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?
By video game music composer Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow
The 2017 Game Developers Conference could be described as a densely-packed deep-dive exploration of the state-of-the-art tools and methodologies used in modern game development. This description held especially true for the game audio track, wherein top experts in the field offered a plethora of viewpoints and advice on the awesome technical and artistic challenges of creating great sound for games. I’ve given GDC talks for the past three years now (see photo), and every year I’m amazed at the breadth and diversity of the problem-solving approaches discussed by my fellow GDC presenters. Often I’ll emerge from the conference with the impression that we game audio folks are all “doing it our own way,” using widely divergent strategies and tools.
This year, I thought I’d write three articles to collect and explore the ideas that were discussed in five different GDC audio talks. During their presentations, these five speakers all shared their thoughts on best practices and methods for instilling interactivity in modern game music. By absorbing these ideas side-by-side, I thought we might gain a sense of the “bigger picture” when it comes to the current leading-edge thinking for music interactivity in games. In the first article, we’ll look at the basic nature of these interactive systems. We’ll devote the second article to the pros and cons of each system, and in the third article we’ll look at tools and tips shared by these music interactivity experts. Along the way, I’ll also be sharing my thoughts on the subject, and we’ll take a look at musical examples from some of my own projects that demonstrate a few ideas explored in these GDC talks:
Since one of my most recent projects, Little Lords of Twilight, became available worldwide earlier this year and was recently greenlit on the famous Steam platform, I thought I’d write this article to share some of my creative and technical process in composing the music for this game. In particular, this project presents a great opportunity to look at how compositional variation (as we understand it from music theory) can be useful for the structure of interactive music.
Welcome to the fifth and final installment of my five-part article series on music composition techniques for stimulating tension and suspense in video games. These articles are based on the presentation I gave this year at the popular Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, entitled Homefront to God of War: Using Music to Build Suspense. If you haven’t yet read the previous four articles, you’ll find them here:
Now that we’ve considered the power of Ominous Ambiences, Jarring Jolts, Creepy Clusters, and Drones of Dread, let’s take a look at the last item on our list of suspenseful music composition techniques – Semi Silence.
Welcome to the fourth installment of my five-part article series discussing music composition techniques that heighten tension and suspense for video game projects. These articles are based on the presentation I gave at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, entitled Homefront to God of War: Using Music to Build Suspense. If you haven’t read the previous three articles, you’ll find them here:
Before we move on to the next music composition technique in our suspense-building arsenal, I’d like to briefly revisit a video game project we discussed in our last article; the popular Dragon Front VR game for the Oculus Rift, developed by High Voltage Software.
Welcome back to our five part discussion of the role that video game music can play in enhancing tension and promoting suspenseful gameplay! These articles are based on the presentation I gave at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, entitled Homefront to God of War: Using Music to Build Suspense. If you haven’t read the previous two articles, you’ll find them here:
So, now that we’ve discussed ominous atmospheres and jarring jolts, let’s look at the next technique in our arsenal:
The Creepy Cluster technique
As we know, tone clusters are collections of notes packed together to produce unnerving dissonant effects. While it might seem like any cat can walk across a piano and produce unpleasant clusters, well-executed dissonance is actually one of the trickiest techniques we can employ. It’s tremendously potent when used with expert precision.
Welcome to the third (and final) article in this three-part discussion of how video game composers (like us) can make strategy gamers smarter! We’ve been exploring the best ways that the music of game composers can help strategy gamers to better concentrate while making more sound tactical decisions. During this discussion, I’ve shared my personal perspective as the composer for the popular Dragon Front strategy game for VR.
In part one, we discussed the concept of ‘music-message congruency,’ so if you haven’t read that article yet, you can read it here. In part two, we explored the meaning of ‘cognition-enhancing tempo’ – you can read that article here. Please make sure to read both those articles first and then come back.
Are you back? Awesome! Let’s launch into a discussion of the third technique for increasing the smarts of strategy gamers!
