Game People Calling: Videogames Used to Sound Unique

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Game People Calling: Videogames Used to Sound Unique

Alan Wake offers some hope as videogames struggle to rediscover the uniqueness of their chip tune beginnings.

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Well the more interesting soundtracks of late i think have come due to budget restraints more than choice, synth sounds are really what many games need more than just the obligatory "Strings and drama".

On the deliberate side Mass Effect i think did a LOT right with it's soundtrack being reminiscent of great older Sci-fi movies and really gave the game a feel of it's own.

In terms of those studios who can't really afford an Orchestral soundtrack i think the original STALKER worked wonders with it's mainly atmospheric soundtrack being digital, otherworldly and brooding. Really feeling talored to the game rather than just being obligitory stock 'scary'/ dramatic music. The use of pretty raw sounding sythesisers is something many other games could really do to set themselves apart and maybe also save a bit of money.

I've been playing the Silent Hill series lately and the music in those games (especially the first) is utterly masterful.
I am a massive fan of experimental, drone and ambient type music and Silent Hill hits all the right notes, the clanking of pots and pans, sub-bass throbbing through your chair, distorted radio noises..
And then there's nothing in the goddamn room and you're still scared out of your fucking mind.

I have to admit, going back to the old days, music does seem so much more original.

However, the example of Alan wake is a good one...it feels more like a TV show, less of a game at times with its music.

Its different, its mixed things up slightly with the use of indie music, which, only a few will know, but, grounded in reality

Some music is pretty generic ambiance nowadays. However, I was never a fan of the 10 second repeating bit as music. The transition shows that the game industry is maturing into a more immersive and experience-focused form of entertainment. There are a ton of good soundtracks now; back in the day, not so much. They were more original, but I still didn't think the vast majority were "good." However, there were a few exceptions.

Which is another reason I love Timesplitters. It may also have orchestral soundtracks, but its also filled with amazing sounds and music that is unique to each time period.

Hell, the Western tune from Timesplitters 2 is still my favorite Timesplitters track ever.

On top of that they have disco, techno, Jazz, and a crapload of other music. Timesplitters also has its own orchestral tracks, but they're each different and unique.

The only game who's orchestral soundtrack I've really liked was Halo.

Double post.

Move along, nothing to see here.

An Xbox indie game called Zombie Estate. The whole game has the same tense song and yet you don't grow sick of it.

It's a shame a good topic like this ended up as a review of a review of a game music soundtrack.

Anywho, game music has actually generally gotten better as of late. The worst period in game music was almost certainly the period shortly after the large scale transition to disc based storage media. Suddenly developers could include generic movie style soundtracks to their games.. and they did so in droves. In nearly an instant all of the creativity and uniqueness of game music to that point was wiped out in favour of Hollywood film sound-a-likes.

Working within set limitations can do wonderful things for the creative soul. Easy evidence is found in bands like The White Stripes, who restrict themselves to simple song structures playable by only the two band members, or artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, who will at times limit himself to using archaic but classic analogue electronic instruments.

Irridium:
Which is another reason I love Timesplitters. It may also have orchestral soundtracks, but its also filled with amazing sounds and music that is unique to each time period.

Hell, the Western tune from Timesplitters 2 is still my favorite Timesplitters track ever.

On top of that they have disco, techno, Jazz, and a crapload of other music. Timesplitters also has its own orchestral tracks, but they're each different and unique.

The only game who's orchestral soundtrack I've really liked was Halo.

The Ice Station song from Timesplitters 2 is my favourite, but I like that one too.
Check this site, you can download every TS music. Free Radical used to have their music available to download for free but their website doesnt exist anymore.

http://www.tsmusicbox.com/

Does the soundtrack have to be completly original to still be really good? If it fits the game then I'm all for it.

josemlopes:

Irridium:
Which is another reason I love Timesplitters. It may also have orchestral soundtracks, but its also filled with amazing sounds and music that is unique to each time period.

Hell, the Western tune from Timesplitters 2 is still my favorite Timesplitters track ever.

On top of that they have disco, techno, Jazz, and a crapload of other music. Timesplitters also has its own orchestral tracks, but they're each different and unique.

