Games need more real music

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You see it in movies all the time, a piece of real music not made specifically for the movie is used for amazing dramatic effect, but why is it that games very rarely seem to use this technique? The only games that seem to actually use it are driving and sports games, but there are a few other examples. I really think that by putting a recognizable song in a game at certain points can be a much better way to convey the emotion of the scene than a generic orchestral soundtrack. Of course it's got to make sense in context, but if it does I think it should definitely be tried.

Just look at the recent film, Django Unchained. Do you really think that:

I think one of my favorite uses of real music has to be in Saints Row 3:

So yeah, I really think that I would take a well-thought out and well made choice of non-game music instead of generic game music any day. It is said that Kojima wanted David Bowie's Space Oddity to play in the ending credits of MGS3, but he decided on Way to Fall in the end. It made me think that the boss fight with The Fury would have been so much more memorable and amazing if they had chosen that instead of whatever music they did choose. It fit the Fury's character, and it would have made the boss battle have an entirely different feel than "Oh shit, fire!".

So, Escapist, what are your favorite uses of real songs in games? Do you agree with my opinion, or not? Discuss.

Some of my favorite music comes from the original soundtracks of games and movies, so in general I'd disagree. However, licensed music does serve a purpose and can be fucking brilliant if used correctly. There are two good ways to do it:

- The music just fits the game play. Generally speaking licensed music in these situations should be kept to gameplay segments only (or maybe the opening cinematic). A good example is Rob Zombie in the Twisted Metal games.
- The music compliments the setting and is canonically integrated. Good examples of this would be Fallout 3, Bioshock and GTA: Vice City.

I think any music is bad when it's "generic," orchestral or not. I hope you're not trying to give this impression, but it sort of feels like you're trying to say all orchestrals are "generic." Because if you're going to try to argue that in the face of Star Wars, Back to the Future, Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, or Road to Perdition, then I'm going to have to ask you to stand in the corner for the remainder of this thread.

I feel like music should, at the very least, match the pace and emotion of what's going on, giving it scope. Back to the Future used some "real music" to set the periods, but the score gave it the scope to feel more like a huge action movie. Without that overblown score, I think it would have felt more like an 80s version of Grease. I agree that more games could probably effectively use "real" music, but let's not go knocking orchestrals.

Anyway, I'm not sure if I can explain why more games don't use "real" music, apart from maybe just trying to avoid licensing fees. I can think of a few other examples where "real" music was used, but they're all Square Enix games and the songs were written for the game. Final Fantasy X had Suteki Da Ne, FFX-2 had Real Emotion and 1000 Words, FFXI had Distant Worlds, and Kingdom Hearts had Simple and Clean and Sanctuary. While these songs may have been made for the games, they are no different from pop songs out of the context of the games.

So...yeah. That's my two cents. I'm sure it can work, and probably can work in more places than it's used. And I can't really explain why it's not used apart from licensing fees. Just don't go knocking orchestrals :-P You don't know what's "real" if you can't respect John Williams or Howard Shore.

No. Mostly because video games are made for people with musical tastes vastly different to mine. They put real music in FIFA, in Burnout, in the WWE games, et cetera. And the very first thing I do in all of them is turn it off. If I want to hear music while playing, I'll put on my own. Why would I want to subject my ears to Kanye or whatever when I could listen to Queen on my own?

Licensed music actually pulls me out of the game.

it makes me think 'Hey, I know that song!' and shatters all immersion.

Plus, I'm of the belief that music should tailored for the game itself, not simply pulling music out of nowhere with none of the context of the game.

That's how you end up with Marilyn Manson tracks in Dragon Age -_-

I disagree with the notion that licensed music is inherently better than original music, in movies or games. Yes, it can be done well. The opening to Boarderlands with "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" was fantastic, and Brutal Legend simply would not have worked it if wasn't using licensed music. However, there are also good examples of original soundtracks working just as well, if not better. Skyrim's soundtrack would not be nearly as effective if it was using licensed music, and Bastion's original soundtrack is just plain amazing.

Ultimately, both can be done really, really well, but I, personally, tend to prefer original soundtracks over licensed soundtracks.

