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deadlyfishes
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So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-11 22:03:32 Reply

I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine who is a game developer... We then dove into the topic of game music and audio.

As a composer and audio producer, I feel that I am a little biased as to how important game sound is, but I know that many non-audio producers and composers agree with me as well.

What was a little upsetting to me was that he failed to see the value in having great sound and music in your game, and pretty much said it was secondary to the game design. I don't entirely agree with that, as good or bad game audio/music can MAKE or BREAK a game.

Who would want to play an epic shooter with guns that sound like plastic nerf guns, or shoot lasers that sound like some dude just going PEW PEW PEW... Or really bad/unfitting music that just ruins the experience. I think it's just as important as the other parts that make up a video game.

TL;DR
Is my friend correct saying that it is overstatementto say that game audio is 1/3 (one-third) of the user's gaming experience?

Thoughts, comments?


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-11 22:19:58 Reply

Poppycock.


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-11 22:20:39 Reply

I'm a game developer. Your friend is either correct, or a goddamn idiot.

This depends heavily on the kind of game you are dealing with. A stupid facebook game does not rely heavily on music, and so if this is a stupid facebook game or some kind of ridiculous app, then he's probably right, and you should find better work because your music is better than that.

However, music is 1/3 of the game. Games are made of three primary pillars: Audio, Gameplay, and Art. The more stupid and banal your game is, the less important the "Audio" and "Art" bits get, because usually you're just building a tool for sucking people's money out of their pockets, not an artistic statement. For most decent games, music is equally important as the artwork, which is just as important as the gameplay. Jonathan Blow recognized this when he spent a huge amount of time hiring an excellent artist to do the artwork for his game, and then actually licensed music from established composers because he didn't think most (affordable) video-game composers could create music with sufficient depth for his game.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-11 22:23:31 Reply

At 2/11/13 10:20 PM, Blackhole12 wrote: I'm a game developer. Your friend is either correct, or a goddamn idiot.

This depends heavily on the kind of game you are dealing with. A stupid facebook game does not rely heavily on music, and so if this is a stupid facebook game or some kind of ridiculous app, then he's probably right, and you should find better work because your music is better than that.

Yeah, I understand he is correct in some situations, but even games that don't utilize music, good SFX is important.

Thanks for your comment, I was guessing you were going to be one of the only people who would reply :3


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-11 22:25:06 Reply

It goes without saying that sound design MAKES the feel and atmosphere (among other things) of a game. To de-prioritize sound when you claim to prioritize nailing these elements in your design is a fool's move. There is no sensory feedback in games beyond sight and sound (and user input), which means that you had better think 50% of the player's senses available to you as a developer are important.

Music raises everything, saves some things, and while a game could live without it, it's usually better with it. I know for a fact I wouldn't enjoy Skyrim half as much (and I mean that completely) with the music turned off (or done badly). One could argue about music's place in gaming, but one can't argue that mediocre or thoughtless music is EVER a good idea.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-11 22:26:35 Reply

To me music and sound are one of the many parts of the aesthetics of a game (alongside art among other things) . A game with good aesthetics is a good game. It helps involve the player into the game's world. Fail in that aspect and you'll end up with a less than memorable product. Of course gameplay and other elements are important too, but many of the praised games are those that achieve a good balance between all these aspects.

Basically, it's not about what grade of importance to assign each of these categories. Achieving a good combination between them all is what makes a good gaming experience. So it's kind of a symbiotic relationship. But that's my opinion of course.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-11 22:35:03 Reply

The only reason why I still love age of empires 1 is because of the music


lel

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-11 22:43:38 Reply

Your friend is not going to get anywhere in the gaming industry with THAT kind of attitude towards game audio.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-11 23:02:55 Reply

I always say that each component of game creation is equal- art, music, programming. If one side is too weak, it will be reflected in the final result. I look at games both with all three elements combined- as a consumer- and all three apart- as a fellow creator. It's really easy to spot when a developer gives little effort to make the audio original or quality- putting it in mono or very low quality just to save room, or when programming is just plain shoddy.

With games, it's easy to test programming- you play-test it, and art is something that is easy for the creator to access, as it's most likely coming out of his mind's eye in part. But audio is completely subjective. There are some cases where I simply cannot help someone with sound effects because their opinion on what is the right sound is too different or they need a sound style that I cannot provide sounds for... just like there are cases where I cannot provide music because the style they seek is unobtainable to me. Art is something where emulation is the key to following a style, music, not so much... Musical styles are formed on cliches, which makes it difficult to emulate the feel of something, as even a slight change in the idea can mean a major change in emotion (no pun intended)... ie. someone linking me to the music for the cinematic intro of their favorite videogame and saying "I want something like this", and I literally cannot just copy the motifs or instrumentation and call it original work, much less work that will feel new to the audience, unlike an artist who can copy the line style and color palettes and call it original.

