Question about action tracks in video games

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by SimonCharlesHanna, Jun 10, 2018.

  1. SimonCharlesHanna

    SimonCharlesHanna Senior Member

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    Feb 3, 2012
    Hey.

    Looking for advice:
    When writing action tracks for video games, what are some ways to create development and variation/section ideas, without losing the energy but at the same time not sounding too same-y. Have you folks run into this issue before?

    I find that I tend to create too much variety and it really alters the feel that the track needs.
     
  2. MatFluor

    MatFluor Senior Member

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    The way I create game tracks is based on layering. It of course depends on the where the track is getting used - but I usually have multiple layers with variations which can be freely combined. E.g. 4 Percussion variations, 3 melody variations, 3 accompaniment variations. Each could then also be variated in itself with instrumentation. And then essentially "mix and match" programmatically, so you can have the track playing for 20 minutes without hearing the exact same thing twice.

    Does this make sense?
     
  3. OP
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    SimonCharlesHanna

    SimonCharlesHanna Senior Member

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    Hey Mat sure it does! I am actually thinking about single tracks that loop.

    But thank you for the input none-the-less!
     
  4. MatFluor

    MatFluor Senior Member

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    Every layer is loopable - and can be triggered from whatever condition makes sense.
    Else, if you want separate tracks, then you create a transition between these two to make it musical and lead from one section to the other. That way you don't have a crossfade or fadeout-in thing which can break the energy.
    Composition-wise it highly depends what you want to do, sometimes just a change in instrumentation is all there is needed, and keep the energy active with percussion or other rhythmic elements
     
  5. AlexRuger

    AlexRuger Senior Member

    MatFluor's not wrong, but layering is a level of complexity that isn't always totally necessary, and is separate from the question. Implementation is fun and is highly married to the music (ideally the implementation should be considered during the composing process), but more often than a lot of game composers like to admit, we're tasked with "write me a 2 minute loop."

    Your question is precisely where a lot of film composers moving into games fail: they don't have a picture to guide them, so their music often runs out of steam or doesn't develop enough. Writing music for games is much more like composing concert music or writing pop songs: structure matters!

    Try any of the following and see where it takes you:
    -Change keys (but make sure you can get back to the original).
    -Write a section of music with an odd number of bars.
    -Pick something that you were doing and do the opposite in the next section (broad, I know).
    -Write smaller overall -- the big parts seem bigger that way!
    -Short breaks that function like a pop song's bridge, or even better, pre-chorus.
    -Follow the "second time, second time" rule. When I was a studio musician and we were coming up with an arrangement on the spot, this was always a quick trick to make sure that the second verse didn't run out of steam (and that's always where a song runs out of steam). We would choose something unique to do during the second half of the second verse. It always gave us a nice boost of momentum into the hook. The most overused version of this is to break and play a few hits before going back into the beat -- works like a charm! Sudden staccato sections in game music, especially action tracks, really help drive the energy of a fight during game-play. Be careful not to draw too much attention to the music if it's not warranted, though.
    -Speaking of hooks...how's your melody? Can it be better?

    Most important, though, is that whatever you do must feel inevitable. The music needs to support itself in much the same way that a good film score feels inseparable from the picture. That sort of strong musical scaffolding is what makes or breaks a game composer, and is hilariously underrated.

    Anyways, hope this helps, and good luck!
     
  6. MatFluor

    MatFluor Senior Member

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    Yes.
    Also the rest of your answer.
     
  7. Henu

    Henu Senior Member

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    I was about to come to comment on this, but @AlexRuger really hit the nail here already.

    Another really important thing is the sound FX implementation in the scene- the more you have them, the less you need elements in your music. Also, keep on eye at the percussion, as that's one thing at least I always end up having too much first. As a rule of thumb, you definitely need less of that compared to what one might think at first.
     
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    SimonCharlesHanna

    SimonCharlesHanna Senior Member

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    Thanks for the help here. Sometimes it feels like I need to embrace a more "pop" approach, especially writing this battle track at the moment but apart of me feels that this is not ...right? if that makes sense.
     
  9. OP
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    SimonCharlesHanna

    SimonCharlesHanna Senior Member

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    Thanks for the advice Henu :)
     
  10. OP
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    SimonCharlesHanna

    SimonCharlesHanna Senior Member

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    :) Thanks for the input Mat!
     
  11. AlexRuger

    AlexRuger Senior Member

    Musically-speaking? Only if the game calls for it.

    But structure is structure. It's all about tension and release, setting up expectations and either paying them off or subverting them, thematic development, etc...this aspect of music tends to stay pretty constant, no matter the genre, because it's more psychological than anything else.
     

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