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kriss17388

The Importance of soundtrack for video games...

33 posts in this topic

Hi everyone,

im studying sound design technology and i am doing a report on 'The Importance of sound track for computer games.

I was about to start but i thought it would be really cool to see what you guys think,

im not doing this to make my report easier, i just want to make it a more 'rounded report',

if you have any views, please share,

Thanx,

Chris C

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My view is that a soundtrack (of any kind, not just video game music) is intended to help set the mood that the creator of said video game, movie, whatever - intended. Its basically to enhance the experience of in this case, a video game level, thus making it more enjoyable.

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Having an appropriate theme or style to a game is a very important thing. Some Sonic games had music that just didn't fit; they actually made the game slightly unappealing.

A game like Starcraft or Homeworld had sort of fitting music, but it was honestly just not quite right for the settings involved. I often just make a custom playlist in Winamp and run it in the background. Homeworld had a limited soundtrack, and it was highly repetitive. Starcraft had the same thing. I dig the Terran theme, but it's just too guitary. The Protoss theme was far more fitting, and even that got a little tiring after a while. Zerg was just... ouch, can't listen to it very much.

I think another important aspect is how simple or complex a theme is. Take the Mario themes. Most were done with only basic notes, and yet there are lots of remixes and orchestral versions. They lend themselves towards expansion and conversion into other forms of music. Nowadays, you have lots of themes that go straight to grandiose live orchestral performances because they can, and most of them feel incomplete or hollow. There seems to be a lack of effort into the basic composition, and more concentration in epicness.

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Music is there to enhance the mood of the setting. The thing is, there is some differentiation between cultures in what feels like what. Asian cultures use the pentatonic scale for their music, including sorrowful pieces. I don't feel it.

Harmonic Minor sounds extremely dramatic and evil to me, however in eastern cultures it's a happy-sounding mode.

My dad thinks that music incorporating the minor 9th interval is beautiful. I think it's extremely tense, on par with a diminished 5th. I love both intervals, though.

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Music is a core part of almost any video game genre. Personally, however, I give an exception to MMORPGs because they do not efficiently set an appropriate mood to the action. Like TheDamned, I play my own music in Winamp in the background. Some games like Counter-Strike don't even have music while you play (normally.) The latest generation of consoles allow you to play your own music while playing games, a feature that was not available before. Even games like Metal Gear Solid 4 allow you to listen to music tracks found as items in the game world on your virtual iPod.

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I think most games can be compared to movies in a lot of ways, ever watched a scary movie or intense car chase with the sound turned off? Epic factor goes waaaay down. The soundtrack to a game compiments a game just like a movie soundtrack compliments a movie. Movie scores are often amazing pieces of music and, if they were missing, the movie would definitly be missing something. Ever imagine a movie without any music at all? Ugh!

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The more I think about it, the more I feel like soundtracks aren't necessary for video games. In the 8-bit era, the music was there to help bring the player into the game, because the graphics sure weren't gonna do that. Now, with the rise of, you know, GRAPHICS, and especially the genre of art games, I would really love to see and play a video game designed to be silent, relying wholly on graphics, design, and gameplay to hook the player.

That said, I do love my video game music and sill freely admit that it is an integral part of the video game as it exists today.

I guess I just don't think it neccesarily HAS to be?

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The music in games has always been, for me, the second most important aspect of the game (after being fun to play, e.g. good gameplay). I would actually take a game with mediocre graphics and a good soundtrack over a game with great graphics and a terrible soundtrack any day. The primary effect of the music is to really draw the player into the experience at an aural level. The music, used in conjunction with the visuals, sets the mood of the game. This is, or at least should be, universally applicable.

For example, in Metal Gear Solid, there's quiet, atmospheric music playing throughout most of the game. It doesn't intrude on the experience; to the contrary, it brings you in. On the other end of the spectrum, there is Mega Man, a series known for particularly good music throughout its various incarnations. Often times, the 8 boss stages set this fun mood, while the Wily Stages have music that conveys this feeling of "this is it, Dr. Wily, I'm coming for you!"

In between these two examples, you have Final Fantasy and Zelda. A Final Fantasy game without that Main Theme at the beginning just feels like something is missing, but when you hear it, it's like "this is the beginning of an epic adventure," and it gets you into that mood and mindset. Addressing the Zelda example, when I hear that heroic overworld theme, I just want to go out and slash some stuff up while exploring everything around me.