Also, licensed music is no more "real" than original soundtracks. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

I fully agree, in games of an appropriate setting, it's definitely something I want to see more of.

Aris Khandr:
No. Mostly because video games are made for people with musical tastes vastly different to mine. They put real music in FIFA, in Burnout, in the WWE games, et cetera. And the very first thing I do in all of them is turn it off. If I want to hear music while playing, I'll put on my own. Why would I want to subject my ears to Kanye or whatever when I could listen to Queen on my own?

Because some times, a piece of popular music recorded as a single, with all the associated high production value, simply adds more to a scene than a piece of second rate electro or orchestral piece. The fight against Brayko in Alpha Protocol, for example, benefited hugely from having Autograph's Turn Up The Radio in the back ground. It suited the character of Brayko, and frankly it made what would otherwise be an unbearably frustrating boss fight into something just a little bit awesome. Sure, the nostalgia for Vice City might have helped a little, but hey.

How about the instrumental version of Breaking Benjamin's Blow Me Away for Halo 2's coup de grace fight scene. Sure, Marty O'Donnell's score for the series is pretty much the best music in the industry (IMO), but he achieved something different by having a piece of suitable real world music injected into an iconic scene.

And the absolute best part is that hearing music used to good effect to accentuate a visual medium like games or movies is a great way to get into new music. I can't tell you much stuff I started listening to thanks to GTA alone.

I don't like it at all. The music in a video game has to be tailored to get the best experience. I highly doubt I would have truly felt the experiences of fighting a boss in Dark Souls or Shadow of the Colossus.

Also, I already get this anyway by muting the game music and substituting iTunes, VLC, or Amarok on my PC, or muting the sound on my PS3 and fiddling with the wires to attach a music player.

Well, the new DmC licensed Combichrist for most of the soundtrack, so I suppose that's my example.

I was going to synch up a song to a scene from a game, but actually I think I'm going to approach this from a different angle.

If you think these aren't "real music":

Then you should broaden your musical horizons.

People created this music. Just as bands create music for albums. Being orchestral or electronic doesn't make it any less "real".

Or is this not real music?

NOPE!

I have to disagree, my entire music playlist is comprised almost entirely of game soundtracks so how could I not? The term "real" music is a bit stupid in my opinion, what just because some music was made for a game it's not "real" music? What? How does that make sense?

It makes perfect sense that best game music is, y'know, designed specifically around the game? Rather than plucked out of the ether of other music because the music coincidentally fits with the game somewhat.

I'm trying to not be a dick here but I think my opinion is so opposite it's a bit difficult :/

The Wykydtron:
NOPE!

I have to disagree, my entire music playlist is comprised almost entirely of game soundtracks so how could I not? The term "real" music is a bit stupid in my opinion, what just because some music was made for a game it's not "real" music? What? How does that make sense?

It makes perfect sense that best game music is, y'know, designed specifically around the game? Rather than plucked out of the ether of other music because the music coincidentally fits with the game somewhat.

I'm trying to not be a dick here but I think my opinion is so opposite it's a bit difficult :/

This is what i came to say .

Wtf is "real " music? I want to hear this fake music you talk about OP. Music is music . Depends how it's used . Also , Catherine . When you reach the end of a level and hear "HALLELUYA"( how do you spell that?) it's so uplifting and relieving .

shrekfan246:
Well, the new DmC licensed Combichrist for most of the soundtrack, so I suppose that's my example.

I was going to synch up a song to a scene from a game, but actually I think I'm going to approach this from a different angle.

If you think these aren't "real music":

Hey you totally forgot these

My soul burns with the heat of a thousand suns! Behold the power of YOUUUUTH!

God I love good character themes too much. They're so awesome! XD

Most big movies have original scores.

Django was made by Quentin Tarantino, a director who has made his career by creating elaborate, questionably ironic homages to exploitation films (which very rarely had dramatic orchestral scores for budget reasons.) His films are generally already crammed with pop culture references, and the use of non-original music is a part of that style. It's not just commercial artists either, a lot of the music in the film is lifted from other films. That's kind of what he does.

This doesn't mean a soundtrack is always better than an original score. As Lilani already mentioned, there are many original scores which have become so memorable or well-liked that they are pop culture references in and of themselves themselves.

