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Classic Games (Games) Media Music

The Rise And Fall Of Game Audio 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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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 @10:25PM (#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 [] 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:yuck (Score:1, Informative)

    by AdamPiotrZochowski ( 736869 ) <> on Saturday August 07, 2004 @10:50PM (#9911491) Homepage

    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 cgenman ( 325138 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @10:51PM (#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 [] 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 [], 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 []) 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 [] springs to mind), this shouldn't be the defining feature.

    All artists should be creative, game or no.

  • Re:Missing the point (Score:1, Informative)

    by AdamPiotrZochowski ( 736869 ) <> on Saturday August 07, 2004 @11:05PM (#9911531) Homepage
    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 []
    or [] 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 [] 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
  • Um, (Score:4, Informative)

    by DarkGamer20X6 ( 695175 ) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @11:36PM (#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.
  • HVSids collection (Score:2, Informative)

    by jth1234567 ( 514045 ) on Sunday August 08, 2004 @01:02AM (#9911933)
    Check out the High Voltage SID collection, includes all legendary game music from Hubbard, Galway, Daglish, and others who followed. []

    Players / Winamp plugins can be found with Google...
  • 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 [] or the
    Press Play on Tape []
    (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: [])

    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 [])

    /apz, SID chip was developed in 1981 and is still produced
  • Re:yuck (Score:3, Informative)

    by abandonment ( 739466 ) <> on Sunday August 08, 2004 @05:14AM (#9912391) Homepage
    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...
  • by CTachyon ( 412849 ) <chronos&chronos-tachyon,net> on Sunday August 08, 2004 @07:02AM (#9912590) Homepage

    ... 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 [] (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 []. 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.

  • 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 [] or via the filesharing networks.

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