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The Rise And Fall Of Game Audio

simoniker posted more than 9 years ago | from the sid-was-here dept.

Classic Games (Games) 111

Thanks to Armchair Arcade for its article discussing why new game composers should look to classic game audio for pointers and inspiration. The author argues that classic Commodore 64 composer Rob Hubbard's work "is innovative precisely because he isn't trying to mimic 'real' music or make his computer sound like something besides a computer", before arguing of newer game audio: "How did game audio composers respond to this sudden technological boon? They began to imitate. Rather than innovate, they only did what had been done so many times before." The author concludes: "What concerns me is when they ignore the abilities unique to the electronic medium. It makes no more sense for a game audio programmer to mimic a string quartet as it does for a flutist to make his instrument sound like a kazoo."

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111 comments

wtf (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9911349)

'nuf said, FP too

Re:wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9912499)

wtf to the mods too, very much ontopic, maybe even redundant...well it would be were it not the fact its a FP

Re:wtf (1)

bugbread (599172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913095)

FP?

*roll* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9911389)

Of course that's kind of a load of crap. It does make sense to imitate a string quartet because it's proven to be pleasing to people's ears, unlike, say, a kazoo. We're making games, not trying to create new forms of music.

Who'se "we", who gave you the right to speak for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9911771)

the entire game industry. Early video games /did/ create a new form of music. If I wanted to hear a movie score, I'd go see a movie. I want more interesting synthetic sounds with my games.

Beep boop beep beep (4, Informative)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911408)

I think people want more and more "realism" in their games to the point where they look and sound like a movie (maybe even play like one cough).

Today I find music from Sonic 2 and other SNES/Megadrive (Genesis) era games to be much much better then from the 3D era. They now seem too "unclub like" (no other way to put it).

When I listen to music ingame I want it to blend in, to make me tap my foot and to be enjoyable in the background. Todays games tend to make music "just there" or a huge part of the game (Doom 3 comes to mind), but none of it is really enjoyable. Rather then make music to be enjoyed they make it to fit a game and you can't just sit there and enjoy it, rather you must hear it as it was originally ment to be or nothing at all.

Places like http://www.ocremix.org/ [ocremix.org] do a good job at keeping the old game music alive in a new format and show how much we love the classic songs.

Developers don't understand that we can still remember all the old school music to levels in a game we loved and replayed many times far far better then music we hear for a level in a game we never pick up again.

Re:Beep boop beep beep (1)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911894)

well, i haven't tried doom3 because I have a 1 gig p3 and radeon 7500 but.

What i do when i play games is turn off the music (leave only effect sounds) on, and just play some cds or whatever.

volia! enjoyable music to go with your game.

Re:Beep boop beep beep (1)

Mukaikubo (724906) | more than 9 years ago | (#9916995)

Just let me add my voice to the parent poster. OCRemix is an absolutely wonderful site to browse around on whether you're a techno fan, orchestral fan, jazz fan, or so on. So many genres, so many games.

And yeah, the grand kahuna 1200+ song 80 hour or so playlist is on Winamp right now for me.

Great music is to be found in both (old) camps (1)

XnR'rn (793753) | more than 9 years ago | (#9918458)

When I am thinking of games of old, I can find you examples of both electronical music and orchestral music used to greatly enliven the atmosphere. That is, even then there were two approaches (Im speaking about the pc games of the beginning of 90s).

Anyone remembers Betrayal at Krondor? The cd version with awesome music? Thats one of the best examples of 'old school' archestral pieces that is far above a lot of I ever heard in a game (the floppy version has music that is not as good, but on other hand it does not have a full cd for music).

On other hand, I have to do the obligatory StarControl plug (and not to forget Ur-Quan Masters [sourceforge.net] , remake with cool remixed music). Thats one of the better examples of the really good electro music.

Still, there are very good pieces in both old arcade, nes, genesis games and such like. Get the NSF Winamp plugins [zophar.net] , and you can listen to the really cool sound of old nes games. Do a google search on NSF files, and there are quite a few places where you can get them. My very personal favorite is music Dragon Fighter [snakeyes.cc] .

Hmm, too bad that I have to get back to work. There's still a lot of ground to be covered. It is so unfortunate, that Soviet Russia started with Speccy and did not have anything before it. So many great games that we (russians) did not get to play. :>

yuck (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9911426)

I like playing those old games, but I always mute the audio. Those simplistic noises are painful for even a short period of time.

Re:yuck (1, Informative)

AdamPiotrZochowski (736869) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911491)


What simplistic audio?

Commodore 64 SID chip designer when quitting create Ensoniq, a
proffesional maker of Keyboards and musical synthesisers. Its on
same level as Yamaha or Korg synthesisers. You cannot get more
proffesional than this.

Unless you are refering to systems created before C64, or games
from other systems (coleco vision?pong?).

--
/apz, Rememberable game music is whats missing

The SID chip has even been used in a synthesizer.. (5, Insightful)

b00m3rang (682108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911790)

http://www.sidstation.com/ [sidstation.com]

I've got a sample CD made with this synth, and it can make some very complex and interesting tones. Game systems used to have character and personality based on what sounds their hardware could produce. Now they just seem to be used as a CD player and a straightforward sampler.

Re:The SID chip has even been used in a synthesize (1, Informative)

AdamPiotrZochowski (736869) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912108)

Yes, there are quite a few artists who do homage to the
beloved SID. Ignoring people who remake SID tunes on other
instruments such as Mahoney mahoney.c64.org [c64.org] or the
Press Play on Tape pressplayontape.com [pressplayontape.com]
(go to both websites now, if you want to hear GOOD music, also get
the PPOT Boy Band Music Video), there are also arists that are
signed with big labels that create their music with SID.

One of the more recent artists is Bastian who uses SID for the
base, often lead, and sound effects. Not the frindge of the music
spectrum when comparing to Aphex Twin, but still, quite fresh and
unique (highly recommended song 'you got my love')
arist website: bastianmusic.nl [bastianmusic.nl] )

There are rumors wether many of the euro techno bands dont use
SID chips to enhance their music. Orbital is one of the most
known of bands that I heard about.

Afterall, SID chip has been voted into top 20 chips produced for
computers, alongside such marvels as z80, sparc, and intel cpus.
(link www.byte.com/art/9509/sec7/art9.htm [byte.com] )

--
/apz, SID chip was developed in 1981 and is still produced

Re:The SID chip has even been used in a synthesize (2, Interesting)

speeDDemon (nw) (643987) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912154)

I just have to say that as much as I loved my commodore 64, I still loved my amiga 500 more! ahh the games, the demo's! was amazing stuff. This article was great as it helped me remember some of my favourite games tunes.

My all time favourite is from the game "Lotus Turbo Challenge 2" and is the 'loader' music.

I just downloaded it from HERE [exotica.fix.no]

This is 'mod' / protracker format music as used by the amiga, so maybe not quite so groundbreaking as the c64 and its SID chip were, but it was still brilliant.

So what is your favourite music from the good ol days. ?

Re:The SID chip has even been used in a synthesize (1)

polyp2000 (444682) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913787)

SID chip was developed in 1981 and is still produced

Are you sure the Sid chip is still produced?

Reason i ask is that these people Sidstation [sidstation.com] claim to have access to the only remaining stocks of the sidchip which they are using to build their Sidstation "Groove Box" . So... If you know where I can buy a bucketload of sid chips id sure like to know...

Nick ...

Re:The SID chip has even been used in a synthesize (1)

AdamPiotrZochowski (736869) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913965)


I was under assumption that SIDStation was making own
chips, but you are right, my bad:


\ The possible production of SidStation synthesizers is limited.
\ Production of SID-chips has stopped since long, and we have
\ searched all over the world for remaining stock. We will stop
\ the production of SidStation as the stock we've managed to
\ secure is at an end. The price of the SidStation will also be
\ increased as the stock dries out. If you want to be in
\ possession of a SidStation - don't wait.
from : sidstation.com/sidstory_sidwhat.php [sidstation.com]

--
/apz, SID is much better sounding than Roland TB-303 !!!

Re:yuck (2, Informative)

abandonment (739466) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912391)

yeah the c64 was great, programming every single note's adsr (attack, delay, sustain and release) manually...i don't know how much of my childhood was lost manually sequencing star wars for the game i was making...the whole main theme...ugh...

but was great, it could do things that pc's could only dream of at the time.

damn i'm old...

Re:yuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9913747)

It was capable of producing good sound, that doesn't mean the games all had good sound. Pretty much every console and computer game more than 6 or 7 yeras old has terrible audio.

Missing the point (4, Insightful)

Nutcase (86887) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911456)

Very few games are about music. Most are about something else. All of them are visual artworks. In any visual artwork, the music is secondary. It may be as important as the visuals, or even more important... but it is not the focus of the work. It is supplemental to it. It is enhancing to it. This is the same in Movies, Games, TV, etc. The music is meant to enhance the emotion in a certain way... be it sadness, or a pounding beat to get your heart pumping when you are blasting aliens.

I guess my point is that games are just about the LAST place you should expect to see new forms of music, because they aren't made to create new forms of music. They are made to create fun games.

As far as immitation - it's easier to get the reaction you want from sounds that are already associated with an emotion than from something completely new.

