Friday, 24 May 2013

Elements of game technology, part two: sound for games

When mentioning sounds for video games one of the first things that comes to mind is the Super Mario theme, very limited in its technology but so iconic as it backs one of the most well known characters in the gaming world. Another memory that comes back right away is the Pok√©mon music from the game boy games, as you went to each town and into specific buildings the music would change to help players get a feel for the different environments. In today’s video games sound plays a dominant role in convincing players of credibility for example, running through a forest must contain effects like leafs being crushed, sounds of the player’s movement, the weather (wind, rain, etc) and even the player breathing. I can also recall during my time on Call of Duty MW2, when using the scope on a sniper you would hear the player take a deep breath followed by a heartbeat. Developers can also source out composers for original soundtracks, almost like a Hollywood film. Skyrim (follow up sequel to Oblivion – multiplatform game) brings a 4 CD line up of music for the game and it is no doubt that the developers have put a lot of time into this as they must realise its importance in gripping audiences as it can help tell stories and create stronger memories.  

Skyrim Soundtrack listing and brief info

Whilst doing some research I found this quote on an article referring to the ‘Best Video Game Music of 2012.’ “You press a button, and the beat drops. Forward you fly, straight into the perilous unknown, beats pushing against your eardrums as you push back against the controller. Tempo and harmony swim together, and you lose yourself in the rhythm of play”. This article does great reviews of a large variety of games released in 2012 and their soundtracks. One in particular, Max Payne 3 I can agree with. Though I have never played the games its sophisticated soundtrack represents how the developers considered gameplay and articulation of the player. Its fast paced, gritty and almost rebellious. Telling a story through music is very important today and I think this is a prime example. Another reference to a great OST is the original Metal Gear theme, it represents exactly what the game is all about.


Game Soundtracks of 2012
Metal Gear Solid Theme

I also found an article on a music composer who tried to find work in Indie films for seven years which was unsuccessful, and now has turned to video games for a far greater career. Baranowsky talks about his journey and how he makes his living today. " Isaac was a fairly successful game, but I made ten times as much money on the Steam bundle option as I did on Bandcamp. It just goes to show that although Steam isn't where you would go to get music, the reach of Steam is… it's fucking amazing." This quote shows that Steam (popular online place to purchase games and content) has a far greater impact on music sales considering video games as players can directly download their favourite OST’s from the same place they may have purchased the game. The article goes on to talk about a traditional trombonist, orchestrator and arranger from L.A who worked on huge games like Batman: Arkham City and God of War 3. It seems both of these people worked in very different areas of the same industry and it can vary in terms of media as not all projects will be games. Both earn a great living and claim that video games are a great place for musicians, producers and composers as there is now more interactive content that needs sounds than ever before.

Article on People working in this industry

Something I didn’t think too much of is the voice acting behind the characters and the mixture of animal sounds for creatures. There is no way to find out what some fictional beast would sound like so developers get producers to work off animal sounds as a foundation. I found some prominent voice actors that play very major roles in the games industry and it is strange to see that a single actor has covered so many characters. A voice actor like Nolan North has worked on the Uncharted series (Nathan Drake), Hades from God of War and Deadpool from Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Looking more into sound I came across this video from the guys at Wabi Sabi Sound that go through the different roles and process of building sounds for games. It seems using human voices is sometimes a must and after adding filters and editing the sound you can get a very convincing outcome.

Voice Actors

As far as the song Good Times, I can say I recognise this but have no idea really where from so it does seem that it has spread in many media platforms and in various other music genres as well. Though I do not think of this as too important because I think in a scenario any song has great potential to be sampled. I can say that I am a fan of Hip Hop and James Brown seems to be number one on the list of most sampled song in the genre.

10 most sampled songs in Hip Hop

1 comment:

  1. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)