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Enochulous

Video Game Composing Software

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Im a composer looking to make video game music. I have 2 years of experience and I want to make music for people. I need reccomended software and I also wanted to work with anyone who needs a musician for their game. Thanks lots for suggestions or offers to make music. Im not professionial but I do have skills and I want to make music for people. 

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Two years experience doing what, exactly? A little more background will be necessary in order to better understand your needs. However, we can start with the most basic, and go from there.

First of all, in all likelihood, you will need a software program in which to actually produce the music. You may write it or compose it however which way you'd like (including notation software like Finale or Sibelius, on paper, or just in your head), but once you're making the music, it needs to be realized somehow, and this is usually accomplished with a DAW, or "digital audio workstation" (sometimes known as a sequencer, if you're programming MIDI). There is a plethora of options from which to choose, ranging from free to several hundred dollars, but the choice often comes down to what your needs are and personal preference. Often we learn one and just stick with it simply because it was the first one we learned, but branching out can also expand your horizons as some are better at certain tasks than others.

If you have a Mac, a good (free) starting choice is GarageBand, as it will get you familiar with the basics of producing and recording music in a DAW, and can, in goods hands, produce decent results. Once you get the hang of that, you can "graduate" to Logic, which is available from Apple for a measly $200. Other common options for both PC and Mac include Cubase and Digital Performer, both of which are about $500. There are several others, including FL Studio, Sonar, Reason, and many more.

 

Another option if you plan to do any live performance (or if your compositional process involves jamming or improvisation) is Ableton Live, though it differs significantly in functionality from the others I have mentioned as it is loop-based, rather than linear. (It has a free demo though, so knock yourself out).

 

You may also consider ProTools. Although ProTools is typically used for mixing tracks after they've already been written and recorded, or for recording sessions, many composers like composing straight into it, though in the past its MIDI capabilities were sub-par (something which, I'm told, has improved of late). However, ProTools can be quite the investment compared to other DAWS, especially the HD version, and it also requires a special licensing dongle known as an iLok, which must be plugged in at all times.

(Sidenote: You may want to consider getting an iLok anyway (version 2), even if you don't get ProTools, as many other software programs require it to operate; it's about $50.)

Next up, even if you plan to record live instruments, you will likely need digital instruments to work with as well. Assuming you have some knowledge of MIDI, you would write the music in on a piano roll or sequencer environment within the DAW using either a mouse or a MIDI input device such as a digital piano or drum pad. There are two main varieties of softsynths: synthesizers and digital samples.

Synthesizers generate a tone on the fly via an oscillator (or two, or three...) based on parameters or presets in the instrument, while digital samples are recordings of live instruments or analog synths which have been laid out across the piano. Many DAWs come with at least a basic selection of softsynths to choose from, but many more options exist out there and that is far beyond the scope of this primer. Most softsynths will run in some kind of sampler, which is loaded into the sequencer or DAW as a plugin on a channel strip or audio track. A common one is Kontakt, which is a definite must-have (from Native Instruments), though there are other proprietary samplers, such as PLAY (from EastWest).

If you're just starting out, you may consider large collections of softsynths, which often include several individual instrument libraries bundled together at a significant discount. While they aren't always the best available, it is something to get you started if you have nothing else, particularly if you plan to write for orchestra. While you may find yourself someday writing for a live orchestra, directors and producers of all kinds of media have become accustomed to hearing a relatively realistic (or at least representative) mockup of your music, and so there is no excuse at this point to not provide one (unless you're John Williams...)

 

You may also consider effects plugins like EQ, reverb, delay, etc, etc, though most DAWS come with at least a basic set to get you started. This is often a deciding factor as to which DAW a composer uses for a particular project, but don't worry about that right now if you're just starting out.

 

So now you've written the score to the game and are ready to hand it off to the developer. How will it be implemented into the game? While many independent developers will hard code the music into the game for simplicity, especially if it consists of static loops, more sophisticated interactive scores will require something called "middleware", so-called as it interfaces between the audio of the game and the game itself. The most common examples include FMOD and Wwise. Both are worth looking into, though there are other options in this category as well. Both FMOD and Wwise are free to download and experiment with (they make money via licensing), so it would be good to familiarize yourself with the possibilities and basic capabilities of middleware, as this will open up many new avenues for composing as well.

All of this assumes you have hardware to work with, like studio monitors, an audio interface, a MIDI keyboard, maybe a microphone or two, a computer of some kind...

TL;DR: Pick a DAW, buy a few softsynths, and familiarize yourself with common middleware concepts. And write good music!

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The post above is way excessive. I've done professional composition before using only Reason 5, laptop and decent headphones (and some of that was for video games). What you need:

-Decent program to compose in (e.g. Reason, Fruity Loops, Logic, Abelton)
-Decent speakers or headphones

-A computer or laptop that can run that stuff.
-Skills

 

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It might be enough to make music for some video games the same way as you do music for film and whatnot. And I agree some game makers want it this way.

 

It's definitly not enough if you want to make legit very adaptive video game music, you need at least Wwise or FMOD for it. Unless you just compose and tell the people at the studio to do it for you but then you might miss on some contracts especially with the smaller studios.

Edited by Valoon

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Like most DAWs, Reason comes with bundled synths, effects, and a mixing rack, but none of that is particularly useful if you don't know what you're looking at. My assumption was that the poster is starting from a point of zero knowledge and so I explained the different types of software available to them and a few examples.

Edited by nateynate

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Just about all DAWs out there come with a demo/trial mode. Some of them limit features, others limit the amount of time you can use them while in demo/trial mode. But this will help you get an idea of what you like and don't like. Then I'd recommend checking out Youtube for plenty of tutorial videos. From there, once you've learned how to make good music with the program, you'll need to learn about audio engines so check out Fmod, Wwise and others. Again, Youtube has a ton tutorials.

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It all depends on your budget. If you have a lower budget; there's FL Studio and Reaper. If you have a higher budget; there's stuff like Reason, Ableton Live and Cubase. Personally I've only used FL Studio and it's great if you want a program with an easy to use piano roll. It goes for about $99. Combine it with a couple good sample libraries and you can pretty much create any type of music.

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It all depends on your budget. If you have a lower budget; there's FL Studio and Reaper. If you have a higher budget; there's stuff like Reason, Ableton Live and Cubase. Personally I've only used FL Studio and it's great if you want a program with an easy to use piano roll. It goes for about $99. Combine it with a couple good sample libraries and you can pretty much create any type of music.

 

While Young is mostly correct, you need to factor in buying 3rd party libraries and even some 3rd party plugs when using Reaper. It does have some built in plugs but no built in sounds. This is where the cost savings (when comparing Reaper to other DAWs) actually gets skewed. FL Studio does have lots of it's own sounds but if you wanna buy a large amount of sounds then you could end up spending just as much if not more than other DAWs.

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And while budget is certainly gonna be a factor, workflow (preferences) will be a huge factor as well. For example FL Studio and Reason does things quite differently than Cubase or Logic, etc.

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