The only game who's orchestral soundtrack I've really liked was Halo.

The Ice Station song from Timesplitters 2 is my favourite, but I like that one too.
Check this site, you can download every TS music. Free Radical used to have their music available to download for free but their website doesnt exist anymore.

http://www.tsmusicbox.com/

I see. I think I love you now.

Personally, I find it kind of sad how orchestral scores have come to be considered "generic". A song isn't bad just beacuse it's orchestral and the style has it's qualities. If nothing else, the sheer power and scale projected by orchestral songs is generally matched by none. An example of this is one of my most favourite orchestral scores Japanese Overture, which was composed by Andread Waldentoft for Hearts of Iron II:

Having said that, I do agree with the author that good songs from older video games are made even more impressive by the fact that composers needed to work with limited technology. I always like stating Nobuo Uematsu's work as an example of this. The guy did wonders with the MIDI format:

I also agree that it can be impressive when video games deviate from standards in terms of music. For example, World War II games traditionally have orchestral music. That isn't necessarilly a bad thing, since it does fit a game set in an older era and it is exceptional when well done (as shown by the first example). Nevertheless, I was pleasantly suprised when I played a WWII-themed RTS called Sudden Strike. While the game itself isn't all that great, the digital soundtrack used by the game is well done and suprisingly fitting:

Anyway, I can understand why the author may feel that video games have lost a degree of uniqueness now that they are no longer limited by technology. Ultimately, though, I think better tools make it easier for composers to create unique songs and differentiate themselves from the rest.

Ertol:
Does the soundtrack have to be completly original to still be really good? If it fits the game then I'm all for it.

I agree with that 100%, however, it seems there are only certain acts or types of music that companies think are worth licensing for the games. The game that comes to mind with a horrible soundtrack is (if I remember the name right) was Road Rash 3D on the PS1. It came out at the time when grunge was taking off and the soundtrack was full of it and just ruined the game for me because I either had no sound by turning the volume down or listen to music I hate.

Even though I wasn't a fan of the music, the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater had a soumdtrack that fit perfectly with the game. I will put up with music I don't like if it fits the game (for instance, even though I like the song, Kickstart My Heart goes great with any racing game or kickoffs for Football games but would suck in a RPG or most FPS).

Now if they want to use orchestrated original music, I really think that the designers need to watch old silent films such as Metropolis and Nosferatu with the new scores to see how the musoic affects you as you watch the movie and then transfer that to their games.

Oh yeah, I forgot that all orchestral scores sound the same.

And that apparently video games are the little brothers of movies and have to try to be unique. Sure.

The Oblivion soundtrack is beautiful, as are all the Halo soundtracks.

I wholly disagree with this article.

Also, I didn't read the quoted bits as I didn't want to read a review of a soundtrack.

Connor Oberst is amazing. You won't hear any complaints from me if he wants to whip up some more lyrics for a game.

Personally, I just want music in a video game to enhance the emotion and hit the right beats. At the very least, It shouldn't get in the way, but ideally it would be memorable. But to be honest, that's an issue with any entertainment that needs to be orchestrated. There are a lot of memorable movie soundtracks, but most of them are unremarkable. I don't mind holding video games to a higher standard, but let's not think that video games as a medium are suffering in the music department compared to TV or film.

I do miss the days of hardware based sound. I think hardware synthesis should be included in modern systems, imagine if every XBox had a modern version of a C64 SID chip, with the ability for panning reverb and delay in 7.1 surround. Shit that would be great, chiptune artists would have a ball with it and it would give gaming a bit of its aural uniqueness that has so long been lacking.

OLD MAN DISCUSSION INCOMING: When I was a kid, you not only knew someone was playing a video game, but what system they were playing just by the sound. The Sega Genesis is distinct from the SNES which sounds nothing like its younger brother. The Commodore 64 was legendary for the flexibility of the SID chip which gave artists a lot of tonal possibilities, although the much simpler NES is what most people mentally associate with the chiptune sound. Similar technology to the SID could probably be manufactured considerably cheaper now, I think some people would be surprised how rich and tactile the sound from hardware synthesis is by comparison to compressed digital audio. At the very least, audiophiles and sound geeks like me would eat it up.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that both the Megaman series and the Final Fantasy series have had the best music of any other videogames in history.