In psychology, the term ‘affect’ refers to emotion, particularly in terms of the way in which such emotional content is displayed. Whether by visual or aural means, an emotion can not be shared without some kind of ‘affect’ that serves as its mode of communication from one person to another. When we’re happy, we smile. When we’re angry, we frown.
Welcome back to our three-part discussion of how video game composers (such as ourselves) can make strategy gamers smarter! In these articles, we’re looking at ways in which our music can enhance concentration and tactical decision-making for players engrossed in strategic gameplay. Along the way, I’ve been sharing my personal experiences as the composer for the Dragon Front strategy game for virtual reality. Over the course of these articles we’ll be covering three of the top concepts that pertain to the relationship between music and concentration. In part one, we discussed the concept of ‘music-message congruency,’ so if you haven’t read that article yet, please go check it out and then come back.
Are you back now? Good! Let’s move on to the second big technique for increasing the smarts of strategy gamers!
As video game composers, we create music in a wide variety of tempos designed to support the energy of play and the pacing of the game’s overall design. From leisurely tracks that accompany unstructured exploration to frenetic pieces that support the most high-stakes combat, our music is planned with expert precision to shape the excitement level of players and keep them motivated as they progress.
Side-by-side, these are the covers of the two editions of the book. In Japanese, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music is titled “Game sound production guide – composer techniques for interactive music,” by Winifred Phillips.
I’m very excited that the Japanese language edition of my book has already hit #1 on the “Most Wished For” list on Amazon Japan!
The “Most Wished For” list on Amazon.co.jp.
Coincidentally, the English-language version of A Composer’s Guide to Game Music is now #1 on the Kindle Top Rated list, too!
The Kindle “Top Rated” list on Amazon.com.
O’Reilly Japan is located in Tokyo, and is dedicated to translating books about technological innovation for Japanese readers. They are a division of O’Reilly Media, a California publishing company that acts as “a chronicler and catalyst of leading-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and galvanizing their adoption by amplifying “faint signals” from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. O’Reilly publishes definitive books on computer technologies for developers, administrators, and users. Bestselling series include the legendary “animal books,” Missing Manuals, Hacks, and Head First.”
I’m tremendously excited about the Japanese edition of my book, and my excitement comes in large part from the venerable tradition of outstanding music in Japanese games. From the most celebrated classic scores of such top game composers as Koji Kondo (Super Mario Bros.) and Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy), to the excellent modern scores of such popular composers as Masato Kouda (Monster Hunter) and Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts), Japanese video game composers have set the creative bar very high. I’m incredibly honored that my book will be read by both established and aspiring game composers in Japan! I hope they’ll find some helpful information in my book, and I’m excited to contribute to the ongoing conversation about game music in the Japanese development community.
I’ve always loved Japanese game music. In 2008, I participated in a compilation album in which successful game composers created cover versions of celebrated video game songs from classic games. The album was called “Best of the Best: A Tribute to Game Music.” I chose the music by Koji Kondo from Super Mario Bros., and recorded an a cappella vocal version. It’s currently available for sale from the Sumthing Else Music Works record label, and can also be downloaded on iTunes. You can hear the track on YouTube here:
If you’d like to learn more about the rich legacy of game music composition in Japan, you can watch an awesome free documentary series produced by the Red Bull Music Academy, entitled “Diggin’ in the Carts: A Documentary Series About Japanese Video Game Music.” The series interviews famous game composers of Japan, which means that the interviews and narration are both in Japanese (with English subtitles). Here’s an episode that focuses on modern accomplishments by Japanese game composers:
Winifred Phillips is an award-winning video game music composer whose most recent project is the triple-A first person shooter Homefront: The Revolution. Her credits include five of the most famous and popular franchises in video gaming: Assassin’s Creed, LittleBigPlanet, Total War, God of War, and The Sims. She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. As a VR game music expert, she writes frequently on the future of music in virtual reality video games. Follow her on Twitter @winphillips.