Hello there! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips, and it’s time once again for our yearly collection of top resources for game audio practitioners! The following article contains an expanded and updated collection of links on an assortment of subjects important to the game audio community. We kick things off with a list of concert tours and annual game music events. After that, we check out the online game audio communities that we can join for support and assistance. We’ll take a look at the software applications currently in use by game audio pros. Finally, we’ll look at what’s going on in the world of game audio conferences and academia.
Hey everyone! I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips. In the photo above I’m working on the project that launched my career as a game composer – God of War. Starting a viable career in the game development industry as a composer can be an awesome task, and I’m often asked for advice about how to break into this business. So each year I revisit the subject in an article that allows us to consider current ideas and strategies. Along the way, we contemplate multiple viewpoints, both from expert music and game audio practitioners and by anonymous game audio folks in community forums. This can be helpful, because the common wisdom on this subject changes in subtle but appreciable ways with each passing year. By revisiting the topic periodically, I hope that we’ll be able to obtain a deeper understanding of what it takes to land the coveted first gig as a composer of music for games.
Part of the reason I write this article each year is personal. My own “big break” story is so extraordinarily unusual that it can’t provide much useful guidance for newcomers. Being fortunate enough to have a famous game like God of War as your first game credit isn’t the typical entry path for a budding video game composer. Yet, because I’m a fairly visible member of the game audio community who has written a book called A Composer’s Guide to Game Music (pictured), I’m constantly asked for advice by aspiring composers who want to start their professional careers and are having trouble getting out of the gate. Since my own story is such a ‘bolt-of-lightning’ case study, I think it’s useful for us to study the more traditional entry paths when we’re trying to understand how aspiring game composers can get their start. By the way, in case you’re wondering, here’s the story of how I landed my first gig – I told the story during a Society of Composers and Lyricists event in NYC, and it’s captured in this video:
VR development is continuously innovative and cutting-edge, and I’ve been fortunately to experience this first-hand. As an example: one of my more recent virtual reality game projects was music for Audioshield Fitness, developed by the creator of the famous Audiosurf music-rhythm game. I was asked to compose the new official Audioshield Theme for release with the Audioshield Fitness game, which takes the core game mechanics of Audioshield and pumps up the challenge with obstacles that make players dodge and duck to the music. The result is an intense workout that was named as one of the top 5 VR Fitness Games of 2018 by PerfectBodyMate.com. To maximize the power of the Audioshield procedural system, my composition had to attune itself to the system’s powerful music analysis algorithm and deliver moments of both challenge and spectacle. I composed and mixed the music with specifically-targeted EQ frequency ranges where I placed rhythmic elements and punchy crescendoes. The Audioshield music analysis system then reacted to this audio content and changed the pacing and content of gameplay to match these variables. It was a fun challenge! Here’s a video showing how that worked:
Composing for virtual reality is its own unique discipline, requiring a specialized set of skills and tools. In this article, let’s collect some resources that explore the techniques, tools, and technologies associated with VR audio development. Let’s also take a look at the professional community of VR developers that are there to help each other through the rough spots. Ready? Let’s go!
Hey everybody! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips. Every year, between working in my studio creating music for some awesome games, I like to take a little time to gather together some of the top online resources and guidance available for newbies in the field of video game music. What follows in this article is an updated and expanded collection of links on a variety of topics pertinent to our profession. We begin with the concert tours and events where we can get inspired by seeing game music performed live. Then we’ll move on to a discussion of online communities that can help us out when we’re trying to solve a problem. Next, we’ll see a collection of software tools that are commonplace in our field. Finally, we’ll check out some conferences and academic organizations where we can absorb new ideas and skills.
The Game Developers Conference is almost here! I’m looking forward to giving my presentation soon on “Music in Virtual Reality” (Thursday, March 22nd at 3pm in room 3002 West Hall, Moscone Center, San Francisco). Over the course of the last two years, I’ve composed a lot of music for virtual reality projects, some of which have already hit retail, and some of which will be getting released very soon! As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what role music should play in a virtual reality game. During my GDC talk in March, I’ll be taking my audience through my experiences composing music for four very different VR games –the Bebylon: Battle Royale game from Kite & Lightning, the Dragon Front strategy game from High Voltage Software, the Fail Factory comedy game from Armature Studio, and the Scraper: First Strike RPG-Shooter hybrid from Labrodex Inc. In preparing my GDC presentation, I made sure my talk addressed some of the most important creative and technical hurdles facing video game composers working in VR. However, time constraints ensured that some interesting info ended up ‘on the cutting room floor,’ so to speak. So, I’ve written two articles that explore some of the best topics that didn’t make it into my GDC presentation.
