The famous entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil predicted that by 2029 brains will merge with machines, making people smarter than ever. Even if most of the time we don’t realise it, machines and artificial intelligence (AI) are already extending our capabilities. Think of the last time you visited a website in a language you can’t speak. I would guess you understood its content anyway, thanks to the decent translation provided by Google. What about the last time you asked an AI assistant (Siri, Alexa, Cortana etc.) to find information for you?
In this blog post series, I outline how AI can augment human composers. In particular, I’ll touch on the techniques and the opportunities that AI opens to games composers for adaptive music. (If you don’t know what adaptive music is, have a look at this post I wrote a few months ago for a brief introduction). This first post is going to prepare the field, discussing some of the limitations composers face when working with adaptive music.
It might seem a like simple process, but picking the right music genre for a game soundtrack is a challenging task. The musical styles are almost infinite: free jazz, fusion, epic rock, late romantic, Gregorian, gypsy folk; to list just a few options available. Should you use a traditional classical orchestral style for your new RPG game or should you try an unexpected solution like trance music? As we know, music can make or break a game and the genre plays a major part in the process. In this article, I’ll give you some guidelines, inspired by the great book A Composer’s Guide to Game Music written by Winfred Phillips, on how to pick a music genre for your game that will (hopefully) resonate with your players. Before delving into this, let’s have a short detour on game genres, which, as we’ll see, are deeply intertwined with music genres.
The first step to create a good score for a game is to conceptualise the music. Music conceptualisation can be compared to sketching the blueprint for a building. Before you get into the details of how to decorate the rooms of the building, you need to decide how many floors there are, the size of each floor and the number of rooms. Similarly, music conceptualisation is necessary to set the stylistic, creative and functional goals of the music before the composer starts working on the actual notes. Consider conceptualisation as a high-level music planning activity.
In this post I’m going to analyse the pros and cons of some of the strategies available to get music for video games, and help you decide which might be the best for you.
We all know that music is particularly important for video games. A soundtrack sets the overall tone of the game and it shapes the experience of a player without them really noticing it. Music can also provide clues about the situation the player is in and make a game stand out from the crowd. Think of the Skyrim main theme for example… you probably just need the initial three drum hits to recognise the game. That’s great branding!