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Sing, Sing, Pew, Pew

Adam Gauntlett | 23 Sep 2011 15:00
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Both Julia and Daniel love Square Enix composer Motoi Sakuraba's work. "Hands down the most beautiful game music I have ever heard," said Julia. "He can tell a story purely through melody." Daniel agrees: "The delicacy and unique beauty of his themes helps you develop a strong bond with the story of a game." Story, they feel, is the key element of a successful game experience; music, while important, has a secondary role to play. Story and music work hand-in-hand to create a unique experience, a totally immersive world in which the player is the protagonist. Music helps tell the story, but without a good story, the game fails, even if the music is great.

When music goes wrong, it doesn't blend organically with the on-screen experience, destroying the player's connection with the game's story.

Julia cites Spore, which she considers the best example of gameplay interacting with music to create a comprehensive whole. In that game, when the creatures evolve and explore their environment, encountering other creatures, the music adapts, thanks to an algorithm that changes the melody as the creatures change themselves or their environment on-screen. This concept is carried through the entire game, so the music reinforces the story while at the same time signifying important changes in the on-screen relationship between creature and game world; a subtle, but important part of play. For Daniel, the apocalyptic finale of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has stuck with him, as it probably has for many Gamecube fans. The Moon looms on the horizon and earthquakes threaten to shake the world apart, while at the same time a haunting, mysterious melody plays in the background. The action and the melody combined clearly convey one message to the player: Do something quick, or everything's going to be destroyed!

The trick is, when music goes wrong, it doesn't blend organically with the on-screen experience, destroying the player's connection with the game's story. "It's not usually because the composer lacks talent," Daniel said, "but because there wasn't enough communication and interaction between the director and the composer." For Julia, when the music doesn't fit the mood or loops too quickly, that's a sign that something has gone wrong. Repetitive looping just becomes boring and forgettable, and doesn't enhance the game experience at all.

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