Your Game Music is Bland and You Should Feel Bad

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uncanny474:
For everyone mentioning Halo, you're right. It did have awesome music. At least, until Halo 4, which is the one Yahtzee mentioned.

The theme song everyone knows from that didn't show up ONCE, nor any variation, nor even a new theme song to fill the void. Generic orchestral soundtrack, ho!

Yes I am still bitter, why do you ask?

That would be 'cos Martin O'Donnell is still with Bungie, doing the Destiny soundtrack x) so there's still hope...

You should play more indie games, that's where some of the songs that are stuck in my head have been coming from lately. Maybe its because triple-A games try too hard to make the soundtrack epic that it comes out anything but.

V da Mighty Taco:
Oh Yahtzee, you poor bastard. You clearly haven't played Super Meat Boy, have you? Somebody get Danny Baranowsky on the phone ASAP; a British-Australian game critic is in desperate need of his talents.

XD

How about you get Daisuke Ishiwatari on the line and have him play some of his awesome fight music that he makes for Guilty Gear and Blazblue

Terramax:
There are a great many video game soundtracks now. Problem is, they mainly stem from Japan. Try listening to the Soul Calibur IV OST, or Sonic Unleashed (as flawed as the game is, the soundtrack is marvelous).

How about any of the fight music in Blazblue or Guilty Gear? Daisuke Ishiwatari may focus on metal songs but he is awesome at his job as the composer for Arc System Works

Shameless self promotion there at the start Yahtzee but a well done series of videos all the same.

I agree with the message that if the music in your games are horrible the developers should feel bad about it but there are some Triple-A titles with orchestra music that really enhances the game, Civilization 4, Deus Ex:HR, Borderlands and Crysis 2 are four examples of games doing it right. I feel that while others like the Dynasty Warriors series of games are horrible and should never be allowed to publish their games with the headache inducing nightmares they unleash on the player, there are still people who love that kind of music. I agree with you that companies should produce good music or buy the rights to good music but it is all for the most part experimental and it is hard to say what people will or won't like so I'm sure this kind of practice will continue.

Side Note: Ugh. This captcha actually has an advertisement on it.

Izanagi009:

Terramax:
There are a great many video game soundtracks now. Problem is, they mainly stem from Japan. Try listening to the Soul Calibur IV OST, or Sonic Unleashed (as flawed as the game is, the soundtrack is marvelous).

How about any of the fight music in Blazblue or Guilty Gear? Daisuke Ishiwatari may focus on metal songs but he is awesome at his job as the composer for Arc System Works

Indeed. I'm not a huge fan of the Blazblue soundtracks (there's the odd decent track), but the earlier Guilty Gears were fantastic!

Izanagi009:

V da Mighty Taco:
Oh Yahtzee, you poor bastard. You clearly haven't played Super Meat Boy, have you? Somebody get Danny Baranowsky on the phone ASAP; a British-Australian game critic is in desperate need of his talents.

XD

How about you get Daisuke Ishiwatari on the line and have him play some of his awesome fight music that he makes for Guilty Gear and Blazblue

I'll have to listen to those at some point. Never played either game, so atm I currently cannot comment on their music.

Personally I think the Halo theme song is pretty memorable. Play that in any situation, out of context or not and I'll pick it up. Other than that I find it a little difficult to think up any other ones that weren't 8-16 bit games, like pokemon and what not.

A lot of what Yahtzee is talking about is the prevalence of environmental music. At some point in the last decade there was a movement in the gaming industry that changed music from being something that shaped the mood to something that was meant to punctuate the mood in a game. The idea was that if the person could separate the theme from the scene than it wasn't synergistic enough, which seems like a rather odd conclusion to draw. Thankfully they started mixing things back up again with more music being brought to the forefront rather than just being environmental.

Also, it should be noted this mostly was happening with shooters, western RPGs, and many movie action games like Uncharted and Assassins Creed. Fighting games, platformers, and other games pretty much stuck with the earlier idea since it tended to provide more energy to the entire affair.

(Edit: Yes, they need to drop Action Adventure and just call these linear quick time event driven games Movie Action Games. They only got the most tenuous of connections to adventure games of old. They are short lived, completely fueled by the story and the quick time events, and once you've ran through them once you likely will never play them again.)

V da Mighty Taco:

Izanagi009:

V da Mighty Taco:
Oh Yahtzee, you poor bastard. You clearly haven't played Super Meat Boy, have you? Somebody get Danny Baranowsky on the phone ASAP; a British-Australian game critic is in desperate need of his talents.

XD

How about you get Daisuke Ishiwatari on the line and have him play some of his awesome fight music that he makes for Guilty Gear and Blazblue

I'll have to listen to those at some point. Never played either game, so atm I currently cannot comment on their music.

