Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sounds like a good idea

Having themselves influenced some of the most influential musical artist of the last few decades, I think it's safe to say that Rodgers and Edwards' contributions to music have been profound. 

Through his production skills and reputation, Nile Rodgers has given credibility to the world of video game music.

Whether they are responsible for recording the most influential recording of the 20th Century is debatable. Maybe the most influential bass line? 

'Good Times' was used as the first Hip Hop backing track, so it is conceivable. 

The most 'sampled' recording of the 20th Century that I know of is the Amen Break, taken from soul and funk outfit The Winstons - Amen, Brother

It comprises 4 bars of a drum solo which is responsible for spawning several subcultures of music 

Drum and Bass, BreakBeat, Jungle, Breakcore, Hardcore, Hardcore Techno. 

And having an impact on the genesis of genres like Industrial, Electronica, Dance and Pop. 

The origin of the Amen Break is from bootlegging Hip Hop DJ's. 
Using early sample-based techniques to extend the beat, they would switch between two copies of the record on separate turntables to essentially make a 'drum loop.' 

They would then 'pass it on' to their contemporaries.

And the rest is history!

This short documentary on the changes in Video Game music -

Even if a game features next-gen graphics that lavishly emulate realistic worlds and people, without sound it fails to immerse us. 

“Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual.” 

– David Lynch, Director

This is equally true of video games. 
As we can only experience these new worlds with 3 of our 5 senses (Touch, Sight, Sound) it is 
important that they are each considered at the least an equal amount of detail. 

Decades ago the sound was always added last in the development of a game. 
Now it has the benefit of being woven into the art direction of the production pipeline to enhance that development. As games have become more sophisticated the standard of audio has evolved to compliment that change.

Sound heightens our experience. It can actually cause fear, joy, loss and tension so thick you can barely creep around the next corridor. 

"I can see the sounds!"

And more importantly it helps tell a story. 
If the player is becoming anxious or stressed in-game we hear sound cues in the form of an elevated heart beat or even ragged breaths. In some cases the ambient sounds around the player are perceived differently, almost washed out. To give the impression that you might be slipping away yourself, unless you pull your act together! 

Dark Sector developed by Digital Extremes had some good sound cues - 

Some of the creatures you encountered sounded extremely creepy. They weren't exactly tough but you certainly felt like keeping your distance.

I sometimes find that the sounds for whomever you are controlling can have a distinctly more powerful feel to them than your opposition. I expect this is to empower the player, to make them feel like they are a force to be reckoned with. 
Which is a desire that a lot of people must need and want to be fulfilled. 

LIMBO developed by Playdead presents a great experience for any gamer. 

Singularity by Raven Software had some really creepy monsters. 

Listen to this -

Singularity - Zek Sounds from Raven Software on Vimeo.

And this -  

Singularity - Crank It Up! - Un-Squashed Version from Raven Software on Vimeo.

Here we have a video of the Sony Music team working alongside virtuoso sound designer 

Amon Tobin to create the musical score for Sucker Punch Productions 2009 game inFamous.

Amon Tobin is also responsible for the gripping soundtrack to Ubisoft Montreals' Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory in 2004.

This game features a highly dynamic score that is affected in real-time depending on the level of action and plot developments. 

Audio and Scores for games are now handled with the same design principles as with the film industry.
Musicians create lavish and beautiful sound-scapes that epitomize the levels we all know and love. 
On top of that the audio is dynamic and adaptive. 
It rewards you or chastises you if you do something wrong. It changes pace and tempo depending on how you navigate around the game itself. Which is an incredible feat to layer so much content on eventuality. 

As another 'achievement unlocked' video game soundtracks are now entered in prestigious award ceremonies such as the BAFTAS and the GRAMMYS.

Here are a few composers I know of - 

Hans Zimmer - Crysis 2: Intro, Call Of Duty 2: Modern Warfare - Opening Titles.
(And so many amazing film scores)

Greg Edmonson - Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. (And he also scored for the sorely missed TV show Firefly)

Jack Wall - Mass Effect, Mass Effect II.

Norman Corbeil - Heavy Rain. 

Petri Alanko - Alan wake.  

Russell Shaw - Fable, Fable II, Fable III. 


Just to overemphasize the scale and drama of the sort of compositions we enjoy at home, check out when The London Philharmonic Orchestra gets a hold of them - 

Dead Space: Welcome Aboard The U.S.G. Ishimura - The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Andrew Skeet.

Bioshock: The Ocean On His Shoulders - The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Andrew Skeet.


Nostalgia time!

Here is my first favourite video game theme song - Shadow of the Beast II (Amiga)

Followed by Robocop (C64)

Incidentally I remember a few years later hearing this theme used for a washing machine advert.
(I just found it on youtube)

Then we have Switch Blade (C64)

I can't forget SWIV (Commodore Amiga

Oh my God - Midnight Resistance (C64) 


As games become more cinematic and film becomes more like an interactive experience (3D, IMAX) the potential for creating an 'interactive motion picture ride' seems like a real possibility. With the advent of adaptive sound technology that literally follows you around, the level of immersion can only be increased. 

We'll just have to wait and see, I mean hear ;)

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