VR games currently focus on binaural audio to immerse players in the awesome soundscapes of their virtual worlds. As we know, binaural recording techniques use two microphones, often embedded in the artificial ears of a dummy head (pictured right). By virtual of the popular binaural recording technique and/or binaural encoding technologies, game audio teams can plunge VR players into convincing aural worlds where sounds are spatially localized in a way that conforms with real world expectations. The technology of binaural sound continually improves, and recently the expert developers of the Oculus Rift VR headset have refined the quality of their VR sound with two significant upgrades.
When I’m not at work in my studio making music for games, I like to keep up with new developments in the field of interactive entertainment, and I’ll often share what I learn here in these articles. Virtual reality is an awesome subject for study for a video game composer, and several of my recent projects have been in the world of VR. Since I’m sure that most of us are curious about what’s coming next in virtual reality, I’ve decided to devote this article to a collection of educational resources. I’ve made a point of keeping our focus general here, with the intent of understanding the role of audio in VR and the best resources available to audio folks. As a component of the VR soundscape, our music must fit into the entire matrix of aural elements, so we’ll spend this article learning about what goes into making expert sound for a virtual reality experience. Let’s start with a few articles that discuss methods and techniques for VR audio practitioners.
Welcome back to this three article series that’s bringing together the ideas that were discussed in five different GDC 2017 audio talks about interactive music! These five speakers explored discoveries they’d made while creating interactivity in the music of their own game projects. We’re looking at these ideas side-by-side to broaden our viewpoint and gain a sense of the “bigger picture” when it comes to the leading-edge thinking for music interactivity in games. We’ve been looking at five interactive music systems discussed in these five GDC 2017 presentations:
In the first article, we examined the basic nature of these interactive systems. In the second article, we contemplated why those systems were used, with some of the inherent pros and cons of each system discussed in turn. So now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of tools and tips for working with such interactive music systems. If you haven’t read parts one and two of this series, please go do so now and then come back:
Welcome back to our three article series dedicated to collecting and exploring the ideas that were discussed in five different GDC 2017 audio talks about interactive music! These five speakers shared ideas they’d developed in the process of creating interactivity in the music of their own game projects. We’re looking at these ideas side-by-side to cultivate a sense of the “bigger picture” when it comes to the leading-edge thinking for music interactivity in games. In the first article, we looked at the basic nature of five interactive music systems discussed in these five GDC 2017 presentations:
Okay, so let’s now contemplate some simple but important questions: why were those systems used? What was attractive about each interactive music strategy, and what were the challenges inherent in using those systems?
I was pleased to give a talk about composing music for games at the 2016 Game Developers Conference (pictured left). GDC took place this past March in San Francisco – it was an honor to be a part of the audio track again this year, which offered a wealth of awesome educational sessions for game audio practitioners. So much fun to see the other talks and learn about what’s new and exciting in the field of game audio! In this blog, I want to share some info that I thought was really interesting from two talks that pertained to the audio production side of game development: composer Laura Karpman’s talk about “Composing Virtually, Sounding Real” and audio director Garry Taylor’s talk on “Audio Mastering for Interactive Entertainment.” Both sessions had some very good info for video game composers who may be looking to improve the quality of their recordings. Along the way, I’ll also be sharing a few of my own personal viewpoints on these music production topics, and I’ll include some examples from one of my own projects, the Ultimate Trailers album for West One Music, to illustrate ideas that we’ll be discussing. So let’s get started!
As a speaker in the audio track of the Game Developers Conference this year, I enjoyed taking in a number of GDC audio sessions — including a couple of presentations that focused on the future of interactive music in games. I’ve explored this topic before at length in my book (A Composer’s Guide to Game Music), and it was great to see that the game audio community continues to push the boundaries and innovate in this area! Interactive music is a worthwhile subject for discussion, and will undoubtedly be increasingly important in the future as dynamic music systems become more prevalent in game projects. With that in mind, in this blog I’d like to share my personal takeaway from two sessions that described very different approaches to musical interactivity. After that, we’ll discuss one of my experiences with interactive music for the video game Spore Hero from Electronic Arts (pictured above).
Baldursson began the presentation by explaining why an intelligent music system for games can be a necessity. “We basically want an intelligent music system because we can’t (or maybe shouldn’t really) precompose all of the elements,” Baldursson explains. He describes the conundrum of creating a musical score for a game whose story is still fluid and changeable, and then asserts, “I think we should find ways of making this better.”