Game developers often times don't really get that... and even more times, are helpless in regards to explaining the musical ideas they have, if they have any. This is due to music being so inaccessible by most standards- there's no way to write good music without having the right resources and knowing at least a little bit about what you are doing. Art, on the other hand, can come much more naturally and is far easier to practice and build as a skill, and programming is no more a challenge than combining high school algebra with several weeks/months learning a language. But Audio is different, it requires years of honing and no short amount of monetary investments to get the right tools and right skills to write semi-professional game score music- I'm certainly not there yet, and I have three years and a good chunk of change into it. This inaccessibility makes music seem like a strange, distant thing to most developers-something they can't really fathom the origins and process of. This makes it seem more like a material resource, like wood or stone, that has a set value and purpose, than an artistic expression of an emotion or idea. What this leads to is a belief that audio is a little component that is tacked on, like a shirt or a bumper sticker, that adds to the main bulk, not an equal component of the greater picture.

It used to be with flash that sound was a luxury add-on; an extra thing that made games "juicier" (if you don't know what I mean, go google 'juice it or lose it') in a time of dial-up and 1 MB flash files being considered massive. Some developers haven't been able to escape this ancient belief, and compress their audio to the point where it is nearly noise, concerned more with exposure to rural Siberia than quality for rural America. However, game music isn't what it used to be. It has become a trend of impressive works that really redefine games, much like comparing the amalgamation of popular music that was used before talkies in Film compared to the personality of custom film scores after audio was added.

The understood cliches of video game music are expanding to become more and more inclusive, and now I see games with jazz and ethnic and medieval bardic tunes and more... Sound Effects are advancing rapidly too. More and more small developers seem to be seeking original-sounding sfx for their games, sometimes even having sounds recorded just for the game, like large games do. Yet even now, game audio in small productions is still regarded as an after-thought at the end of production- even I can't argue that in most cases, it's best left that way. However, that doesn't mean audio should be ignored. I agree 100% with the OP that quality audio is the difference between if I will play that game for 10 minutes and give up after my ears start to bleed or play it for 10 hours and still want to play more.


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 00:30:39 Reply

Whether you agree with the fact or not, good sound is a highly important aspect of any visual medium regardless if music is even used. it is an art and helps to encompass the product as a whole in terms of the audience's impression if it. You want to please as many senses as possible so why would hearing not be important?

But still you have to remember that the main objective is to make a game, so good game design is definitely more important. Even though we are musicians we can't forget that important fact. However that doesn't make any of the other elements of the game less important. You want to cover all of the base so that your product has a better chance of hitting home with the audience. Besides, having the time to pay attention to all of the smaller details can sometimes indicate how much care truly went into your project. You don't want to just throw the game out there and and say "Bam! Game of the year. crappy WAV sound FX and stock music." What if a game company did that today? Imagine playing Marvel Vs Capcom without any themes or unique sounds, just stock music and low quality sound files. Now is that as fun to keep you coming back to play?

You're trying immerse the player in a imaginary space and that makes atmosphere all the more important to create the proper playing environment and best experience possible. By getting good sound quality, you are enhancing the player's experience thus making you game more fun to play and more memorable. Simple as that

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 00:51:38 Reply

I'd much rather play a game with amazing game design and awful audio... or even no audio at all... than play a game that is shit in game design but has first class audio.

2 cents.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 01:12:41 Reply

At 2/12/13 12:51 AM, Back-From-Purgatory wrote: I'd much rather play a game with amazing game design and awful audio... or even no audio at all... than play a game that is shit in game design but has first class audio.

2 cents.

Halo ODST is a good example of this. Amazing audio but sub par gameplay... Though I still enjoyed it.


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Wat

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 01:25:56 Reply

How important audio - or, specifically, music - is to a game varies wildly depending on the game.

Personally, I don't play The Elder Scrolls games with the music on. It's not because I don't like the scores (Jeremy Soule is a great composer) -- I listen to the music on its own when I'm not playing the games -- but because I personally don't think its presence (or lack thereof) necessarily adds or takes anything away from the game. Skyrim is so immersive in other ways that the music actually becomes unnecessary to create a feeling or a mood.