If you want new forms of music in games, create new forms of music that have emotional resonance. Eventually they will be used in games. But don't expect the game designers to do it. That's not their goal.

Re:Missing the point (1, Informative)

AdamPiotrZochowski (736869) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911531)

The idea is not that games should create new forms of music,
the idea is that music can change a game from being 7 points rated
up to 8 points.

Play any game, especially like Silent Hill or Doom3, and you will
not be able to say that what you hear does not add to the tension
in the game.

Music should be same. Music should add to the game.

Old Commodore 64 games had powerfull music. It played while game
was loading, it was not ambient, it carried a tune which you could
whistle. Can you whistle to me the Doom3 tune? its too ambient
and its too bland. Can you whistle to me Duke Nukem 3d tune? YUP!

Another point, a remarkable game that broke grounds with music
was Jedi Knight (not sure if 1 or 2), depending on whats happening
(or about to) the music tone would change from being peacefull
minuet to a violent orchestral explosions.

Here is another thing, visit remix.overclocked.org [overclocked.org]
or vgmix.com [vgmix.com] and count remixes, both
sites sport slightly more than 1000 remixes for ALL platforms
from handhelds, through consoles, to pc based games. Then visit
a site like remix.kwed.org [kwed.org] and you
will see 1000 remixes of c64 games alone.

That should tell you how memorable c64 music is, and how little
people recall and liked music from other system.

music should be memorable
music should add to the game
music should not be treated as the background ambient noise

--
/apz, I want music I can whistle while in the bus

Re:Missing the point (2, Insightful)

recursiv (324497) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911594)

Small point,

but why does being able to hum a song make the song better? It makes it more catchy. It makes it more appropriate for certain situations, like theme songs.

But why would you want bouncy theme music during a tense scary moment in a game?

Re:Missing the point (2, Interesting)

AdamPiotrZochowski (736869) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911647)


\ But why would you want bouncy theme music during a tense scary
\ moment in a game?


Someone mentioned this earlier in another thread, KOTOR has tons
of tense scary moments in the game, but it uses its orchestral
Star Wars music that everyone can recognize, that people can humm
to.

Game music in the tense scary moments should not downgrade itself
to being ambient wolf howl, wind and the wind chime like sound
effects.

Why cant scary tense moments rely on music, that has own climaxes
that has own growth. Why cannot we have something like Vivaldi's
Bolero, it takes a good 15 minutes for it to get up to speed,
in a game one could prolong it, and leave the climax for the
fight with the boss.

There is so much potential in games, so much in music, yet for
many games this is left wasted.

I inderstand that for a game that is 80hours long it is hard to
create 80 hours music that is at the same time non boring, not
repeating, not too annoying, rememberable, and that any part of
the tune can melt into any other tune (to change with the mood
of the game). Actually, not just hard but very hard, however
much too often companies seem to totally skip looking into the
music as an added bonus to the game, and just slap on any ambient
tune that is forgotten before it moves from ear drump to brain.

--
/apz, why does scary must mean looped wind samples?

Re:Missing the point (2, Insightful)

DeComposer (551766) | more than 9 years ago | (#9917906)

There are a number of different factors at play here. Let's dispense with the obvious stuff first:

Game audio includes a good deal more than just music; crucial parts of any gaming experience include the sound effects and environmental sound. Clearly, whether a particular sound exists in RL or not, it must sound as convincingly real as possible, otherwise some degree of immersion in the game is lost.

Getting back to the music, there are two elements at work here: I'll call them mood music and thematic music.

Mood music is essentially decoration: musical sound effects, if you will. Just as the spoken voice can convey different emotions, mood music uses reasonably well-understood concepts of tone to create and dissipate tension, thus altering the mood of the gameplay. When done very well, the viewer/gamer rarely notices mood music on a conscious level. It gets processed on an almost subconscious level, which is great because there's no "processing cost" to add this "channel" to the viewing/gaming experience.

Thematic music, particularly in games or movies, is the music a composer writes to unify the work--give it its own character, if you will. As such, yes, it definitely needs a dominant, memorable melody. Two of the key techniques of a successful musical composition are repetition and surprise.

Imagine for a moment that I'm a composer. What I'll do is take a strong melody and play with it, setting up the listeners' expectations. Once I have the listener comfortable with the main thematic elements: the melody, the harmonic progression, and the rhythm, I can alter those elements to greater or lesser degrees. This is what keeps the music from getting as stale as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." I can even depart from the thematic elements altogether, albeit for a short time. Doing this radically change the listeners' expectations; it drags them out of their complacent listening and forces them to sit up and take notice. As such, this technique works well as an audible underscore to a dramatic transition in the movie/game mood or environment.

At the end of the movie/game, though, a good composer will usually resolve to the main thematic elements. This helps tie the various experiences of the game/movie into a more cohesive whole and also helps to underscore that the game or movie is over.

Re:Missing the point (1)

pyrrhonist (701154) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911621)

Can you whistle to me the Doom3 tune? its too ambient and its too bland.

ID Games are a bad example. Likewise, can you whistle the Doom I or II tunes?

For that matter, can you whistle any of the Quake I sound track? Probably not, even though it was written by Trent Reznor.

On the other hand, you probably know the Quake II sound track by Sonic Mayhem. The track data is in CDDB, so somebody found it memorable enough to rip the game CD.

But I digress. Oh well, time to go listen to the soundtrack from Halo.

Re:Missing the point (1)

thrash242 (697169) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911857)

I can hum (I can't whistle well) the themes and much of the other music from Doom1, Doom2, Doom3, and Quake.

The Doom3 theme is not ambient at all. And I've had it stuck in my head for several days straight.

However, no, I can't bring to mind the music from Q2 or Q3. To me it was too monotonous.

Re:Missing the point (1)

HFXPro (581079) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912848)

Hey I'll have you know that Doom I, Doom II, and the Final Doom all have memorable sound tracks. You just haven't played them in a while. I recommend you do yourself a favor and pull them out and run them under a modern engine (better graphics, more options). Heck I was playing it last night and I definetly remember that little tune.

Re:Missing the point (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911637)

Then again, look at the aural background to any of M. Night Shymalan's works - they're pretty much non-existent, yet they're some of the creepiest movies I've ever seen. Music shouldn't be a coverup for a lack of content.

I can't whistle... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9911814)

But I can whistle the Duke Nukem Forever tune...

Re:Missing the point (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913577)


Another point, a remarkable game that broke grounds with music
was Jedi Knight (not sure if 1 or 2), depending on whats happening
(or about to) the music tone would change from being peacefull
minuet to a violent orchestral explosions.
Actually, LucasArts was successfully doing dynamic music in X-Wing, one of the games released before Windows 95. The dynamic music could also have been present in Dark Forces, although it might not have been as noticable.

Dynamic music was removed in Jedi Knight I as it ws replaced with Redbook. Somehow, the developers realized that redbook audio wasn't the best route to go and switched back in Jedi Knight II.

In any case, the dynamic music systems are a bit harder to extract from the game, as they aren't exactly independant ".WAV" or ".MP3" files - it usually needs some editing to grab all of the tracks (Unreal's .IT and .S3M files are good examples - they aren't dynamic, but have multiple tracks interweaved in one music file.)

Re:Missing the point (1)

Foolhardy (664051) | more than 9 years ago | (#9916401)

Yes, Dark Forces had dynamic music: a track for battles and another when you haven't fought for a while plus transitions. I love the quiet/puzzle music in Dark Forces. It gives you the feeling of searching dark, quiet hallways worried that stormtroopers could be in an ambush around the next corner. Rooms that are too quiet; you have to be alert just in case, but it is starting to wear you down.

I'm not sure if it was released earlier, but Wing Commander has dynamic music too.

I think music should be there to add to the ambiance, espescially when it would be otherwise quiet.

ptestyourstupidfilter (5, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911495)

Today, the only the electronic music most of us hear is the repetitive, simplistic beat of dance or industrial music piped into clubs and dubbed over with offensive lyrics and banter.

I think someone needs to check out ishkur's guide [ishkur.com] to electronic music. There is a pretty wide variation between the intricate beats of Drum 'n Base and the repetitive, simplistic beat of House. Of course, if you want more experimental electronica, look for IDM [fact-index.com] , Aka intelligent (unintelligible) dance music. None of these would be possible without using computers carefully as instruments, and none of them fit into mainstream musical categorization.

I must also argue with the idea that game artists haven't evolved the craft. Most games now feature dynamically adjusting music based at bare minimum on character states. They adjust for boss encounters without interrupting musical lines, and can dynamically increase or decrease instrumentation based upon on-screen action. While most game audio creators do focus on sounding like traditional recordings, this is probably because most are traditional recording artists these days.

Some of the best game soundtracks are traditional recordings. Final Fantasy, Xenogears, and Wipeout all spring to mind as great soundtracks involving "dumped-in" music. Even Street Sk8er, with it's off-kilter collection of grungy tunes, was a great listen.

That's not to say that the article doesn't have it's points. But to say that videogame composers should be at the forefront of experimentation just because they used to need to be is erroneous. Of course, if everyone were as original and good as The Fat Man (no lie, he's one of the greats [mobygames.com] ) game audio would be far better off. But that combination of original sound and skill is rare in any medium... and The Fat Man's genius is not so easily replicated.

