The last time I visited the subject of music, although I was aware of how music affects games, my actual knowledge of the subtleties of how it is used was very limited, and although I still have much to learn my time in our group project and trying to incorporate music appropriate to the genre has made a massive difference to how I see music in games.
Although I do still agree that artists such as Martin O’Donnell and Nobuo Uematsu are amazing composers and have rightly earned themselves a name, the grandeur of their music isn’t appropriate for all gaming situations. RPGs and first person shooters, like within Halo and Final Fantasy have music of high energy and give everything a sense of scale, all be it few sad moments or music for “evil characters” there is next to no ambient music, or music that gradually builds tension or creates a theme or atmosphere.
The genre of the game we produced in the group project was that of a survival genre, so naturally, if we were going to include music, we had to research into that which is included in survival horror games and films of the same nature. Music that was ambient, yet atmospheric, and what was appropriate to create a jumpy moment or simply sound effects of dripping water or a broken circuit board.
The artist we found who made the most appropriate music in terms of ambience and creating the right atmosphere we wanted, was Jason Graves, who composed the Dead Space Soundtrack. However, it wasn’t just enough that we had found music we could use, we had to consider when to use it and where to slowly build up tension with the player. Too much or little tension in the wrong place could unnecessarily leave the player with a feeling of anti-climax which is the last thing you want when playing a game. We also gathered a compilation of sound effects for items in the environment, several sounds for each asset. We then had to consider the extremity of the sound or how synthetic it should sound depending on the actual level of destruction of the asset and we had to consider how that played a part in the environment. For example: when considering a dripping pipe, we had to ensure that it was a slight drip, not too frequent. It had to sound like it was dripping into a small puddle, not a pool or solid concrete, and we had to take into account the volume of the sound in conjunction with the ambient music. All these little details needed to be taken into account for every sound effect which gave us much appreciation for how much effort and skill goes into creating different moods and levels of tension in all genres of games.
Coming back to the Halo franchise, Although it has no elements of eerie tension like Dead Space does, Martin O’Donnell creates a different kind of tension through different instruments and keeping the pace of the music high as halo is a much faster paced game. As a skill I would say creating moods through music takes a massive amount of skill for whatever genre of game or film it is being produced for, which I now have a much better appreciation for.