I have one final example I'd like to address. In the N64 game Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage, the music was practically nonexistent, and unquestionably without any semblance of memorability. The graphics were terrible as well, but I actually was able to get past the graphics. The horrible music, however, I was not able to get past. It tried to set an ambient mood, but failed to do so effectively, and thus further worsened an already bad game. I still say that THQ owes me my $50 back for that game.

I know this is kind of long-winded, so I'll get to the point. Game soundtracks are indispensible aspects of the medium because they help to fill in the void left in their absence. A bad soundtrack can militate against the quality of a game just as much as bad graphics (though less than terrible gameplay). A good soundtrack can improve the quality of a game, even if the game has certain other flaws. As a result, developers need to recognize the necessity of a good (and appropriate) soundtrack, and they must then put the proper resources into the development of one.

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Music in games is what can make or break a game for me anymore. Sure, that sounds picky, but I don't Punk Rock mixing in with a game that's supposed to be peaceful and serene (not that I don't like Punk). Many games have great music. Take for example what the Follin Brothers did for games like PLOK! Or what Tim Follin did for Ecco: Defender of the Future, which has been getting lots of play through on my MP3 player

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In the past, before games had voice-overs and substantial ambient effects, music was key to setting the proper mood in a game. Music gave depth to characters, story, action, etc. that could not otherwise be gleaned by the primitive graphics, etc.

In modern games, where gameplay is somewhat modeled on cinema, it adds thematic / dramatic effect.

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Counterpoint for all these people saying music is necessary.

it might be important to talk about games that don't include a real soundtrack for the levels/game. Ico was highly successful in capturing mood and ambience but hardly had any music at all. What, you have the ending theme and the save music. That's it. Nothing in game. The soundtrack pretty much becomes just the ambient sounds in the environment. Music just can't add anything to the game because it's simply not there, but critics and fans alike hail it as one of the most immersive games to ever be produced. Clearly, music isn't a necessity.

Not saying keeping music out in all cases gives you better emotive qualities in general, but some games can benefit from a lack of music, just because we are so used to hearing music, thus expecting it to fill in a void where the graphics and ambience cannot, it jars us and forces us to really listen to the world (if done correctly). It's simple and effective, and again, very few games can get away with this, but Ico, again, does it very well. Exceedingly well, which in itself can almost prove the opposite point of what most people are stating above. Simple sounds of the world around the player can be just as effective, and at times, perhaps more so.

You have games like Shadow of the Colossus, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, all of which have their emotions and moods defined by by the music, and then you have Ico, that is emotionally defined by its distinct lack of music, which only further enhances the ambient qualities of the game. It's a two way street, really. It honestly just depends on the game, and I know that's a cop-out answer, but it's true.

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Counterpoint for all these people saying music is necessary.

it might be important to talk about games that don't include a real soundtrack for the levels/game. Ico was highly successful in capturing mood and ambience but hardly had any music at all. What, you have the ending theme and the save music. That's it. Nothing in game. The soundtrack pretty much becomes just the ambient sounds in the environment. Music does not add to the game, but critics and fans alike hail it as one of the most immersive games to ever be produced.

Not saying keeping music out in all cases gives you better emotive qualities, but some games can benefit from a lack of music, just because we are so used to hearing music, thus expecting it to fill in a void where the graphics and ambience cannot jars us and forces us to really listen. It's simple and effective, and again, very few games can get away with this, but Ico, again, does it very well. Exceedingly well, which in itself can almost prove the opposite point of what most people are stating above. Simple sounds of the world around the player can be just as effective, and at times, perhaps more so.

You have games like Shadow of the Colossus that are almost defined by the music, and then you have Ico, that is defined by its lack of music. It's a two way street.

This is pretty much what I meant. But you said it better and more clearly :3

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Some argue that lack of music is also a form of music, and Strike911's example is a good one.

Anyway, like so many have said before, music sets the tone of a game, be it to convey character when the technlogy couldn't incorporate voices and faces, or to set the scene. I mean, what would Monkey Island be without the music?

Here's an idea, kriss, picka a game where you can shut off the music. Shut it off, and play some other music, from a different game instead. See what effect that has on the mood of the game.

