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aldonbaker

Why Orchestral music is best for video games?

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Many people tend to be drawn to the electronic element of music to fit their game. I think this is because electronic sounds go with electronic engines and games are meant to feel like they are made? I disagree with this, games are beginning to feel. Computers and electronic sounds CAN NOT FEEL. An orchestra is many human beings in a room playing with their own individual emotions all combined. This is something missing that can bring a game from good to great. If you have music that makes you feel, with characters that have a story, and a game engine that is seamless and nice to look at... you can have a great game.

 

I think many people give up the idea of having orchestral music for their game because they think of budget. You don't need a full live orchestra hired for your game to make it sound nearly as good. All you need is a few soloist players, hitting on what my previous article talked about... Cello is very common in game scores. One solo cellist over a "mocked up" orchestra can mean a lot for emotion's sake. The emotional and sonic depth that is attributed to orchestras can drastically change how someone views the game, let alone how they remember it. 

 

The term "mockup" in orchestral music world means that we have many of samples of recordings. Some DAW's have engines or players to combine these samples into an instrument. Large orchestras have been sampled, and they are expensive. Most libraries aren't cheap... however it's worth the price. Serious game and film composers have bought these libraries to write with. If you combine these libraries that have possibly hundreds of players on them, with one or two live player to heighten up the soloistic sounds. 

 

We make a game so that it has a positive response and a good playing experience so that people will buy it, tell other people to play it, and so on. 

 

With this all being said, you can get affordable orchestral music for your game WITHOUT hiring an orchestra. I challenge everyone with the capacity to have orchestral music to try it.

 

All that, but here's an example of one I've done with part live players and part live. I re-scored this video, this is an interactive engine working in FMOD.

 

LISTEN HERE

 

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Oh, but you have opened up such a squirming, icky, tragic can of worms here.

I'm halfway behind you here: I almost always consider orchestral music to be the gold standard when it comes to media music one way or the other. But I think the trouble with incorporating orchestra music into gaming is simple:

1. Live orchestral music is unthinkable (except for the poshest AAA titles).
2. Sampled orchestral music sounds more 'fake' than sampled electronic / popish sounds.

You're right that sweetening the MIDI orchestra with live players can do wonder, but since orchestra music is the most refined and most nuanced of all music, it's also the flat-out hardest to emulate. As committed as I am to composing good orchestral music for games, I honestly, really don't blame producers who pass on it.


Great track, by the way, especially in your mixing of live recording with sampled library. Here's a cut of one of my MIDI pieces with a live opener (any tips would be welcome!):

https://soundcloud.com/evan-witt/theescapeoftheotters


 

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Computers and electronic sounds CAN NOT FEEL

Nope, YOU cannot feel what the computer and electronic sounds has to say. Is there really a difference between the musician behind his cello and the musician behind his screen? They both have the same goal smile.png

 

 

 

Why Orchestral music is best for video games?

Yes, it's not.

 

As Keith G said it's all about context. Some games will sound better with electronic sound, and other not.

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About the piece you linked: the ambient parts sounded much more realistic to my ear than the action parts did. The mix was also better during the ambient sections than during the combat ones. Overall, however, I didn't feel a strong connection between the game's visuals and the music composed for this video. There was also quite a bit of bleeding over, which could be really cool when done well but in this video it felt sloppy. At least to my ears. The space that your percussion "lived in" felt very different from the space the other instruments, particularly the woodwinds, lived in. So what we're left with, as players, is several streams of music that sound different from each other (even down to the types of reverb and balance of the ensemble). That takes me out of the experience and draws attention to what's happening behind the curtain, instead of not even noticing it. And that's the real goal - isn't it? I remember an interview with one of the leads at Pixar who said (and I'm paraphrasing) "if you do your job right, the audience won't even notice your work." In other words, it wont draw attention to itself but will just exists, perfectly, in the world you're creating. 

 

Jack Wall did an amazing talk about interactive music and how he and his team got Wwise to seamlessly transition from various cues based on game events in a way that really felt organic. It felt like the music was composed that way. It was always supposed to go from A to B. Then on another play through you'd hear it from A to C and it also felt very natural and like that was the natural course of the music. 

 

Just my thoughts!

 

Thanks, 

 

Nate

Edited by nsmadsen

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I believe that Nate has listened to the AC video with the view that no Sound design or sound effects should be prevalent. The Music is mixed up as it should be for a demo because there is nothing else for it to compete with. No dialogue, sound design, foley, etc. 

