Music Game Plan: Tactics for the Video Game Composer (Part Three)

video game music composer Winifred Phillips, working in her studio on the music of The Maw video game.Welcome to the third installment of my four-part article series on the core principles of music interactivity, including video demonstrations and supplementary supporting materials that take these abstract concepts and make them more concrete.  In Part One of this series, we took a look at a simple example demonstrating the Horizontal Re-Sequencing model of musical interactivity, as it was used in the music I composed for the Speed Racer Videogame from Warner Bros. Interactive. Part Two of this series looked at the more complex Horizontal Re-sequencing music system of the Spore Hero game from Electronic Arts.  So now let’s move on to another major music interactivity model used by video game composers – Vertical Layering.

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From Total War to Assassin’s Creed: Music from my GDC Talk

From Total War to Assassin's Creed: Music from my GDC Talk (article by Winifred Phillips, video game composer)Last week, it was my honor and pleasure to give a presentation at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. My talk was entitled “From Total War to Assassin’s Creed: Music for Mobile Games.” The talk focused on the best and most effective methods for composition and implementation of music in portable gaming.  The talk was structured for the benefit of video game composers and game audio pros, and as a part of the presentation, I played short excerpts of music that I composed for several of my top mobile and handheld video game projects. Now that GDC is over, I thought I’d provide streaming links to some of the complete music tracks that I featured during my presentation, in case attendees were curious about the complete pieces of music. So, without further ado, here are tracks from my GDC 2016 talk!

Assassin’s Creed Liberation

The Assassin’s Creed Liberation game was released by Ubisoft for the PlayStation Vita, and delivered an immersive experience from the popular Assassin’s Creed franchise. The game was designed specifically for a portable system, and as such, all aspects of the design were adjusted to cater specifically to a portable gaming experience, including the music.

Game composer Winifred Phillips speaking about the music of Assassin's Creed Liberation at GDC 2016

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Video Game Music Concert Tours

Colbert presents The Legend of Zelda Concert (article by Winifred Phillips, video game composer)This week I thought we’d check in with some of the top orchestral video game music concert tours currently underway.  We’ll take a look at some reviews of 2015 performances from the respective tours, and we’ll also take a look at video from some of the most recent concert performances.

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses marquee (article by game composer Winifred Phillips)Originating as a simple four-minute overture performed at a Nintendo press event in 2011, Symphony of the Goddesses kicked off as a full-fledged concert tour in January 2012 and currently has 33 dates scheduled for 2016 that will take the popular tour all around the world.  The concert’s program lineup focuses exclusively on famous music from the Legend of Zelda games.  In a review of the September 25th 2015 performance at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island, Broadway World critic Andria Tieman wrote, “Overall, this was a night of fantastic music, excellent people-watching and a fun, visual performance. This is something that Zelda fans should certainly seek out.” Here’s a video clip from the Oct. 30th 2015 broadcast of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, in which the Symphony of the Goddesses tour performed their Legend of Zelda Medley:

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Video excerpt from my game music talk at the Montreal International Game Summit

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Last week, I spoke at the Montreal International Game Summit.  It was a fantastic experience, and I wanted to share a video excerpt of my speech with you!  The speech was called, “Music, the Brain, and the Three Levels of Immersion.”  I’m grateful to Clement Galiay and Nicolas Bertrand-Verge of the MIGS for the opportunity to speak at this great event!  Also, I’d like to give a shout-out to Jean-Frederic Vachon for the tremendous support and encouragement for me to get involved in the MIGS — thanks, JF!!

More about the Montreal International Game Summit:

MIGS was founded in 2004 to meet the needs of the video game sector, which currently represents close to 9,000 workers in Quebec. Ten years later, its mission remains: developing the transfer of knowledge and expertise, increasing exposure for Quebec players abroad and promoting exchanges and communications between stakeholders, making MIGS the East Coast’s leading professional-only event for the games industry.

Talk Description:

Music, the Brain, and the Three Levels of Immersion
Music has the power to deepen player immersion through psychological effects documented in scientific research. This talk explored the influence of music on the brain, and how these effects can aid game designers in meeting the criteria necessary for the “Three Levels of Immersion.”

Jon Burlingame Reviews A Composer’s Guide to Game Music

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I’m very excited to share that my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, has been reviewed by the nation’s leading writer on the subject of music for films and television, Jon Burlingame!  As the most respected journalist in the field of music for visual media, Jon Burlingame writes regularly for Variety, and also contributes to The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Newsday, Emmy, Premiere and The Hollywood Reporter.

