situation should be enough, silence is one of the most uncomfortable things most people know how to experience, which is why we try to fill our time so much with others sounds.

Take for another example, a dungeon crawler game. For me personally, it would be much more exhilarating to only hear a drip, drip, drip of water in the distance, or heavy breathing/scuffling boots to alert me of that ogre just around the upcoming corner, cause I wouldn't have music with an ever quickening tempo telling me that I'm walking to most certain doom, this breaks what I find most important in a game personally, immersion.

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Original post by Way Walker

I'd say that the video game section is usually the wrong place to be if you want the sort of engaging gameplay you're talking about. In your list, you didn't give an equation for the number of puzzle games (like Tetris), probably because there aren't many. If you want engaging games like that, you'll have much better luck with flash games on the internet.


I think this quote says it all, if you're looking for an engaging game experience... don't try the video game section? Any game can be engaging, the problem is that the wrong points are being emphasized.

As to the point that many people enjoy the Final Fantasy experience, this is just the problem that I'm talking about. The Final Fantasies, at least those most recent ones that I've had experience with, attempt to allow you to simply jump into the middle of a storlyine that's progressing without you. So you compete in the level or whatever, until you set off that next triggering event and get to find out what the next part of the story is.

An excellent counter-example, that someone else already made, is Fallout. In Fallout, which I thought for its day had rather nice graphics, you don't have any real noticeable soundtrack (I can't remember it having any come to think of it, and I've played both games, didn't like Tactics, end to end several times). Aside from its very subtle soundtrack, you have little to no cut-scenes, all of the action is happening right there, in the moment, as a direct response to your decisions as a player. This is a much better way to make people feel that they are actually playing a part in the story, rather than just watching a movie with an occassional break to play the video game part.

Anyway, that's more of my two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk

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Vopisk- I think I get what you are saying, that in some situations low-key naturally occuring sounds are preferable over music. I think in places where you want to really build suspense it is very effective. One of the very first D&D games had such sound effects, a drip a few creaks and something dragging on the floor. For all of its' primitive graphics and mono sound I have never played a game since that made me jump so. It was honestly a bit too not relaxing for my tight leisure schedule. But yes, I agree there is a time for silence and subtlety as well.

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Original post by Vopisk
You are not a cinematographer. Period.

A cinematic experience can greatly enhance a linear or even a non-linear game. It's a great way to reward the player for achieving goals and giving them a sense that they are advancing in the game. While it should not be overused, but it can definately be a great tool. Some people enjoy it, and that is enough of a reason to keep using it in games. How could enjoyment in a game be a bad thing?

If the cinematic experience can be blended with the interactive, free roaming, develop your own path gameplay, then that is a wonderful. That is definately a goal worth pursuing.

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Original post by T1Oracle
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Original post by Vopisk
You are not a cinematographer. Period.

A cinematic experience can greatly enhance a linear or even a non-linear game. It's a great way to reward the player for achieving goals and giving them a sense that they are advancing in the game. While it should not be overused, but it can definately be a great tool. Some people enjoy it, and that is enough of a reason to keep using it in games. How could enjoyment in a game be a bad thing?

If the cinematic experience can be blended with the interactive, free roaming, develop your own path gameplay, then that is a wonderful. That is definately a goal worth pursuing.


Well, that is one of my personal opinion only points unfortunately. Most people have little to no problem with cinematic cut-sequences, I do. I prefer to have a sense of control over the destiny of my character, whether he succeeds or fails, or what path he chooses to take. Which is probably why I always enjoyed those old "choose your adventure" books, I had all the enjoyment of reading a book, with a chance to choose the character's outcome.

I feel personally that cut scenes are most often used as a method of filling in the gaps in the story. Usually these are things that I suppose the gamemakers decided we're too boring to waste my time with, even as they follow and prequel the most important events in the game. So we need to head out and cross the country in our super-jet to meet so and so? Great, it's a long flight... I'll drive! Why should we let the players play out the smaller parts when we can make a mini-movie and then just fast forward the player to more killing, cause we need to kill, kill 'em all!