Also Underground does not always equal Good. And I certainly don't want some shitty musician (musician is too nice of a word) like Conner "Emo Tears" Oberst in my videogames.

WRONG.
Halo soundtrack (1-3).
Half-Life 2 soundtrack (episode 1 and 2 also).
Mass Effect soundtrack (again, both).
Hell, even the never CnC titles have some decent music for a strategy game. Some of them are actually very good (though obviously nowhere near the level of the older games' soundtracks).
Music is still good, for what it is worth.

When I think about it, a lot of games have great soundtracks that transcend the cookie cutter "epic cinematic music" that seems to be what people reach for when they think of their favourite game music. I think that style of music definitely has a big impression on me in terms of how I think of games.

Braid has some amazing folky instrumental music that really defines the character of the game.

The soundtrack to World of Goo features lots of great quirky music including polka. The mood of the "ode to the bridge builder" music is great with the juxtaposition of horns and twanging elastic bands.

Osmos has a great ambient soundtrack including one of my favourites from Bioshpere.

I do think that if game developers want to take inspiration for game music from movies then they should look to Stanley Kubrick. The music in his films were great, especially in 2001, Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon.

I think it goes both ways. While many of the AAA blockbuster-type games tend to have the generic "epic orchestral soundtrack" there is a lot of room for unique and original sounds, too. Beyond Good and Evil, Psychonauts, Mass Effect (1 and 2), Jade Empire, Persona 3 and 4 all have pretty unique soundtracks, for example.

That doesn't mean that a more "generic" soundtrack can't work, either. The Knights of the Old Republic games have a distinctively Star Wars-y sound, which actually works in their favor.

Final Fantasy as a series doesn't really count (IMO) as, until 7, they were still using sequenced music (and possibly still even then, I haven't played any of the PSX-era FF games apart from 7, and that music sounded like it was sequenced, even though the PSX could play CD audio). Even then, they still sound unique.

Was the soundtrack reviewer entering a competition in which the winner had to use the word 'really' most times in a single piece? My 14-year-old self had more confident a command of the English language. Can I have her job please?

As for soundtracks, I thoroughly enjoyed the MGS3 soundtrack (and that of the first) but that was helped along by my MGS fanboy status. Generally speaking, I wouldn't listen to a soundtrack that isn't a compilation a la Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs OSTs. The single exception to that rule is Clint Mansell's mesmerising Requiem for a Dream OST. That music is haunting.

I blame The Escapist for this double post.

The ones I remember are the ones I used to play a lot. Tetris

Man, I'd hear that one in my dreams!

MoOII: http://dvc.f2o.org/moo2/moo2.htm (My favorite was the Trilarian theme.)

Scrumpmonkey:

In terms of those studios who can't really afford an Orchestral soundtrack i think the original STALKER worked wonders with it's mainly atmospheric soundtrack being digital, otherworldly and brooding. Really feeling talored to the game rather than just being obligitory stock 'scary'/ dramatic music. The use of pretty raw sounding sythesisers is something many other games could really do to set themselves apart and maybe also save a bit of money.

That was really cool, reminded me a bit of Majora's mask use of synths to get an Apocalpytic feel. Me likey...

Wait, wait, wait.

Alan Wake soundtrack and no mention of Children of the Elder God?

BAH HUMBUG to all the people who tried to verbalize the eschaton or whatever that analysis of Alan Wake meant. Video game music may be good, or not, when you listen to it, but the biggest divider between old and new school was how much the beat of the music you were hearing synced up to what you were playing. I swear at least half the original Mega Man tunes were synced to the quarter second from the "READY" flash to your first jump, enemy, or obstacle. Most of the Command and Conquer tunes were either tightly plotted according to what the intro was showing or a near pixel-perfect attenuation to the default play speed.

And then Final Fantasy 6, as I recall, was the first RPG in its series to sacrifice musical integration for musical quality. Great orchestral score. Horribly arrhythmic connection to the pixel animation things happening onscreen. FF7 merely clinched the further divorce of the musician from the playing of the game in question, which is a sad, sad, development.