Would the Elder Scrolls games be better if you replaced that recurring theme with generic rock and pop music? Would the mass effect series have held together so well if they'd just played a mixtape in the background of each game? A good musical score can do a huge amount in establishing the identity of the game. So can a good soundtrack, for that matter. Take the two most recent Fallout games. It's not the case that one is simply better than the other, it depends entirely on the film or game and the style its going for.

Otherwise you end up with..

Yeah, cool! I'm totally psyched to go and fight that dragon and explore that ruined castle now with my emotion of.. vague, generic upbeatness.

Congruity, you're doing it wrong (and not in a good way).

The Wykydtron:

shrekfan246:
Well, the new DmC licensed Combichrist for most of the soundtrack, so I suppose that's my example.

I was going to synch up a song to a scene from a game, but actually I think I'm going to approach this from a different angle.

If you think these aren't "real music":

Hey you totally forgot these

My soul burns with the heat of a thousand suns! Behold the power of YOUUUUTH!

God I love good character themes too much. They're so awesome! XD

Man, you could really dance along to that Phoenix Wright theme.

And I totally "forgot" them because the only character themes I actually know are from Final Fantasy VII. >.>

I absolutely agree. (Although I disagree with your term "real music" - isn't all music real...?)

Games like Fallout 3, Mafia 2, GTA Vice City, have used 'real' music to create brilliant atmosphere, and immerse the player in that time and setting, whether it be pseudo-1950's wasteland, 1940's America, or the 80's. You get a great feel of the era the games take place in, and the songs themselves provide pretty good backdrops to events in the game.

Admittedly, those are all open world games, and set in eras with an abundance of recognizable music. I imagine it would be harder to fit suitable songs into more scripted games, and still appeal to the notoriously picky bunch that comprises most of gamer-dom.

I'd like to see more of it, but it fits certain games better than others of course. Like you said though, Tarantino is great at picking anachronistic music for his films - so it is possible to put David Bowie in a WW2 setting, or Rick Ross in the wild West. Therefore it should be possible in games too I reckon, within limits.

I think you mean licensed music. Original soundtracks are still real music.

Anyway I think it all depends on the game.

I liked how Max Payne 3 did it. Health created an entirely new soundtrack for the game, only using an existing song with lyrics for the end level and credits.

Actually I would say we have a great balance at the moment of when to use licensed music and original scores.

I don't think I could imagine anything other than the Suicide Mission score playing during the suicide mission. Equally, I adore Ain't No Rest For The Wicked, Short Change Hero and How You Like Me Now being used in Borderlands.

What I would say we need more of licensed music in are games like FIFA or Forza. I feel they don't have enough that I can listen to without getting bored of them and just sticking on my own music.

Licensed music rarely fits the mood. I prefer music well suited and crafted specifically for the situation at hand in my games. And when games feature licensed music, unless it's a theme like Brutal Legend's Heavy metal or guitar heros, it's usually some generic pop rock or Rapper which I do not appreciate, so yeah no thanks.

Last use of non-ost music I liked? Ride of the walkyries in Farcry 3, that scene was absolutely epic mostly because of the music. It's almost certain it wouldn't be one of the most memorable scenes in the game without the song.

Some pieces of OST that I think are worthy of more recognition and could be less prevalent if licensed music started being the norm: Chaos Theory,Frank Klepacki's collective work on basically every game he composed for, Deus Ex, Mass Effect, Jeremy Soule's work on Elder Scrolls, Jesper Kyd from Assassin's Creed and Hitman and the list goes on.

So no, I'm fine with gaming music as it is.

I do tend to like video game music especially Electronica and Japanese game music. But I do agree with the OP that some games could do with music from outside gaming, especially western games to add a bit of spice to generic orchestral sounds.

Here are some of my fave examples, (which also happen to some of my most loved game soundtracks)

And don't forget Jet Set Radio, Anarchy Reigns and Child of Eden & REZ, although I'm unsure if any of those had music written especially for the game itself by music groups, similar to how many indies pay a musician to provide chip tunes.

evilthecat:

Would the Elder Scrolls games be better if you replaced that recurring theme with generic rock and pop music? Would the mass effect series have held together so well if they'd just played a mixtape in the background of each game? A good musical score can do a huge amount in establishing the identity of the game. So can a good soundtrack, for that matter. Take the two most recent Fallout games. It's not the case that one is simply better than the other, it depends entirely on the film or game and the style its going for.

