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"Has Video Game Music Lost Its Way?"


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, but we don't get stuff like that very much anymore. :/

We do, and if you paid attention to the multitudes of examples posted in this thread, you would plainly see that.

but I would have to say MOST people like songs that have harmony/melody/etc.

As already stated, strong melody kind of music is INAPPRPORIATE in certain types of narratives and settings, which is why more ambient and atmospheric music is employed because the trend of mainstream gaming has been gravitating towards:

-violence

-large narrative

-epic scenes

If you listen to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, for example, you will hear some pretty good melodies. They'll also be completely outnumbered by more atmospheric and less thematic music used in the film.

This is true with a game like Assassin's Creed 4. It has a lot of good melodies, but also a lot of less melodic music. Why? It's a very large narrative with a lot of tracks, and if every track played during every part of the game had a strong catchy melody, it would distract from the game itself.

You didn't have this problem with a game like Mega Man 2 because it is literally

JUMP N' SHOOT MAN

There's nothing to the game other than jumping and shooting. Play the game on mute, it will not be nearly as enjoyable. Like stated previously, old games relied on their music to convey mood and setting because they didn't have voiceover dialog, VFX, the capacity for recorded and rendered sound design (instead of oscillating a white noise generator and calling it an airplane).

Game audio is more complex and more ambitious than it has ever been. Strong homophonic music has taken a back seat in so-called "most" of the mainstream games because it just isn't appropriate for the kinds of games these are compared to old games.

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Obvious troll bait, and I'm not going to be the only person with a rebuttal, but:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeHjfXYBVak

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXv8JVbqwao

But hey everyone has their own opinion, and that's fine.

As a matter of fact, most of these (all of them maybe except the AA:DD track) are good examples of what I believe to be "generic" music. I'm not saying it's not quality work, these are all great tracks. I simply think that when games have music like this playing in the background, its music becomes more of an accessory than a key part of the core of the game. You could replace it with a completely different track that has a similar mood and it would be just fine and I'm pretty sure a lot of people wouldn't notice. That's the small part where I agree about the "modern game music hating" phenomenon. Again, just to clarify, I know there are a huge amount of different types of "modern game music", but I think the tracks you linked are good examples of what causes the global generalization thing.

I believe that when a game's music feels like it's unique and feels like it couldn't belong anywhere else than in said game, is the most important objective that a game composer could be trying to achieve.

Again, this is all very very subjective.

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I believe that when a game's music feels like it's unique and feels like it couldn't belong anywhere else than in said game, is the most important objective that a game composer could be trying to achieve.

I very much disagree. A game composer's job by definition is to write music to fit a game. It's not to write music that he can also release as an album on iTunes.

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Ramaniscence: I can find good music these days too. I wouldn't call your list the "Norm" anyways. (2 Blizzard games, 2 Capcom games from series they HAVEN'T ruined yet, and a retro 80's style game. Payday was the only "normal" one, and the least interesting sounding one IMO).

The argument here isn't that it doesn't exists anymore, its just that its getting few and far between.

Strong homophonic music has taken a back seat in so-called "most" of the mainstream games because it just isn't appropriate for the kinds of games these are compared to old games.

Isn't that kinda what I've been saying though? I mean you can argue all you want about what is "appropriate" for modern gaming, the fact is the music is often bumped back to a lesser importance.

But lets pull out SOTC for example: A lot of that game is complete silence too, but when it comes time to fight there is amazing beautiful well composed music pumping through the game. Most of the time in any other game these days, this would be generic and uninteresting at best. Or a bunch of techno noise.

Edited by Crowbar Man
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I very much disagree. A game composer's job by definition is to write music to fit a game. It's not to write music that he can also release as an album on iTunes.

Hmm and I agree with you. I seriously don't understand how you came to this conclusion from what I was saying. Maybe I didn't express myself properly? xD

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Well, I don't pretend to understand music theory or what not, but I would have to say MOST people like songs that have harmony/melody/etc. I don't think that has much to do with nostalgia.

Well, this is about music, not necessarily about sound design. I don't think anybody can argue that games don't sound really great these days.

I can't agree with either of these. Many (I won't say "most". "Many" is more appropriate to a small audience, and I'm not about to make a hasty generalization) people don't actually know how to explain why they like a song, or why it's catchy, etc. I've asked this myself in my 24-people speech class last year during my speech on music appreciation, and not one person disagreed with these questions I asked:

"Who here likes music because:

- It's catchy

- It's cool

- I don't know why"

Notice how all of those questions required little to no thinking. They're all superficial "like" factors, or they aren't even proper reasons ("I don't know" is not a reason. Catchiness and coolness are both vague). Hence, how can

MOST people like songs that have harmony/melody/etc.[?]
As for game music not sounding great these days... here are 20 (okay, fine, 10. I won't waste your time) easy counterexamples. These sound both harmonically great and are bolstered even more by their sound design:

http://zirconstudios.bandcamp.com/track/dawn-oblique

http://zirconstudios.bandcamp.com/track/oasis-epsilon

http://zirconstudios.bandcamp.com/track/thicket-prism

http://zirconstudios.bandcamp.com/track/fusion-master

http://zirconstudios.bandcamp.com/track/photosynthesis

https://soundcloud.com/overclocked-records/joe-griffith-space-disorder-1

http://zirconstudios.bandcamp.com/track/training-montage-extended

http://omnipsyence.bandcamp.com/track/the-looking-glass

https://soundcloud.com/zircon-1/academy-theme-dungeonmans-ost

https://soundcloud.com/overclocked-records/jeff-ball-tiny-barbarian-dx-10

Edited by timaeus222
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You do realize you posted a bunch of music from indie games (who make great music in games these days), and mostly from zircon who is great?

This is mostly a discussion about AAA gaming (aka "the boring side of gaming" :) ) music.

Also, I didn't say most people KNEW why they liked said music. Just that is what appeals to most/many/whathaveyou

Edited by Crowbar Man
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You do realize you posted a bunch of music from indie games (who make great music in games these days), and mostly from zircon who is great?

This is mostly a discussion about AAA gaming (aka "the boring side of gaming" :) ) music.

I know.

1) it's advertising

2) The word "games", specifically, accounts for, well, all games.

Honestly though, whether or not a game's soundtrack depends on its sound design doesn't guarantee that its music will not be great. It's all coincidental. Who gets the job? Whoever the project leader picks. Whoever they pick will decide whether or not their music will be well-focused on arrangement or simply atmosphere, while if it focuses on atmosphere, the arrangement comes and naturally accommodates that.

Edited by timaeus222
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B) The music he picked to show "present" music is also amazing music (Halo, MGS, etc) but we don't get stuff like that very much anymore. :/

Ramaniscence: I can find good music these days too. I wouldn't call your list the "Norm" anyways. (2 Blizzard games, 2 Capcom games from series they HAVEN'T ruined yet, and a retro 80's style game. Payday was the only "normal" one, and the least interesting sounding one IMO).

I'm confused. The video called out large, big budget, modern game themes, and you said they didn't exist anymore. I linked examples of just that and you said they don't count?

The argument here isn't that it doesn't exists anymore, its just that its getting few and far between.

Again, market saturation. There's alot more games with a lot more music.

Are you saying "of all games released, most don't have good soundtracks?" because that's a huge generalization. Are you saying "Of all big budget games most don't have good soundtracks?" because even that is a huge generalization.

Here is a list of games released in 2013:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_in_video_gaming

I'm sure there's a good variety of styles in soundtracks, and a good variety of styles of songs on said soundtracks.

Are there more unappealing soundtracks now than there were in the past? Absolutely not.

Do you know how I know?

Because most remixes on OCR come from Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. Because most people who give examples of good game music point out major franchises. There is a huge catalog of games from SNES, Genesis, and NES, but people only remember a handful of songs/soundtracks. People only remember a handful of songs/soundtracks from modern games too.

Super Mario Bros also has a huge audience. Tons of people have played it. Halo has a huge audience, but less than SMB. Payday has a huge audience, but less than both. Nier. Dual Destines. Etc . As more games come out, regardless of soundtrack quality, less people are familiar with all of them, but games that have been around forever many many people have encountered.

Edited by Ramaniscence
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Crowbar Man said:
Also, I didn't say most people KNEW why they liked said music. Just that is what appeals to most/many/whathaveyou

That's true, but to like something even more so than you did before is to also know why you like it, otherwise it's superficial musical pleasure. If you like something for an unknown reason, and then you get asked why you like it, you start shrugging. It took me... let's see... almost 2 years of VGM remixing before I started appreciating harmonies. 2 years. Until February 2013. I'm not the defining case, obviously, but I'm one example.

Quote
Well, I don't pretend to understand music theory or what not, but I would have to say MOST people like songs that have harmony/melody/etc. I don't think that has much to do with nostalgia.

Also, a lot of people like music that they can relate to; that sure is prevalent, especially when looking at how people sing back pop music as if they heard it all day. The "nostalgia" factor is something that is relate-able. If you feel like a game "made your childhood", then you like playing it, but you may not even be paying attention to the music, and instead just playing the game for the enjoyment. I played Pokemon Yellow and liked it without even knowing what the music sounded like. Then, when people ask you "how did the music sound?", you just say "nostalgic", or "IT HAD MUSIC?! OMGWTF" because you don't remember how it sounded.