(Though not a complete one, thankfully. Yoko Shimomura, whether she'd doing Live a Live, Super Mario RPG, Parasite Eve, or Kingdom f-in' Hearts, almost ALWAYS seems to deliberately pace her music to the pace of the game as it's played.)

I know that Modern Warfare 2 isn't exactly beloved by gamers around these parts, but the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is simply divine. It's also mixed to near perfection by complementing the game sequence that you're playing. It's really a fantastic marriage of storytelling and putting you in the middle of the action, if there's one that the game does well, it's the sound editing and mixing.

There's good and bad chip tune stuff, there's good and bad orchestral stuff and there's good and bad in everything in between. Why do you remember the Mario and Zelda themes and not Master Blaster? (Besides the fact that they've been drilled into your brain over the years.)

But to me the major oversight in this article are the sound effects. You recognize Mario's and Megaman's jumps or the particular hit effects of the various fighters. There's a reason VF5 uses the same sound banks as VF1, same goes for Mario, Zelda, Tekken, etc, etc. The stuff is distinct, even if not exactly memorable. I can recognize King of Fighters based on the sound, but not because of the music. I'm using fighting games here because that's what I know but I'm pretty sure this counts for anything you care to mention that has lasted over the years.

A personal modern highlight to me is the excellent sound score to Uncharted 1 & 2. They're instantly recognize them as themes to an adventure and they're very memorable as well. MGS also does a bang up job with its soundtrack. I've never played any of the games but I surely listen to the music.

Danz D Man:
Oh yeah, I forgot that all orchestral scores sound the same.

And that apparently video games are the little brothers of movies and have to try to be unique. Sure.

The Oblivion soundtrack is beautiful, as are all the Halo soundtracks.

I wholly disagree with this article.

Also, I didn't read the quoted bits as I didn't want to read a review of a soundtrack.

WTFF? movies are little brothers of games, unless you play flash stuff. while i hate orchestra for it's obsolescence, ME series makes perfect use of it. I would like to see authors from not so popular countries, like No Money from Czech republic, some of their tracks are masterpiece of DNB (immortals, drift, hood of horror). best to download from dvoikatroika.cz

Maybe it's because I haven't played AW, but I don't get the point of this article.

Try this: http://gamemusicjukebox.com/

Sure, a lot of games sound very alike (stereotypical orchestral, rock or metal soundtracks), but well, not every studio can afford a good sound artist. And most games are alike anyway.

I can't shake the feeling of too little research.

What about the themes in 'Heavy Rain', the music concept in 'Red Dead Redemption', 'No more Heroes 1+2' and the distinct music in 'Assassin's Creed 2'?

Reading that article I wasn't really sure what they were trying to point out. It'd be exactly the same as saying every movie soundtrack sounds the same. The real point is that sure there are a million action flicks with identical soundtracks and scores, but there are much more influential films which cement themselves into place as great movies with the soundtrack that perfectly compliments the experience.
Why should games be any different?

I know it's old hat, but goddamnit, Shadow of the Colossus has one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard. The game itself was such a masterful use of music in the right moments that it was, and still is, breathtaking.

Another everyone has to give props to is Red Dead Redemption. Jose Gonzales' track 'Far Away' was absolutely mind blowing when it was set upon me shortly after one of Red Dead's fantastic climaxes. I reckon anyone who isn't convinced of the game industry's pushing of the boundries of games as an artistic experience has clearly never played through Red Dead I reckon.

The track:

So what this post is saying is that music in games used to be good because the creators really had to think about what they were doing to fit it on the cartrige? Where as now they can do anything they want with music so not as much thought is put into it, except with Alan Wake which is better because it's soundtrack brings you back to points in the game and doesn't just sounding good? Hmmmmm
No just as much thought is put in now as it ever was, but I can see his point for example Legend of Zelda has always had epic music (almost always placing it as a central mechanic to gameplay), I'd love an Ocarina of Time soundtrack. If you're looking for a soundtrack that involves the player in the experience of a game that has to be the ultimate example.

The Path soundtrack.... I rest my case

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