I guess what it really boils down to is that even though I might not have an open choice to follow, I would personally prefer to play the game/story from beginning to end, without the assistance of the Overlord determining what is too boring for me to want to do, or to just show off their flair for graphical eye-candy.

I do think, however, that there are exceptions to every rule. For example, I've been playing Splinter Cell (original) a lot lately, cause I love that game, but, the cut scenes that play out news broadcasts involving the storyline you're playing, I love that, because it's something that cannot be portrayed within the game itself, since the camera angles wouldn't give you a good view. But I don't want to face the "big leap of doom" only to get shoved into a cut-sequence that has my character crawling down the air-duct to go ambush the terrorists, why can't I just go from point A to point B? You're taking up my playing time with a movie, when I want to play a game, I have a rack full of movies if that's the brand of enjoyment I'm looking for.

I think that a final point on this is that overly much, music and graphics are used as tools in a shock and awe campaign that the game industry believes will lull you into continuing to play the drivel that they produce at mind-blowing prices and speeds. If well-integrated into the game world, so that they seemlessly and not invadingly blend with the gameplay, they can be fantastic features that enhance gameplay and make the game better. When they overpower and interrupt the gameplay, they become a deterent to playing the game. My reward is in winning the game, not hearing or watching your artistic masterpiece, let that be enough. More often than not when playing GTA games, I turn off the music cause the radio blasting on every time I stole a car annoyed me (among other points of those games which I won't go into).

Quote:
Original post by Cybergrape
Vopisk- I think I get what you are saying, that in some situations low-key naturally occuring sounds are preferable over music. I think in places where you want to really build suspense it is very effective. One of the very first D&D games had such sound effects, a drip a few creaks and something dragging on the floor. For all of its' primitive graphics and mono sound I have never played a game since that made me jump so. It was honestly a bit too not relaxing for my tight leisure schedule. But yes, I agree there is a time for silence and subtlety as well.


This, is exactly my point. I guess it's why those silly things called books have lasted for so long, amongst the overwhelming press of visual/audio media. You can describe those subtle, natural sounds perfectly in words, paint the most vivid textures of reality and place true, pulse-pounding suspense within the reader. Why? Well, the mind's a pretty good computer in its own right and has better effects capabilities than any GeForce chip will.

However, that string quartet playing a beautiful little concerto in the background so wrongly out of place is a bit more difficult to describe to the reader/observer. Probably not impossible, but is it worth the effort? Is a book worse because it doesn't have a soundtrack? I think not.

Most who respond to this idea will say, books have no capacity for soundtrack, since our media makes it available, let us use it to the fullest of effects! To this, I say no, just as I say no to purposely pushing graphics cards to the limits simply because we can. My mantra has always been and will always be, I hope, make better games, let the sounds and graphics only polish an already wonderful thing.

My two cents and now, penniless, something to chew on,

Vopisk

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Original post by Vopisk
There is a very key difference here. Life doesn't have a soundtrack, if I'm speeding and don't realize that there's a stalled car directly ahead, the music isn't going to pick up pace or spike to alert me to incoming danger. This however, doesn't mean that there's not music going on the radio, this doesn't mean there's no hum of the engine roaring down the highway, but none of that will change (until I slam into the stalled car and there's a whole different set of sound effects:).


Oh where oh where can my baby be
The Lord took her away from me
She's gone to heaven so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world
[grin]

Quote:

I think that I misrepresented my point in my previous post, although it did a good job of stirring up the conversation seemingly. My real point is as some others have said, the music should not be a point of emphasis, it should be something added in only the most final of stages, perhaps to complete the grand picture.


I disagree with this "added in only the most final of stages" bit. That'd be like deciding on the graphical style in only the most final stages. Music has a profound affect on the feel of a situation, and thus should be decided on at the same time one decides on the graphical style. Whether that decision is to use something over the top, something subtle, or nothing at all depends on the feel they're going for, but it'll probably feel "tacked on" if it's not done alongside the graphics.

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I do not believe that music should have a wait. If you can't make a game good without the music, then it's just not a good game.