Game audio should be convincing, engaging without being detracting, and should heighten enjoyment the first time heard without getting annoying the 10th. It should dynamically change based upon the character's situation, and should contain an original artistic spark. Game audio shouldn't be the tunes you hear in your car... Nor should they be the buzzes and blips of yesteryear. While certain composers pioneer original genres (Tommy Tallerico [mobygames.com] springs to mind), this shouldn't be the defining feature.

All artists should be creative, game or no.

meanttochangethesubjectbeforeposting (0, Offtopic)

cgenman (325138) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911500)

Oops.

Re:ptestyourstupidfilter (2, Insightful)

AdamPiotrZochowski (736869) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911582)


\ Game audio shouldn't be the tunes you hear in your car


How I wish all sports games would follow this. God, I hated EA's
FIFA for playing top 40 radio hits from the previous year.


\ Game audio should be convincing, engaging without being
\ detracting, and should heighten enjoyment the first time heard
\ without getting annoying the 10th. It should dynamically change
\ based upon the character's situation, and should contain an
\ original artistic spark.


Only to add one more point, game audio should be rememberable. It
should be so good that people sit in the menu and wait for it to
finish. It should be something that you can whistle or sing to.
This is what differences good music that people enjoy from great
music that people try to play at the camp fires, or whistle in the
subway or bus.

--
/apz, I got eyes and ears, amaze me with your game

Re:ptestyourstupidfilter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9912770)

Its drum and bass you cunt.

Must disagree with the premise (4, Insightful)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911498)

that audio in games is 'bad' or 'boring' today.

For example, everyone is ranting on about the atmosphere in Doom III, and a huge part of that seems to be a direct result of the awesome, surround sound audio experience.

A lot of other games recently have had incredible audio. Some examples that spring to mind include Deus Ex (atmospheric, surround sound, with great music), KOTOR (hard to make bad audio when you have the Star Wars themes and light sabre fight noises), Grand Prix 4 (motor racing in surround sound), and Vietcong (not a great game but it had cool music and sound). Less recently Red Alert 2 had great music, and I still think there's nothing quite like the sound of a fully fledged melee in Quake III, with rockets rumbling, railguns pinging, and shotguns banging away.

We're all nostalgic for old games. Some of my favourites sound-wise include UFO/XCOM, Sam and Max, Speedball 2, and pretty much anything on Amiga. But this doesn't mean that modern games, with surround sound and near-cinematic quality are somehow bad or boring. Maybe the difference is just simplicity - when you have very limited ability to use samples and only one or two channels, you have to come up with something catchy and simple.

Re:Must disagree with the premise (1)

DeadScreenSky (666442) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912107)

I don't think you really understand (or read!) the article. The point wasn't that game music nowadays is boring or poor, the point was that it really isn't game music. Nearly all of it is an attempt to be Hollywood (ex: sounding like John Williams, with a real or convincingly faked orchestra) or radio (ex: licensed pop music, or perhaps some popular electronica stuff).

Games are capable of having their own style of music, just like most films have a very 'film' soundtrack (even in films that consist mainly of 'real' songs, like Kill Bill - it uses the music in a very film way), or how an opera has a music style unique to it.

We don't really know what that game soundtrack should sound like yet. As the author pointed out, it took something like half a century to figure out how to make music for the piano properly, and that instrument saw considerably less evolution in that period compared to videogame hardware. For a while there, popular games were pushing new boundaries with sound, exploring just what a videogame could and should sound like.

But with few exceptions, we just aren't seeing that kind of uniqueness in game audio nowadays, and the author was complaining about that. Not that the music isn't entertaining or accomplished...

Thoughts from 0x0d0a (4, Interesting)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911567)

Interesting thoughts. However...

The gentleman writing this article seems to hold as his primary goal pushing forward the field, advancing the arena, conducting experimentation, and then complains that game producers are too "cowardly" to produce such music. The problem is that this is *not* a game producer's goal. His goal is to impact the emotions of the player as much as possible to increase the effect of the game.

Perhaps if I want an epic scene, I would choose choir singing, and perhaps with an action scene metal. That's because people *have* formed associations in their head between music and the meanings associated with that music. To ignore those associations is on par with ignoring other learned languages, like English, and simply making random sounds because they are "experimental."

I tend to dislike most synth sounds. I think that people dislike identical stimuli very much -- our brains seek to avoid it, be it from boredom or whatnot, it is clearly not something that we have evolved to consider good. Try listening to a medium-volume sine or square wave for ten minutes or so. It's maddening and unpleasant. Much synth music suffers from the same effect, because it is similarly repetitive -- identical, even.

My guess is that the reason we like traditional analog instruments (aside from the longer evolutionary period than the handful of years that synth has been around) is that each sound is very different. The volume, pitch, hold, and tiny variations crop up. That's important to making music appealing -- it constantly exposes us to unknown stimuli.

I'm also guessing that we tend to like identifying patterns, and classical music is full of apparent patterns for our brains to discover.

I simply find the sound of an analog guitar more appealing than a synth guitar, or of a simple sine wave.

That being said, I do agree with the general argument that video game audio has moved too close to traditional audio, and is not really taking advantage of modern technology.

First, I was very disappointed when Creative beat out Aureal in the short sound card wars a few years back -- we were looking at a GPU-like era of new ideas and rapid improvement. Creative pushed EAX, basically a reverb model. Aureal pushed A3D, modelling 3d environments and actually bouncing sound around. If a wall is close to your right year, sounds are different than if there is simply empty space there. We are very capable of picking up on spatial hints from sound, and there are currently no such hints provided in game audio.

It will increasingly become possible to do this sort of thing in software -- we now enjoy software-generated Doppler effects, and I look forward to 3d modelling.

Second, we are only now seeing anything other than a linear track of audio that plays. Game audio is intended to accompany a changing environment. Events and the game environment change at different times. Unless you're playing Dragon Warrior, that probably means that a suitable soundtrack is not the same each time!

We implemented a simple version of this early on, when music tempo increased to indicate a warning in many video games. Later, games like Total Annihilation had two tracks that they could switch between depending upon how "dangerous" the environment is. Since then, we've taken the step of slightly more intelligent transitions (transitioning from the first track to the second on beats and the like). In general, though, our composition techniques and tools are poorly suited to anything but a single, static sequence of music.

A proper modern game audio engine should include a set of, say, states. Once I change states (from, say, STATE_NORMAL to STATE_FIGHTING), the audio engine waits until the first transition point in the audio and then kicks into the STATE_FIGHTING audio). There should be the ability to add a transition sequence of music associated with the transition between those two states at this point in music. So I'd store a bunch of regular tracks like STATE_FIGHTING, and STATE_NORMAL, a bunch of short transition tracks (STATE_FIGHTING 1:03.5 to STATE_NORMAL 1:07.3, for instance).

It would even be possible to produce standard sets of audio tracks like this if a set of states were standardized upon: perhaps a Game Audio 1.0-compliant file would include STATE_EXCITED, STATE_PAUSED, STATE_SPOOKY, STATE_EPIC, or something like that. Even without the states, with a bit of metadata being associated, I could just open up a program and choose from a vast variety of alternate music for a game I'm playing.
I know a number of people that simply listen to tracks from a favorite band while, say, playing a game. If I can say "give me a list of replacement audio from artists that I like", and it can search for everything with STATE_EXCITED, STATE_PAUSED, and STATE_NORMAL, then we're talking about actually allowing effective user-level choice over game audio.

It is very useful to be able to adjust tempo -- this gives, with little effort, a wide range of tracks that can indicate a modified condition, but unfortunately, with the move to storing simply raster music, it's not possible to adjust tempo very well in real-time, so we have lost a certain mechanism for conveying data via audio. If we are to do this, we have to limit ourselves to synths, and synths that sound appealing enough even when done in realtime. Possibly, such a synth could be simple, something that does some precomputation to allow tempo-shifting in real-time of raster music, like the systems that allow speeding up someone's voice without altering the pitch.

Third: our audio formats have always been limited to audio. Home theaters are big these days, and LEDs allow cheap variable-color-lighting -- it would be quite possible to include lighting data with an audio file, so that an artist could specify a pulsing blue light that goes along with his beat, perhaps a morning-color fade with epic music, darkening a room as the music gets softer...that sort of thing. X11 is inappropriate for this sort of thing, as timing is tight and latency unacceptable. However, it does seem like the sort of thing that consumer electronics companies would love to get off on, sell a ton more gear -- just provide "8-element surround lighting", with eight variable-color (LED array) lights around the room. New audio equipment could still take advantage of such lighting with old equipment with good beat-detection features and the like. Add in flash-detectors/eliminators for use by epileptic users, who are currently inconvenienced by things like video games -- but with the small bandwidth we're working with, we can manage adding safety devices. Lighting systems would be a powerful new output device to help increase the emotions that the artist is trying to convey.

I dunno, there are other good things we can do, but these seem like a good start.

Re:Thoughts from 0x0d0a (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911593)

Sorry, I intended to refer to Dragon's Lair, not Dragon Warrior.

My apologies to any Dragon Warrior fans.

For those unfamiliar with Dragon's Lair, it is literally nothing but a stream of pre-recorded video and audio during which you must hit the proper controls at the appropriate times. Thus, since a winning game is always played the same way each time, audio can be the same each time.

Re:Thoughts from 0x0d0a (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912375)

My apologies to any Dragon Warrior fans.

