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BellJ

Basics of Looping and adaptive scoring?

7 posts in this topic

Hi everyone,

I've never written a game score. I've written a few animated short scores (as exersices more than anything), but never anything for games. I was wondering excactly how the music is adapted to the game. For example, when something happens in a game, which cues music, is it the job of the composer to manage this, or do they just make the music and someone else edits it into the game? Also, is all of the video game soundtrack looped, or are there points without looped soundtracks?

Sorry for the confusing (yet basic) questions.

Thanks!

Jeremy

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Hi Jeremy,

I come from a similar background (a few animated shorts) and from both orchestral and EDM music, but I think I can shed some light on this one mainly because I am now learning a thing or two about FMOD or Wwise.

My understanding is that it would be the audio programmer job to implement this, however what I can see if that both FMOD and Wwise allow you to configure parameters and switches by yourself, so I assume whoever can do this on their end will greatly held the audio programmers, however I saw composer answering the same question and saying that is "none of the composer's business". I do not think this is actually true anymore with the growing interactivity of the tracks.

About the "looping" I guess it really depends from what the game demands, however I saw that even if the music is looping, it does not need to be repetitive: you can program music in small modules that go well with each other and that are randomized: think a musical version of Temple Run.

I hope other, more expert people, can add to the discussion, I would be interested in hearing more! ;)

Fabio

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I was wondering excactly how the music is adapted to the game.

 

It depends on how the music is composed and what assets the game is using. For example, the process for implementing MIDI-sample bank style music versus streaming audio differs quite a bit.

 

 

 

For example, when something happens in a game, which cues music, is it the job of the composer to manage this, or do they just make the music and someone else edits it into the game?

 

Depends on the team. I've implemented my own music for a video game client before but usually there's a programmer who's implementing the content. It's the composer's job to help test and make sure things are working as he or she intended.

 

Also, is all of the video game soundtrack looped, or are there points without looped soundtracks?

 

There are most certainly spots which are not looped - like cinematic cut scenes are levels which are set in time/length.

 

 

 

Sorry for the confusing (yet basic) questions.

 

No problem!

Edited by nsmadsen
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In event based music, basically an event system is created by the programmer, first. So the groundwork has to be decided before the system is designed (and tracks made).  Sometimes it's a simple fade out track one, fade in track two.  The more complicated your event system, the more tracks you'll need to layer.  This should probably be a collaborative effort between the coder and the composer.   The event system would keep track of a segment of the loop and, say, if the event-state changed in the middle of the loop, it would wait to finish the loop and then play the next one in line depending on what state the event-system is in.  As you can imagine, this is very tedious and complicated operation plus it usually requires the teamwork of at least one coder and one musician so that's probably why it isn't done often.  A lot can go wrong.

 

When it comes to the artistic direction of the music I have had people give me absolutely no direction what so ever up front.  It would probably make a good article (Questions you should ask the project lead to hone in on the right sound perhaps?)  Sometimes the project lead has a good idea what it should sound like, but an atrocious ability to describe it to you.  

Edited by Keith G
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When it comes to the artistic direction of the music I have had people give me absolutely no direction what so ever up front.  It would probably make a good article (Questions you should ask the project lead to hone in on the right sound perhaps?)  Sometimes the project lead has a good idea what it should sound like, but an atrocious ability to describe it to you.  

 

This topic has come up often at conventions and lectures like GDC. I've always preferred to discuss everything but the music. Tell me the emotion(s) the player should feel. Describe or show me the world. What's the pace/mood of this level? What's the overall plot of the game and where does this level/spot of the game fit into it? Etc. 

 

If you must discuss actual music, go this route: 

 

If you could put any soundtrack in your game, what would it be and why? Ask for several references to help triangulate the musical goal. 

 

And by all means - avoid musical terminology, even if the project lead thinks they know something about music. Because I've had it backfire before. Instead, discuss tangibles that orbit around the music so you, as the musical expert, can understand what kind of gap the music needs to fill. After all, discussing music can be highly subjective and some terms don't always mean the same thing. Case in point: I once had a Disney exec tell me to make a piece happy and peaceful like this reference piece: 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izQsgE0L450

 

Perhaps Adagio could be conveyed as peaceful but happy? No way! So in this case, thankfully I'd ask for no less than three references per theme and a paragraph describing the level and plot at that point in the game. I leaned on those other references and completely ignored Adagio for Strings, although I love the piece!

Edited by nsmadsen
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Thanks for all the replies!

Yeah, it'll be interesting to interact with non musical gamemakers. Especially if they suggest Adagio for Strings for a happy scene!

So would you say, compared to film music which is often the last thing that's added to the movie, that a game composer is more involved during the actual production of the game? And, regarding event based music, is that growing in popularity or diminishing?

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A composer is definitely involved sooner than most film projects. Mainly because the composer has to know how the game engine is going to work - which will impact how the music can be implemented. Especially for games like Mass Effect, which have large dialog trees where it branch could possibly alter the game's plot greatly down the line. 

 

Instance or event based music is growing in my opinion. Sure, some games use omnipresent, looping music but that's usually because they're chasing a retro look and feel or they're on a device with limited capabilities. 

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Yeah that's what I thought. I was just curious to get into the game scoring industry. I guess gamedev and indiegamer are a good place to start!

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