In the last article, we discussed the concept of the “hook” as it relates to thematic composition, and we explored how an awesome hook can function best from within a main theme track. In our discussion, we used both a famous example from the Star Wars franchise, as well as the main theme from one of my own recently-released game projects – The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes. Both examples included a fairly dynamic foreground melody, which made it a great example for our discussion of the role of the hook in thematic construction. So let’s now consider what happens when we eschew such an attention-drawing melodic element and instead take a more subtle approach.
So happy you’ve joined us! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips. Last March, I gave a presentation at the very first online Game Developers Conference. My talk was entitled “From Assassin’s Creed to The Dark Eye: The Importance of Themes” (I’ve included the official description of my talk at this end of this article). This coming August, I’ll be participating as a speaker in the upcoming GDC Summer online conference. My session this August will be a wide-ranging Ask-Me-Anything Q&A, and I’m really looking forward it! In anticipation of that conference session, I thought it might be useful for me to share the content of my March GDC talk in a series of articles. I’m happy to now begin a five-part article series based on my GDC 2020 presentation in March!
But before we start digging into practical examples, let’s take a quick look at one of the best and most iconic themes in the history of music for media. I’ve included a short excerpt below. Notice how we hear a melodic phrase once, then we hear it again, and it’s exactly the same as before. So the melody is saying, “hey – you liked that? Here, have another!”
Welcome! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m glad you’ve joined us for this continuation of our discussion of the dynamic music system in the video game Spyder! As you may recall from our previous discussion, Spyder is a spy thriller set in a retro world that’s vibrant with the famously over-the-top music and aesthetic of the late 1960s to early 1970s. The game was developed by Sumo Digital for the popular Apple Arcade gaming platform. The protagonist is an intelligent gadget resembling a tiny robotic spider. This device, named “Agent 8,” was created by an elite British spy organization. As the hero of the game, Agent 8 undertakes high-stakes espionage in order to defeat a sprawling evil organization known as S.I.N.! Sumo Digital recently released a developer diary video about the making of the music of SPYDER, so let’s check that out:
As you could see from the video, the Spyder video game features a dynamic music system designed to convey the iconic 1960s style of a classic spy thriller. In this two-part article series, we’ve been exploring how that system was created.
Hello there! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m excited to announce the release of my most recent video game project – Spyder, developed by Sumo Digital for the popular Apple Arcade gaming platform. I loved working with the amazing audio team at Sumo Digital, and composing the music of Spyder was an absolute blast! As a retro spy thriller with a really iconic visual aesthetic, Spyder gave me the chance to delve into the musical styles of the late sixties and early seventies. Big band jazz of the 50s had evolved over time into a groovy psychedelic circus of 1960s musical fun. Mix this with the beginnings of 70s funk – and early synthetic sounds such as the famous Minimoog – and you end up with a potent cocktail of musical influences and attitudes. All of this retro goodness is reflected in the old-school movie-style poster created by the Sumo Digital team to announce the Spyder video game (pictured right).
The historical research into style, technique and instrumentation posed a significant challenge for me as a game music composer. In the course of preparing to compose the music for Spyder, I sank an enormous amount of time into this research, listening to what felt like every single spy movie soundtrack from the late sixties and early seventies. I also listened to tons of straight action movie soundtracks from the same era, as well as a great assortment of comedies, all while taking copious notes. Lending a strong sense of authenticity to the era was a crucial responsibility of the game music that would give Spyder its evocative character.
Welcome! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips. As most of us are no-doubt aware, the Game Developers Conference 2020 has been postponed. This means that the yearly conference’s rich and diverse schedule of lectures will not be performed live next week during GDC 2020 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. I was really looking forward to presenting my lecture, entitled “The Importance of Themes: Creating Musical Signatures for your Games.” Having given GDC presentations every year since 2015, I consider the Game Developers Conference to be an indispensable event for both my career and my personal enrichment as a game music composer. While the postponement is a set-back for the entire game development community, I’m glad to share some awesome news! A portion of the GDC 2020 lecture schedule will still take place as planned – albeit from a much different venue. Instead of in-person presentations, GDC plans to stream many of their previously scheduled GDC talks during GDC week as part of a “virtual conference.” This means that I can share my lecture as a GDC Virtual Talk. Best of all, all of the GDC Virtual Talks will be available for free!
My virtual talk will focus on the best ways to create memorable thematic material. Catchy melodies can help to enhance a game’s distinctive character and originality, which can subsequently lead to a more memorable gameplay experience. In preparing my presentation, I conducted quite a bit of research. Because of time constraints, not all of that scholarly research made it into my final presentation. I was sorry to have to cut those materials – I thought it was pretty interesting stuff! So let’s now discuss some of that extra info in this article. We won’t be delving into the actual subject matter of my lecture, since I’ll be saving that material for my actual presentation that will be included in the slate of GDC 2020 Virtual Talks. But the general relationship between music and memory is a fascinating area of study. If our music can help games to stick in the minds of players, then it should be useful for us to understand some expert scholarly viewpoints on the relationship between music and memory.