Apology accepted. Thanks.

Comparing apples to sine waves (1)

b00m3rang (682108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911835)

The comparison of a guitar to a sine wave is absurd. Besides, the MIDI specification allows for 127 levels of volume (key velocity) in addition to the ability to manipulate and filter the audio after synthesis.

And it is VERY easy to dynamically adjust tempo of synthesized music. If it's being synthesized in real-time, simply change the rate at which the note-on and note-off messages are sent. It's as easy as dynamically adjusting say the speed of a car in a driving game. In addition to that, modern digital signal processing techniques allow you to alter the speed of the audio while retaining the original pitch.

Re:Comparing apples to sine waves (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912181)

And it is VERY easy to dynamically adjust tempo of synthesized music. If it's being synthesized in real-time, simply change the rate at which the note-on and note-off messages are sent.

Right. Hence "with the move to raster music".

Re:Comparing apples to sine waves (1)

b00m3rang (682108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912285)

Ok, you said:
"with the move to storing simply raster music, it's not possible to adjust tempo very well in real-time"
which I refuted. Your reply makes it sound like you're in agreement with me, but in my world "is not possible" and "is very easy" are contradictory statements.

Re:Comparing apples to sine waves (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912337)

The difference is that I said "in real time", and you didn't -- simply adjusting tempo in software is obviously possible and has been around for a while. I've used tempo-shifting audio software before, but I've yet to run into a game audio engine that does it in real time.

Re:Comparing apples to sine waves (1)

bugbread (599172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912916)

Not only did he talk about real time ("And it is VERY easy to dynamically adjust tempo of synthesized music. If it's being synthesized in real-time, simply change the rate at which the note-on and note-off messages are sent."), but you quoted him talking about it!

Re:Comparing apples to sine waves (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#9914835)

Augh! I don't believe this is still ongoing!

Okay, look. Here is a line-by-line breakdown of what the original respondent said:

The comparison of a guitar to a sine wave is absurd.

I think that we can agree that this line is not part of the point in question.

Besides, the MIDI specification allows for 127 levels of volume (key velocity) in addition to the ability to manipulate and filter the audio after synthesis.

This is speaking about *synthesized audio*. *Not* audio that is just a bunch of already-rasterized data being tempo-shifted. For reference, here is the line I wrote in my original post:

It is very useful to be able to adjust tempo -- this gives, with little effort, a wide range of tracks that can indicate a modified condition, but unfortunately, with the move to storing simply raster music, it's not possible to adjust tempo very well in real-time, so we have lost a certain mechanism for conveying data via audio.

Note that I am talking *only* about raster music. I am not talking about MIDI, MOD, or *anything* other than straight raster audio, the kind of thing that you will find on a CD. Furthermore, the statement I made about tempo *only* related to tempo shifting *in real time*.

At no point in time did the respondent ever discuss audio that is both raster audio and tempo-shifted in real time. He does discuss both raster audio being tempo-shifted (but not in real time), and audio being tempo-shifted in real time (but not raster audio).

Here is the next line of the respondent's post:

And it is VERY easy to dynamically adjust tempo of synthesized music. If it's being synthesized in real-time, simply change the rate at which the note-on and note-off messages are sent. It's as easy as dynamically adjusting say the speed of a car in a driving game.

This is *synthesized* music he's discussing, *not* just a rasterized audio track.

In addition to that, modern digital signal processing techniques allow you to alter the speed of the audio while retaining the original pitch.

Here he has *just made* a statement about tempo-shifting of raster music, but not that it is real time.

Honestly, though, I'll happily accept that my initial claim may have been unclear. I'll rewrite it here.

"We have largely moved from synthesized audio (MIDI/MOD/SID/what-have-you) to raster (there may be a better term, but this is the closet term I can think of, from rasterizing fonts from descriptions of the font data...use "CD-style" if it's clearer). This raster audio can't be easily tempo-shifted in real time. (Unlike synthesized audio.)"

Does that clarify things?

Re:Comparing apples to sine waves (1)

bugbread (599172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9915472)

It does, and I apologize. I was so focused on the "real-time" aspect that I didn't notice the emphasis on rasterized (pre-generated) music.

That said, tempo shifting with rasterized music is really not that difficult in real time. Ask any PC DJ. DJing is all about tempo shifting of music in real-time.

The problem isn't that the audio format makes tempo shifting unreasonably difficult, but that nobody is taking advantage of the existing capabilities.

Re:Thoughts from 0x0d0a (1)

dtungsten (445338) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911883)

Second, we are only now seeing anything other than a linear track of audio that plays.

This is hardly a new concept. Pitfall II did this. It had 4 separate "tunes". I can think of Nintendo games that did this, like Super Mario Bros (grab the star). Overall though, you have a point.

Thoughts Microsoft had. (1)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912338)

"A proper modern game audio engine should include a set of, say, states. Once I change states (from, say, STATE_NORMAL to STATE_FIGHTING), the audio engine waits until the first transition point in the audio and then kicks into the STATE_FIGHTING audio). There should be the ability to add a transition sequence of music associated with the transition between those two states at this point in music. So I'd store a bunch of regular tracks like STATE_FIGHTING, and STATE_NORMAL, a bunch of short transition tracks (STATE_FIGHTING 1:03.5 to STATE_NORMAL 1:07.3, for instance)."

This sounds a lot like ActiveMusic in DirectX. Go play "Munch's Oddysee" on Xbox for a good example. As you get more involved, the music changes.

What I ultimately hated about it was how repeititve it all ways. Every transition became predictable, boring. It wore out the life of the music, because it was always the same base theme, and all the other transforms were the same, too.

MegaMan is good. I wish more games were like it. It melded cool music with cool action, and it kept them linked themeatically instead of using tricks of technology.

Re:Thoughts Microsoft had. (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#9914880)

This sounds a lot like ActiveMusic in DirectX. Go play "Munch's Oddysee" on Xbox for a good example. As you get more involved, the music changes.

[looks at MSDN] Ah, you're right. DirectMusic appears to do something like this with transition segments.

I'd like to see it be taken a bit further, with actual standardized states be used, though, which DirectMusic does not have a concept of (though I suppose you could implement this using DirectMusic).

Ummmm... (4, Insightful)

recursiv (324497) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911581)

"What concerns me is when they ignore the abilities unique to the electronic medium. It makes no more sense for a game audio programmer to mimic a string quartet as it does for a flutist to make his instrument sound like a kazoo."

What concerns me is when recording artists ignore the abilities unique to the compact disc format. It makes no more sense for a recording artist to use acoustic instruments than it does for a flutist to make his instrument sound like a kazoo.

Please. As a musician, this is ridiculous.

Why do you think there are so many synthesizers that aim to emulate the sounds of acoustic instruments as closely as possible? They make a nice sound. The violin has had centuries to be perfected. Some people make music out of square and sine waves. Some people use acoustic instruments. Some people sample. The thing that really matters is what sound it makes. If a situation demands a sound that is made by an acoustic instrument, then why in the fuck should you limit yourself to only sounds that "take advantage of the abilities unique to the electronic medium."

There's nothing unique to the compact disc format (0)

b00m3rang (682108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911843)

It's another way of digitally representing an analog audio signal. In fact, it's of significantly less resolution and quality than vinyl.

Ding! (1)

recursiv (324497) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911858)

Ok, good job. You're almost there. Now take it the rest of the way...

There's nothing ...
unique ....

about VIDEO GAME MUSIC either!

You're half right (3, Insightful)

b00m3rang (682108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911905)

You don't hear techno coming out of an opera singer's mouth, and you don't hear pipe organs in African drum circles. Certain genres are often associated with the venue of performance, and video game music once stood apart as its own art form. Recently it seems video games just play music from other genres, and there's nothing wrong with that, I just think that game-specific music seems to have been placed on the back burner.

Re:Ding! (1)

bugbread (599172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912986)

What most non-synth related folks don't seem to realize is that synthesized music has almost always been about emulating analogue instruments, and only recently has the idea of "synth sound as synth sound" really taken off.

The TB303, the single piece of equipment responsible for acid house, was meant to be used as a bass guitar replacement. Drum machines exist to replace drummers. Analogue synths have been designed to provide maximal representations of choruses and string sections.

The idea that everybody was making bloopy-bloopy music because they were so hardcore experimental or creative is misled. Game makers made the catchy jingles they did because, basically, it's about all they could do. When tools improved to allow them to make music more in keeping with their goals, they did so, hence the music games feature nowadays.

Do I think it would be cool if game designers approached folks like Venetian Snares or Shpongle to make their music instead of Trent Reznor and John Williams? Sure. But to assume that the music composers of the past were innovative, creative forward thinking types that have been transmuted into conventional studio musicians is akin to thinking that your 2 year old child is a visionary surrealist and Jackson Pollock protege, who, when he grows up, is a worse artist because he draws people realistically instead of scribbling all over the page.

Re:Ding! (1)

recursiv (324497) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913894)

Wow, this is the most accurate description of the situation I've seen yet.

props.

Re:There's nothing unique to the compact disc form (1)

mmortal03 (607958) | more than 9 years ago | (#9915267)

Theoretically, vinyl CAN have greater resolution than CD, but once you have played it enough, the wear on the vinyl destroys this. CDs may scratch and rot, but they don't wear.