I believe, then, that nostalgia is a strong (but not the sole), on-the-surface reason for liking video game music, much like the apparent catchiness of modern pop.

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It's great to hear musicians' takes on this! ^_^ Particularly Neblix, but everyone really. Interesting thread! :)

It probably doesn't help that videogame music hasn't really been broken down into different styles like band music has? Difficult to talk without terms and groups sometimes...

I think there's been an overall shift in genre caused by things many people have mentioned.

- new instruments to use / more memory

- more control over mood through graphics (I hadn't considered this before)

- shift to ambient or low-key atmospheric music

- sheer designer or musician preference to do something different

Developers can make music with modern instruments that is both similar to older style music and distinct. (See the numerous examples people have posted. Also see Ys

vs
vs
) It is, as I believe has been said repeatedly, that music is now a bit more in the background for some games due to changes in how atmosphere is created. A move to the ambient, even.

Ah, a gripe of mine: don't conflate ambient with classical. Simply because orchestral music is used, does not mean the music has to be low-key atmospheric generic-y. A game could easily have kick ass orchestral tracks like the

and the
. Or something whimsical like
. Also notice I've pointed to the best of the best of classical music. If you complain that there are few examples of great music of today's games, then you haven't acknowledged that most creative works aren't amazing -- they're 'merely' good. The genre or set of instruments examined isn't going to change this fact. Consider how many 8-16 bit games there are (or that you've played) compared to how many of their soundtracks you listen to.

On a related note, I have wondered if the more realistic the graphics are, the less likely they are to have older style VG music? Would it feel wierd to have a highly realistic game with older style music? Quake 4 would play well with Quake 2 music, so this is not the best generalisation, I know...

One of the HyperDuck guys said in an interview that Microsoft (? or someone else) had asked them to change up their Ys (8-16 bit era) to something

for Dust. Listening to their full soundtrack including
(the older tracks they had made before switching styles), I think either style could have worked for the game, but maybe that's not always true.
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Ah, a gripe of mine: don't conflate ambient with classical. Simply because orchestral music is used, does not mean the music has to be low-key atmospheric generic-y. A game could easily have kick ass orchestral tracks like the
and the
. Or something whimsical like
.

Yes. Classical music is music from the Classical Period, NOT calm music. Classic is different. Ambient music is not classical, it's ambient, and most importantly, it's more properly known as Modern music. Gotta make that distinction. :)

That said, orchestral can convey just the same nostalgic factor as chiptunes.

. It establishes more than one mood (what a plus), it's harmonically pleasing, it's texturally full, and it feels like it could be nostalgic. Not to mention chiptunes are often donned "not texturally full" simply because of the sound design. If you have a bass, a chordal/harmonic instrument, a lead instrument, and percussion, it's full. Orchestral is simply more full because of the tonal complexity.

The music targeted by this article depend too much on this textural complexity, and that's a point several people made here. This textural complexity, if not accompanied by arrangement interest, turns people off. Automatic summary.

Edited by timaeus222
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I very much disagree. A game composer's job by definition is to write music to fit a game. It's not to write music that he can also release as an album on iTunes.

Wrong. A composer's job is simply to compose music for a game. Whether he or she has to fit it to something or whether they simply need to come up with something entertaining to listen to during certain segments of gameplay is up to the main director and the composer to work out. What is "fitting", even by definition, is highly subjective.

I personally think video game music lost its way, ever since it became being more about providing film score style music to be "background" to the entertainment of a game as opposed to catchy, melodic bits that ADDED to the entertainment of a game. I could care less if progressive rock music in 9/13 is playing over my character searching a dark forest if I quite like the tune. This was a precedent set as far back as two decades ago, and it's a precedent I set for myself as I look for composing jobs.

I don't get many jobs because of it, but oh well, I didn't get into this to turn out 153 minutes of minimalist drones and horns and be some amateur indie designer's sound puppet for >$300 or free. Quality trumps quantity, and there's a LOT of quantity out there right now.

I now await someone's academic superiority to put me in my place here.

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I'm confused. The video called out large, big budget, modern game themes, and you said they didn't exist anymore. I linked examples of just that and you said they don't count?

All game music is generic except for the game music that isn't. We've reached a very profound conclusion. :tomatoface:

Wrong. A composer's job is simply to compose music for a game. Whether he or she has to fit it to something or whether they simply need to come up with something entertaining to listen to during certain segments of gameplay is up to the main director and the composer to work out. What is "fitting", even by definition, is highly subjective.

I personally think video game music lost its way, ever since it became being more about providing film score style music to be "background" to the entertainment of a game as opposed to catchy, melodic bits that ADDED to the entertainment of a game. I could care less if progressive rock music in 9/13 is playing over my character searching a dark forest if I quite like the tune. This was a precedent set as far back as two decades ago, and it's a precedent I set for myself as I look for composing jobs.

I don't get many jobs because of it, but oh well, I didn't get into this to turn out 153 minutes of minimalist drones and horns and be some amateur indie designer's sound puppet for >$300 or free. Quality trumps quantity, and there's a LOT of quantity out there right now.

I now await someone's academic superiority to put me in my place for this post.

You should read the thread, you'll find pretty much everything you said has been addressed.

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I'm confused. The video called out large, big budget, modern game themes, and you said they didn't exist anymore. I linked examples of just that and you said they don't count?

Never said that actually, in fact, I've posted and acknowledged many here in this thread. I just said a lot of music in modern games (especially AAA) is becoming more and more generic / atmospheric. Heck, I wouldn't even call what you posted super melodic, but it had slightly more effort than a lot of games.

Again, market saturation. There's alot more games with a lot more music.

Quantity over quality :(

Because most remixes on OCR come from Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. Because most people who give examples of good game music point out major franchises. There is a huge catalog of games from SNES, Genesis, and NES, but people only remember a handful of songs/soundtracks. People only remember a handful of songs/soundtracks from modern games too.

Just because people only remember a select few games doesn't mean there weren't a ton of great soundtracks back then. I've listened to a lot of music, mostly from games I've never played, through the years (every generation). Its the modern ones that become rather ho hum :/

Edited by Crowbar Man
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Yes. Classical music is music from the Classical Period, NOT calm music. Classic is different. Ambient music is not classical, it's ambient, and most importantly, it's more properly known as Modern music. Gotta make that distinction. :)

That said, orchestral can convey just the same nostalgic factor as chiptunes.

. It establishes more than one mood (what a plus), it's harmonically pleasing, it's texturally full, and it feels like it could be nostalgic. Not to mention chiptunes are often donned "not texturally full" simply because of the sound design. If you have a bass, a chordal/harmonic instrument, a lead instrument, and percussion, it's full. Orchestral is simply more full because of the tonal complexity.

Agreed on the memorable part :D

And on the other things you said... I'm learning :) Gradual improvement - hurray! XD

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If you have a bass, a chordal/harmonic instrument, a lead instrument, and percussion, it's full.

This isn't quite true. You don't need an instrument for each of these things, you simply need to fill the roles.

Good solo piano music, for example, fills all of these roles. Texture doesn't care about what specific instruments you have, it cares about the abstract functions of voices. More independent voices is fuller. In homophonic music, the general definition is "melody with harmonic rhythmic support". This can be a wailing guitar with rhythms and bass support, it could be a piano right hand with left hand support, it could be a flute and violin section with brass and low string support, it could be an ocarina with a lute support.

What matters is the number of independent voices, not necessarily the number of instruments. Since powerchords are monophonic (parallel movement), you would only really see that as one voice. The bass line usually plays only one note at a time, that's another voice. Lead singer or guitar is another voice. Percussion isn't usually tonal, so it's just rhythmic support.

Similarly, you can write multiple independent voices on one instrument, like piano (properly voice-lead chords can be two, three, or even four voices at a time, and that doesn't include right hand), and still have it be full.

The more tonally and texturally complex something is, the more it must be concentrated on to appreciate and enjoy, which is why it is more unapproachable to someone who doesn't really care about theory or musicology. Simplistic orchestral music is done so in a way where there is a lot of parallel movement (reducing a lot of components to be thought of as one collective voice, which is more easily recognized by the ear). If all the sections of an orchestra were contrapuntally imposed on one another, things would get very complicated very quickly (actually I think you would still need to have parallel movement in places, because there are more sections than notes in the scale). It would sound fantastical, but nothing you could hum.

Edited by Neblix
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Just because people only remember a select few games doesn't mean there weren't a ton of great soundtracks back then.

Just because people only remember a select few games doesn't mean there's not a ton of great soundtracks now.

Stop generalizing. You're just trolling at this point. What I just quoted has been debunked through this entire thread and yet you still continue saying it with a straight face.

At this point, he's just stating his opinion and, however biased or unpopular, is perfectly valid as an opinion.

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Stop generalizing. You're just trolling at this point. What I just quoted has been debunked through this entire thread and yet you still continue saying it with a straight face.

