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The Blending of Music and Games 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-just-five-starred-halo dept.
Gamasutra has an opinion piece by the 'father of music games,' Masaya Matsuura, who questions the evolution of video game music (or the lack thereof) as the industry's technological advancements give rise to the capability for greater complexity. "Most games these days seem to use gorgeous orchestral soundtracks. While these large-scale soundtracks may generally be lovely to listen to, if we really think about it, isn't it all a bit lacking in imagination? Thinking about it from a simplistic visual perspective, while films are basically just watched, games are interactive." He also discusses the predilection for games to encourage "competitive fun," as opposed to "cooperative fun." GameSetWatch has a related article which talks about how excellent musical scores can help to create an emotionally charged experience, rather than simply occupying one's mind for a time.
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The Blending of Music and Games

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @07:14PM (#25293479)

    Well, it is not often that "gorgeous orchestral soundtracks" are thought of as a problem. Imagine how difficult some of the legal battles could be if one used popular music in a game -- unless it is a band like Radiohead

  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @07:14PM (#25293485) Journal

    Hmm... the Gamasutra article struck me as a little pretentious, but maybe that's just because I actually like big orchestral scores for games. Some of my favorites include:

    Wing Commander: Yeah, it was low quality midis, but at the time, it was jaw-dropping. It felt like you were playing a Star Wars movie on your PC and the soundtrack was a huge part of that. From the intro sequence, with the theme that was more than a little reminiscent of the ST:TNG theme, through to the battle music and the Kilrathi theme (also used for fun in Ultima 7), the music in the first 2 games was awesome. Who can forget the cheesy-but-classic "scramble" music that played before every mission?

    Star Control 2: Each of the many alien races in the game had its own music and this played a huge part in setting the atmosphere for every encounter. The Ur-Quan and Yehat music, in particular, have stayed in my mind to this day as examples of great videogame music.

    X-Wing: The Lucasarts I-Muse system which changed the soundtrack to reflect the progress of the battle was revolutionary. The audio cues from the music would directly influence your battle tactics. You knew that a few bars of the Imperial March meant that trouble was headed your way.

    Pretty much anything Final Fantasy: Ok, perhaps the soundtracks haven't been universally stellar, but pretty much every Final Fantasy game has had a few tracks worthy of real notice. FF6's Overworld theme, FF7's Cosmo Canyon theme (and, of course, One Winged Angel), FF10's "To Zanarkand" and FF11's Memoria de la Stono all stand out as some of the best pieces of video game music ever.

    Super Smash Brothers Brawl: The fantastic main theme, which is used appropriately throughout the story-campaign, does a great job in adding a touch of gravitas to what could otherwise be a rather lightweight story.

  • Dynamic Audio (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @07:18PM (#25293529)

    I haven't read the article yet, however I agree that video game music could be more interesting. A classic example is Super Mario 64, where the music changed dynamically with one's environment.

    Redbook audio is nice, but some of my all-time favorite video game music came from cartridge-based games:
    Mega Man 2, Super Castlevania IV, Crystalis, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. ... Just a thought.

  • Re:Game music (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FornaxChemica (968594) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @07:35PM (#25293705) Homepage Journal
    Being an enthusiast myself and listening right now to some chiptune music (NES, Castlevania, 3rd level) I couldn't agree more. Elaborate music, orchestral or not, is what obviously suits modern 3D games but this is hardly the best we've heard. Almost all the most famous catchy tunes come from the 8-bit era! Is there any contemporary game's music track as well-known as Mario or Zelda themes? I wouldn't think so.
  • Re:Game music (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alexandra Erenhart (880036) <> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @08:01PM (#25293937) Homepage
    Heheh Zelda music has really evolved through all their games, but it always have the same catchy tune you hear in Legend of Zelda 1. You play that music anywhere and you'll see all the Zelda fans jump. Everybody recognize it. In Twilight Princess you can also hear it too, but way more elaborated. I miss it everytime they don't add it to the games. I missed it in ocarina of time, even though it had great music.

    Games like that have their music as their representative icon. Not many games have that.
  • Re:Game music (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clockwise_music (594832) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @08:06PM (#25293993) Homepage Journal
    I think that a lot of this has got to do with the general decline of the quality of pop music. People now expect to hear rubbishy 3 minute bubblegum crap on the radio that has the emotional impact of a wet lettuce. As a result, our general experience of music has been relegated to "background sounds".

    The latest game that I remember with great music was Doom. Those tracks rocked. (Mainly because they were based on classic heavy metal tracks. ) But then when I eventually moved onto newer games (Tomb Raider, Deus Ex) the soundtrack was just a bit of a yawn. I can't even remember if Doom 3 had any music and what it was like.

    As any experienced gamer can tell you, great music can make a really big difference to a game. But generally it's regarded as something to slot into the game at the last minute. There are notable exceptions of course - a new Wii game called De Blob [] was designed ground up with the music in mind. It'll make a big difference.

    BTW - if you really want some good rockin' music for your game, get in contact with me :) (Some of my music is up here [] and here []. And I've done some music for the Angry Nintendo Nerd so some of you guys might have already heard my stuff without even knowing :)
  • Re:Game music (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kell Bengal (711123) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @08:14PM (#25294047)
    I dispute that the original Deus Ex lacked a good sound track. The music was created for the game and well reflects the mood the game designers were trying to convey. Also, if you look inside some of the track data there are some subversive narky comments from the composer.
  • Castlevania (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann,slashdot&gmail,com> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @08:36PM (#25294209) Homepage Journal

    For me, the Castlevania games (especially Symphony of the Night) are excellent at combining background art, character design and background music.

    Example: SOTN library stage []. Here's a fan playing "Dance of Pales" on his synth [].

    What can I say? With Castlevania, the music becomes part of the game and contributes to the suspension of disbelief.

  • AudioSurf! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by the_greywolf (311406) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @08:47PM (#25294277) Homepage

    I saw this game at PAX this year. It makes a game out of an audio visualization of any song in your collection.

    It's a Steam game and it works (mostly) in Wine, too.

    Forget music for games, get a game for your music!

  • by jagdish (981925) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:51PM (#25295627)
    Some of the music by Microsoft Games is superbly made, like the Age of Empires/Mythology series, Rise of Nations and even Halo. Its either a freak coincidence or, unlikely as it may sound, they must have someone good up there in charge of the music. Valve and Nintendo are also pretty good with their music. Rockstar mostly uses licensed tracks for their games, but their selection is superb.

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"