In practice, you will obtain much better results on CDs, if it isn't the digitally compressed mess of today, unless you are say, SPECIFICALLY trying to record a 23 kHz sine wave onto a medium. Yes, it is possible to do this on vinyl, and not possible on a CD, but that is beside the point.

As for "quality", that is all opinion, but you state it as "In fact...". It is not a FACT at all that vinyl is higher quality than CD, or vice versa. Quality is all up to your perception. If you hear vinyl better, go for it dude. More correctly though, what you COULD have said is that, "In fact, my opinion is that CD is of significantly less quality than vinyl", but you didn't.

Sources: Source 1 [hydrogenaudio.org] Source 2 [hydrogenaudio.org]

Re:There's nothing unique to the compact disc form (1)

b00m3rang (682108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9916129)

I was referring to raw resolution of the audio signal. Obviously if either a record or CD are damaged, they'll produce less than optimum results. Without having the audio rounded off to the nearest bit, vinyl has if nothing else much better stereo imaging than CD. I've got records that I've played hundreds of times over the last, say, 5 years... having spun them in the forest, in the desert, at clubs, and they still sound better than their CD counterpart. If you take care of your vinyl, calibrate your tonearm, and don't use damaged styli, vinyl really isn't as fragile as people make it out to be.

Techno Not Always Right (4, Interesting)

dancingmad (128588) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911606)

Both the article and the comments so far seem to suggest that electronic style music works best for computer games. As an fan of Uematsu Nobou, I tend to disagree - Uematsu does the score for Final Fantasy (every game in the main series, except the upcoming 12). For the most part, Uematsu's often brilliant composition seems stunted, especially if you listen to any of the Final Fantasy orchestra CDs (which replay the FF music with real instruments - either piano, full orchestra, or in the case of FFV an electronic album, or Song Book or IV Celtic Moon, in celtic style).

However, even Uematsu presents a challenge: I didn't like FF8, but Laguna's theme is electronic music. Of all the major themes in recent final fantasy games to be translated into orchestra, The Man With the Machine Gun is almost always the poorest - it was best as a thumping electronic theme, with a lot of looping.

While electronic music may seem obvious in a game, it often isn't. Take a medieval game - Fire Emblem or even Lord of the Rings. Thumping techno beats don't sound right with those titles. Orchestra work has to be gameified. Star Wars did this well in X-Wing/TIE Fighter/Alliance - it dynamically loaded themes during missions according to what was going on - if new Imperial ships came in, the Imperial theme would cue. Another theme would come in when your reinforcements did.

The really interesting thing after playing both were my reactions to the music - after X-Wing I would cringe when I heard the Imperial theme, as it always meant more enemy ships. But after TIE Fighter, the Imperial theme began to sound noble.

As some games get closer to movies, they will get more orchestral soundtracks (Final Fantasy). Some games will continue to have loopy techno music, like puzzle games. Games like TIE Fighter will creatively straddle the power of orchestra and looping nature of gaming.

on x-wing and tie-fighter (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912618)

It is intresting that this type of music has stopped being used. The way they did it was with midi (midi files are like sheet music to a synthesizer wich requires powerfull hardware BUT is extremely small and very low on the cpu usage). Because of midi they could have several themes in memory and load between them quickly even have crossover music so you don't get a clear switch.

For some reason after tie-fighter they switced to CD music and gone was this advantage.

Sure mp3 or CD music has the advantage that it plays on crappy soundcards but there is really no way to have a neat switch between themes.

In X-wing I loved the music but in more recent games I switch it off. I wished they had continued to develop the tech to have the music match the action and switch seamlessly between themes but sadly the cheap bastards with their onboard soundcards ruined this.

Re:on x-wing and tie-fighter (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913624)

It is intresting that this type of music has stopped being used. The way they did it was with midi (midi files are like sheet music to a synthesizer wich requires powerfull hardware BUT is extremely small and very low on the cpu usage). Because of midi they could have several themes in memory and load between them quickly even have crossover music so you don't get a clear switch.
The problem with MIDI is that it will sound different on different sound cards or computers. Thus, if you play Tie Fighter (or some other game using MIDI) now, you will notice that the music is much different than what you remember it was like.

However, there are replacements to MIDI that can be used, such as the Impulse Tracker "*.IT" or Scream Tracker "*.S3M" format used in the older Unreal engine. In Unreal, the system was used to keep music within one file so that it's easier to manage, but it is possible to use a dynamic music system (such as one used in Deus Ex.)

Re:Techno Not Always Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9912858)

Then you should know his name is Nobuo Uematsu.

Um,...no. (4, Informative)

DarkGamer20X6 (695175) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911643)

I can't speak for electronic music in general, but at least concerning video game music, I think the article is a bit backwards. It claims that by catering to realistic sound, modern game music is detracting from artistic innovation.

I have to disagree. Certainly, I would say my favorite video game music spans from the NES days (Mega Man 2's soundtrack, being my favorite), but I see nothing lacking in the quality or enchantment of modern game music.

Chrono Cross has a wonderful soundtrack, with a celtic flare and realistic sound. Any recent Zelda game has a beautiful arrangement of sounds and music. How about Nobuo Uematsu, taking the music of Final Fantasy and performing it with more traditional, rock instruments in his recent album, The Black Mages?

These are all examples of modern video game music composers "imitating" classic sounds and stylings, yet I would still consider them innovative and artistic.

It's not necessarily antithetical to art to embrace technology, yet still utilize the familiar sounds of preceding works of music. Sometimes, there is a convergence of new technology with older music. What about when the Beatles started experimenting with using orchestras in their work? I think that was pretty innovative.

I think that perhaps the most bizarre argument in the article is that by imitating realistic sounds, modern video game music composers are limiting themselves. Yet, by reverting to an earlier technology, they would be free to innovate. If they're utilizing the technology given them to create the music they have visioned in their heads, it's not being limited. Explain to me how utilizing the full range and capability of modern electronic music is more limiting than sticking to an earlier era of electronic music technology.

I would say that the art of a video game music composition comes not from an adherence to sounding realistic or synthetic; it comes from the individual composer's vision. If Yasunori Mitsuda had the vision of a celtic theme for Chrono Cross, and decided to make the music sound like real instruments rather than *BLOOPS* and *BLEEPS*, then he achieved his vision, and his work is art.

Dumb. (1)

sandalwood (196527) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911652)

This is a shortsighted and ultimately fallacious argument. If you said the same thing about graphics, everyone would immediately recognize it as specious ("graphics programmers should focus on computer-generated-looking stuff and games should never visually strive for realism"). What is wrong with a string quartet as a soundtrack for a game? That ability is open to us, and you are saying we shouldn't do it because it is not "computery" enough for you? Instead of making a comment on innovation, you are instead trying to dictate style based on your personal tastes, and attempting to cast it as criticism. Not going to fly, in my book.

Re:Dumb. (1)

Muggins the Mad (27719) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911706)

> "graphics programmers should focus on computer-generated-looking stuff and games should never visually strive for realism"

Actually I'd argue that one of the reasons movies like Shrek are so good is that they *don't* go for realism.

I wasn't aware that there was all that much music left, game or otherwise, that did only use "real" acoustic instruments.

Even the 80's metal I'm listening to at the moment is hardly "pure" acoustic guitar and drum sounds.

- Muggins the Mad

Re:Dumb. (1)

Rallion (711805) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912869)

Actually I'd argue that one of the reasons movies like Shrek are so good is that they *don't* go for realism.

First off, I agree with that. Shrek's perfect look comes from the fact that it is a cartoon. If something isn't exactly as it's supposed to look, that's okay, a viewer won't even know. But ina movie like Final Fantasy,we know exactly how it should look, and notice the differences.

Now that I've expanded on and explained your point a little, I have to say that I think it's irrelevant. Problems like those FF had only occur at the level just before photorealism is achieved, with the wierdness of being perfect in some ways, but still having flaws. In games, we aren't at that level.

Also, even if we were, with the distraction of actual gameplay, the imperfections would be less noticable. Just a minor point.

Re:Dumb. (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913821)

The reason why movies like Shrek are good is because their filmmakers are interested in making what most people want.

And why they make money: if you reduce the violence and sex, the whole families can go - filling out even more seats.

It appears to me that making money isn't Hollywood's main agenda. Something else is. I'm not sure what it is, but judging from the movies they make it sure isn't in our best interests. How else can you explain the tons of really strange things they have done?

Look at Bollywood (Indian film industry), the film makers know what their audience wants (hero, heroine, singing and dancing amongst trees/nice landscapes/stages), and so they keep giving it to them. Even if the film makers are personally sick of that stuff, they still give their audiences what they want.

Games are to entertain... (2, Insightful)

rhettoric (772376) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911688)


It makes no more sense for a game audio programmer to mimic a string quartet as it does for a flutist to make his instrument sound like a kazoo.

If a string quartet makes the game more entertaining than it makes perfect sense. Computer games are immersive environments, and the goal has been to make them more and more realistic with the (I assume) eventuality that at some point "players" will be unable to distinguish between simulated and actual reality.

I see no reason why game developers should strive to make their games obviously illusory. In fact, most of the gaming community has quite obviously voted with their pocketbooks for realism .

Now, this doesn't mean that I don't think there is room for innovation in game audio, but it's absurd to think we should throw out techniques that have been successful in other media just because it's a computer game.

