A Brief History of Machine-Assisted Music in Video Games

At Melodrive we are constantly trying to push the limits of the sonic and musical experience in modern games and particularly in the next generation of VR immersion. But game audio has come a long way since the early frontier days of tapes and cartridges, and in this post we take some time to look back at the history of machine-assisted, machine-generated or procedural music, highlighting its many challenges and innovations with respect to some key examples.

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#EmoJam VR Hack Winners

#EmoJam VR Hack Winners!

We’ve just wrapped up a weekend of VR hacking with #EmoJam in San Francisco! We had a fantastic speaker line-up, and really interesting conversations all weekend long. We would like to thank our main sponsor, ARVR Academy, for supporting us, and Microsoft Reactor in SF for hosting us!

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Announcing the #EmoJam Hackathon

19th-20th May, Microsoft Reactor, San Francisco CA

Emotions, music and VR are central to what we do at Melodrive. That’s why we’ve decided to organise #EmoJam, a weekend dedicated to hacking emotion, VR, games and music. We have envisaged a hackathon that addresses perhaps the most salient problem for interactive storytelling, AI, and VR: emotion. Emotion is a notorious puzzle for just about any field that deals with the mind/brain. It is clear that we have emotions to help us survive in the world. Without these, we would certainly be a different, although perhaps nonetheless intelligent machine. On the whole, it seems that we are not usually just interested in what intelligence is and how to model it, but we’re specifically interested in a particular brand of intelligence, namely human intelligence. And emotion plays a large part in that.

 

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Ludo2018: A Journey into Video Game Music

Not more than a Herculean stone throw away from the wonderful and iconic St Thomas Church, where Bach composed tons of sleek cantatas, lies the stately Hochschule fuer Musik und Theater, the regal setting of the video game musicology conference, Ludo2018. This is one of the field’s foremost annual meets, and took place last weekend (13-15 April) in Leipzig. The Ludo conference was errichtet by the first (and in my opinion, the best) research group in ludomusicology, the Ludomusicology Research Group, the Venerable Elders of which, Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, Melanie Fritsch, and Mark Sweeney, drop scholars in wonderful locations in the UK and Europe to study what anyone in their right mind would love – music in video games, its history and its impact. Leipzig is a place of great historical, scientific, and artistic significance. Let’s see: Bach, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Goethe, Leibniz, etc., all have strong associations with this place (and ‘etc.’ means a lot in this context).

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How to Increase User Immersion with (Mostly) Audio

When it comes to virtual reality (VR) experiences, “immersion” and “immersion multipliers” are highly valued for players and developers alike, but what do they really mean? What exactly is immersion and why is it seen as the holy grail for VR? In this post we try to get to the bottom of what makes someone feel immersed, and provide some quick strategies you can use to make your VR experiences a lot more immersive – by only thinking about audio.

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A Glimpse into Video Game and VR Music from a Music Theorist’s Perspective

As a music theorist, and a new member of the Melodrive team, I’m fascinated about how music in video games and VR has evolved and continues to evolve today. This is important to me because it concerns how music has changed in terms of its organisation and sophistication over the years. It is clear, even to someone who is a casual gamer like myself, that the aesthetic significance and evolution of video game music are critical concerns for the history of music, and demand serious attention. Particularly so since from an academic perspective at least, the genre is a little more niche than it deserves to be.

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Adaptive Music Increases Immersion and Time Spent in VR by More Than 30% [Experiment]

VR is a highly immersive medium. No doubt about that. VR players don’t just see the world through a screen as is the case in normal video games, they are literally inside that world and can interact with its objects and environments in an intuitive way. Most of my friends who tried VR the first time where shocked by the experience. They told me that they completely lost track of time and that they felt as if they moved to another reality. Simply put, they were deeply immersed.

There are several factors that contribute to immersion in an experience. One that is very important, and at the same time is often overlooked, is music.

Composers have always thought that music has the ability to increase the level of immersion of players experiencing digital content, be it videos, video games or VR. For interactive content, composers like Guy Whitmore, who are at the forefront of music making in non-linear settings, know that adaptive music can make a big difference for immersion (check this post for an explanation of what we mean when we say adaptive music). The reasoning is quite simple. With adaptive music, no matter how the user behaves, the music is always in sync with the emotions portrayed in the visuals and in the storyline. Here’s an example. My jolly village gets attacked by dark knights. The music, being adaptive, dynamically shifts from happy to dramatic. The double bass kicks in and the chords get more aggressive. In other words, the audio elements of the experience reinforce the story told through the visuals. Composers suggest that this reinforced feedback between different elements of an interactive experience increases immersion. This is intuitive and sounds like a plausible hypothesis, but… it’s still a hypothesis. No one had yet tested it out in the real world — until now!

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Interview with Brie Code on AI, VR, and All Things Human

We had the opportunity to sit down with Brie Code at Silo Coffee in Friedrichshain, Berlin. Brie is a speaker, writer, and the CEO of a new game studio, Tru Luv Media. Before founding Tru Luv Media, Brie was an AI programmer–she built the AI for Company of Heroes (along with a colleague), and she was lead programmer for Child of Light and three Assassin’s Creed titles at Ubisoft in Montreal, Canada.

We highlighted some of Brie’s work in investigating reward systems in our last blog post, Approaching Feminism as a Male Data Scientist. She found that in addition to the traditional fight-or-flight response system, there was an overlooked reward system that stressful situations can evoke, called tend-and-befriend. 

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Approaching Feminism as a Male Data Scientist

Painting Equality used with permission from artist Osnat Tzadok, find original here.

The internet has provided a new platform for an obscene amount of information. Anyone with a computer and a connection can now be heard in the international community. Through the accessibility of information, citizens have become journalists, comedians, celebrities, laughing stocks, community leaders and even scientists just through the means of access to this information tsunami. One particular aspect of this is the ability for marginalized groups to directly confront those who are more privileged, or even perpetrate that marginalization. Continue reading

A Beautiful Song: The Adaptive Music of NieR: Automata

There is something special about NieR: Automata. Developed by Platinum Games and released in 2017, NieR: Automata is a sequel to the cult classic game NieR (Cavia, 2010). Set thousands of years in the future, NieR: Automata is an action role playing game where the player takes control of androids 2B, 9S and A2. Their aim is to rid the earth of alien machines and pave the way for the last humans, who have settled on the moon, to return to earth. Keichii Okabe, the composer for NieR/NieR: Automata and the Drakengard series, uses adaptive music rescored from previous games with aims to induce emotions within the player-character connection.

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