So DDR is, by definition, not a good game? [wink] Kidding aside, I'd say that if you can't make a good game with/without music, then you're probably not a good designer (I'd say similar things about directors, authors, etc.).

Quote:

As others have said also, music can make a game better, but it should not be one of the featured aspects of the game. I'm reminded by this of the recent GTA game that actually sold numerous different soundtracks to its game in stores.


There are often lengthy discussions about what should/shouldn't be included in a soundtrack (or any other part of a game/movie). I don't think it says much of anything that more than one soundtrack is appropriate.

Quote:

I really shouldn't care about the soundtrack. If it's there, it should be so oblique that I hardly notice it. Something that bothers me about a lot of movies/games/etc... is that the music is overbearing, seemingly compensation for something that's lacking in that particular scene/level/whatever. I bothers me no end when there's a sequence in a movie or television show and all of a sudden there's all this music coming from somewhere, supposedly adding to the suspense when in reality, the stark silence of the situation should be enough, silence is one of the most uncomfortable things most people know how to experience, which is why we try to fill our time so much with others sounds.


Two things:
1) I've definitely seen the opposite, where music was better than silence. I think LotR would've been much worse with silence. I think FFVI would've been much worse with silence. I recently turned the music off in Deus Ex and it is worse with silence. Whether you like these games/movie or not, I think it'd be unfair to say they're poorly done because they'd be worse without music.

2) As you say silence (can be) one of the most uncomfortable things (but it can also be quite nice. For example, replace your "drip drip" with a gentle breeze). Music can soften this effect without removing it entirely. That is, the silence may get to be too much.

Quote:

Take for another example, a dungeon crawler game. For me personally, it would be much more exhilarating to only hear a drip, drip, drip of water in the distance, or heavy breathing/scuffling boots to alert me of that ogre just around the upcoming corner, cause I wouldn't have music with an ever quickening tempo telling me that I'm walking to most certain doom, this breaks what I find most important in a game personally, immersion.


I'll agree that I do enjoy this effect, but I also enjoy Serious Sam: The Second Encounter's music when the fighting starts. Especially because sometimes no fighting starts. Keeps me on my toes, and makes the fight a bit more exhilarating.

Quote:

As to the point that many people enjoy the Final Fantasy experience, this is just the problem that I'm talking about.


So my opinion is wrong? [rolleyes]

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The Final Fantasies, at least those most recent ones that I've had experience with, attempt to allow you to simply jump into the middle of a storlyine that's progressing without you. So you compete in the level or whatever, until you set off that next triggering event and get to find out what the next part of the story is.


Yep, you play a character-cultivation game where certain milestones are rewarded with a story.

Quote:

An excellent counter-example, that someone else already made, is Fallout. In Fallout, which I thought for its day had rather nice graphics, you don't have any real noticeable soundtrack (I can't remember it having any come to think of it, and I've played both games, didn't like Tactics, end to end several times). Aside from its very subtle soundtrack, you have little to no cut-scenes, all of the action is happening right there, in the moment, as a direct response to your decisions as a player. This is a much better way to make people feel that they are actually playing a part in the story, rather than just watching a movie with an occassional break to play the video game part.


Aye, that is a much better way to make people feel that they are actually playing a part in the story. The question then becomes: Is that the point?

I think both types should exist. I enjoy them in different ways. I enjoy the character cultivation and being told a story in Final Fantasies. I enjoy the character cultivation and world interaction in Fallouts (I don't see it as being much of a story, at least no more of a story than you tell by playing a level in Doom).

For what it's worth, I find it much easier to connect with characters in Final Fantasies than in Fallouts. I feel much more attached to my character in Final Fantasies than in Fallouts. I think this has a lot to do with the difference between being told a story and interacting with the world as "story".

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[quote]Original post by Vopisk
[quote]Original post by T1Oracle
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Original post by Vopisk
I feel personally that cut scenes are most often used as a method of filling in the gaps in the story. Usually these are things that I suppose the gamemakers decided we're too boring to waste my time with, even as they follow and prequel the most important events in the game. So we need to head out and cross the country in our super-jet to meet so and so? Great, it's a long flight... I'll drive! Why should we let the players play out the smaller parts when we can make a mini-movie and then just fast forward the player to more killing, cause we need to kill, kill 'em all!


