View Full Version : Musicians who like to compose for games!

06-07-2006, 09:30 PM
So what is it about making music for games that you guy like? Whats your highlights?

Whats different from making music for a game compaired to that of a movie or just for it's own audio enjoyment?

What would be your favorite type of game to make music for, and why?

Also what do you feel would be the next step in improving music and sound in games? As it seems that we have peeked for the last few years leaving very little to improve upon in the way of audio.

06-07-2006, 10:04 PM
I disagree: I'm am very displeased with the state of audio in current games. From the 80's to halfway the 90's we save a trend of music that was synthesized on the computer. This technology was refined more and more and went from the primitive SID6581 on the Commodore 64 to the allmighty Gravis Ultrasound. This was the golden age IMHO.

The last decade we have seen a shift from synthesized music to pre-rendered music. While this allowed composers to escape from the limitations of synthesizer chips and therefore have more freedom, the result was that because there was typically about 30-50mb available on a game CD for audio, the amount of music shipped in games was limited a lot and the quality reduced.

It was also a step into the wrong direction regarding game interaction. Music is very important to shape the atmosphere the player enjoys, and therefore should change according to events in the game.

For example Lucas Arts's Imuse system could go naturally without interruption from one song to another when you moved for example into another room, because the composers had written musical bridges from one song to the other.

Nowadays, with the pre-rendered music it is almost impossible to react to game events. The only thing possible is to interrupt a song and start another.

To make things worse, sound cards have worsened a lot. Most modern "sound cards" are only an D/A-converter, leaving all sound processing to the software. Unfortunately few software synthesizers are of good quality.

24-09-2006, 09:43 PM
First; sorry about the 2 month delay in replying. ;)

Hmm... well I agree with you there. Sound has really gone by the way-side in games and in computing in general. There is sort of a cookie-cutter approach to intergrating sound in indie-based games nowadays that disturbs me slightly. Not much thought into sound innovation in the game engine. If someone can prove me wrong, please do so, I'm waiting for just that.

The biggest innovation in digital music to date, I honestly believe was the MOD Tracker and Player. (in this, I mean to include all it's many later incarnations) No other music format had it so good. You take raw audio software samples and use them in place of hardware samples thus eliminating the issue of changing the sound from machine to machine. (which in the early days of the MIDI cards was quite drastically different if I recall correctly) Also manipulation is a hell of a lot nicer too --and can be done programatically in the engine code paving the way for new innovative ideas.

Personally I feel that the death of the Gravis Ultrasound was quite tragic. It was, by far, the better of the two leading soundcards back in those days yet if got the axe by Gravis. Poor move on their part I feel.

It's funny though... you can sort of see the lack of effort in audio in the way the market is acting. Who competes with Creative these days? Sad indeed...

15-10-2006, 05:54 PM
So what is it about making music for games that you guy like? Whats your highlights?

Whats different from making music for a game compaired to that of a movie or just for it's own audio enjoyment?

What would be your favorite type of game to make music for, and why?

Also what do you feel would be the next step in improving music and sound in games? As it seems that we have peeked for the last few years leaving very little to improve upon in the way of audio.

I'm new here, and actually not a big gamer, so you might take what i say with a grain of salt. I'm been composing music in varying degrees for a couple years, and have found that what inspires me to write one thing or another is usually something environmental, or visual, rather than simply building on the tradition of music itself. A soundtrack for a movie can compliment whatever is going on on the screen, and usually it's something that coincides with the speed of the story, and moreso introduces intensity, wherever the visuals have not. As far as gaming music, it seems like much of it has been electronic, synthetic, rather than acoustically produced music. It's one of the few outlets for experimental sounds, and that sort of stuff thrives in an environment with lots of visual effects or a fictional storyline. Sometimes it can be hard to sell a creative premise to a first-time viewer/player, so the trick is to involve as many of their senses as possible, while remaining consistant in your look and feel. of course you all know this. I think the whole attraction for me is equal and opposite to that of the game developer. we'd all like to see our talent go as far as it possibly can. Just as you might want the best treatment given to your game, I seek the same for my music.

As for music technology, I haven't been around long enough to see it take a dive. It all looks shiney and new to me.

Anyways, thanks for reading my essay of a post, and check out my other post, "need music?" cheers

Jesse Hopkins
24-03-2007, 05:14 PM
Hi, I'm Jesse Hopkins. I have been writing music full time for independent video game developers since late last year. My site and contact info is at http://www.composerarts.com

So what is it about making music for games that you guy like? Whaté─˘s your highlights?

First of all, I was born in 1975. The video game arcade craze exploded while I was a kid, and I was always very appreciative of "video game music" even when it was very synthetic. In fact, I would like to write some analogue synth scores, but so far everyone wants realistic sounds. This is not a problem, but I'd like more of a mix, especially when the game is not serious. The music for casual games could be a little less realistic, I think.

