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Classic Games (Games) Media Music

The Rise And Fall Of Game Audio 111

Posted by simoniker
from the sid-was-here dept.
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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The Rise And Fall Of Game Audio

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  • Beep boop beep beep (Score:5, Informative)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @09:25PM (#9911408) Journal
    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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 d
  • yuck (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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 (Score:1, Informative)


      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
      • by b00m3rang (682108) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @11:14PM (#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.
        • 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 m
          • 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.
          • 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 ...

            • 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
      • Re:yuck (Score:3, Informative)

        by abandonment (739466)
        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...
  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nutcase (86887) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @09:39PM (#9911456) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • 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 tun
      • by recursiv (324497)
        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?

        • \ 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
        • by DeComposer (551766)
          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
      • 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

        • 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.
        • 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.
      • 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.

      • 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 re

        • 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 t
    • I agree the original article missed the point, but in a completely different way. As the audio capabilities of the early PCs and consoles matured, their limitations channeled and forged the creativity of artists in directions where the lack of 'real' instruments was less important.

      This generated some very innovative, melodically-driven compositions, but in this I agree with you: it's no use mourning for them.

      As for your assertions, maybe I just haven't noticed, but there used to be a term used to des
  • by cgenman (325138) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @09:51PM (#9911495) Homepage
    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.


    • \ 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
  • by caitsith01 (606117) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @09:53PM (#9911498) Journal
    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.
    • 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
  • Thoughts from 0x0d0a (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0x0d0a (568518) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @10:14PM (#9911567) Journal
    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 o
    • 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.
    • 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 dig
      • 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".
        • 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.
          • 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.
            • 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!
              • 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
                • 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.
    • 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.
    • "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 track
      • 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... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by recursiv (324497) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @10:19PM (#9911581) Homepage Journal
    "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."
    • It's another way of digitally representing an analog audio signal. In fact, it's of significantly less resolution and quality than vinyl.
      • 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 (Score:4, Insightful)

          by b00m3rang (682108) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @11:53PM (#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.
        • 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 everybod
      • 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,
        • 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 t
    • Exactly, and I imagine a games company would much prefer getting the "game audio programmer" to use some synthesized strings, rather than hiring a whole symphony orchestra.

  • by dancingmad (128588) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @10:26PM (#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.
    • 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 th

      • 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

  • Um,...no. (Score:4, Informative)

    by DarkGamer20X6 (695175) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @10:36PM (#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.
  • 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 inste
    • > "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
      • 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
      • 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 Bollywoo
  • 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 striv

    • Oh my god, I thought I was the only fan of PDQ here!
      • I can't remember if it was done under Schickele's name or PDQ Bach, but I heard about a piece of music called "Table music for Trumpet and Flute". There was one sheet placed on a table between the two musicians, and they read it like they would normally. Pretty cool musical hack once thought about.

        I've been a PDQ fan since high school, almost 15 years ago. :) The thing that actually sticks out in my mind is a piece of album art on one of the J Cards (I believe it was from PDQ Bach on the air) where ther
    • 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
  • 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]
  • HVSids collection (Score:2, Informative)

    by jth1234567 (514045)
    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...
  • by dstillz (704959) on Sunday August 08, 2004 @12:14AM (#9911964) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • 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
    • 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.
      • 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
  • Featuring two-bit mono PC internal speaker sound.
  • Hogwash. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Domini (103836) <lailoken@gmail.com> on Sunday August 08, 2004 @03:23AM (#9912312) Journal
    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!

    • 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

      • Not totally true about Quake I.

        Certain levels had certain tracks. I remember certain levels specifically for their music.

        Besides, Sanxion did not do context-dynamic music either, so my argument still stands.

        Doom 3 has been reviewed as an awesomely scary sound experience by many sites... they focused on single player... yay!

        Sometimes dynamic music can be boring and predictable, causing only irritation. Other times it can be good. So I agree with you in this regard (transitions are important).

        I remember
        • Not totally true about Quake I.

          Certain levels had certain tracks. I remember certain levels specifically for their music.
          That's static music. It is a single music track that simply plays with no intervention.

          Just because there is more than one track doesn't mean that it is dynamic. It could be a situational style of music, but it doesn't change enough to receive the dynamic tag.
  • by thrash242 (697169) on Sunday August 08, 2004 @03:58AM (#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.
    • 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 preco

    • Try plaing NiGHTS Into Dreams on the Saturn... the music basically was your measure of success. And on a little different note (no pun intended), there are games like Rez...
  • ... 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.

  • 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

  • still reading... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bambi Dee (611786)
    ...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

    • (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..
  • 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.
  • 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 t

  • 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 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
  • 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.

  • 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 le
  • 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 i
  • Beepy electronic music may turn some people on, but it is not the best thing for the job often. The background audio on Baldur's Gate II was among the best I have ever heard -- the music was nothing that could not be reproduced by an orchestra, but it did its job admirably and sounded good to boot. The rest of the background was people muttering in English -- crowd chatter, salesmen and stuff. Yes, they COULD have pulled a Tolkien and invented some languages for the background chatter, and they could hav
  • Indeed, perhaps the second (the computer being the first) most versatile musical instrument ever created, the piano, required

    half a century before talented composers, like Johann Christian Bach and Franz Liszt, were able to write memorable pieces for it.

    J. C. Bach a 'memorable' composer? Probably 1 person in 1000 has heard his music.

    And Franz Liszt? You're about a century off, buddy.

    The article gets worse... it names Shigeru Miyamoto as the composer of the Mario Bros. tunes, implies the Mac was re

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