Fair enough, Start with the Guilty Gear X Blazblue Music live 2011. It contains several remixes of major songs from both franchises

Terramax:

Izanagi009:

Terramax:
There are a great many video game soundtracks now. Problem is, they mainly stem from Japan. Try listening to the Soul Calibur IV OST, or Sonic Unleashed (as flawed as the game is, the soundtrack is marvelous).

How about any of the fight music in Blazblue or Guilty Gear? Daisuke Ishiwatari may focus on metal songs but he is awesome at his job as the composer for Arc System Works

Indeed. I'm not a huge fan of the Blazblue soundtracks (there's the odd decent track), but the earlier Guilty Gears were fantastic!

Opposite for me, only have heard snippets of Guilty Gear's soundtrack but I love the Blazblue soundtrack. Nightmare Fiction and the new Roku Eiyuu from Chronophantasma are fun to listen to and act as great fight music

Izanagi009:

Opposite for me, only have heard snippets of Guilty Gear's soundtrack but I love the Blazblue soundtrack. Nightmare Fiction and the new Roku Eiyuu from Chronophantasma are fun to listen to and act as great fight music

Well worth giving the older soundtracks a shot then. You could say they're less eclectic than Blazblue, but at the same time, I consider them more focused. With Blazblue, I often feel it seems like he's running out of ideas.

Terramax:

Izanagi009:

Opposite for me, only have heard snippets of Guilty Gear's soundtrack but I love the Blazblue soundtrack. Nightmare Fiction and the new Roku Eiyuu from Chronophantasma are fun to listen to and act as great fight music

Well worth giving the older soundtracks a shot then. You could say they're less eclectic than Blazblue, but at the same time, I consider them more focused. With Blazblue, I often feel it seems like he's running out of ideas.

Guess it's a matter of what you like, focus or eclectic. I love eclectic stuff for all of the little cultural and music themes mixed but i understand why some won't like it.

Perhaps I should listen to Guilty Gear though

I don't know if I can agree with Mr. Yahtzee. The music I remember best from videogames or any medium is when what was going on around it became a memorable moment...or it played so many times it became ingrained in my head...or the my brain came up with a story to match the music.

The beauty of the song, lyrics or no, was how it complemented the moment. An orchestra playing something low and sweeping before battle and then something grand during it during a medieval rpg is would fit the moment better than someone playing a licensed rock song.

It has to capture the feel of the moment. I bought just as many recent soundtracks as old to know why I adore both.

You guys have mentioned Metal gear, but not the best track in the entire series? Shame on yall.

I usually kill a game's background music and fire up an mp3 player to run in the background. Fortunately a few games I play have user added tracklist supported. I think Skyrim had o.k background music, not sure, I turned it off almost right away. But not any of the Command & Conquer games, they always have had excellent ingame music. Except 4 maybe, I have almost purged all traces of that game from my memory.

Studios go for the generic crap because licensing official music is very expensive.

elvor0:
Boooo, shame on you Yahtzee, the Halo Games have excellent soundtracks! I mean we all remember this right?

Du du du dunnn, du du du dunnn, du du du duuun de do de

martyrdrebel27:
i think it was a bad choice to try and call out Halo, of all things...

dun dun dun duunnnn dun dun dun duuuuun dun dun dun duuuunnn.....

Normally I'd be the very first person to defend the Halo soundtracks (at least I would be if I were quicker to this thread!) but Yahtzee did mention Halo 4 specifically and that soundtrack was largely forgettable. Mostly because 343 Industries didn't benefit from the talents of Marty O'Donnell.

Halo 4's music is more akin to incidental music rather than an actual soundtrack. Instead of matching the mood, atmosphere and action of the scene it just kinda acts like musical noise to play in the background, which appears to be the approach most triple A games use these days. It also didn't help that Halo 4 had no audio volume options and the music was often criminally drowned out by everything else. Neil Davidge did a decent enough job on the score but it was no Halo soundtrack.

As far as I'm concerned, Martin O'Donnell's ability to match music with both gameplay, environment and narrative are unparalleled.

Proverbial Jon:

elvor0:
Boooo, shame on you Yahtzee, the Halo Games have excellent soundtracks! I mean we all remember this right?

Du du du dunnn, du du du dunnn, du du du duuun de do de

martyrdrebel27:
i think it was a bad choice to try and call out Halo, of all things...

dun dun dun duunnnn dun dun dun duuuuun dun dun dun duuuunnn.....

Normally I'd be the very first person to defend the Halo soundtracks (at least I would be if I were quicker to this thread!) but Yahtzee did mention Halo 4 specifically and that soundtrack was largely forgettable. Mostly because 343 Industries didn't benefit from the talents of Marty O'Donnell.