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Game soundtracks are indispensible aspects of the medium because they help to fill in the void left in their absence. A bad soundtrack can militate against the quality of a game just as much as bad graphics (though less than terrible gameplay). A good soundtrack can improve the quality of a game, even if the game has certain other flaws. As a result, developers need to recognize the necessity of a good (and appropriate) soundtrack, and they must then put the proper resources into the development of one.

Hear, hear! I agree, also, with Strike911 on the point that ambient sounds can successfully substitute for music when appropriate. Take Eternal Darkness, for example. I tried but couldn't remember a track from that game and then I realized: it was almost entirely ambient sound. But that was perfect to build the mood and create an engrossing, highly enjoyable game.

That said, I think our standards for music in games have increased exponentially over time. We expect high quality tunes in modern games simply because there are precedents of great game music which are a basis for comparison. This makes it a little bit more difficult to create a lauded OST. DjSammyG is correct in that emphasis may have shifted to the visual component of a game (an obvious choice as it is the primary sensory input for most) at the expense of music.

All in all, music can be an integral part of a game but may be outweighed in importance by a number of other factors: visual appeal, storyline, accessibility, fun, etc. These other components may still create a great game. Now that Wii Music is coming out, it will be interesting to see if a game based almost solely on music will succeed as well as those in which music is important, but not predominant.

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As a casual gamer, the music in a game is sometimes the only reason i play a game nowadays. Games can be a pretty incredible synthesis of the arts if done right/well. If only Wagner was alive today...

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A game like Starcraft or Homeworld had sort of fitting music, but it was honestly just not quite right for the settings involved.

Excuse me, but what music do you have playing in the background when playing Homeworld? Personally, I've never played a game that had more atmospheric and appropriate music. If only more games had music that awesome.

And I sort of agree with DrumUltimA. I listen to game soundtracks more than I actually play games, and often while listening to the soundtracks I remember their games as better than they actually are. If I try playing an old game it's usually worse than I remember it to be, but the music stays fresh, more often than not.

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Excuse me, but what music do you have playing in the background when playing Homeworld? Personally, I've never played a game that had more atmospheric and appropriate music. If only more games had music that awesome.

A mix of classic music and some of the better Yoko Kanno symphony arrangements. There's also some Hollywood movie stuff in there, stuff like the theme for Hunt for the Red October, a few Star Wars themes... it's more "battle" music than what the game offers.

The problem with the Homeworld OST (what little there actually is) is that it's mostly ambient. Yes, Adagio for Strings during the scene where the planet is burning and everyone is dead is a great part, but that's about it. Even the Rider music is more background than anything else. It doesn't feel like there's this giant battle between two (or more) fleets, with ships flying around everywhere, lasers and beam and missile shooting off constantly, ships breaking apart and exploding in deep space... my playlist does that.

I got music appropriate for almost any moment of the battle. If I'm hunting down the reminder of an enemy fleet, I got songs that put me in a very "I'm the big bad wolf, stalking you 'til you're worn out and defenseless" mood. I've got a bunch of songs that put my in a "I'm going down in the blaze of glory! Fuck you, I hope you choke on my frigates!" mood when I'm hopelessly outnumbered and it's only a matter of time before I'm dead. I got songs that sync almost perfectly when the main bodies of two fleets collide and start mixing together... it's like watching a very detailed space battle scene from a good sci-fi movie than a game, sometimes.

And that's because of the music I use instead of the original.

I love the Homeworld series, but the soundtrack could have been a lot better.

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Protip- Music in games is nearly identical to music in movies, in usage. The people that are all "Oh my god this game was awesome and it didn't have any music," are recognizing something that certain directors learned long ago, namely that an absence of music and the presence of ambient sound from the environment can sometimes lead to a more tense or a surreal feeling.

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exactly- what I meant by my comment wasn't that I'd be interested in a game with a lack of a soundtrack, but in a game where the soundtrack lacks music.

but again, this is obviously augmented by the feel the game wants to create. This wouldn't work in a game like Sonic or Mario.

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Also, on the note of musicless games. In the Silent Hill series, the actual melodic music (while awesome) almost always seems out of place when it comes in, with the exception of cut scenes. The stuff that sets the mood the best are the ambiant noise pieces that you can't quite focus on.

I guess that's the key of it; don't make your music more interesting than the game, at any given point.

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