Having a symphony orchestra kick in as you're avatar is walking along is more cinematic than realistic but again, the point is to entertain. Why shouldn't a game be as compelling and immersive as a film?

Oh, and what's so bad about kazoos anyway? P.D.Q. Bach [wikipedia.org] has done some pretty entertaining work with kazoos. This is often, in fact, the only original aspect of his work. P.D.Q. like the game devlopers, was heavily criticized for his "excessive borrowing".

Copied or not it's entertaining which, after all, is the goal.

Re:Games are to entertain... (1)

Alazoral (774039) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912135)

Oh my god, I thought I was the only fan of PDQ here!

Realism.... right... more like exagerrated realism (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 9 years ago | (#9914268)

How is Halo realistic? How is Zelda WW realistic? How is F-Zero GX realistic? No game is realistic. And I really think thats not the prime goal of most game designers, they want their games too 1) Look good 2) be fun and immersive 3) sell lots (not necessarilly in that order).

No gamer wants purely 'realistic' games. Take FF tactics or advance wars on the GBA (all 'cartoony' btw). Prime examples are GTA and FF, I mean come on look at the summons in FF series they are the furthers thing from realism, in fact look at the dichotomous design in FF8 'real' character models vs. 'cartoony' enemies and you can't say that the enemies and summons were striving for realism, they were striving to look good and for a consistent artistic style. No one really wants things to "look real" they want things to look good and mimic the real world with some artistic liscense. Take "doom3" it looks nowhere near 'real' or photorealistic it looks like really great art but I wouldn't call it real. (how real are zombies/monsters anyway?). IMHO they are striving for 'exagerrated realism' where artistic liscense plays a huge role. Not pure realism.

game music (1)

schnits0r (633893) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911732)

To me, I love the simplicity of digially created music. No orcistra or anything. It's simple, yet manages to not get boring. It rewards the listener who listens to it by increasing the tension, then letting it all go in a cresendo of beats and sounds.

If you love video game music, and it's remixes be sure to download these torrents.

http://bt.ocremix.org/files/OCR00001_to_OCR00500.t orrent [ocremix.org]
and
http://bt.ocremix.org/files/OCR00501_to_OCR01000.t orrent [ocremix.org]

There's nothing simple about digital music (1)

b00m3rang (682108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911862)

It's not like there's a button you push that says "make music" and out it comes. Everything from the technology of the instruments used to composition and performance are equally if not more complex than with tradidional instruments. The more you understand about how the music is created, the better you're able to understand and appreciate its complexities.

Re:There's nothing simple about digital music (2, Interesting)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912066)

You can roll dice [univie.ac.at] to compose a minuet, however.

HVSids collection (2, Informative)

jth1234567 (514045) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911933)

Check out the High Voltage SID collection, includes all legendary game music from Hubbard, Galway, Daglish, and others who followed.

http://www.hvsc.c64.org/ [c64.org]

Players / Winamp plugins can be found with Google...

Some chiptune fan the author is... (2, Interesting)

dstillz (704959) | more than 9 years ago | (#9911964)

Some chiptune fan the author is...

Still, no matter how catchy and memorable the tunes of Super Mario Bros. may be, they remain distinctly chirpy and fruity--saccharine for hyperactive adolescents. Please don't think that I'm trying to undervalue the superb work of Shigeru Miyamato.

He doesn't know the difference between Koji Kondo and Shigeru Miyamoto, and even if he did, he wouldn't spell their romanized names correctly.

As a big chiptune fan, I have to say that this guy's SID bias is appalling and that his writing is even more frustrating. He needs an editor.

Re:Some chiptune fan the author is... (1)

Echnin (607099) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912487)

Didn't early Nintendo game credit a certain Mr. "Miyahon"? ;)

Have to Disagree. Jeremy Soule for example (1)

Ahnteis (746045) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912010)

I'm not a big fan of "electronic" sounding music. I find far more lasting appeal in more classical sounding background. Take for example, the great work by Jeremy Soule [jeremysoule.com] , one of my favorite composers. His theme for "Total Annihilation" is one of my favorite bits of ANY music. It reminds me of a story I heard about Star Wars: A New Hope. Apparently it was originally going to have a nice electronic/"space" backtrack. Just think how it would have changed the movie to have some synthesized theme instead of William's awesome work? There's no reason to cheapen game music just because we can.

Re:Have to Disagree. Jeremy Soule for example (1)

PeteyG (203921) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912219)

Actually Star Wars was originally going to be set to a riff on Holst's 'The Planets', until John Williams convinced Lucas to let him do something cool.

Re:Have to Disagree. Jeremy Soule for example (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913724)

George Lucas needs more people to tell him he's wrong about some things and he needs to listen to at least some of them. Needs more collaboration.

The current batch of Star Wars movies are great examples of the movie just being his own vision.

If he had things his way, one of the more famous scenes in Star Wars would have been this:

Leia to Solo: "I love you".
Solo:"I love you too"

That's BORING!!! That's very like the newer Star Wars stuff.

But instead of that - Harrison Ford said: "I know"

Fortunately for all of us, Lucas kept that line after the director's insistence [starwars.com] .

Peasant's Quest!! (1)

angryflute (206793) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912123)

Featuring two-bit mono PC internal speaker sound.

Re:Peasant's Quest!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9912142)

...From the makers of that game Trogdor, and that game, Rabbit Algebra, comes a graphical text adventure of rather large proportions.

Is this not identical to "abstract art" debates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9912269)

By the mid-20th century, photography had advanced to the point that the old ideal of photorealistic painting as perfection had lost its value.

Similarly, we are at the point where we can reproduce all musical instruments with identical synthesized or sampled equivalents - always in tune, always on time.

This devalues good sonic artists in a similar way, though a slightly different one; it would perhaps be better to compare what is happening with music to what occured in the case of plays and ballets as film largely took over and left behind a smaller market for the "live performance." It's already happened once with the rise of recorded music, yet it seems that it can happen again with the rise of entirely non-performed music, too.

On that note, I must admit that I've gotten into chiptunes myself, playing around with a few simple samples in the Impulse Tracker format, which lets me reshape them to my delight. I went through a lot of the thoughts expressed here on /. about how simple waveforms relate to traditional instruments, and what happened was this:

When I started setting up my samples in Modplug Tracker and putting on volume envelopes and filtering I discovered that I was getting fairly close approximations of the traditional instruments almost 90% of the time. The sounds were pleasant and when setting them in short simple chord patterns I was able to happily listen on repeat for hours on end. That implies to me that traditional instruments are in fact *emulating* the simple waveforms. The reason chips often sound bleepy and irritating is more a matter of sound reproduction and filtering than of the basic patterns involved.

Now, how this all relates to game music; I think that early game music is a very ahead-of-its-time phenomenon. The limited technology encouraged the people making these songs to explore their boundaries and go beyond having "the best square-wave imitation piano on the block." They had just a few years in which the technology was at that point, they were under time and budget pressures to put these things into a game context, and yet there's still some great stuff there. If traditional instruments lose their value this form, renewed with the underlying developments of previous years, might revive en-masse once again. But eras and trends come and go, so it's unlikely any one form will ever dominate entirely.

Hogwash. (2, Interesting)

Domini (103836) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912312)

This is just another case of "the old games were better". Not true! Again!

Game music is there to create an atmosphere, and thus has to be in the domain we are familiar with to be able to illict a human response.

Something as arbitrary as Rob Hubbard whose Sanxion and Delta music was admitedly memorable does not promote the genre as a whole to be 'better'. He simply was good at creating atmosphere, and that's all he had to work with.

Take Doom III and Quake I for instance. It's the best in-game music ever! Why? Because it got it's desired effect like few other games ever has.

-shrug-

Now stop flogging a dead horse!

Re:Hogwash. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9912412)

It's all in the ear of the beholder... ;) The old games were/are better if somebody thinks so. I still think Thing on a Spring being 20 years old has better music than Doom3's mood setting sound. That doesn't make it the best game music, though :)

Forgive me for not reading the entire thread, but I just wanted to comment some of the above. I play in the Commodore 64 revival band "PRESS PLAY ON TAPE" [pressplayontape.com] and we have received tons of feedback going like "That is exactly how I heard the music back then" even from the original compsers like Rob Hubbard which we even have played with on stage (so far the only band he has performed with :) We play the music as rock music btw and not techno music as many believe it to be. Anyhow, my point is that one thing might be the actual soundwave that hits your eardrum, another thing is what your mind interprets it as. Are you hearing sawtooth or strings, sines or organs? Are you hearing large drums or canons in baroque music, FM synthesis or strings in modern dance music? If you (still) can make that abstraction and not be idiosyncratic about the crude sounds you are in for a treat listening to the old games' music, because it is bloody good!

/T -- Look, the horse still moves!

Re:Hogwash. (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913675)

Take Doom III and Quake I for instance. It's the best in-game music ever! Why? Because it got it's desired effect like few other games ever has.
The music for Quake I has one major disadvantage - you don't know it's there unless you have the CD in your drive. (e.g. you're playing the downloaded shareware version.) Also, it was static music - whether you were just standing still on one area or in a 15-player fragfest, it was always the same. Can't comment on Doom III yet...

