The 2017 Game Developers Conference could be described as a densely-packed deep-dive exploration of the state-of-the-art tools and methodologies used in modern game development. This description held especially true for the game audio track, wherein top experts in the field offered a plethora of viewpoints and advice on the awesome technical and artistic challenges of creating great sound for games. I’ve given GDC talks for the past three years now (see photo), and every year I’m amazed at the breadth and diversity of the problem-solving approaches discussed by my fellow GDC presenters. Often I’ll emerge from the conference with the impression that we game audio folks are all “doing it our own way,” using widely divergent strategies and tools.
This year, I thought I’d write three articles to collect and explore the ideas that were discussed in five different GDC audio talks. During their presentations, these five speakers all shared their thoughts on best practices and methods for instilling interactivity in modern game music. By absorbing these ideas side-by-side, I thought we might gain a sense of the “bigger picture” when it comes to the current leading-edge thinking for music interactivity in games. In the first article, we’ll look at the basic nature of these interactive systems. We’ll devote the second article to the pros and cons of each system, and in the third article we’ll look at tools and tips shared by these music interactivity experts. Along the way, I’ll also be sharing my thoughts on the subject, and we’ll take a look at musical examples from some of my own projects that demonstrate a few ideas explored in these GDC talks:
- Always Be Composing: The Flexible Music System of ‘Plants vs. Zombies Heroes’ – Speaker: Becky Allen, Audio Director
- Different Approaches to Game Music (Audio Bootcamp XVI) – Speaker: Leonard J. Paul, Educator
- Epic AND Interactive Music in ‘Final Fantasy XV’ – Speaker: Sho Iwamoto, Audio Programmer
- Interactive Music Approaches (Audio Bootcamp XVI) – Speaker: Steve Green, Sound Designer
- The Sound of ‘No Man’s Sky’ – Speaker: Paul Weir, Audio Director
So, let’s begin with the most obvious question. What kind of interactive music systems are game audio folks using lately?