The Game Audio Tutorial

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Hellgate London - Music 'Interactive' or 'Reactive'

Music4games great article on the music for Hellgate London by David Steinwedel.

Where our system shines is in micro-managing music. It allows for constant music cue changes according to the scope of a battle and how it’s going for the player. We can write cues and stingers for specific actions and conditions and switch to them instantaneously. As our audio programmer says, “It’s a good reactive music system.” And he’s right in most cases. However there are times when music needs to be proactive, looking ahead at what’s coming.

Here's the challenge of 'interactive' music. How do you build toward and anticipate an event (as film music does so effectively) when the player is in control, and therefore you don't actually know when that event is going to happen ?

I was playing Half Life 2 : Episode 2 recently. Excellent game and great, very sparing, use of music. However the game / music symbiosis remains clumsy. When the 'bad guys' appear the music kicks in. Great - this works really well, giving a real emotional significance to the encounter (in contrast to most of the game which is played without music). And when I kill the last one the music fades out. But we need this to work better. I want the music to hit a climax at the exact moment of my coup de grace and then subside as the creature falls to the ground. How can we possibly do this with the music? My last bullet is not going to coincide nicely with a beat or barline. No, what the designers need to do is to actually engineer the music / game to work together. Do I really know exactly how many bullets will kill it ? Will I notice the difference between 17 and 19 ? Would it matter if the game engine actually said - well officially this monster should die right now but I'm just going to hold off for .75 of a second until that point comes along and then do it - BANG ! A gold star to the brave composer who suggests that to their producer !

Here's an example from the otherwise brilliant Half Life 2 Episode 2 of the problem.
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