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Article - 'Musical Accompaniment' by Mateui

An item about Graphics/Audio posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Read about the use of music in a game, demonstrating the importance of music, situations best suited for music, and the debate of MIDI versus Mp3.

Body

Musical Accompaniment:
By: Mateui

Lalalalalalala!

Music has always played an integral part in many videogames. Don’t believe me? The next time you’re playing a game, turn off the sound, and see what happens. You’ll notice that the game becomes fairly detached – you’re not feeling connected with it anymore.

So what will this article focus on? Basically, on the overall importance of music, when it is the best time to use certain music, and when it is the best time not to use music. Also, the debate of MIDIs versus MP3s, focusing mostly on the lyrics or lack of lyrics in each version – and how this can affect your game.

Wow. That’s a fair amount of material to cover, so let’s get started right away!


The Importance of Music:

What does music do to your game? Is it really important? The short answer is “YES”, but as always, an explanation is needed to convince everyone, and allow me to talk longer.

Generally, music adds a greater level of emotion to your game. It aids the player into feeling a certain way. For instance, during a sad part of a game, if sad music is playing, then most likely the player will be affected by the two factors of sadness (The music, and events in the game) so he will feel more emotion. And vice versa, if the game is at a happy point.

Music can also be tuned into the specific actions occurring at the current moment in the game, or portray the overall theme or emotion at that time. It’s a little confusing, so I can give you an example of each.

Music Tuned In:
You will mostly likely see this in every introduction in an RPG. The music corresponds to many events.

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For example, in the introduction, you see a beautiful kingdom. (The music playing here is fairly serene and peaceful.) The screen then zooms closer, so you actually ‘travel’ through the castle. (Music continues peacefully.) The screen enters a room where the princess is residing. The screen pauses for a few moments. (Music begins to slow down and fade.) Quiet. All of a sudden you see a shadow on the wall, and the shadow of the princess being stabbed. (Music quickly rushes up, and is harsh in nature.) The shadow disappears after a few moments. (Music slows down a bit). The screen zooms out, and you can see the outside of the castle, and the forest nearby. (Music stays the same). You see a shaded figure on horse, speeding away into the forest. (Music quickens.) The person disappears into the forest, and the screen looks up. (Music slows). The screen goes up to look at the sky. (Music slows down more, than fades.) The Title of the game is shown. (The music changes to the Game Theme, plays for awhile, then fades.)
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Did you notice how the music changed according to what was happening? Good. Now you know what this type of music is made for. Also, please note that this type of music will most likely not be used in many different areas or times in the game, as the corresponding or tuned-in factor will not much up properly.

Music Themed:
Themed music is just what it states – it creates or establishes the mood or theme of an area in the game. This type of music is what you generally here in every single RPG. It is used mainly for the various maps in the game. For example, the Hero’s town will likely feature a happy sounding tune, whereas a dungeon will play a darker, or annoying theme. (Just a Quick Note: Have you ever been stuck in a dungeon with annoying music playing? Did you start to become annoyed yourself and frustrated? If you did, then you know that the music accomplished it’s task – it was mocking you, and showing you that the dungeon will not be very easy to pass.)

There you have it!


The Time to Use Music:

Should you use music in a game as much as possible? Well, even though music is important, there are a few times where it would be a good idea to abstain from any songs playing.

You know already the it is a good time to use music to portray or deepen the emotions occurring, and it is good as a means to establish an overall theme. But when is it a bad idea to use music? Or to make the question more positive: “When is it a good idea to not use any music?” (Yes, much better, I don’t want to sound pessimistic.)

I’ll tell you. The scenes were a character, or certain characters are thinking or reflecting about something that will occur in the future, or something that has occurred in the past, are best suited to be left without music. It is better to place “sound-effect” type music here, such a the sound of waves (If the characters are near a large body of water) or wind (if it is windy at the time).

The reason why these scenes are best without any music is because here, since the characters are thinking, requires total attention of the scene to go onto the characters, not the music. Thinking also is commonly silent, so stillness and quietness fit right into the moment.


MIDI Versus MP3:

We’ve come to a very interesting part of this article. This will only focus on lyrics, and which one is better is each different situation you may encounter, not about which has a lower filesize, or better quality. Lyrics, and that’s it. Got it? Good.

MIDI:
Midis are what were including generally in most amateur (Rm2k) games in the past. They are small in filesize, (Ok, so I lied about only talking about lyrics, but that is what I will focus on…) and are fairly easy to find on the internet.

The bad things about MIDIs are the lack of instrument choices and sound. There are only a few variety, and most instruments do not sound like their description. Leaving that aside, Midis are fairly simple to use, and will not damage or greaten your overall total filesize.

Midis are good in their own respect because there are no sung lyrics in them. This makes them adequately suited as general background music used in dungeons/towns/castles, etc.. various normal, non-important, emotionally wise, places in an RPG. You can also find many different types of Midis to suit the locations in your game.

MP3:
(NOTE: I will be mainly focusing on the MP3s with sung lyrics, generally the songs you can hear everyday on the regular radio.)

Why would you need to use Mp3s with lyrics in them? Wouldn’t they just kill the mood? Not necessarily. While it may be difficult to find a well suiting Mp3 for an RPG, when it is found, it works magically.

In my experience, I have found that MP3s with lyrics are best suited for game themes, really important events, or character themes/revelations. These Mp3s, though, need to strongly, and I mean strongly, portray the emotion occurring at a moment in the game. You can’t have a situation of someone dying, with a, say, Britney Spears, song in the background (Total mood killer, and yuck! ^0^!) For that situation, you would need something more depressing, or sad – something that speaks for a character’s emotions at that time.


The Conclusion:

Well, it was fun writing this, and I hope that you had fun reading it. ^_^! (YaY! I managed to use my favourite emoticon, just like always.) Remember all the things that we discussed, and because of my laziness, I do not feel like reviewing it here. You’ll just have to re-read.

And finally, due to popular demand (Actually, not really.. HeeHee..) the HOMEWORK is back! That means that you’ll have to work too, not only me all the time.

As always, the Homework will be done like it was in the past, but for those of you who don’t remember, I’ll repeat everything.

Homework Manner:
After I assign out the homework, you will need to (Well, it’s voluntarily, but those of you who do complete this, will get “Mateui Homework Points!” (MHPs!) The more you have, the more I like you! I’ll assign them according to how much work you do, or try to. (Hmm.. I’ll start a new document, listing everyone that does the homework and I’ll place them in order of the highest to lowest. Then, every time a new article is posted by me, I’ll list the top 5 or so names, and I’ll let everyone compete for the highest rank. Competition is fun! (The homework is open until my next article comes along, after it does, the past homework will be CLOSED! Have fun, and good luck!

Homework For June 7th 2003 - ???:
I will now assign you a few questions. Try to answer them to your best ability. After you are finished, post them in the comments box.

Decide which would be the best type of Music file (MIDI or MP3) and then, if possible, state the reason of your choice. For extra points, if the answer is Mp3, name a song that would fit with the emotion/situation.

1) Happy. The world is in peace.
2) Someone important was just killed.
3) A character reveals a dark secret (I’ll let you decide what the secret is)
4) The main character is pondering...
5) A Game Theme on the subject of “Mystery”.

Have Fun! And let the competition begin!! ^_^!


- Mateui