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Composing Music for Video Games...?

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Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Elephone » Tue Jun 23, 2015 3:25 am

Hello. Just wondering if anyone here composes music for video games. It's something I'm seriously thinking about. I think it might suit my way of creating music. I wonder if there is any programming knowledge required. Do you have to write them in a format (MIDI?) with certain tempos, etc? Does the music have to be written for the created game or does it get added later.

I don't actually play video games at all, so I was just going to listen to lots of game soundtracks.

Most of the articles I've read sound promising for those who are prepared to give it a serious try, but they're a few years old now so I'm not sure if things are tapering off lately, or if it's become much more competitive. Perhaps it is harder to get your stuff heard now.

Thanks
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby penpen » Tue Jun 23, 2015 5:48 am

Elephone wrote:
I don't actually play video games at all, so I was just going to listen to lots of game soundtracks.
Thanks
OMG, why dont you listen some game soundtracks, and get the idea... you dont even play games !!!
so, u have no clue
:headbang: :headbang: :headbang:
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Guest » Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:51 am

I don't do this myself but do know dudes that do. From what I can gather it is extremely difficult to get into even for creme de la creme composers.

If you are interested in the processes involved though, keep your eye out for some of the do's laid on at PRS towers (and maybe elsewhere who knows). I recall a few years ago going to a very interesting talk there given by Richard Jacques where he talked about the nuts and bolts of creating games music. I think it was organized by BASCA or PCAM or something or other so check out their events schedule. I know he does these from time to time.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby johnny h » Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:53 am

The quality of game soundtracks has gone up to ridiculous levels in recent years. The budgets of major games are now bigger than hollywood films. I'd suggest you get yourself a PS4 and try out some of the popular titles. It is certainly no longer an easy market to penetrate.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Mike McLoone » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:22 am

Get this book as a gentle introduction:

The Complete Guide to Game Audio: For Composers, Musicians, Sound Designers, Game Developers
By Aaron Marks
ISBN-10: 0240810740
ISBN-13: 978-0240810744

Can you write, record and mix classical, rock, and electronic music to a professional standard? As a games composer you will be expected to do so, under extreme time constraints and at the beginning, for little money. You will supply them with mastered tracks, which they will cut up in a free-ware audio editor and use where and how they feel appropriate in the game. Thankfully, you'll be so busy on the next project you won't even have time to play the game through to discover what has become of your intricate compositions.

As one developer screamed down the phone to me "Listen you, I have five guys in Eastern Europe who want this job, and a ton who will work for peanuts in China. I'll give you HALF of what you asked for, not a cent more!"

All I was asking for the going rate. My going rate, which was required to pay for the investment in hardware and software I had made, plus casual add-ons such as rent. You are up against composers with a fraction of the overhead of living in Europe, who may not even pay for the software they use.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Elephone » Tue Jun 23, 2015 4:04 pm

penpen wrote:
Elephone wrote:
I don't actually play video games at all, so I was just going to listen to lots of game soundtracks.
Thanks
OMG, why dont you listen some game soundtracks, and get the idea... you dont even play games !!!
so, u have no clue
:headbang: :headbang: :headbang:

Sounds logical but the stuff I have heard sounds pretty naff to me, hardly a challenge. Even the composer who made a fortune out of that track said he did it in one session.

Anyway, the designer of some of the world's most elaborate roller coasters never went on one in his life. It's not necessary. I have played games, I'm just not all that into wasting my time with them.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Elephone » Tue Jun 23, 2015 4:07 pm

Thanks for the replies. The way I wanted to offer music was to pre-compose it in a flexible form and then offer to alter it according to any requirements, not get into contracts so much. I'm not sure it's that viable anymore. The industry has been taken over.

All the composers sound like they belong in that corporate world. The way they talk and think. Depressing.

I suppose all I want is to make good money writing really good stuff. But there's never been any guarantee of that. Not in music anyway.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby The Korff » Tue Jun 23, 2015 4:45 pm

Elephone wrote:Sounds logical but the stuff I have heard sounds pretty naff to me, hardly a challenge.

What stuff have you heard? Try the Metal Gear Solid series, that's one of my favourite game franchises; the music and sound design is excellent. The score for those was mostly done by Harry Gregson-Williams. Look him up?
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Chaconne » Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:05 pm

Even games on a handheld like a 3ds are pretty sophisticated. Finnish mario kart and your treated to a bit of jazz riffing on the themes - over the outro when the whole thing is done. Something lots of people wont ever hear.
Even cheap arcade titles on a console come with orchestral scores.

