#015 – Interactive Music (by @terrabyte_aura)

Hello again, this is the not Idea Squish guy #1 again, terrabyte_aura. I’m currently trying to help iandoch out a bit by doing Thursday posts for a while as to make his life easier, so I will hopefully become a regular ’round these parts!

Anyway, I have a few thoughts about a very important topic in video games: music. In particular, interactive/dynamic music. There isn’t much of it, with the exception of the odd tempo change. Which is a big fat shame, which I hope to rectify with this article :). NOW, ONTO THE IDEAS! *gallops away on a well-placed steed*

IDEA ONE: Two soundtracks

This is exactly the idea that FTL takes. It has two soundtracks- one “Explore” theme and one “Battle” theme which are switched between when stuff happens (NOTE: I haven’t played FTL, but I have heard the soundtrack and I’m reliably informed that this happens).

This sort of idea is perfect for areas that change, maybe ruins that were once a massive city both have very similar themes but differentiate between each other with changes in timbre (instruments used), key or even other stuff!

IDEA TWO: Shifting between elements

This sort of idea is partially present in a soundtrack that I’m writing to me and CNIAngel’s currently named and on-hold Emotion Game.

In this game, as you defeat more enemies, the track gains parts and improves the instruments, slowly becoming prettier until the final piano version. You could literally add elements to the track as it progresses by buying more advanced music equipment or even having the ability to buy more minstrels to follow you around, accompanying your adventures! Maybe having certain instruments in your soundtrack would help you in battle by boosting a stat like morale or confidence!

IDEA THREE: Create yer own

Games like Sound Shapes and January spring into mind when this sort of topic is mentioned. But this sort of thing doesn’t have to be limited to music games. You could have monsters that follow you around adding parts to the soundtrack just as background niceness, not necessarily a very important part of the game, just a tiny little nicety. Which is always nice. Games like FTL (as I mentioned earlier) automatically feel more in-depth and realistic with this sort of addition, and even a little 3D sound (objects that produce sound and get louder when walked towards) can work wonders for a game. To look at a non-indie game (I know, what the hell am I doing?!) such as Spore, it makes the levels all that better with the sound objects in the editor- immediately giving you 3D sound and even the possibility of certain routes adding new elements to the soundtrack! You could write a game with different endings that add elements to create a new final piece- let’s say that there was a happy and a sad ending. As you go towards the sad ending, the elements become more minor and distorted with sad-sounding (technical term) instruments, but if you turn towards the happy ending you begin to add happier major elements- causing clashes between the major and minor elements until one or the other is reached.

IDEA FOUR: Tempo and MODULATION

Mario Kart final lap theme.

Need I say more?

For those that haven’t played Mario Kart (hopefully none of you), having music that builds up as you get closer to the end is a sure-fire way of building up adrenaline. Y’know, just sayin’.

SUPER SERIOUS STUFF (SSS): Completely generated music

To mention another non-indie game, Spore, there is some cool music stuff going on that game. It uses a variant of the super awesome Pure Data to create its entire score on the fly, and that is a very clever technique to pursue (more on Spore at http://uk.pc.gamespy.com/pc/spore/853810p1.html). You could give each enemy a note that repeats every few seconds and just watch as a melody unfolds. Or even have cave music made out of endlessly modulating arpeggios that change as a new enemy appears (which I actually partially made here: http://teralabs.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/pd-randarp/), or data that is turned into music (such as the player’s highscores) that make the music more complex as you go! There are so many ways to make new things (and by the way, I’d suggest Pure Data for doing them), and it would be really interesting to see what people come up with.

Anyway, idea stream over. Comment below or stalk me on twitter @terrabyte_aura for a good ol’ chat.

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