Hey, everybody! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m happy to welcome you back to the last installment of our four-part discussion of “scoring-to-picture” techniques within video games. In these articles we’ve considered how cutscenes, trailers, and cinematics can benefit from specific musical strategies. As game composers, our jobs involve lots of complex music systems requiring expert knowledge of dynamic composition techniques. However, we can still benefit from an examination of the goals that music can achieve during linear presentations within a game. Such goals may include:
Hello there! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m glad you could join us for the continuation of our four-part discussion of traditional “scoring-to-picture” techniques within a video game project. We’ve been examining the music needs of cinematics, cutscenes, and trailers, with an eye towards pinpointing specific goals that music can achieve. Those goals include:
Hey, everyone! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’d like to welcome you back to our four-part discussion of traditional “scoring-to-picture” techniques within a video game project, and how these play into our work as game composers. We’ve been looking at examples of cinematics, cutscenes and trailers to see how this kind of linear composition style accomplishes specific goals. That list of goals includes:
In our previous article, we took a look at how music can best emphasize and support characters during cutscenes and cinematics. By using linear music for the purposes of characterization, we can accentuate the distinct traits of important characters, or provide insight into their state of mind.
Now, let’s consider when our music composition goals are less emotional, and more utilitarian. In this article, we’ll be moving on from characterization to take a look at how information is conveyed in linear cinematics and cutscenes. When the primary goal of a cinematic is to provide players with important details, we can assist by composing music to support the way information is disseminated. This can help players to better absorb all the facts presented.
Glad you’re here! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips– thanks for joining us! As we all know, dynamic music has become a central focus of our craft as game composers. In our past articles here, we tend to focus on the awesome power of dynamic implementation to increase the utility of game music across lengthy gameplay sequences. In-game music serves many purposes, so it must morph and change in order to best accommodate shifting circumstances. However, no matter how interactive our in-game tracks may be, we inevitably run into situations in which dynamic music systems fall short.
Glad you’re here! I’m video game music composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m the author of the book A Composer’s Guide to Game Music. Recently my publisher The MIT Press requested that I host a question and answer session on Reddit’s famous Ask Me Anything forum, to share my knowledge about game music and spread the word about my book on that topic. I’d be answering questions from a community consisting of thousands of gamers, developers and aspiring composers. It sounded like fun, so last Thursday and Friday I logged onto Reddit and answered as many questions as I possibly could. It was an awesome experience! Over the course of those two days, my Reddit AMA went viral. It ascended to the Reddit front page, receiving 14.8 thousand upvotes and garnering Reddit’s gold and platinum awards. My AMA has now become one of the most engaged and popular Reddit gaming AMAs ever hosted on the Ask-Me-Anything subreddit. I’m so grateful to the Reddit community for their amazing support and enthusiasm!! During the course of those two days, the community posed some wonderful questions, and I thought it would be great to gather together some of those questions and answers that might interest us here. Below you’ll find a discussion focused on the art and craft of game music composition. The discussion covered the gamut of subjects, from elementary to expert, and I’ve arranged the discussion below under topic headings for the sake of convenience. I hope you enjoy this excerpted Q&A from my Reddit Ask-Me-Anything! If you’d like to read the entire AMA (which also includes lots of discussion of my past video game music projects), you’ll find the whole Reddit AMA here.
Hi! I’m video game music composer Winifred Phillips, and sometimes my game music shows up in places I never would have expected. A little over a week ago, while I was eagerly watching an awesome trailer for the just-released blockbuster Avengers Endgame, I was suddenly stunned to hear my own music in it! (I’ve embedded the Avengers Endgame trailer that features my music at the end of this article.) What made this moment even more jaw-dropping for me was that I had originally composed this music for the video game Spore Hero (a game from Electronic Arts’ popular Spore franchise). Just as a reference, here’s what the characters look like in Spore Hero:
The style of Spore Hero couldn’t be further away from that famous Avengers style, as expertly displayed in the Avengers Endgame trailer. Yet the same music was used for both projects.
