Yesterday I travelled to London to my first Game Music Connect Conference. Game Music Connect was created by multi-award winning composer James Hannigan (Harry Potter, Command and Conquer, Dead Space, Transformers Universe) and acclaimed audio director & composer John Broomhall to celebrate the amazing music behind video games and the extraordinary talent behind it. The conference was created to get composers together to network, offer new perspectives on music and the business and help guide the newer and aspiring composers down the path of success.
James Hannigan - (Harry Potter, Command and Conquer, Dead Space, Transformers Universe)
Garry Schyman - (BioShock, Destroy All Humans, Dante's Inferno)
Richard Jacques - (James Bond, Mass Effect, Little Big Planet)
Jessica Curry - (Dear Esther, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs)
Jason Graves - (Tomb Raider, Dead Space, Star Trek: Legacy)
Olivier Deriviere - (Assassins Creed IV, Remember Me, Alone in the Dark)
David Housden - (Volume, Thomas Was Alone)
Steve Schnur - (President of EA Music)
David Alexander (CEO of COOL Music group and Composer. Two Souls, Halo 4)
Simon Ashby - (Audiokinetic)
Evolution of Music in Games
It was really great to have an insight into how music has evolved in games and also where it is going. From the first 8-bit chip music to the Orchestral pieces of today game music has evolved massively. I believe this is down to composers working hard with game developers to find a way they can work with this interactive medium to create the best experience possible for the player.
James began by showing us an integration program that he had written for the game Republic which helped to trigger different audio files based on where the game was going, for example; if it's a calm scene moving to action the program will trigger another music event to play. For a game composer before the development of sound engine tools they often had to work with the game developer to create some sort of trigger system to ensure the music reacts to the gameplay and offers the game player a more involved experience as oppose to someone watching a movie who has no involvement in whats going on.
Richard showed us how, in one instance he had a spread sheet with two thousand lines, each line represented a bar of music he'd written with four columns to indicate the level of intensity of the scene. In this instance Richard had to break down his music into bars in order for it to work correctly in game, an extremely time consuming job, but in order for it to work this was necessary.
With the need for a more defined way of working with music in game, a company called Audiokinetic created a platform called Wwise, an interactive sound engine for games. Simon discussed how composers can now have a more strategic approach to writing for game. The images below show some examples of how music in a game may be structured from a simple layering of looped music to build tension, to more complex branching similar to an IF function in Excel...if character A does this...then trigger this etc..
From reading this I'm sure it seems that the actual art of composing, going to a studio and recording great musicians playing and improvising is very far removed, but it's not. Composition for game still needs to be that, a composition, pieces of music that provoke an emotion within the game player....and then you chop it up into little bits so it works in the game!!
Olivier spoke more on the compositional aspects and how he would go about breaking things into some kind of structure for a game. The image below is how he looked at scoring the game Assassins Creed IV.
In a game like this you're writing to moods and functions as opposed to following a specific scene. So each piece of music has to have aspects such as reward, you've won a battle, the music changes and makes you feel happier perhaps! In some instances the player is looking for feedback after doing a task...that too needs to be reflected by some change within the music.
I could keep going, but there's an awful lot to talk about so maybe I'll do another blog on other aspects of game music at a later date. In terms of the future of game music, it's looking bright, to be a composer in the industry you need to understand all of the aspects of the technology you're working with, understand games, and most important of all write original interesting music that differentiates you from all the other new composers leaving college with a degree in Game Composition. Games are on their way to being and even bigger form of medium than film in my opinion, with the Oculus Rift 3D gaming experience, and people having the ability to sit on their chair with a headset on and feel like they're driving an F1 car who knows where it will go...
I'll leave you with some music from the BioShock Infinite soundtrack written by Gary Schyman.