 

Also, that recording was a live ensemble mixed by a professional film/game scoring engineer, so to say it sounds fake in parts sort of has me question your credibility a tad. :D

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I believe that Nate has listened to the AC video with the view that no Sound design or sound effects should be prevalent. The Music is mixed up as it should be for a demo because there is nothing else for it to compete with. No dialogue, sound design, foley, etc. 

 

No, that's not at all what I mean. I was saying that your mixing of the music itself differed from segment A (ambient) and segment B (combat). That's not a good thing if you're going to toggle between the two. I then referenced some games that have done this VERY well in hopes that you'd do some research and see how interactive music (to this degree) was accomplished. Furthermore, the implementation of the music via middleware was sloppy. This is my opinion. If you disagree with it, that's completely fine. 

 


Also, that recording was a live ensemble mixed by a professional film/game scoring engineer, so to say it sounds fake in parts sort of has me question your credibility a tad. biggrin.png

 

I knew you had some real players in the mix along with some virtual. You seem to gloss over the other points I brought up and want to take this to a personal level. I don't. I'm simply giving my input and, in general, your post seemed to be more about promoting yourself and spamming this board than an actual discussion. Feel free to question my credibility all you want. I'll let my work and my credentials speak for themselves.

 

I stand by my comments and know that I offered them up to you in a critical but constructive manner. In other words - take it or leave it. Have a good one.

 

Thanks!

 

Nate

Edited by nsmadsen

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EDIT: PS: Be sure to check out Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Enya, Brian Eno, and so much more for great examples of "feeling" synths.

 

I would like to add Mike Oldfield to that list ;)

Although I found the OP a tad presumptuous I enjoyed reading all your responses, good stuff thx!

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I think it comes down to that epic'ness.

 

When you have a orchestra even just from a sample library you can imagine the number of players and even the sort of space needed for that (both BIG!)

 

With electronic music it's hard to evoke that same sort of feeling (not impossible) it will just need a whole lot more work whereas orchestral instruments can get you most of the way there quicker in a way.

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Saying "Orchestral Music is best for gaming" is like saying the color red is best for painting. There are many different styles of music that can each convey their own emotions and they all have their place in gaming.

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I am actually pretty bored by the recent trend of super-epic-orchestral-hollywood-schmaltz game soundtracks. There are some soundtracks that combine classical with modern elements however, these tend to catch my interest. Deus Ex: HR OST by Michael McCann comes to mind.

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Feeling is a derivation of notes, timbre, and ideas.  3 lines of synthesizer can be just as expressive as 20 lines of orchestra and choir.

Yes sadly, recent 'super epic' soundtracks have been done badly...really badly, chosen merely for the fact that it's orchestra and not because it offers the greatest depth and breadth of expression, or because it is appropriate and fits.

Far too many composers obsessed with looking the part and how their work sounds; than what it actually is, or achieves within the listener.

 

At the end of the day, you're there to take the player through the game, and control their perceptions of it; It's not just feelings or mood, there's a LOT more to it than that.

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 I think this is because electronic sounds go with electronic engines and games are meant to feel like they are made? [...] games are beginning to feel. Computers and electronic sounds CAN NOT FEEL.
What?

 

Seriously, how can you even begin a discussion of anything with something so subjective and so meaningless as that. That just tells me flat out that you're not trying to discuss anything.

 

Just tell me how you can have a game like Deus Ex Human Revolution without electronic music. How you can have a game like any Megaman without electronic music? I'm gonna get ahead of myself and tell that you can't.

 

Then again, you can't have Skyrim's dovahkiin theme without 60 guys singing with epic drums and string/wind instruments. I'll give you that.

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When you say "orchestral", do you mean an orchestra specifically, or any live music?

 

Despite not being too much of a rock or metal fan (or whatever - I can't tell music genres apart), I find it enjoyable and attention-grabbing (in a good way) when some games go for more non-traditional soundtracks for their games.

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I make orchestral music and feel that is brings out the most emotion possible if done well.  I always prefer orchestral over electronic in an RPG, and SiFi themes I like a hybrid of orchestral with electonic sound scapes. 

 

PS

 

I am Steve. I am a Sound Engineer and a composer from Vancouver, Canada. I make fantasy music and am currently working on a project called Lost Worlds. Please take a listen and let me know your thoughts. My Goal is to have my music on a game or tv show one day.
 
 
steveplaysaxe@hotmail.com

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