Otherwise you end up with..

Yeah, cool! I'm totally psyched to go and fight that dragon and explore that ruined castle now with my emotion of.. vague, generic upbeatness.

Congruity, you're doing it wrong (and not in a good way).

waitwaitwaitwaitwait you're quoting the Dragon's Dogma title screen as a BAD example?! What the fuck guy?! It's so awesome!

Did you hear the music in the DD demo? It was the most generic "this is a swords and magic fantasy game" orchestraly tune that was instantly forgotten. I'm positive that they changed it to this glorious atypical J-rock thing to say "No, this not us trying to cash in on the open world WRPG cash cow. We're trying to make something new and memorable"

Considering how skeptical people were of Capcom releasing such a game at the time and much of a sleeper hit DD turned out to be, the choice of menu music was genius. It instantly takes people's interest exactly because it is so atypical of the genre.

Licensed music can work, if used well, but it's rare that it does. And it in no way beats original music.

Videogame music is now one of my favourite genres. As a musician, I enjoy music that is composed with depth and intricacy. More and more popular music is dumbing down, and becoming more readily accessible for mass consumption. When I get bored of hearing Lady GaGa or Nicki Minaj, sometimes I like to listen to some Nobuo Uematsu or Yoko Shimomura, and revel in the awe that well composed music can create.

When I think of the best videogame soundtracks, I think of games where the soundtrack has been singularly composed with the aim of drawing the player further into the gameworld. Games like Final Fantasy IX, or Legend Of Mana. I wouldn't want a licensed tune playing over the intro to LoM, as it's the beautiful Song Of Mana that gets the hairs standing on my arms.

Aris Khandr:
No. Mostly because video games are made for people with musical tastes vastly different to mine. They put real music in FIFA, in Burnout, in the WWE games, et cetera. And the very first thing I do in all of them is turn it off. If I want to hear music while playing, I'll put on my own. Why would I want to subject my ears to Kanye or whatever when I could listen to Queen on my own?

You have to admit though, the use of Kanye in Saints Row the Third was pretty fitting.

The only difference between licensed music and video game soundtrack is who wrote them though. I guess my suggestion is to go listen to more of your favored artist's music when not playing? I prefer music that fits the characters or scenes really, regardless of whether it's licensed or original. Although most of my favorite music is from soundtracks.

As opposed to fake?

I kid.

I really don't want licensed music in games unless it's being used for some purpose in a game like GTA or for racing and sports games. Game music is supposed to enhance the feel of the game and is tailored to do that. Yeah, you could do that with licensed music, but you get something like Crazy Taxi and that becomes troublesome after a while since the company might lose their right to use it after a while. Artists like being paid.

Some of the best orchestral music I've heard comes from games and I've also had the best experiences in games because of the music that went perfectly to what I was doing. God of War is a perfect example. I know Catherine had "real" music, but no one owns the rights to the originals so the game's composer could do whatever he wanted with it. And while I liked the music, it was a little distracting since I spent most of my time figuring out what the piece was rather than playing the game.

H-how is crafting music specifically for each part of a game the generic option, and using popular music the breath of fresh air? I just...no...NO!! IT'S NOT RIGHT!!!

OT: You really stirred the hornets nest with this one by not only calling orchestral music generic, but also saying it isn't real. Hell, my nerd rage is only just being kept down for this moment. I leave you with this.

PS: Actually, we can pull off both I believe by having popular musicians perform the music for the game. I still prefer my orchestral tunes, but I would miss out on this lovely piece by my favorite band.

at OP: Im sorry but i think you are completely wrong. Original soundtracks are far more effective than any piece of pop music could ever be. So many games have GREAT soundtracks too, ones that fit the scenes better than most movies do. In fact i'd have to say pop music irritates the hell out of me, including when it appears in movies and it's the same old songs we've heard in those type of scenes before. That lazy music directing is one reason why some modern movies really fail to grab my attention.