On the other hand, you have games like Journey, where the music is really 60-70% of the game: without music, that game would be incredibly boring and tedious. Then there are music-based games, where - for obvious reasons - music is 100% necessary.

Then, somewhere in the middle is where games such as Red Dead Redemption reside. In these types of games, the music is very deliberately crafted to create a certain tone. RDR, for example, is an incredible homage to Spaghetti Western films by Sergio Leone, et al.; and in those films, the music played a huge role (I would go so far as to say that the score and the landscapes were themselves characters in the films). As such, the music in RDR adds to that feeling of being part - playing the antihero - of a dramatic spaghetti western film.

The same goes for film scores. There are films that work because they have very limited use of scores, while others are almost saved by a good score.

The debate should not be whether music is essential or not. Rather, it should be a discussion of how the music is used, and whether it is effective or not, in an audiovisual medium.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 01:35:28 Reply

Everyone who says that should try playing a full game (again, as stated by many, not a single click-click-app) without sound.
I once played first Spyro (the one on psx) on an emulator, sound bugged so I had to turn it off. All you could hear was the effects like running, fire breath and enemies.

Couldn't play it like that.

But then again I could and would gladly play a game just for its music. I quess it's about personal preference.


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 03:15:53 Reply

It depends on the game.

N has no music, and I still play it.
Diablo has one of the best soundtrack ever made, and I still play it (it's from 94 btw).

Sometimes music could be even more than 1/3


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 04:41:53 Reply

At 2/11/13 10:35 PM, Sequenced wrote: The only reason why I still love age of empires 1 is because of the music

.. and because of WOLOLO! Best voice acting ever.

In my opinion, the music is 10 times more important in single player games than in multi player games. I never play multi player games with music, be it because of voice communication or because I rather listen to other music.

On the other hand, many (especially those stupid Facebook-Itemshop-InviteFriends-WatchXPBars) Flashgames have very annoying music which makes them even worse. The audio in many flash games is also so heavily compressed that I can't enjoy it, even if it is a good soundtrack.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 08:19:07 Reply

Pretty shortsighted statement by your friend there. The people in this thread made good points, and I can add my two cents on this topic, too.
Games are an interactive audiovisual medium, and while interaction and video are pretty much mandatory, the audio part is a major factor for tying interaction and vision together. Sounds help the player to understand relations (Press button -> "bleep!" -> Oh, the button did something!) and are a powerful tool for evoking emotions (e.g. Journey). Not to mention that a smart game designer can (and will) use sounds to reinforce game mechanics. Sound assets can make or break elements of your game. For example, imagine picking up a big, badass gun in a shooter, firing it and hearing a meek "pew". While the gun may be visually impressive and powerful, it'll still feel half-assed to the player. Having good sound assets for that particular weapon will reinforce the good experience that the player is supposed to be having with the BFG.

So I'd say while sound design serves a different purpose than coding game mechanics and making art assets, it's still a very important part of game development and shouldn't be neglected.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 10:00:25 Reply

It's been said but I will repeat it, your friend will get no-where with that attitude.

Sound in media is incredibly important, not just music but sound design too. By sound design I don't mean just creating the effects, I mean how you use them. Here's an interesting topic for you to show your friend:
http://www.indietalk.com/showthread.php?t=45351

This guy is amazing at what he does and you should read everything he has to say about sound design in film as it absolutely applies to games.


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 10:17:29 Reply

Everything's been pretty much said, but let me add that good music gives a lot of replay value to a game as well. I don't know about anyone else but there have been countless times when I suddenly come across great music from a game I used to play ages ago, I get reminded of how much I used to enjoy it, and I start playing it again. Music often has the highest nostalgia factor too.


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 10:56:48 Reply

At 2/12/13 10:17 AM, Step wrote: Everything's been pretty much said, but let me add that good music gives a lot of replay value to a game as well. I don't know about anyone else but there have been countless times when I suddenly come across great music from a game I used to play ages ago, I get reminded of how much I used to enjoy it, and I start playing it again. Music often has the highest nostalgia factor too.

Yeah I was gonna say that. I agree with all of the comments... in games such as MMORPGs, music is, imo as central as the gameplay and graphics.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 11:13:29 Reply

At 2/12/13 10:17 AM, Step wrote: Everything's been pretty much said, but let me add that good music gives a lot of replay value to a game as well. I don't know about anyone else but there have been countless times when I suddenly come across great music from a game I used to play ages ago, I get reminded of how much I used to enjoy it, and I start playing it again. Music often has the highest nostalgia factor too.

