Thursday, November 8, 2012

Music In Games

Zelda's ocarina really brought music to the fore.
I've been ignoring soundtracks for awhile and it's only been very recently that I've started considering background music for my games again.  I think the trouble was that I was focusing on my Flashpoint Pathfinder campaign and it's just harder for me to find appropriate music for high adventure in a fantasy setting than modern horror or investigation.  At least it is with my limited set of soundtracks.  There's only so many times you can pull out the old Age of Empires soundtrack.  So I've been re-examining my use of background music and I've had a few thoughts.

Basically, I've realised a few things.  I've figured out that:
  • You don't require multiple songs per scene with many game soundtracks as they loop just fine.
  • If you are going to use very few songs, you're better off ensuring the scene is short or simply using one soundtrack as each song change is going to draw player attention to it and make the looping noticeable.
  • If a song has a vocal track, don't loop it.  You'll need multiple songs.
  • Break down playlists by scene where possible so that I can have more precise moods rather than a number of really diverse ones.  This also helps ensure that each soundtrack feels fresh when they go into a new area and hear something new.
  • It only takes me a few moments to slide back in my chair to change a soundtrack.  A remote button would be fantastic, or a laptop, but alas it's not to be.
  • You don't NEED a soundtrack but it does help.
  • You need a lot of musical choices if you want to do a range of scenes.
As for basic musical soundtrack moods, here's a few I've found:
  • Age of Empires (and its various incarnations) can invoke some good adventure / fantasy moods.
  • Silent Hill, Project Zero and Midnight Syndicate all make for good creepy / horror.
  • The Tex Murphy series makes for good investigation / conspiracy / modern action.
  • Farenheit has some good mournful / investigation evocative music.  Very sad and touching.
So as a rule of thumb, if you're looking for a good soundtrack to evoke a mood you're better off looking at videogames that already invoke that mood.  Now I just need to find the Deus Ex soundtracks....

What musical soundtracks do you suggest?  I might try and track them down and use them myself and even pop them up in the main body of this article.


  1. For what it's worth, Basil Poledouris is really good for fantasy soundtracks; he did the soundtrack to the original Conan the Barbarian movie, which always comes up in discussions of game soundtracks and rightly so because it's brilliant, but he also did the soundtrack for Conan the Destroyer (the best aspect of that movie) and this old Rutger Hauer film called Flesh+Blood which was in sort-of similar territory but had a bit more emotional range. Good stuff all around.

  2. Erdenstern is fun too! Similar to Midnight Syndicate's D+D album. Their different albums have different themes.

    They have some free downloads too.

    David S
    Minnesota, USA

    1. I'll have to take a look when get back home.