The Spore Hero music I was hearing in the Avengers Endgame trailer was my “Hero Theme,” which functions essentially as a leitmotif within the Spore Hero score – it’s the central recurring melody in the game. By virtue of the theme-and-variation technique, the melody undergoes a gradual transformation from invitingly cute to heroically epic.
The Avengers Endgame trailer featured the most dramatic iteration of this theme. When I recovered from the initial surprise, it occurred to me that a mini-postmortem of this particular melodic theme might be the best way to explore an interesting topic: how does a single theme transform itself from an amiable melody to an avenging one?
So happy you’ve joined us! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips (pictured above working on my career breakthrough project, God of War). Today I’ll be discussing a hot topic that we’ve previously explored, but that definitely deserves to be revisited periodically. This is one of the most popular subjects that I’ve addressed in my previous articles here: How does a newcomer get hired as a game composer?
I’m asked this question frequently, and while I offered quite a lot of advice on this topic in my book A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, I’m keenly aware of how urgent the need is for updated guidance on this issue for aspiring video game composers. Game music newcomers often feel adrift and alone in the game industry, and some good advice can be a welcome lifeline. In my book, I described the career path that led me into the game industry and allowed me to land my first gigs, but I’m well aware that my experience was pretty unique. With that in mind, I’ve collated some recent research and insights from some top game industry professionals in this article, in the hopes that some of these expert observations might prove helpful. There are lots of original and provocative viewpoints presented here, so we should feel free to pick and choose the strategies and tips that will work best for us.
Also, later in the article you’ll find my presentation for the Society of Composers and Lyricists seminar, in which I answered the question about how I personally got my start in the games industry (for those who might be curious). Finally, at the end of the article I have included a full list of links for further reading and reference.
I’m pleased to announce that my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, is now available its new paperback edition! I’m excited that my book has done well enough to merit a paperback release, and I’m looking forward to getting to know a lot of new readers! The paperback is much lighter and more portable than the hardcover. Here’s a view of the front and back covers of the new paperback edition of my book (click the image for a bigger version if you’d like to read the back cover):
As you might expect, many aspiring game composers read my book, and I’m honored that my book is a part of their hunt for the best resources to help them succeed in this very competitive business. When I’m not working in my music studio, I like to keep up with all the great new developments in the game audio field, and I share a lot of what I learn in these articles. Keeping in mind how many of my readers are aspiring composers, I’ve made a point of devoting an article once a year to gathering the top online guidance currently available for newcomers to the game music profession. In previous years I’ve focused solely on recommendations gleaned from the writings of game audio pros, but this time I’d like to expand that focus to include other types of resources that could be helpful. Along the way, we’ll be taking a look at some nuggets of wisdom that have appeared on these sites. So, let’s get started!
Welcome back to this three article series that’s bringing together the ideas that were discussed in five different GDC 2017 audio talks about interactive music! These five speakers explored discoveries they’d made while creating interactivity in the music of their own game projects. We’re looking at these ideas side-by-side to broaden our viewpoint and gain a sense of the “bigger picture” when it comes to the leading-edge thinking for music interactivity in games. We’ve been looking at five interactive music systems discussed in these five GDC 2017 presentations:
In the first article, we examined the basic nature of these interactive systems. In the second article, we contemplated why those systems were used, with some of the inherent pros and cons of each system discussed in turn. So now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of tools and tips for working with such interactive music systems. If you haven’t read parts one and two of this series, please go do so now and then come back:
Welcome back to our three article series dedicated to collecting and exploring the ideas that were discussed in five different GDC 2017 audio talks about interactive music! These five speakers shared ideas they’d developed in the process of creating interactivity in the music of their own game projects. We’re looking at these ideas side-by-side to cultivate a sense of the “bigger picture” when it comes to the leading-edge thinking for music interactivity in games. In the first article, we looked at the basic nature of five interactive music systems discussed in these five GDC 2017 presentations:
Okay, so let’s now contemplate some simple but important questions: why were those systems used? What was attractive about each interactive music strategy, and what were the challenges inherent in using those systems?