Do you realise how much it costs for stuff like that? To license a single song? Licensing multiple could double the cost of a game. I feel when games use music like that for things other than radio stations (Fallout) it feels tacky and like 'we're too lazy to make our own music here have someone elses' I think video game music is written for video games, where music for other things is written for that in mind.

And like with ANY thread with even the slightest hint of the word 'soundtrack' in it, it's devolved into everyone just rushing in to post their favorites in the form of a youtube vid. Ugh.

Anything that makes games get rid of dubstep tracks is alright in my books.

OT: I think the reason games don't do this more often is because confrontations and final bosses take varying amounts of time depending on the player. You can easily edit a film around a song for climactic effect, but it's harder to do that in a game.

So games tend to go for tracks that can be easily looped and split into segments. In fact, I think that's why dubstep is starting to become so popular with developers is because it's dirt cheap (1 guy with a Mac can make your entire soundtrack in a day) and it's so much audio noise that you can play it continiously without the player noticing that anything ahs changed.

The reason this happened, is because of a move away from midi music towards mp3 format for game soundtracks. For instance, Ocarina of Time and Banjo & Kazooie are excellent examples of dynamic manipulation of soundtrack in-game.

play alan wake they used licenced music better than anyone else. in fact they did use David Bowie's space oddity in the credits.

ToastiestZombie:
snip

Do they? We have games with licenced music, they are few but again, do we really need more? Does the movie industry only use 'real music' (this term is stupid, orchestral music is as real as the kind of you refer to. It is written by an artist to represent the situation in the game or movie).

Case in point.

ToastiestZombie:
snip

I disagree with your reasoning, as well as much of your claim (I found the music picks in Django, as well as the film, to be awful, pretentious shit). Yet, I also agree. Allow me to elaborate.

Licensed music can, and sometimes does, have a place in video game soundtracks. The right song can add quite a lot to a specific scene or moment within the game.

However, there are two circumstances the developer must avoid if they don't want to ruin the experience. First is making damned sure to pick the right song. Having the wrong song will not only be jarring but will undermine any impact the scene may have on the player. Second is making sure you don't have an over-abundance of licensed tracks. If you put too many licensed songs in your game you run the risk of both breaking immersion and limiting your game to a very specific "time"; especially if they go with primarily contemporary music.

Even if a developer gets all of those things right, you still have another problem. That being the potential of "putting off" players because they don't like the developers choice in music or they don't like the idea of having an iconic track associated with what's in the game. Sure, you can say the same of original soundtracks, but with OSTs you generally don't run the risk of having your songs associated with something else, and in most cases people will simply turn off the music if they don't like it.

This is not to say that I think there should be no licensed music in gaming. On the contrary. Done correctly it can be great. And by "done correctly" I mean one of two things: taking a licensed song and re-purposing it for your game or involving the original artists in the project.

For example: Mech Assault 2.

Now, there are moments in the game wherein they use some licensed music. Those moments are awkward and disruptive. They don't mesh well.

However, there are other songs in the soundtrack that are, for lack of a better word, "remixes" of a licensed song. And, I don't mean some "techno" cover.

What they did was, they took a licensed track, stripped out most of the vocals, concentrated on specific melodies and bass-lines, and retooled the pacing, beat, and progression to create a collection of tunes that all sounded like they came from the same mold, but were remade to fit a wide range of scenes and scenarios. From calm to tense to action-packed. They also blended well with the rest of the songs in the soundtrack.

Another example is in Portal 2.

Of the 70-some songs in the game, all but two are original creations from the composer Mike Morasky over at Valve. The other two were created by existing composers outside the developer. Specifically, Johnathon Coulton and The National. Both composed songs specifically for the game; one of whom (The National) released their song as part of one of their own albums.

I think these methods are better than simply cramming some already existing track into your game. By bringing in an existing artist or reworking an existing song you can create songs for your game that sound like something they'd write but carry none of the baggage of using one of their existing songs "as is".

shogo sakai, tim follin, grant kirkhope and paul romero are all examples of game soundtrack composers who did a marvellous job fitting the music to the genres and settings of their games
using licensed tracks would firmly not be beneficial for them

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