At the same time, during my childhood, John Williams ascended as the film composer to end all film composers, and I was very appreciative of his music as well. I began composing while in high school in order to try to become a film composer, all the while playing Sega Genesis and Amiga games at home. I never considered being a game composer back then, because I didn't realize you could work for many different companies. I thought it was a full time position within each developer and I wanted to hop around and do some symphonic music as well. I was highly influenced by the Russian composers of the late 19th century at that time.

In short, my love of music for games and film goes so far back that it is natural for me to pursue both. It was a real treat to work for Neil Yates at Jagged Blade soft, simply because he really wanted some great music in a style I have always admired. Examples from "Pit Warrior", release date TBA, are below.

Town Music:

Batle Music: "Forth Rode Odin"

Whaté─˘s different from making music for a game compared to that of a movie or just for it's own audio enjoyment?

When writing for a game, there is more freedom. In a film you have to conform to rigid beats and worry about more dialogue. Also, most movies are grounded in reality, at least the ones I have written music for. This results in very low-key scores with no action music and no fantastic element. Although my game music can sound like film music, it is very rare that a low budget movie seeks action music. Games have given me far more opportunity to write the type of music that I wanted to become a film composer for in the first place, ironically.

Games also allow for more originality of instrumentation. The history of game music comes from analogue synth and has moved toward orchestral, therefore one an be experimental in color, combining aspects of both. This is much like Jerry Goldsmith's approach to writing for film, and I would like to write something like his rejected score for "Legend" or his hybrid score for "Logan's Run" for a game.

What would be your favorite type of game to make music for, and why?

My favorite would be an Action/RPG because of the emotional characteristic present in these games, while still retaining plenty of chances for action music. But the action music is not empty, as it takes place along a story or quest. The story of a game gives me ideas, and I like to be able to write action music with meaning rather than purely visceral pieces meant to pump your adrenaline. RPGs in general allow for a great amount of exploratory music which can be very free in form, and can also range from dangerous to happy.

However, I also see that a simple shooter could use action music that does more than provide a thrill. Most games have a story, even if it is a small one. The music in every game could help tell the story, from the point of view of the main character. Imagine a mindless shooter that took cues as much from the opening scroll as from the nature of the gameplay.

Also what do you feel would be the next step in improving music and sound in games? As it seems that we have peeked for the last few years leaving very little to improve upon in the way of audio.

Although audio in games is technically rock solid. There are still a number of things that could improve game audio production. Below is a list of suggested improvements, most of which would require a communal participation, and are therefore highly utopian:

1) Successful game developers should unite to pay a studio orchestra year round. If you want my music to sound like the score to Conan the Barbarian, you are never going to get it with even the best synths. If orchestral music is becoming such a needed resource in games, then why not follow the film music model in collectively contracting an on-call orchestra? This could be cheap if a number of successful developers with high output all formed a game orchestra for use with their releases. The money could all be made back in online album releases. There are thousands of film music collectors who would gladly buy great game scores if they were actual orchestral performances. Nobody except fans of the game buy orchestral synth game scores. Also, real symphonic music raises the value of a game. I don't care what people say about "you can't tell the difference". There is a difference that effects how the player experiences the game, even on a subconscious level. I lessen that difference through humanistic rendering of breath, bow, etc. but real players are always preferable when the goal is a symphonic score.

2) If you want control over lots of revisions, offer to pay a little more. Composers would love to have unlimited time to write, but unfortunately, time is money. A number unpaid revisions on each musical piece can cut into the overall quality of a game score simply because it lowers the amount of time available for composing. A composer would love to be able to afford to spend all the time needed to create his or her best work, but this can be impossible if the job is endangering their financial well being. Rather than moving on to other work, a composer might get stuck on one project, composing 3 times as much music as commissioned in the same time it takes to compose 1 score. Therefore clear communication from the beginning is important, rather than relying on many unpaid revisions to reach a goal. The developer ends up satisfied for having had so much say, but the composer knows he had to rush some things, and the developer doesn't know he lost 10% of the composer's abilities by compressing his work time.

3) Sell mp3s and split profits with composers. The developer usually owns the music, but the composer often retains writers share, which means 50% of album sales. The composer and the developer will create better music if the music becomes a commercial commodity. Of course, this should be a little bonus for both the developer and the composer, and should not effect the overall musical direction. But in knowing the music will be sold separately for monetary gains, both parties will ensure highest quality in composition and presentation. This may also increase customer awareness and word of mouth for the developer if the music is really good. Also, there are no production costs by selling digital downloads instead of CD hard copies.

4) More explosions! Even if your game does not require explosions, you need to wake the player up now and then! I want to see a Bejeweled or a Diner Dash where all of the sudden everything explodes, and the player is assaulted with a sonic boom that may do danger to their sound system.... OK, so I couldn't think of a 4th improvement, but come to think of it, I would like a game like that for its sheer absurdist humor. Perhaps too much Python in my youth.

-Jesse Hopkins