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Gixander

Music composed during creation or after it's done...what do you think?

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Quite a simple question really for my first post. As a composer myself, I've worked in many different formats (orchestra, concert band, marching band, etc.) and instrumentations (symphonic band, flute choir, etc. as well). But the main question I have is which people feel makes music better: 1) When the music is composed at the same time as the game is developed?, or 2) When the music is composed after the entire game is completed? One of those things that I wonder, because it seems a big divide even in the Help Wanted forums betweens projects that say that they are done with the main part of the game (I don't count programming as part of it, since the programming language itself doesn't actually affect the storyline you had in mind...or maybe it does?) and they are looking for artists or musicians or whatever, and then there are those who say they haven't started yet and are looking for whatever help they can find. So, what say you? Is music better when it evolves alongside the game, or is it best left to compose against the final picture?

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It is possible to write music for a project before it is at the usual stage for sound work but it means the team REALLY has to know exactly what they want. The problem I've encountered with some teams is that they have no idea what they want. Some think they do, but once the game starts taking form the design direction changes. This can sometimes mean any music (or any other assets) created before the design direction changed now doesn't fit right.

It can happen, but overall, I'd be willing to bet that very few teams (especially younger ones) can have such a clear vision of their game. It usually takes a few months of all of the other departments getting things settled down first to have a true grasp of the game and it's direction. Heck, this happens in large, professional teams as well.

So, I'd say: It's rare to have this approach turn out well, but I have had it happen.

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For any solo projects that I make that have music, I like to start running through ideas as soon as possible. I find the music helps bring all the other elements together.

However, that's for the special case as the hobbyist projects were small and the design, programming, art and music are done by the same person. If I were contracting out the music I would wait until the game was at least a solid alpha if not beta.

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I like it best to be involved with the game development from the start, by involved I mean, knowing what is being developed and which direction they are taking. Which in the course of development can change several times. Like Trapper said, you can begin developing ideas by doing so. I don't compose or do a lot of sound at that time, I do that in the alpha. As Nathan said it is rare that it is done other wise.

I believe the seasoned developers understand that it is the best way to do it, while I think the new developers have more of a "shopping" mentality, which is to say, "I know I'm going to need this I just don't know when, so I'll go ahead and grab one."



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For independent projects, where a project lead just requests discrete assets for a game--I believe it should be finished first--I believe it is better if it is finished first.

Then the contracted audio professional can assist the project lead in understanding good audio design, a skill best outsourced to those who do it well.


For a project with an audio director who works closely with the team, I'd rather it be simultaneous--then the audio can be a part of the design/concepting process. They can feed into eachother.

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Original post by Dannthr
For a project with an audio director who works closely with the team, I'd rather it be simultaneous--then the audio can be a part of the design/concepting process. They can feed into eachother.


Agreed

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Simple. It is best if the musik is composed AS the game is being designed, not after. Why? The musik is a crucial part of a game's setting and emotional flow so having it helps shape and inspire the game's direction, often feeding into it an extra layer of depth. Our game wouldn't be what it is now without the wonderful soundtrack to listen to as we're working on the non-musikal portions.

Musik is NOT just an enhancement, it is a key part in enveloping a player and submersing them into the game's world. It can have a play on both emotion and really get your adrenaline pumping for the heart-pounding battles or move a player to tears during a tragick scene. Musik is powerful in a game.

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My general pattern (for now 2 game projects) has been to come up with themes and ideas during gameplay, but wait until the rest of the game is basically complete to do the actual sound mixes.

Thematic ideas are easy to mold into different forms - look at film scores, where a single theme can be used in a multitude of situations by variations in harmony, instrumentation, etc. Themes and mockups of instrumentations with themes can help give developers an idea of what things might sound like, what the ideas are. Obviously, the more malleable (yet memorable) a theme that you've written is, the easier it is to weave it in and out of a musical track.

However, I would (and do) personally hold off on making the final instrumentation/orchestrations until after the level design is very near complete. Being able to really see what a level looks like can make differences in how I would want to build the track.

In my current game, I have another reason to write the actual tracks after the fact: because it's an auto-scrolling game (along the lines of Gradius/Raiden/Tyrian), and the level patterns are going to be set, I can write a piece that lasts the full length of the level, and really matches the action (weaving danger/victory themes into the music at appropriate points to make the music much more indicative of what is happening on-screen). Certainly, I wouldn't want to do that until the level is near-complete :)

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Quote:
Original post by EkIchiGames
Simple. It is best if the musik is composed AS the game is being designed, not after. Why? The musik is a crucial part of a game's setting and emotional flow so having it helps shape and inspire the game's direction, often feeding into it an extra layer of depth. Our game wouldn't be what it is now without the wonderful soundtrack to listen to as we're working on the non-musikal portions.

Musik is NOT just an enhancement, it is a key part in enveloping a player and submersing them into the game's world. It can have a play on both emotion and really get your adrenaline pumping for the heart-pounding battles or move a player to tears during a tragick scene. Musik is powerful in a game.


This works great only if the rest of the team has a solid idea and direction set in place. If they don't, then it can become frustrating and wasteful to someone's time and energy. Understand what I'm saying: writing a few songs and then having a direction change isn't as harmful, but writing 10 songs then having a direction or style change render the completed music inappropriate can hurt morale and cause a good deal of back tracking.

It depends more on the rest of the team and less on the composer. I've worked in both situations and there are pros and cons to both. As many have pointed out though, being able to get in-game and play the actual level with the music is invaluable. You can't do that if you're writing ahead of (or sometimes even right along) the dev cycle.

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