I would like to hear this sophisticated stuff that you write that trumps all this.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby johnny h » Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:10 pm

Chaconne wrote:Even games on a handheld like a 3ds are pretty sophisticated. Finnish mario kart and your treated to a bit of jazz riffing on the themes - over the outro when the whole thing is done. Something lots of people wont ever hear.
Even cheap arcade titles on a console come with orchestral scores.

I would like to hear this sophisticated stuff that you write that trumps all this.
Some of the old Nintendo stuff had fantastic music, but you used to be able to get with crappy generic music on some of the low budget titles. Not anymore though.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Richie Royale » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:32 pm

Some games use the music very effectively, where the intense music seamlessly arrives and goes to match the action. Tomb raider does this well if I recall correctly.

http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/feb05/a ... rgames.htm This is ten years ago and some things have moved on, but some things probably aren't much different either.

Martin Walker will be along soon to tell you about his legendary days on the C64. It really was a different time then in games music. :)
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Elephone » Wed Jun 24, 2015 12:50 am

Hi. I wasn't 'dissing' games music in general, I know even the early stuff was original, I was just saying that some of the stuff that gets used I think I could do. Some of the better stuff I probably couldn't.

Also, I don't think games are "a waste of time" for other people, people who work hard outside of music and not necessarily at something they love doing. They want entertainment and that's great. I just meant for me, because I do music but already get my kicks from playing instruments, so I'd be better off sticking with that rather than getting into games. I'm a bit scared of playing games in case I get hooked. :shock:

Thanks
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Guest » Wed Jun 24, 2015 9:20 am

Elephone wrote:

All the composers sound like they belong in that corporate world. The way they talk and think. Depressing.

If I may ask, what composers are you referring to?
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby johnny h » Wed Jun 24, 2015 9:46 am

Elephone wrote:Hi. I wasn't 'dissing' games music in general, I know even the early stuff was original, I was just saying that some of the stuff that gets used I think I could do. Some of the better stuff I probably couldn't.

But you don't play them. Your experience is very limited, and likely outdated.

Also, I don't think games are "a waste of time" for other people, people who work hard outside of music and not necessarily at something they love doing. They want entertainment and that's great. I just meant for me, because I do music but already get my kicks from playing instruments, so I'd be better off sticking with that rather than getting into games. I'm a bit scared of playing games in case I get hooked. :shock:
Are you also scared of playing music in case you get hooked?

Game music is very professional these days. There's no way you can compose for games without an in-depth understanding of how music is used in modern games. You have to put the time in to fully learn what is required. Otherwise, your chances of success in the industry are close to zero.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Mike McLoone » Wed Jun 24, 2015 10:00 am

Elephone wrote:
Anyway, the designer of some of the world's most elaborate roller coasters never went on one in his life. It's not necessary. I have played games, I'm just not all that into wasting my time with them.

Let me put this another way, let's take movies as an example:

Composer: Hey Mr. Hollywood, I'm a pretty good composer and I'd like to write music for your movie!
Hollywood: Well that's nice of you, I'm thinking of going for a Hans Zimmer style on my next picture. Can you do this?
Composer: Well, I'm not sure who Hans Zimmer is, but I'm sure I could....
Hollywood: Really?! Well, what about...
Composer: No, well you see, I don't actually watch movies. I get the idea, there's a script and a plot and some actors. But it's not my thing really.

Can you figure what will come out of a pitch like this? If you are not playing games or at least listening to the music (which is quite often released separately these days as people do want to listen to it, try spotify or youtube), you will not get past the first hurdle.

Better would be to declare your familiarity of interactive music, Wwise, FMOD, UT3 engine and so on. There is a lot of jargon as with any industry, you will not expect the games developer to know what a hemidemisemiquaver is and in turn, they will not ask you to integrate the sound FX you design into the game engine.

However, saying that you have not even played any games in the last couple of years will get you a lot of blank faces. You are coming to them asking for work, they already have enough composers. So you will have to stand out a little and at least seem happy and eager to work in their industry! 8-)
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Luke JD » Wed Jun 24, 2015 12:55 pm

Mike McLoone wrote:
Elephone wrote:
Anyway, the designer of some of the world's most elaborate roller coasters never went on one in his life. It's not necessary. I have played games, I'm just not all that into wasting my time with them.