Games that implement dynamic music are much better at putting the player in the desired effect than games with static music - provided that it is done properly. Deus Ex and Serious sam are examples of good dynamic music (keeps you in the current mood with a minor or illusionary transition), while Deadly Dozen is an example of dynamic music (the combat music breaks the mood as it is different from the ambient music - also, there is no transition.)

I was thinking something similar to this (4, Interesting)

thrash242 (697169) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912366)

...kinda, anyway. I have no idea how actually practical this would be, but it might be neat to have some game music actually synthesized in realtime. A lot of game music now is dynamic, but it's basically (as far as I know) just mixing between different prerecorded songs. Keep in mind before reading further that this is purely speculative and probably not very practical.

It would be neat to have things synthesized on the fly and the parameters could be adjusted in various ways depending on what's going on in the game. Old video game music was obviously synthesized in realtime, but not dynamic as far as I know.

As a simple and retarded example off the top of my head, a main bass line or whatever could become more distorted and harsh the more damaged the player gets. The drum part could change and become faster or something. The only kind of game I can think of where this might be vaguely useful would be in a horror game or other game where atmosphere is very important. I could see--er, hear--a Silent Hill type game using a technique like this to possibly cool effect.

Of course, this would be a lot more processor-intensive than just playing MP3 files or whatever. Modern softsynths can use up lots of CPU power. But there could be options for quality of sound, like there is now.

So it probably wouldn't really be practical at all, but it's a neat idea, I think. I like dynamic music in games, as it can greatly facilitate a mood and a movielike feel, but most I've heard is just fading from one background music to another depending on whether you're in combat or exploring or whatnot. It begins to sound kind of silly if you get close to a monster, then move away, then back close, so forth. "Doo de doooo.... DUM DA DUM DA...doo de...DUM DA DUM...doo..." What I was thinking about would allow for much more gradual and subtle changes in the music.

For the record, I'm an electronic musician that uses all kinds of software and hardware, so I know what this would entail on the music end.

As for whether or not realistic or electronic sounds are better for games, it depends entirely on the game. Some need one kind, some the other, some both. The technique I'm thinking about could be used with either.

Re:I was thinking something similar to this (1)

Sludge (1234) | more than 9 years ago | (#9914977)

Remember in Super Mario World when you got on Yoshi? It unmuted an expendable but catchy bongo midi track.

A game logic programmer coupled with level hints could make it possible to program a heuristical "state" machine that would be able to detect when the player is in combat, when his senses are heightened and when he is looking at scenery.

At this point, I would be impressed with a game that traversed modes (scales) depending on the by-the-minute interactions in the current scene.

Mixing mostly precomposed music in realtime isn't too intensive. Games have used MODs for a very long time.

Reports of video game music's demise... (2, Informative)

CTachyon (412849) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912590)

... are somewhat exaggerated.

There have been some games in recent times that have done innovative things with music. Of the games I've played, first and foremost is Rez [sonicteam.com] (and I'm actually quite surprised that neither the AA article nor any comments have mentioned it). If you've never played it, the shots you fire add beats timed to the music, the music transitions very naturally when you jump ahead to the next section of the level, parts of the stage bounce in time to the music, and the timing of the beats gives you cues for when enemies are about to appear or change strategies. It's really a tour de force on unifying music with gameplay.

Another game that brings something to the debate is Metroid Prime [nintendo.com] . Despite having a Nintendo-proclaimed "cinematic soundtrack" and relying heavily on traditional styles, it's a surprisingly innovative and memorable soundtrack that blends orchestral accompaniment with traditional Metroid musical themes and experimental synthesized instruments. It's something of a counterexample to the AA article's main point that orchestras equal imitation.

Re:Reports of video game music's demise... (2, Informative)

CTachyon (412849) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912617)

Forgot to mention, that if you want a good example of Metroid Prime's "old plus new" sound, check out the "Phendrana Ice Chapel", "Artifact Temple", "Epilogue", and "Credits" tracks -- either here [gamemusic.com] or via the filesharing networks.

The author is a clueless fool (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 9 years ago | (#9912604)

At some point in the late 80s, electronic music fell out of vogue. It seemed as though electronic music had been nothing more than a fad, and the fad was dying. Suddenly, a work like Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene was as uncool as Atari's Pong or fanny packs.
Of course it was. Jarre was getting old, and his music sounded a bit too pompous for elevator music, but sounded like elevator music nonetheless. It seems like if you manage to empty a whole sub-genre for new possibilities, the music in that genre becomes empty as well. The same thing happened to all other pop genres, they all go the way of the doo wop in the end.

But in the late 80s, electronic music wasn't going away, it was changing places. Synthesizers became cheap, electronic music was the new punk rock. Hardly the stuff for the likes of Vangelis and Jarre.
Today, the only the electronic music most of us hear is the repetitive, simplistic beat of dance or industrial music piped into clubs and dubbed over with offensive lyrics and banter.
See, if he actually had any interest in electronic music, he would at least have checked out labels like WARP, formed, by the way, in 1989. You could just as well turn his point around: Today, the only guitar music most of us hear is repetitions of the simple formula The Beatles used, dubbed over with trivial lyrics. Oh, and calling drums and guitars "obsolete" is just offensive to anyone with any interest in music.

He also doesn't quite get that most music is created through performance, considering live music to be "silly spectacle". It's just that computers can't emulate "real" instruments convincingly, you can't make the same music you would make on a guitar or with a string trio with a computer.

So we have a fool who knows nothing about the history of electronic music, has no understanding of traditional music, trying to teach us something about game music. I'm not going to read the whole article.

Re:The author is a clueless fool (1)

BobTheLawyer (692026) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913002)

Dead right. Amazing that someone can write an article on electronic music without making the slightest effort to research his subject.

still reading... (2, Insightful)

Bambi Dee (611786) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913507)

...but I think I'm quite in agreement on some points.

The reason I was so damn impressed with the SID wasn't just the expertise of a handful of composers but the way its unnatural, alternately gritty and spooky sound went together with the melancholic, psychedelic or just plain strange quality of some of the music. I'm thinking of darker themes like those of Warhawk, Zoids or Lightforce here, not the happier fare of Thing on a Spring or Giana Sisters.

There was something truly unique about SID music that got lost when "everyone" got Amigas and games started to use sample-based "tracker" music. And now everything's just playback or at best a form of "DJing", or so it seems (must admit I haven't examined too many modern games). Many games do have great, atmospheric music -- more listenable in the long run than even my favourite SID music. But still... I was so in awe of this puny brown breadbox sweating out such strange and wonderful sounds live and on its own, so to speak. Even the electric mayhem sounds of Atari 2600 Missile Command had ...something -- the way this was truly computer-generated, not prefabbed elsewhere like the soundtrack on a video cassette.

Nowadays every computer can reproduce every kind of recordable sound -- that's great, and I wouldn't ever want that development to not have happened, but somehow it's just not very unique or impressive -- using the computer as a tape recorder doesn't have much to do with the medium computer; listening to music in mp3 format doesn't make it this particular computer's "voice". I often say the same about graphics -- merely imitating reality isn't really the most artistic or interesting application of improved technology. It isn't real; why not use that to your advantage?

I think I agree with the article there, though maybe the author should listen to some Autechre or cEvin Key or what have you instead of complaining about the repetitive, simplistic beat of dance or industrial music piped into clubs and dubbed over with offensive lyrics and banter. Most clubs aren't exactly places where I'd expect to hear intelligent electronic music. (Besides, when was The Cure a synth pop band?)

There're software synthesizers, of course, but does this approach play a role in game audio? I found Trash242's (?I think) suggestion, posted a little further down (or up, depending), very interesting. Would be great to see it happen.

Re:still reading... (1)

Bambi Dee (611786) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913693)

(Besides, when was The Cure a synth pop band?) Not to mention that Front 242 isn't a German band. Seems all the interesting stuff has taken/is taking place where the author wasn't/isn't looking. A shame..

Simple test: How to tell if the music is good (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913551)

Homeworld had music so good it gets released as a stand-alone CD with the Homeworld: Game of the Year Edition [amazon.com] . They had the band YES do the credit music. A good sign that it is good music is if you remember it, and if you ever hear the music you start to long to play the game. I have Halo and Homeworld in my head now.

Consider Deus Ex, among others (1)

dorlthed (700641) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913837)

I think a really good example is the music from Deus Ex (the original). It's not synthesized or kazoo-sounding; rather, it has a large variety of samples including classical instruments, with interspersed techno beats.

There's a few songs on that soundtrack that I really like to load up in an ImpulseTracker player and listen to just for fun. They're not all exactly toe-tapping, but they are kind of neat and they remind me of playing that part of the game.

The important fact, however, is that if you took this music out of context, it would be TERRIBLE. If you just sat there and listened to those songs and tried to compare them to normal, everyday music, which you would listen to in the car, they're atrocious. They're hokey and corny-sounding and are reminiscent of some kind of failed French orchestral-techno fusion.

HOWEVER . . . it's the perfect sound for that game. It gets you into the mood, it creates atmosphere, and it carries the game along perfectly. When I listen to those songs on my media player, they're perfectly good because I'm not expecting "real" music, just listening to a soundtrack from a game I like. And that's how it should be. There should be no need to imitate a real, orchestral soundtrack if they don't want to, especially when something else, such as the psuedo-techno beats of Deus Ex's music, would suit the game better.