Hey, everybody! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips. As game composers, it’s inevitable that we’ll eventually be asked to create music in a genre with which we have little or no experience. Some projects may throw several unfamiliar musical genres our way. It can be a scary prospect. I’ve worked on many projects that have required me to quickly learn new musical styles and techniques, so I thought I’d share some thoughts about how research can help us cope with these sorts of unexpected demands. This article will explore the role of music research, including how it can initiate us into the mysteries of unfamiliar musical styles, and ways in which it can lead us in unanticipated (but not unwelcome) directions. I’ve had lots of experience delving into diverse musical genres and doing music research for projects both big and small over the course of my career. For this article, I’ll be describing my recent experience composing the music for the Sports Scramble VR game, developed by Armature Studio and released earlier this year for popular VR platforms such as the Oculus Quest and the Oculus Rift/Rift S.
Hello there! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips, and it’s time once again for our yearly collection of top resources for game audio practitioners! The following article contains an expanded and updated collection of links on an assortment of subjects important to the game audio community. We kick things off with a list of concert tours and annual game music events. After that, we check out the online game audio communities that we can join for support and assistance. We’ll take a look at the software applications currently in use by game audio pros. Finally, we’ll look at what’s going on in the world of game audio conferences and academia.
Hey everyone! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips. In the photo above I’m working on the project that launched my career as a game composer – God of War. Starting a viable career in the game development industry as a composer can be an awesome task, and I’m often asked for advice about how to break into this business. So each year I revisit the subject in an article that allows us to consider current ideas and strategies. Along the way, we contemplate multiple viewpoints, both from expert music and game audio practitioners and by anonymous game audio folks in community forums. This can be helpful, because the common wisdom on this subject changes in subtle but appreciable ways with each passing year. By revisiting the topic periodically, I hope that we’ll be able to obtain a deeper understanding of what it takes to land the coveted first gig as a composer of music for games.
Part of the reason I write this article each year is personal. My own “big break” story is so extraordinarily unusual that it can’t provide much useful guidance for newcomers. Being fortunate enough to have a famous game like God of War as your first game credit isn’t the typical entry path for a budding video game composer. Yet, because I’m a fairly visible member of the game audio community who has written a book called A Composer’s Guide to Game Music (pictured), I’m constantly asked for advice by aspiring composers who want to start their professional careers and are having trouble getting out of the gate. Since my own story is such a ‘bolt-of-lightning’ case study, I think it’s useful for us to study the more traditional entry paths when we’re trying to understand how aspiring game composers can get their start. By the way, in case you’re wondering, here’s the story of how I landed my first gig – I told the story during a Society of Composers and Lyricists event in NYC, and it’s captured in this video:
Glad you’re here! I’m video game music composer Winifred Phillips. Today I’d like to share some news about one of my latest projects as a video game composer: the newest installment in an internationally-acclaimed fantasy RPG franchise known as The Dark Eye. During our discussion, we’ll break down the structure of one of the most important pieces of music I composed for that game.
The latest entry in the award-winning Dark Eye video game franchise will be released this coming Spring 2020 under the title The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes. Before we begin discussing this project and one of the pieces of music I composed for it, let’s take a look at the announcement trailer that was recently released by the publisher Ulisses Games. The trailer prominently features a sizable portion of the main theme I composed for the game:
As you can see from the gameplay captured in the trailer, The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes is an isometric real-time roleplaying game. The developers have compared the gameplay of Book of Heroes to top RPG games from the classic era like Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. The game offers both solo missions and cooperative adventures designed for up to four players. Most importantly, the developers stress in an interview that their game will be faithful to the awesome fantasy world of the renowned RPG franchise – it will be “the most Dark Eye game ever.” Composing a main theme is a heavy responsibility, since main theme tracks tend to be regarded as especially important in a composer’s body of work. Just this week (Nov. 9th) I was interviewed on the Sound Of Gaming radio show on BBC Radio 3, and the main theme for The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes premiered on this broadcast, spotlighting my work as a game composer. The entire show is available to listen at this link from now until Dec. 8th. A main theme is not only a prominent showcase of a composer’s abilities, but also serves a crucial function within the main score of the game. So let’s explore that idea further.
Delighted you’re here! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m happy to welcome you back to the last of my four-part article series exploring how game music can best enhance the sensation of presence in Virtual Reality! These articles are based on the presentation I gave at this year’s Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, entitled How Music Enhances Virtual Presence (I’ve included the official description of my talk at this end of this article). If you haven’t read the previous three articles, you’ll find them here: