Video Game Music Composers: The Timed Challenge (Pt. 1)

Working on the music of the Hades' Star video game, video game composer Winifred Phillips is here pictured in her music studio at Generations Productions.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Welcome!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and in this month’s article, I’d like to go into some depth about an interesting aspect of our work as game composers – creating music for timed challenges.  In timed challenges, players must complete a set of tasks within a limited window of time.  Over the years, I’ve created music for lots of timed challenges featured in highly divergent projects, from the darkly strategic space battles of Hades’ Star (pictured above), to the wacky assembly-line mayhem of the Fail Factory VR game, to the brand-new DLC release from one of my most recent projects — the Spyder video game. It was this most recent release that actually got me thinking a lot about how difficult timed challenges can be for game composers.

Developed by Sumo Digital, the Spyder game stars a high-tech robotic spider named Agent 8, who carries out secret missions on behalf of an elite spy agency.  The poster art for the Spyder video game, developed by Sumo Digital, with music composed by award-winning video game composer Winifred Phillips.Since all spies need to keep their awesome abilities in tip-top shape, the spy agency has helpfully provided a set of training exercises for its roster of agents.  Of course, Agent 8 is a tiny mechanical robot, so his training missions have to be designed especially for him.  In this unique and ambitious initiative, Sumo Digital is now releasing a new training mission for Agent 8 on a daily basis. Each training mission is timed, so I composed music that was structured to accentuate the fun and tension of a timed challenge.

The circumstances of gameplay for this DLC was distinctive, which made my job especially interesting.  Each of Agent 8’s training missions offers mind-twisting challenges, and no single mission can be completed twice.  Once players have successfully finished the day’s training mission, they’ll have to wait until the next day for another mission to become available with a whole new set of challenges.  A representation of a stop-watch, used as an illustration for a discussion of timed challenges in video games.  From the article by Winifred Phillips (video game composer).Since each of the training missions are timed, and there is no possibility of replaying any successfully-completed mission, the tension can potentially build much higher than what players might normally experience.  A big part of this anxiety is propelled by the inexorable ticking of the clock as it counts down the allotted time.  All this comes together to create a mish-mash of emotional elements and kinetic considerations that I had to reflect in the music I composed for the project.

Timed challenges are unique, and require their own creative and technical approaches in order to be as impactful as possible. With that in mind, I’ll be dedicating my next two articles to the process of creating music for timed challenges.  Along the way, I’ll be sharing my music composition strategies for timed challenges from five of my video game projects:

In part one of this two-part article series, we’ll be discussing musical approaches to timed challenges in Call of Champions, Hades’ Star and Sports Scramble.  Part two will elaborate on dynamic music strategies for timed challenges, including both the Fail Factory VR game and my latest project, the Spyder Micro Missions.  During these two articles, our discussion will include an assortment of implementation structures, so let’s start with the most basic way to address the issue.

Applying a Linear Loop to a Timed Challenge

As game composers, let’s imagine that we’ve been assigned to create music that will accompany players as they accomplish a set of goals while watching an inexorable countdown clock.  The timed challenge will be a finite length, but here’s the twist — the music will be shorter than the length of the challenge.  Therefore, the music has to loop.

Iconography used to represent the concept of the music loop, as discussed in the article by Winifred Phillips (video game composer).This is the least intuitive way to handle a timed challenge, but we’ll all be asked to create loops for timed challenges at least once in our careers.  Usually, the motivation behind this approach is purely logistical.  The game developers are commissioning a set amount of music for the project, and they want to stretch that music as far as possible to provide as much musical coverage for the game as they can.  Allocate less music for one part of the game, and there’s more available to apply elsewhere.  It’s a difficult decision that development teams have to make in order to provide the best musical experience for their players.  However, it still leaves the composer in the sticky situation of creating a musical loop for a gameplay scenario that is designed to continually escalate in tension and intensity.  Because it’s a loop, the music can’t escalate along with the gameplay.  What can we do about that?

Call of Champions – The Battle Arena

Spacetime Studios developed the Call of Champions MOBA (Massively Online Battle Arena) game.  As a well-reviewed game developed exclusively for mobile platforms, Call of Champions was the first-ever 5 minute version of the popular MOBA strategy game style.  All battles were time-limited to 5 minutes, and whoever had the upper hand when time ran out would emerge the victor of the match.

The Call of Champions logo and art, as it appears in the article by video game music composer Winifred Phillips.

When I was hired to compose the music for Call of Champions, the development team had already created a music implementation plan that included a three-minute looping structure for battle gameplay.  So when the battle was reaching its finale, the music would not be nearing its end.  Instead, it would have already looped back to the beginning and be somewhere in the middle when the match concluded.  Nevertheless, I knew I wanted my music for these battles to emphasize the timed nature of gameplay.

The Call of Champions game logo, as included in the article written by award-winning video game composer Winifred PhillipsI addressed the issue by composing music that overtly and aggressively asserted demarcations at regular intervals.  For nearly every eight bar sequence, the music dramatically changes.  This has the effect of imposing a sensation of changeable gameplay and quickly-altering circumstances.  The rapidly shifting musical content also serves to emphasize the passage of time.  To make this effect work while retaining musicality, I arranged the music structure so that it cycled frequently through melodic themes, b-sections, and bridges.  When I returned to thematic content, I introduced variation while retaining the same recognizable melodic motifs. Periodically, I introduced tension-building sections that included orchestral surges or ascending melodic lines, underscoring a sense of urgency and haste.

These were solutions born of necessity, but they worked within the Call of Champions battle sequences.  Here’s a video of one of these timed battles, including the music I created to accompany the action:

So now that we’ve looked at the difficulties imposed by the linear loop structure, let’s take a look at the next logical approach.

Writing linear music timed to the length of the challenge

Video game experiences are distinguished by their changeable nature.  Gamers are usually afforded enough personal agency to shape the nature of their gameplay journeys.  This tends to make the contours of their adventures difficult to predict.  How long will a typical gamer take to solve a puzzle, or complete a quest?  Who knows for sure?  For this reason (among others), music composition for games has pursued interactive structures and techniques that allow the music to adapt to player choice.

An iconic representation of time, used during a discussion of the timed challenge in the article by Winifred Phillips, video game composer.However, in the case of a timed challenge, we can predict exactly how long it will take for a gamer to complete the assigned objective (or fail to complete it).  If the development team decides that the length of the music accompanying a timed challenge will correspond to the length of the challenge, then this is the rare in-game circumstance in which we can compose linear music that features a definitive beginning, middle and end.

That being said, composing this music isn’t the same as composing for traditional linear media.  While there are similarities, the biggest difference lies in the role that the music plays.  For TV and film, music serves as a scene-setting accompaniment that hits the right emotional notes and helps to tell a story.  But music in a timed gameplay challenge is a source of information and a warning system.  If we do an expert job, players may come to rely heavily upon the music we create to help them complete the task within the allotted time.  Here’s an example:

Hades’ Star – The Blue Star challenge

Cover art for the Hades' Star strategy game, illustrating a discussion of timed challenges in an article by Winifred Phillips, composer of video game music.

Hades’ Star is an expansive space strategy game with a persistent universe and thousands of players.  The game gives players the opportunity to build an interstellar empire by exploiting the resources of numerous star systems while fighting off relentless competition.  Designed with thoughtful strategists in mind, most of the gameplay proceeds at a measured pace.  Every so often, however, an opportunity shows up to quickly earn large rewards in a high-stakes multiplayer free-for-all challenge that takes 5 minutes to complete.  Players rush into a system circling an unstable Blue Star.  The system will be completely destroyed in five minutes, and players work to survive the hostile environment while mercilessly attacking each other.  All the while, the hazardous boundaries of the blue star system encroach from all sides, inexorably contracting in size until the system reaches a single point and the Blue Star explodes, leaving nothing behind.  The player who manages to survive up until the final moment wins the match and reaps the rewards.

Animated image of the "blue star scan" from the Hades' Star video game, as included in the article by award-winning video game composer Winifred Phillips.The team at developer Parallel Space asked me to compose a piece of music with two distinct variations.  Version 1 would be an atmospheric track used for gameplay within the White Star systems.  This track would be five minutes long, and would need to loop so that it could accompany extended strategic gameplay sessions.

However, Version 2 would be more intense, and would be featured during gameplay within Blue Star Systems.  It would start out sounding similar to White Star gameplay, but three minutes into its length, it would diverge into all-new material.  This new musical content would need to convey messages to the player about the progression of the Blue Star system contraction, the urgency of the situation, and the limited time remaining.

An artistic depiction of the Blue Star phenomenon from the Hades' Star video game, as discussed in the article by video game music composer Winifred Phillips.

I’ve included a video showing an entire Blue Star playing session from start to finish.  You’ll notice that the first three minutes of music are unhurried and thoughtful.  However, once the player has reached the three minute mark, urgent strings begin playing alongside heavy synth rhythms and a large horn section.  Unlike the intermittent string rhythms heard earlier, this insistent momentum continues unbroken and builds steadily from this point forward — sending a clear signal to the player about the passage of time.  It’s just as effective a notification as any visual warning message or beeping alarm.   When the player only has 30 seconds remaining, the music sharply changes, darkening with dissonant surges and orchestral bursts.  Players who have participated in more than one Blue Star match will recognize this musical change as their 30 second warning.  The horror-inspired musical score finally crescendos when the Blue Star explodes, destroying the star system and ending the match:

Now let’s take a look at another way to approach the composition of linear non-looping music for a timed challenge.

Sports Scramble – Bowling

In most circumstances, game music is designed to support the gameplay experience in subtle, transparent ways.  Players will notice the music, but they won’t usually focus on it.  However, there are some games that use music as an overt component of the gameplay mechanic, with the intention of grabbing attention and communicating vital information in an assertive way.  The Bowling sections in the Sports Scramble VR game are a great example of this.  Sports Scramble is a VR game that takes famous sports and turns them upside-down, introducing oddball rules and equipment.  Fun times and hilarity ensue.  The development team at Armature Studio asked me to compose several linear tracks for these timed challenges.

The Sports Scramble logo image for the VR game, as discussed in the article by Winifred Phillips (composer of video game music).

The Bowling music in Sports Scramble is timed to play for the entire 1 minute and 40 second length of the challenge, with a linear structure that includes a beginning, middle and end.  This linear structure and specific timing are qualities it shares with the Blue Star music I composed for Hades’ Star.  But unlike the Blue Star music in Hades’ Star, the Bowling music for Sports Scramble includes a voice performance of a starting countdown that’s integrated directly into the track, along with a musical build-up and a starting bell that signals the beginning of gameplay.  A depiction of the game of bowling, used as an illustration in an article by video game music composer Winifred Phillips.Like the Call of Champions music, the music from the Sports Scramble Bowling challenge is structured with lots of sections that help to emphasize the passage of time.  This becomes much more overt and aggressive when there’s only 30 seconds left of play.  I’ve included a video of the Bowling gameplay below.  Notice how the music begins building to a crescendo at the 1 minute 30 second mark.  This is followed by a vocal countdown that’s aligned with the tempo of the piece, leading into an ending buzzer:

In this example, the music for the timed challenge is providing vital information to the player in a manner that’s meant to arrest attention.  Because the music is structured to last the entire length of the challenge, it has the option to send signals about important gameplay events.

Conclusion

Now we’ve looked at ways that music can be structured to align to gameplay circumstances during a timed challenge, but with the caveat that those circumstances must be fixed and predictable in nature.  What if there are changeable components to the timed challenge, and the music needs to adapt to those changes?

In part two of this two-part article series, I’ll be addressing this issue with a discussion of music composition strategies for timed challenges in the VR game Fail Factory and the training mission DLC from the Spyder game on Apple Arcade.  Until then, thanks for reading!

 

Photo of video game music composer Winifred Phillips, working in her music studio on the score to the Hades' Star video game.Popular music from composer Winifred Phillips’ award-winning Assassin’s Creed Liberation score is currently featured in the performance repertoire of the Assassin’s Creed Symphony World Tour, which kicked off in 2019 with an 80-piece orchestra and choir making its debut at the Paris premiere. As an accomplished video game composer, Phillips is best known for composing music for games in five of the most famous and popular franchises in gaming: Assassin’s Creed, God of War, Total War, The Sims, and LittleBigPlanet.  Phillips’ other notable projects include music for the triple-A first person shooter Homefront: The Revolution (Deep Silver), and numerous virtual reality games from such accomplished developers as Supermassive Games, High Voltage Software, and Armature Studio.   She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the MIT Press. As the foremost authority on music for interactive entertainment, Winifred Phillips has given lectures at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the Society of Composers and Lyricists, the Game Developers Conference, the Audio Engineering Society, and many more. Phillips’ enthusiastic fans showered her with questions during a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session that went viral, hit the Reddit front page, received 14.9 thousand upvotes, and became one of the most popular gaming AMAs ever hosted on Reddit. Follow her on Twitter @winphillips.

Game Composers and the Importance of Themes: Interactivity in Game Music (Pt. 5)

This photo includes video game composer Winifred Phillips working in the Generations Productions music studio. Phillips' credits feature entries in such popular and famous game franchises as Assassin's Creed Liberation, God of War, LittleBigPlanet, The Sims, and Total War.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hey everybody!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and welcome to the fifth and final installment of my article series based on the presentation I gave at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  My talk was entitled “From Assassin’s Creed to The Dark Eye: The Importance of Themes” (I’ve included the official description of my talk at this end of this article).  In my presentation, I discussed the music I composed for several video game projects, including Assassin’s Creed Liberation (Ubisoft), God of War (Sony Interactive America), LittleBigPlanet (Sony Interactive Europe), Homefront: The Revolution (Deep Silver), Speed Racer (Warner Bros Interactive), Spore Hero (Electronic Arts), and The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes (Wild River).

If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, you can find them here:

In the previous installments of this series, we discussed the importance of repeating musical themes, using the variation technique and fragmentation to support different gameplay types.  So now, let’s explore what happens when musical themes are employed within more complex interactive music systems.

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Game Composers and the Importance of Themes: Recurrence and Rationale in Game Music (Pt. 4)

Photo of composer Winifred Phillips at work in her music production studio at Generations Productions. Phillips' work includes several famous and popular games and game franchises, including God of War, Total War, LittleBigPlanet, Assassin's Creed, and The Sims.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Glad you’re here!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and welcome to the fourth installment of my five article series based on the presentation I gave this past March at the first-ever completely online Game Developers Conference!  My talk was titled “From Assassin’s Creed to The Dark Eye: The Importance of Themes” (you’ll find the official description of my talk at the end of this article).  In my presentation, I explored the thematic content in music I composed for several top video game projects, including Assassin’s Creed Liberation (Ubisoft), God of War (Sony Interactive America), LittleBigPlanet (Sony Interactive Europe), Homefront: The Revolution (Deep Silver), Speed Racer (Warner Bros Interactive), Spore Hero (Electronic Arts), and The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes (Wild River).

If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, you can find them here:

In the last article, we discussed theme fragmentation and variation.  So now let’s consider how themes can best enhance different types of gameplay.

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Variation and Fragmentation in Game Music: Game Composers and the Importance of Themes (Pt. 3)

This is a photo of composer Winifred Phillips in her production studio at Generations Productions. Phillips is known for her music for several well known games and game franchises, including LittleBigPlanet, God of War, Total War, Assassin's Creed, and The Sims.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hi!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and welcome to the third installment of my five article series based on the presentation I gave at this year’s online Game Developers Conference that took place this past March.  My talk was entitled “From Assassin’s Creed to The Dark Eye: The Importance of Themes” (I’ve included the official description of my talk at the end of this article).  In my presentation, I discussed the music I composed for several video game projects, including Assassin’s Creed Liberation (Ubisoft), God of War (Sony Interactive America), LittleBigPlanet (Sony Interactive Europe), Homefront: The Revolution (Deep Silver), Speed Racer (Warner Bros Interactive), Spore Hero (Electronic Arts), and The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes (Wild River).

In the last article, we took a look at how thematic material was employed in subtle ways within two of my video game projects – Assassin’s Creed Liberation and Homefront: The Revolution.  We considered how repetition can reinforce the significance of musical themes, particularly when they are associated with specific narrative ideas, and we talked about how repetition can work to make musical themes memorable and meaningful.  But we all know that repetition can get stale if we don’t approach it creatively.  So that brings us now to the topic of variation – how to keep themes feeling fresh.

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Game Composers and the Importance of Themes: Repetition in Game Music (Pt. 2)

Pictured: video game music composer Winifred Phillips in her music production studio. Phillips is the game music composer for The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes game, developed by Random Potion for Wild River Games. Her credits include titles from 5 of the most well-known game franchises, and she is one of the foremost authorities on video game music, having presented lectures at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), the Library of Congress in Washington DC, and the Society of Composers and Lyricists in NYC.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Delighted you’re here!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and this is the second installment of my five article series based on the presentation I gave at the first-ever digital edition of the Game Developers Conference that took place this past March.  My talk was entitled “From Assassin’s Creed to The Dark Eye: The Importance of Themes” (I’ve included the official description of my talk at this end of this article).  In my GDC 2020 presentation, I discussed the music I composed for several video game projects, including Assassin’s Creed Liberation (Ubisoft), God of War (Sony Interactive America), LittleBigPlanet (Sony Interactive Europe), Homefront: The Revolution (Deep Silver), Speed Racer (Warner Bros Interactive), Spore Hero (Electronic Arts), and The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes (Wild River).

In the last article, we discussed the concept of the “hook” as it relates to thematic composition, and we explored how an awesome hook can function best from within a main theme track.  In our discussion, we used both a famous example from the Star Wars franchise, as well as the main theme from one of my own recently-released game projects – The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes.  Both examples included a fairly dynamic foreground melody, which made it a great example for our discussion of the role of the hook in thematic construction.  So let’s now consider what happens when we eschew such an attention-drawing melodic element and instead take a more subtle approach.

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Game Composers and the Importance of Themes: The Hook in Game Music (Pt. 1)

This photo includes game music composer Winifred Phillips working in her production studio. Phillips is the game music composer for The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes game, developed by Random Potion for Wild River Games. Her credits include titles from 5 of the most well-known game franchises, and she is one of the foremost authorities on video game music, having presented lectures at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), the Library of Congress in Washington DC, and the Society of Composers and Lyricists in NYC.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

So happy you’ve joined us!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips.  Last March, I gave a presentation at the very first online Game Developers Conference.  My talk was entitled “From Assassin’s Creed to The Dark Eye: The Importance of Themes” (I’ve included the official description of my talk at this end of this article).  This coming August, I’ll be participating as a speaker in the upcoming GDC Summer online conference.  My session this August will be a wide-ranging Ask-Me-Anything Q&A, and I’m really looking forward it!  In anticipation of that conference session, I thought it might be useful for me to share the content of my March GDC talk in a series of articles.  I’m happy to now begin a five-part article series based on my GDC 2020 presentation in March!

In my GDC 2020 presentation, I discussed musical themes, and I shared some stories about my work composing music for lots of great game projects. I’ll be sharing the same stories here.  Those projects include Assassin’s Creed Liberation (Ubisoft), God of War (Sony Interactive America), the LittleBigPlanet franchise (Sony Interactive Europe), Homefront: The Revolution (Deep Silver), Speed Racer (Warner Bros Interactive), Spore Hero (Electronic Arts), and The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes (Wild River).

But before we start digging into practical examples, let’s take a quick look at one of the best and most iconic themes in the history of music for media. I’ve included a short excerpt below. Notice how we hear a melodic phrase once, then we hear it again, and it’s exactly the same as before. So the melody is saying, “hey – you liked that? Here, have another!”

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Video Game Music Composer: The Interactive Music of SPYDER (Part 2)

Photograph of video game music composer Winifred Phillips in her music production studio. Phillips is the video game composer for the Spyder game, developed by Sumo Digital for Apple Arcade. Her credits include games in five of the biggest franchises in gaming, and she is considered an authority on video game music who has given lectures at such venues as the Game Developers Conference (GDC), the Society of Composers and Lyricists, and the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Welcome!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m glad you’ve joined us for this continuation of our discussion of the dynamic music system in the video game Spyder!  As you may recall from our previous discussion, Spyder is a spy thriller set in a retro world that’s vibrant with the famously over-the-top music and aesthetic of the late 1960s to early 1970s.  The game was developed by Sumo Digital for the popular Apple Arcade gaming platform.  The protagonist is an intelligent gadget resembling a tiny robotic spider.  This device, named “Agent 8,” was created by an elite British spy organization.  As the hero of the game, Agent 8 undertakes high-stakes espionage in order to defeat a sprawling evil organization known as S.I.N.!  Sumo Digital recently released a developer diary video about the making of the music of SPYDER, so let’s check that out:

As you could see from the video, the Spyder video game features a dynamic music system designed to convey the iconic 1960s style of a classic spy thriller.  In this two-part article series, we’ve been exploring how that system was created.

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Video Game Music Composer: The Interactive Music of SPYDER

Award-winning game music composer Winifred Phillips working in her music production studio on the musical score of the Spyder video game for Apple Arcade. Her credits include games in five of the biggest franchises in gaming, and she is considered an authority on video game music who has given lectures at such venues as the Game Developers Conference (GDC), the Society of Composers and Lyricists, and the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hello there!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m excited to announce the release of my most recent video game project – Spyder, developed by Sumo Digital for the popular Apple Arcade gaming platform.  I loved working with the amazing audio team at Sumo Digital, and composing the music of Spyder was an absolute blast!  As a retro spy thriller with a really iconic visual aesthetic, Spyder gave me the chance to delve into the Promotional poster for the video game Spyder, from the article by video game music composer Winifred Phillips.musical styles of the late sixties and early seventies.  Big band jazz of the 50s had evolved over time into a groovy psychedelic circus of 1960s musical fun.  Mix this with the beginnings of 70s funk – and early synthetic sounds such as the famous Minimoog – and you end up with a potent cocktail of musical influences and attitudes.  All of this retro goodness is reflected in the old-school movie-style poster created by the Sumo Digital team to announce the Spyder video game (pictured right).

The historical research into style, technique and instrumentation posed a significant challenge for me as a game music composer.  In the course of preparing to compose the music for Spyder, I sank an enormous amount of time into this research, listening to what felt like every single spy movie soundtrack from the late sixties and early seventies.  I also listened to tons of straight action movie soundtracks from the same era, as well as a great assortment of comedies, all while taking copious notes.  Lending a strong sense of authenticity to the era was a crucial responsibility of the game music that would give Spyder its evocative character.

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Video Game Composers: The Importance of Themes (GDC 2020)

Award-winning game music composer Winifred Phillips spoke at the Game Developers Conference in 2019.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Welcome!  I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips.  As most of us are no-doubt aware, the Game Developers Conference 2020 has been postponed.  This means that the yearly conference’s rich and diverse schedule of lectures will not be performed live next week during GDC 2020 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.  I was really looking forward to presenting my lecture, entitled “The Importance of Themes: Creating Musical Signatures for your Games.”  Having given GDC presentations every year since 2015, I consider the Game Developers Conference to be an indispensable event for both my career and my personal enrichment as a game music composer.  While the postponement is a set-back for the entire game development community, I’m glad to share some awesome news!  A portion of the GDC 2020 lecture schedule will still take place as planned – albeit from a much different venue.  Instead of in-person presentations, GDC plans to stream many of their previously scheduled GDC talks during GDC week as part of a “virtual conference.”  This means that I can share my lecture as a GDC Virtual Talk.  Best of all, all of the GDC Virtual Talks will be available for free!

Image illustrating the Game Developers Conference in 2020, from the article by video game music composer Winifred Phillips.My virtual talk will focus on the best ways to create memorable thematic material.  Catchy melodies can help to enhance a game’s distinctive character and originality, which can subsequently lead to a more memorable gameplay experience.  In preparing my presentation, I conducted quite a bit of research.  Because of time constraints, not all of that scholarly research made it into my final presentation. I was sorry to have to cut those materials – I thought it was pretty interesting stuff! So let’s now discuss some of that extra info in this article.  We won’t be delving into the actual subject matter of my lecture, since I’ll be saving that material for my actual presentation that will be included in the slate of GDC 2020 Virtual Talks. But the general relationship between music and memory is a fascinating area of study.  If our music can help games to stick in the minds of players, then it should be useful for us to understand some expert scholarly viewpoints on the relationship between music and memory.

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Video Game Composers and the Importance of Research: The Music of Sports Scramble

Working on the music of the VR game Sports Scramble, Winifred Phillips is here shown in her professional music production studio.

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Hey, everybody!  I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips.  As game composers, it’s inevitable that we’ll eventually be asked to create music in a genre with which we have little or no experience.  Some projects may throw several unfamiliar musical genres our way.  It can be a scary prospect.  I’ve worked on many projects that have required me to quickly learn new musical styles and techniques, so I thought I’d share some thoughts about how research can help us cope with these sorts of unexpected demands.  This article will explore the role of music research, including how it can initiate us into the mysteries of unfamiliar musical styles, and ways in which it can lead us in unanticipated (but not unwelcome) directions.  I’ve had lots of experience delving into diverse musical genres and doing music research for projects both big and small over the course of my career.  For this article, I’ll be describing my recent experience composing the music for the Sports Scramble VR game, developed by Armature Studio and released earlier this year for popular VR platforms such as the Oculus Quest and the Oculus Rift/Rift S.

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