Halo 4's music is more akin to incidental music rather than an actual soundtrack. Instead of matching the mood, atmosphere and action of the scene it just kinda acts like musical noise to play in the background, which appears to be the approach most triple A games use these days. It also didn't help that Halo 4 had no audio volume options and the music was often criminally drowned out by everything else. Neil Davidge did a decent enough job on the score but it was no Halo soundtrack.

As far as I'm concerned, Martin O'Donnell's ability to match music with both gameplay, environment and narrative are unparalleled.

Yeah, that's pretty much the case with Halo 4. Most of the tracks on the first 3 Halo games are golden. I will fight you to the death however over Nobuo Uematsu being the best video game composer though :D

I suppose I can't speak for everyone, but I can think of quite a few songs from modern games that left an impression on me:

"Far Away"- Red dead redemption
"Deference for Darkness"- Halo ODST
"Vigil"- Mass Effect
"The Secret Revealed"- Bad company 2
"I'm Sorry"-Far cry 3
"Venice Rooftops"- Assassin's Creed 2
"Will The Circle Be Unbroken" Bioshock Infinite
not to mention the entire fallout 3 and new Vegas soundtracks and the intros to both borderlands.

There's plenty of good music to be found in modern games.

Maybe Halo 4 has a more generic soundtrack, considering Martin O'Donnell wasn't even involved in the project, but I can definitely come up with about any song from Halo 1 & 2 and hum it all day long, 3 was just a combination of 1 & 2.

I know half of today's games music isn't as memorable as before, but when it works, it freaking works as good as the old soundtracks of yore. I still search Age of Conan and Okami's soundtrack in YouTube from time to time.

I could put on a few hundred YouTube links to some of my favorite gaming tracks, but I'm a bit lazy right now.

Let's NOT forget the (probably previously mentioned) moment in Saints Row The Third where you do some killing in one of the earlier missions while this plays:

Oh, I don't know about that. I'm currently playing Hotline: Miami, and the soundtrack on that is the glacÚ cherry on top of a beautifully-iced cake of neon-soaked death.

Perhaps it is just that we forgot the forgettable soundtracks, because they were forgettable.

Andy of Comix Inc:

As a musician and composer, I have to say: I don't think a theme song being "humable" is a very good metric when determining how effective a soundtrack is. By all definition, a soundtrack's job is to compliment, not overburden. In the retro days of memorable, catchy tunes, game soundtracks were the most prominent sound effect - nowadays, aural atmosphere is achieved by so many disciplines that the soundtrack's prominence would act against it.

Orchestrations have produced many memorable game soundtracks, don't get me wrong. I think Halo Reach's is actually the best Halo soundtrack, Super Mario Galaxy has twice provided exhilarating scores, and games like Asura's Wrath and Rayman Origins have provided a uniqueness in full orchestral scores quite unlike their peers.

Not every game needs an orchestral score, this much is true. And simpler is often better, this too is true. But orchestral soundtracks have provided some of the best music in videogames, and I don't think I'm alone in thinking that.

Your post has a point, but I don't entirely agree.

First of all, the era of prominent soundtracks is not quite over, and it works fabulously even in larger, AAA titles. Arc System Works games have already been mentioned, and I think it's a good example where a strong tune reinforces rather than distracts from gameplay.

Secondly, there are many more ways to achieve atmosphere with music without using an oh-so-familiar Hollywood-style soundtrack. For example, chamber music (Arcanum) or ambient (Fallout 1/2, Torment, TOEE).

Finally, having an orchestral soundtrack doesn't mean it has to be bland. Listen to any of battle tunes for Last Remnant: the OST has strong orchestral influences (albeit also rock/metal influences as well); it's "epic", and yet utterly memorable: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njI2fT4d2CY&list=PL75DA4CF0DA460A52

To sum up, Extra Credits, as usual, offers occasionally decent ideas, overly simplified "layman's" description and poor examples. But the observation about the popularity of "singl-alongs" is definitely true, even outside game music. Thus, "humable" isn't quite right, but IMO having at least a few tunes with a prominent, memorable melody does a lot for a game's music quality. And that can be true for absolutely any style of music from classical to techno to metal.

P.S. I'm also a music player and, to an extent, a band composer myself, if that matters any :)

I know this thread is old and dead, but I wanted to add my agreement about The Elder Scrolls theme song. That piece is amazing, catchy, and extremely popular. It's also quite hummable. A couple other amazing soundtracks are the ones for FTL: Faster Than Light and Terraria. Both are extremely fun games that the music really adds a lot to.

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