Let me put this another way, let's take movies as an example:

Composer: Hey Mr. Hollywood, I'm a pretty good composer and I'd like to write music for your movie!
Hollywood: Well that's nice of you, I'm thinking of going for a Hans Zimmer style on my next picture. Can you do this?
Composer: Well, I'm not sure who Hans Zimmer is, but I'm sure I could....
Hollywood: Really?! Well, what about...
Composer: No, well you see, I don't actually watch movies. I get the idea, there's a script and a plot and some actors. But it's not my thing really.

Can you figure what will come out of a pitch like this? If you are not playing games or at least listening to the music (which is quite often released separately these days as people do want to listen to it, try spotify or youtube), you will not get past the first hurdle.

Better would be to declare your familiarity of interactive music, Wwise, FMOD, UT3 engine and so on. There is a lot of jargon as with any industry, you will not expect the games developer to know what a hemidemisemiquaver is and in turn, they will not ask you to integrate the sound FX you design into the game engine.

However, saying that you have not even played any games in the last couple of years will get you a lot of blank faces. You are coming to them asking for work, they already have enough composers. So you will have to stand out a little and at least seem happy and eager to work in their industry! 8-)


+1.

I haven't played many new video games, but I used to be into them. I played Bioshock Infinite, Skyrim, The Last of Us, Halo etc a couple of years ago, but whilst my recent experience has been limited I completely agree with Mike McLoone. You're gonna need to have an intimate and thorough knowledge of the video game music market. Similar to the film music industry, it's going to be the video game producers, directors and music supervisors who will have a large degree of control over how they want their music to sound, so you're going to need to be able to deliver their intentions quickly and accurately when they reference the music from "Pillars of Eternity" or "Call of Duty 341".

E3 was only last week. Dozens of titles were announced and there are tonnes of trailers on youtube! Grab a PS4 and a hot brew and get to researching! ;)

Also, the video game industry is so massive now you're also gonna have to decide what genre of video game music you're best off shooting for!
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Mike McLoone » Wed Jun 24, 2015 2:48 pm

There are plenty of game soundtracks available on youtube or spotify, should one want a casual listen without investing in playstation or XBox. It's a bit old now, but Red Dead Redemption soundtrack in full can be found here:

https://open.spotify.com/album/22H5XKyHXkxHbty4jtBibg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P3ElYrPhsU

And they have even released same on CD and limited edition red vinyl. Never heard of a game soundtrack on vinyl before, but there you go, merchandising I guess.

http://www.rockstargames.com/newswire/a ... ginal.html
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Elephone » Wed Jun 24, 2015 3:04 pm

johnny h wrote: Are you also scared of playing music in case you get hooked?

I really don't get your point here. It's hardly a waste of time to play my guitar and look at the clock to see 5 hours have gone by, because that skill is useful to me in music, what I've always wanted to do. I couldn't say the same about playing a video game. That would be a pure 5-hours of entertainment.

If you mean playing music records, well we all learn from listening.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby johnny h » Wed Jun 24, 2015 4:01 pm

Elephone wrote:
johnny h wrote: Are you also scared of playing music in case you get hooked?

I really don't get your point here. It's hardly a waste of time to play my guitar and look at the clock to see 5 hours have gone by, because that skill is useful to me in music, what I've always wanted to do. I couldn't say the same about playing a video game. That would be a pure 5-hours of entertainment.

If you mean playing music records, well we all learn from listening.
I do mean playing records, and yes we all learn from listening. I would say its impossible to fully appreciate what is needed for a game soundtrack without immersing yourself in them. Would you trust a writer who never reads? A director that never watches films? A musician who thinks listening to records is a waste of time?

Whether games are an art form or not is a matter of opinion, but they are definitely extremely well crafted, highly professional, high budget productions. Attempting to get through the industry door while holding your nose will not work.
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Re: Composing Music for Video Games...?

Postby Richie Royale » Wed Jun 24, 2015 4:31 pm

Mike McLoone wrote:There are plenty of game soundtracks available on youtube or spotify, should one want a casual listen without investing in playstation or XBox. It's a bit old now, but Red Dead Redemption soundtrack in full can be found here:

https://open.spotify.com/album/22H5XKyHXkxHbty4jtBibg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P3ElYrPhsU

And they have even released same on CD and limited edition red vinyl. Never heard of a game soundtrack on vinyl before, but there you go, merchandising I guess.

http://www.rockstargames.com/newswire/article/11931/collectors-item-red-vinyl-lp-of-the-red-dead-redemption-original.html

I have the Far Cry 3 - Blood Dragon soundtrack on vinyl (the re-press) and it is certainly worth listening to if you are a fan of 80s films and soundtracks. It takes from Bladerunner and most obviously Terminator, but an homage rather than aping the style.
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