I see a bunch of discussion of opinions from all sides. I don't see anything "debunked" because its mostly opinion and how others feel about the situation. I'm not sure how I'd be trolling, unless you honestly think that every single game track is as "memorable and melodic" or even just plain well composed as they used to be, despite the fact that you yourself and many others in this thread has stated that game music has moved from being just melodic and more towards ambient/less focused/backseat. Some think that is a good thing, but obviously not everybody particularly likes that style, yet its becoming more dominant.

But yeah, I guess I'm trolling.

Just because people only remember a select few games doesn't mean there's not a ton of great soundtracks now.

See the problem is, back then there weren't a lot of games with ambient soundtracks. You could pick any AAA game from the NES, SNES/Gen, N64/Sat/PS1 and have usually a great soundtrack. Still mostly true for DC/PS2/XBO/GC/Wii, but some soundtracks started to wane even during this era. But 360/PS3 more and more AAA games switched to ambient soundtracks or music became really low key/background stuff. It was really hit or miss, and got worse as time went on IMO.

There are plenty of games with great soundtracks now, but as mentioned, they are shrinking due to music "not being as important" to games. At least in the AAA market. Indie market is thriving with awesome soundtracks

Edited by Crowbar Man
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There are still countless soundtracks that come out every year that emphasize the melody whether it be in the indie scene or the AAA game industry. It's really no different except that there's also people writing some more ambient stuff now.

Every time this discussion pops up it always amazes me though. People handpick the best game soundtracks from the 80s and 90s and fail to mention the ton of terrible crap that came from that era (and there is a lot of it). It really is no different now except there are about 5 times as many games coming out every year (so 5 times the garbage coming out and still a ton of good stuff).

Pretty much every track Ramaniscence posted has a strong melody. If you reduced them down to their simplest forms and just remade them with old synths/soundfonts/chiptunes/whatever they would sound like they came from that era.

Hilariously, I think the FF13 Retrospective trailer that just came out is such a good example of this:

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See the problem is, back then there weren't a lot of games with ambient soundtracks. Now there are. There are plenty of games with great soundtracks now, but as mentioned, they are shrinking due to music "not being as important" to games. At least in the AAA market.

Do you not understand the concept of market saturation?

"Great music" (as you define it) isn't shrinking. It's actually growing. There's also a proportionately larger number of games with ambient soundtracks (which for some reason people think is a bad thing).

You're looking at a ratio but asserting it as absolute value. If a man eats two apples and four bananas, that's not a big difference. If he eats 4 apples and 8 bananas, the ratio difference is exactly the same, but he still ate more apples than he did before, and eat more bananas than apples than he did before, but it's the same ratio.

Every time this discussion pops up it always amazes me though. People handpick the best game soundtracks from the 80s and 90s and fail to mention the ton of terrible crap that came from that era (and there is a lot of it). It really is no different now except there are about 5 times as many games coming out every year (so 5 times the garbage coming out and still a ton of good stuff).

Bingo ^

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This isn't quite true. You don't need an instrument for each of these things, you simply need to fill the roles.

Good solo piano music, for example, fills all of these roles. Texture doesn't care about what specific instruments you have, it cares about the abstract functions of voices. More independent voices is fuller. In homophonic music, the general definition is "melody with harmonic rhythmic support". This can be a wailing guitar with rhythms and bass support, it could be a piano right hand with left hand support, it could be a flute and violin section with brass and low string support, it could be an ocarina with a lute support.

That's true, and one of several exceptions to the "bass+chordal harmony+lead+percussion" definition, but with songs that contain more than one or two types of instrument, it's most often true that filling those roles helps add to the fullness. Of course, by full, it can also mean "making the most out of what you have and what you know", so yes, solo harpsichord music or multi-part acapella can be full too.

The more tonally and texturally complex something is, the more it must be concentrated on to appreciate and enjoy, which is why it is more unapproachable to someone who doesn't really care about theory or musicology. Simplistic orchestral music is done so in a way where there is a lot of parallel movement (reducing a lot of components to be thought of as one collective voice, which is more easily recognized by the ear). If all the sections of an orchestra were contrapuntally imposed on one another, things would get very complicated very quickly (actually I think you would still need to have parallel movement in places, because there are more sections than notes in the scale). It would sound fantastical, but nothing you could hum.
True. The more layers, the more you have to focus on it to really hear what's going on, and memorability comes partially from how easily something is fully perceived. However, it doesn't actually mean that you can't have a lot of things going on. It's all about what you put in the forefront. If you have, say, harp arps or flute arps in the background but not playing a role that lets it be perceived as obviously there the first few times through, it doesn't make us focus on it and thus doesn't make it sound like too much is going on. ;D Edited by timaeus222
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