Two comments:
1) Isn't this a bit like those Choose Your Own Adventure books? Sometimes a lot happens between choices in those books.

2) I see those games differently. I see them as combat games, with a story to justify and reward the combat (even Doom and Serious Sam had to have some story).

And, hey, did you like the Lone Wolf series?

Quote:

why can't I just go from point A to point B?


I dislike going from point A to point B. It's boring. I'd rather have a faster (and, even better, skippable) cutscene taking me from action node to action node. (See also: Enough time to play? thread)

Quote:

Most who respond to this idea will say, books have no capacity for soundtrack, since our media makes it available, let us use it to the fullest of effects! To this, I say no, just as I say no to purposely pushing graphics cards to the limits simply because we can. My mantra has always been and will always be, I hope, make better games, let the sounds and graphics only polish an already wonderful thing.


There's a difference between "using it to the fullest effect" and "using every trick in the bag because we can". Too often, games are just fancy tech demos (using every trick in the bag because we can), but I don't think that that means we shouldn't rummage through the bag for every trick that'll help us get the effect we want.

I think, perhaps, we're approaching the same solution from different perspectives.

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Since comparisons between games and movies have been made, let us now compare them to tradional games. Traditional sports games, pinball, pachinko, and limbo are all enhanced not just by ambient sounds, but also by intentional sfx and music. Why, then, should video games be any different? Certainly, as others have mentioned, some game situations are perfect without music. Still, imposing this convention on all games is to turn a back to the past of games in general. Games (not just electronic ones) are often more than just gameplay.

Personally, I just love when in stage-based games, with moderate or robust emphasis on music, use a very strong tune for the opening stage. I makes you wanna jump on in and be heroic.

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Original post by Vopisk
...
I do think, however, that there are exceptions to every rule.
...
I think that a final point on this is that overly much, music and graphics are used as tools in a shock and awe campaign that the game industry believes will lull you into continuing to play the drivel that they produce at mind-blowing prices and speeds. If well-integrated into the game world, so that they seemlessly and not invadingly blend with the gameplay, they can be fantastic features that enhance gameplay and make the game better.
...


I think that these two quotes well enough explain my point that I need no further lengthy arguments. It may have seemed that I argued the complete elimination of music, but that's not the case. Music should not be something noticeable, as most have said, a large part of the time, it should be quiet and merely enhance an already excellently made atmosphere.

When I suggested that music be thought of last, it was not to say "Do not even think of the music at all until the game is already playable." It was instead to suggest that the music itself, like most cinematic soundtracks, should be added after the game to make sure that it does indeed, blend seemlessly into the background and does not over-awe the player. That's not to say that a game developer shouldn't think of what style or types of music they want in their game, merely wait on the selection until they can be sure.

To return to my Splinter Cell example, the music there is non-heard for the most part until the tempo kicks up when you've done something completely foolish, sometimes even if no one is around to hear/see you. This does indeed add to the suspense as you quickly scan for any enemies that you may not have seen, and gives you a sense of relief when in fact, you have not been discovered at all.

My two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk

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Many of the Star Wars franchise games used Williams (or perhaps Williams-esque) musical scores to set the mood. The recent Ultima series used music effectively (e.g. Ultima IX's before-and-after-quest town music was a great example).

For certain, music is a huge benefit to the game and to players!

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If you can't make a game good without the music, then it's just not a good game. As others have said also, music can make a game better, but it should not be one of the featured aspects of the game.


Well obviously us audio engineers with careers in the games industry want to see it the other way around and would argue that point to death. But that's who we are and that's how we think.

I would submit that a lot of programmers would think as you have stated, with the audio being way at the back, last moment decision, not important.

And then there's these people in the middle who are creating something in between and INNOVATING.

Heard of a game being developed called Metronome?

http://www.tarsier.se/metronome/

Man that kind of thing excites me. Shuts up a lot of people too. Sure hope they get a publisher soon!

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