That goes for me, too.
Music has that power over me. I'd say it proves how important music is, but given its subjective nature, it doesn't.

Anyway, what i mean is that i believe there's no generalities . The importance of music can only be mesured on a case-by-case basis.


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 11:25:11 Reply

didnt read everyone elses posts but i thought id throw my opinion in. I think Im gonna agree with your friend here. Dont get me wrong, i love games with great music/sound, but i feel like its more of an addition than a necessity. A great game shouldnt be made great by the music, thats just ridiculous to me, BUT any game can be made better by music and sound. it can give a game its whole personality. In a lot of games I play, i just turn off the sound and music and play it fine and have the same amount of fun, but there are some games that I really prefer to have the music on (goemons great adventure) for either atmospheric or nostalgic value. I also remember seeing someone post about the three pillars of game development and saying theyre design, art and music. as far as i know, thats wrong. Theyre design, technology, and art. Music and visual art are both in the same category. Of course i didnt google this, im just going off of what i learned in my game design class.


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 14:35:52 Reply

It all depends on what kind of games people are gonna make. Your friend sounds like those who's used to work with small game project(s). Perhaps sound and music are top priority in games like Age of Empire, but sound and music doesn't matter much in games like Limbo, or experimental game Dear Esther.

I would say, sound is more important than music. I have played games without music and still enjoy their contents well enough. Arma 2 has little or no music, but it's the best-sell game on Steam. Also, and again, it depends on what contents people want their game to become. There is balances in game design. If the graphic or game setting is the main focus, then sound and music can be toned down; and the other way around.

Age of Empire is a good game, still I rather play World in Conflict, but what holds me on is the sound design.
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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 14:52:41 Reply

If you look at all the successful or popular games (and sometimes movies as well), almost all of them has a good soundtrack, if not amazing. Having excellent gameplay and art is pretty essential of course but if you really want to go the extra mile with your game and make it amazing, it has to have a good soundtrack that complements the game.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 14:59:23 Reply

I would say, sound is more important than music. I have played games without music and still enjoy their contents well enough. Arma 2 has little or no music, but it's the best-sell game on Steam. Also, and again, it depends on what contents people want their game to become. There is balances in game design. If the graphic or game setting is the main focus, then sound and music can be toned down; and the other way around.

Yep, some games have a strong focus on gameplay. Multiplayer games like ARMA do not really need ("good") music; most people will use Teamspeak / Ventrilo / some other voicechat anyhow. Same goes for games like League of Legends. The Queue music is cool, sure, but ingame, most players have music turned off. I also always play Warcraft 3 without music, only with sound effects, although the soundtrack is good.

On the other hand, I could not imagine enjoying games like Final Fantasy without the great music. Or Gianna Sisters. Or Tetris. :P

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-12 16:21:33 Reply

At 2/12/13 03:15 AM, Lachi wrote:
Diablo has one of the best soundtrack ever made, and I still play it (it's from 94 btw).

Oh man, Diablo had one of the best/scariest soundtracks of any game. I still pop those tracks open from time to time if I'm studying or something. Matt Uelman is a genius, and created the perfect ambiance. He also did the soundtracks for the Torchlight games I believe, and you can definitely hear the Diablo in them.


At 3/27/11 10:22 PM, sugarsimon wrote:
the brilliant songs who create a production for music
Wat

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-14 11:43:30 Reply

At the same time, I've stuck through some below-average games BECAUSE I wanted to keep hearing the music and seeing the sights. However, I'm a musician, so maybe my opinion is a little biased. Maybe.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-14 12:06:29 Reply

It's difficult to put a number on how important sound or music is for a game.
If the sound is so stupid nobody will ever play the game, the game is 100% ruined by the sound.
If sound is mediocre but the gameplay and graphics are great, people will probably care nothing for the sound.
If the sound is great people will enjoy the game more, but only if the rest is good enough. If gameplay sucks no soundtrack will save it.
In other words sound, graphics and gameplay have complex interaction rather than a simple sum of its parts.


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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-15 22:21:39 Reply

Who cares what your friend thinks?

Find people who don't think that way. Those are your clients.

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Response to So I was talking to a game dev... 2013-02-16 01:21:56 Reply

At 2/15/13 10:21 PM, Twune wrote: Who cares what your friend thinks?

Find people who don't think that way. Those are your clients.

Well it's a little concerning since he's co-hosting a panel/workshop that I am running at PAX East 2013 that is all about how important game audio is.

Also, I am working with him on a game that has been in development for about 2 years now...

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