Illustrious author and journalist Jon Burlingame, receiving a BMI Special Citation of Appreciation award in May 2014

Illustrious author and journalist Jon Burlingame, receiving a BMI Special Citation of Appreciation award in May 2014

His review article about my book appeared in the Film Music Society features section.  He described the book as a “beautifully organized, intelligently written book about music for games,” and said that “gamers as well as composers may be fascinated by her thorough analysis of what music works, and why, in various game genres.”

I’m both humbled and elated by this review, and very happy to share it with you!  You can read the complete review here.

Game Music Talk at the Montreal International Game Summit

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I’m pleased to be speaking again this year at the Montreal International Game Summit 2014!  My talk this year is entitled “Music, the Brain, and the Three Levels of Immersion.”  It will take place at 4pm on November 11th at the Palais des congrès de Montréal convention center.

The Palais des congrès de Montréal convention center

The Palais des congrès de Montréal convention center

If you’re attending the event this year, please feel free to say hi!  It would be great to meet you!  Also, I’ll be very happy to sign your copy of my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, so please bring it along!  Here’s the official description of my upcoming talk at the Montreal International Game Summit:

Music, the Brain, and the Three Levels of Immersion

Game Music Talk / Game Audio Track – 4pm November 11th – Room 522 – Palais des congrès de Montréal

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Music has the power to deepen player immersion through psychological effects documented in scientific research. This talk will explore the influence of music on the brain, and how these effects can aid game designers in meeting the criteria necessary for the “Three Levels of Immersion.” According to research, these levels of immersion require specific mental states that music can help the player to achieve. Through a discussion of several scientific studies, the talk will investigate the power of music to alter time perception, deepen our appreciation of visual details, enhance our mental prowess, increase the intrinsic motivation of activities, change our understanding of plot, and enhance both our attention spans and our memory capacity. The talk will also explore the techniques of music composition and implementation that provide practical strategies for composers, audio teams and game designers to maximize the ability of game music to help players achieve total immersion.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Attendees will gain an understanding of the effects of music on the brain, and how music can alter the experience of the player through specific documented effects.
  2. Study data will be discussed, including the “Three Levels of Immersion” from the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (sponsored by the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction), as well as several research studies on the relationship between music and cognitive function.
  3. Tips and strategies will be explored for the application of practical techniques to exploit the power of music to alter the mental state of the player, thus enabling deeper immersion in the gameplay experience.

Classic Halloween VGM (Back by Popular Demand!)

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Last year I did a series of posts about classic video game music that’s perfect for the night of fright, and since you guys enjoyed that, I thought I’d bring back some favorite tracks from that series:

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Castlevania Symphony of the Night – “Abandoned Pit” (1997)

Developed as an action roleplaying game for consoles, Castlevania Symphony of the Night focuses on the story of Dracula’s son Alucard, and his struggle to destroy his father. This slow and hypnotic composition proceeds in a stately triple meter while creatures of the night weave their voices into the serenade.

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Resident Evil Code: Veronica – “The Suspended Doll” (2000)

As the fourth game in the Resident Evil series, this game had players fighting mutated monsters on a prison island, all set to grim music such as the track below. At times this track may make you think of John Carpenter’s theme to the movie Halloween, while other moments take on a bit of gothic grandeur with the introduction of a cathedral organ.

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Arcanum – “Dungeons” (2001)

There’s nothing like a slimy dungeon to invoke those feelings of horror that are so complimentary to the Halloween season. Fortunately, the Arcanum roleplaying game has multiple dungeons, some crawling with the undead. This track, written entirely for string quartet, captures the mood in a horrifically elegant way.

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Evil Dead: Hail to the King – “Menu Screen Music” (2000)

Sometimes, only a strong dose of demonic Latin will make a Halloween music experience complete. This track delivers. Evil Dead: Hail to the King continues the survival horror adventures of Ash Williams, the star of the Evil Dead franchise in video games and on the silver screen.

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Xenogears – “Omen” (1998)

Dungeons are great for finding creepy music for Halloween. Luckily, a lot of roleplaying games have creepy dungeons. This track was written for dungeon-exploring in the Xenogears sci-fi roleplaying game. The track features a constant low suspense tone, with harp and bells weaving a hypnotic pattern while metallic impacts punctuate the gloom.

 

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I hope everybody has a delightfully frightful Halloween!!  And if you have a favorite Halloween tune from a classic video game, please let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear it!