In my opinion, Deus Ex is the perfect example of how a game should do music. If they want 100% synthesized, NES-like beats, they should do that. If it's a Star Wars game, for instance, then they should do a 100% orchestral soundtrack. But they shouldn't feel FORCED to do a 100% orchestral soundtrack. They should just make what will carry along the game best and put you in the mood best, which could be anywhere in between.

Realism. (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 9 years ago | (#9913844)

Yeah, maybe it'll be useful in my day to day life for me to hear background music.

e.g. ominous sounding music when something bad could be about to happen. Mugger in ally close by.

Romantic music to help tell Mr Clueless Me that the girl is indeed interested ;).

Maybe there should be a super hero/heroine with this ability :).

i'm wondering.,., (1)

noodler (724788) | more than 9 years ago | (#9914315)

i think that the guy that wrote the article has no idea of what he's talking about.,

one of the things he mentions is that it's cheaper to hire an orchestra than to use synthesizers.,

he promptly forgets that a lot of games include synthetic sounds/music. this kind of music obviously cannot be made with a real orchestra.,

yes, IF you want to emulate an orchestra then it's cheaper to get a real one.,
but most music i hear in games today is synth based .,
so i dont see his point.,

furthermore, there are lots of tools available today ( they are called SAMPLERS, not synthesizers ) that will alow you to create an instant orchestra., definitely cheaper than to rig up a real one.,

another thing is that by using a medium like DVD you can deliver incredibly complex music which would otherwise be impossible to generate in real time (especially while a game is struggeling for resources to execute simulation code).,

i'm not sure if the writer ever attempted to write a synthesizer but it munches cpu cycles away like the coockiemonster., well, you get the idea.,

he also forgets that the audience is expecting studio quality music ., something which may not be true for him but sure is for most games consumers.,

i think the article is bogus and the guy should download a sid emulator or something ., much more effective.,

games in general are getting more mass market.,
you cannot put too much 'new' stuff in there., that's why some of the companies opt for the orchestral sound., nothing to do with not using the potential of the hardware.,., it's all about cash., most people like orchestras.,

also, he propably doesnt understand that if one would like to generate a score in real time with the use of the hundreds of channels of audio on offer the results would sound like sh?t .,
mixing algorithms, effects quality, resampling quality, available cpu cycles,etc, etc, all affect the final sound., and unless your style is industrial/glitch music then you shouldnt try.,

furthermore, you've got no controll over the kind of system the music will be heared on and it's capabilityies .,

so the safest bet is to pre-produce everything and just play the final 2 or 6 channel audio.,
this way you get a consistent quality .,.,
something we all want..,

so there are, at least at this time, enough reasons to do stuff the way it's being done.,

enuf for now., :)
greets.,
aka.,

Games have music? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 9 years ago | (#9915640)

I'd almost forgotten. The first thing I do in any game is turn off all noises but sound effects. Music in games is fun for the first time or two you play it, then it gets repetitive and tiring real quickly. Its not that the music is boring, or bland- its that while gaming you hear it over and over and over again. It'd be like playing 1 cd constantly, it gets on your nerves. I'd personally like to see either mmusic dropped from games, or at least a turn of option on all console games.

Flutes and Kazoos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9916290)

as it does for a flutist to make his instrument sound like a kazoo

Actually, according to the 8-year old (just started learning) living next door to me, her flute already sounds like a kazoo...

Darwinism, Synthetic Food & Music (2, Interesting)

Databass (254179) | more than 9 years ago | (#9917417)


As Audio Director for Flashbang Studios, I have been happy to grab some fame and recognition by taking precisely the approach so opposed in this article. In Beesly's Buzzwords [playbuzzwords.com] , we managed to receive a nomination to Finalist in the Audio Innovation for Web/Downloadable at the Independent Games Festival [igf.com] at Game Developer's Conference 2004.

While one can never truly get in the minds of the judges, I believe we made it to Finalist precisely because we made our music sound MORE like a symphony orchestra and less like $20 Casio-tone keyboard. The web/downloadable category in large part represents the emerging "casual games" market. The audio budgets, both in cash and file size, can often be quite tiny. As such, synthy, repetitive pseudo-techno is often the norm. A similar game, Pop Cap's Bookworm [popcap.com] , has a single in-game loop that's maybe two minutes long. It's synthy and happy and kind of nice, but after playing, I mean "researching" the game for an hour, I wanted to scrub my mind clean of that song.

Keeping that in mind, we gave Beesly four distinct songs, taking a cue from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. Winter and Spring are light and airy piano songs on sampled grand piano, and Summer and Fall are full (sampled) orchestrations that sound a bit like Copland if I want to be generous. Which I do, since it's my own project. At the time, my friends Paul and Jon [xeojax.com] and myself were working on a shoe-string budget. We couldn't afford an orchestra (if we could I would have gone for it), but we could afford a few hundred dollars of sampled Akai CDs. The majority of people who commented on the music for Buzzwords said that they find the it "soothing" and "nice". Some have even gone as far as to say it's the first casual game they haven't simply turned off the music in a few minutes.

There's a reason many people like the sound of the symphony instruments more then synth-phony instruments. (Zing!) That reason is that the mainstays of the symphony orchestra, the brass (Trumpet, french horn), the woodwinds (clarinet oboe bassoon), the strings (violin viola cella bass) are all time-tested in a brutal darwinian competition for survival. For centuries composers have competed for funding and commissions, and in that competitive environment, only the sounds with waveforms and harmonics most naturally suited to some kind of average human ear have survived. Different cultures might find different timbers more appealing, but the surviving instruments have had centuries to settle upon overall pleasing sounds. (I am drawing heavily on a book called Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy here by Robert Jourdain. Slashdot is having trouble with the Amazon.com link.)

Synth instruments are relatively new, having mere decades of darwinian refinement by comparison. Let's take food and wine as an example. Not everyone knows how to cook, but everyone knows what they like. Chefs have had thousands of years to study what human neurology will like in the way of food. Now let's add in the metaphor for synthetics. Tang is vaguely like orange juice, but few people would say it is somehow as tasty or as rich as the real organic thing. Grape Kool-Aid can be tasty in its own right, but wouldn't most people with refined tastes would prefer a fine wine or at least real fruit juice?

Someday artificial foods may somehow surpass real foods, but they'll have to do really well to fool our highly evolved tastes. Take the Replicators on Star Trek- they could in theory replicate any food anyone could want or imagine. Thousands of tastes all at once that leave your taste buds reeling. So what do people usually replicate? Simple and familiar things. Steak and potatoes, coffee, or their old favorites from whatever planet they're from. And we'll use our cheap, flexibile digital hardware to try and make the best symphony sound we can for our next games. With luck, we'll even keep winning nominations and awards for it.

That said, this article makes it seem like synth is dead in games. Not the case. There are synth masters out there like BT making music for games. BT did some great work with dynamic and synthetic sounds for SSX Tricky for example.

PS- (The distant future of music will likely be digital. The ability to pull real orchestra samples and together and compose dynamic music in real-time is too powerful to ignore. The next step after that would be to have music that adapts based on biorhythm input from your EEG and heart rate and the like. Biomusic.)

Another nostalgia article (1)

DaveCBio (659840) | more than 9 years ago | (#9917842)

This thing just read as another "things were better when" piece. Music is music and how it's created is secondary to the results. I don't see all the constraints that he is talking about and I have worked in game audio for 6 years. Games like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights were made better with orchestral sounding tracks. Synth sounding tracks would have made the experience less in my opinion.

He cites the example of "Citizen Kane" like a lot of people do when they want to invoke the idea that older is often better. Now, I may get flamed for this, but I didn't think "Citizen Kane" was the best movie of all time. I can see in the context of when it was made how ground breaking it was and how so many films have stood on it's shoulders since then. On the other hand people have gone beyond Kane in writing, acting and cinematography. Just as we have gone beyond the limitations of the SID chip and it's ilk. If I want an electronic sounding track I have that option. If I want a lush orchestral score I have that option. It's about choice and saying that trying to imitate an orchestra with a computer is a bad thing is narrow minded. Just because you can make weird sounds on a SID chip doesn't mean that it's more "innovative". The music from that era used standard structures and harmonies just as game music does today. It's just that sometimes it was hard to tell because the sounds were so primitive.

How many people could listen to the score for Hordes of the Underdark and say it was all synths? No many because the music stands on it's own. It's like saying that we shouldn't bother trying to create realistic lighting in games because it will never be like reality. When he says, "It's cheaper to use live orchestra than synthesizers." he betrayed his ignorance. I've worked with both Jeremy Soule and Jack Wall that he quotes in the piece and I can assure you they would both dispute that statement heartily. It's based on one composers ability and that's far from a good sampling.

Lastly, he is talking to people that for the most part made music when the entire codebase for a game could be in a persons head. These days it's extemely difficult to find people that are both good composers AND good programmers. Those that are rarely have to look for work in games, it usually comes to them. Systems are far more complex now and to be a master in two worlds is a rare talent. Chip tunes are cool in a retro kind of way, but even when they were the latest and greatest I felt they were inadequate. They always felt to me like the composers were doing the best they could with a toy piano.

P.S. - I know it's nit picking, but he also flings terms around like channels and voice without actually knowing what they mean. He might have done a bit more research first.
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