Tuesday, April 4, 2017

'Innovation' in Games Music

"Trying to bring innovation to the genre of music games costs you a lot of time, even more nerves and mostly feels like tilting at windmills" (Geiger, web). Beat buddy (Threaks, 2013) is a non-linear music-action-adventure game. The music for this game is interactive, the game characters' actions are reacting to the music [5:11]. "Each level uses a different song and set of hand drawn graphics with the mechanics and level design based on the structure of that song" (Colleen, 2015, web).



Music files take up a huge disk capacity. The audio designers for Beatbuddy (Threaks, 2013) worked with stems to visualise each instrument in a separate game mechanism. Each music has eight to twelve stems and the game has a total of six songs. This result to a large data weight and it was a disadvantage for mobile devices. Therefore, the sound designers have to develop their own audio system.

Rich Vreeland, more commonly known as Disasterpeace, noted his perception towards games music in the Pyramid Studios and Game Audio Network Guild:

"it was quite an interesting challenge because [...] instead of thinking about order, like when things happen in music, it was more about proximity, like which notes do I want to happen near other notes so that they sound pleasing. Which is kind of a weird thing to think about in music" (Enns, 2015, p. 81).

In his quote, he mentioned to a particular instance in the production of the soundtrack for the video game FEZ (Polytron Corporation, 2012). FEZ is known for its exploration of space as a susceptible concept, as it introduces players to its own spatial reasoning and presents space as easily manipulable.  FEZ combined 'chiptune' sounds and effects like reverberation and delay, furthermore incorporated this manipulation into its production and composition. For instance, during a level in which the main character Gomez climbed to a higher altitudes with the help of blocks that appear and disappear. The appearance and disappearance of these blocks is imposed by the rhythm of the music, and the respective blocks have its own sonic signature in the type of a bright low-resolution synth array (shown in the video below).


FEZ (Polytron Corporation, 2012) has its own music system tools, Fezzer, a system designed designed by Renaud Bedard. Enns researched the interactive music system of Fezzer and introduced three tools and techniques in this music system: (i) the sequence context menu; (ii) the script browser; and (iii) the main composition sequencer (Enns, 2015, p. 84). Fezzer was developed to allow the user to explore FEZ as an omniscient observer. 


Fig 1.0 Fezzer Main Composition Sequencer Window (Enns, 2015, p. 88)

The figure above shows Fezzer's main composition sequencer window. The sequencer can makes changes that affect the gameplay level and each individual musical elements. "Video game music composition is now fully integrated into game programming, which makes the traditional distinction drawn between scoring and game programming all but irrelevant" (Enns, 2015, p. 90).

"Surround systems in home game audio systems commonly use 5.1 channel systems, with channels arranged as follows: left, centre, left surround, right surround, and LFE, LFE - that is, low frequency effects is usually played through the subwoofer speaker (Sweet, 2015, p. 305). Virtual Reality (VR) is   a new technology introduced to game consumers. However 3D audio has yet to be fully developed in the games industry yet. The music system will need to be carefully planned out as "music in the surround speakers can be distracting to the player if it covers up the footsteps of an enemy who is sneaking up on the player (Sweet, 2015, p. 306). Audio middleware engines have yet to develop a 3D audio system, Fmod and Wise have only recently begun to add real-time tools for mixing audio while the game is running. Surround audio files also take up a huge disk capacity which sound designers and game designers need to consider. Further research, inventions and collaborations will be needed to develop a 3D audio system for games.

Bibliography 

(Intel), C.C. (2015) Beatbuddy, an Indie Game, Expands with New Technologies [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed 4 April 2017]. 

T. (2014) Beatbuddy HD (by Threaks GmbH) - Universal - HD Gameplay Trailer [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed 4 April 2017]. 

Enns, M. (2015) Game Scoring: FEZ, Video Game Music and Interactive Composition. dissertation. London, Ontario, Future Technology Press. Available from: [Accessed 4 April 2017]. 

M. (2013) FEZ Sync Level [PC/STEAM] [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed 4 April 2017]. 

Geiger, P. (2014) 5 Reasons Why Music Games Suck [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed 4 April 2017]. 

Lalwani, M. (2015) Surrounded by sound: how 3D audio hacks your brain [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed 4 April 2017]. 

Polytron Corporation (2012) FEZ , Playstation 3, Montreal.

Sweet, M. (2015) Writing interactive music for video games: a composer's guide. Upper Saddle River, NJ, Addison-Wesley.

Threats (2013) Beatbuddy, computer games, Microsoft Windows, Hamburg.

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