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Article - 'Using Music in Your Games' by Guest

An item about Graphics/Audio posted on Aug 8, 2003

Blurb

Another gamemaking article, this time on music and the Music Theme.

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Welcome to another one of my gamemaking articles, this one being a general overview of finding, selecting, and using music.

To begin, you have to learn how to find good music. Like most people, you should use the resources found on the Internet. I recommend you try looking specifically at gamemaking websites like Gaming World- many of these sites have large libraries of either original music or music taken from professional video games. In my opinion, the best place to find music in vgmusic.com . With hundreds of songs to choose from, you’re bound to find some good unused stuff. However, I also recommend you visit Gaming World’s own library of music, as I believe the music there is used so little as to be appreciated more by the players than the Final Fantasy 7 or Chrono Trigger soundtracks. [EDIT: Another option I forgot to mention is to find music offline and download with something like KaZaa to use for no cost. A great way to find unused music, if you’re willing to invest a few more hours of time searching for random names. However, I think this method will offer little variety in what music is offered, but that is just my own personal opinion].

If you want completely original music for your game, or you find the music on the Internet unsatisfactory for some reason, you can turn to actually writing your own music. There are many musicmakers available for free out on the Internet, but I’m not going to cover them all here [perhaps in a future article after I’ve done a bit more research]. All I will say here is that I use Noteworthy to make midis, and that I find it simple, effective, and rewarding.

Assuming that you’ve chosen the easier path of using others’ music, I’m going to give you a warning followed by advice. NEVER use music you may have found in other amateur games without the explicit approval of that/those game’s/games’ creator/s. Taking music [or for that matter, any kind of resource] from other games without permission is very wrong [as the original work goes unaccredited], and is greatly looked down upon by nearly all gamemakers. Also, no matter where you find music, you should always thank every site or music composer that you got music from in your game. This sign of etiquette will credit the correct person/s, and keep him/her/them content with your use of their work.

Now then, what kind of music should you look for? You should know that music will not only set the mod for different sections of your game- it will also make a sort of ‘music theme’ that will have a fair amount of influence over what the game audience will think when they play your game. Using mostly fast music will give you an intensified action-filled M.T., while using primarily techno-like music will give a futuristic, high-tech M.T. What does all this mean? Three things.

1) You need to try to make a M.T. that agrees with the overall game- if your game is a humorous RPG spoof, then you should probably want to stay away from using fast or horror music, as either of those would raise conflicts within the Music Theme that only hurt your game.
2) Use music that fits your intended M.T. along with the maps they’re intended for, as often as possible. In the end it’s more important to get map-matching music, but always try to strive for a balance between maps and Music Theme when possible.
3) When you use music that does not accurately portray neither the maps nor the intended M.T., the music will sound out-of-place and bad. When the music portrays either the maps or the M.T. intended, the song will be accepted. However, if the music manages to portray both the map and the M.T. intended, the players will truly love it. And if you manage full portrayal for your entire game, you will be heavily praised and remembered for excellent music selection and usage. That is one of the big secrets of video game soundtracks- the music doesn’t need to be absolutely long or ‘majestic’, it just needs to fit both maps and the music theme. Of course, the reason why majestic soundtracks are so loved is because they are so unordinary and difficult to make. Obviously, another lesson to learn is that, the more original or unique a Music Theme is, the more likely it is to be enjoyed. So, there actually is a good reason to original soundtracks for those who have doubted, :D.

This concludes my gamemaking article on music. Always remember to balance music between your game maps and the Music Theme intended, and try to get an original soundtrack if possible, and your game’s music will be just fine :D.