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creating tracks for online gaming

The Top Tips for Creating Tracks for Online Gaming

by Gloria Louden

Zelda, Resident Evil, Mario Kart: it’s a good bet to say you could identify them all without ever looking at them. These are the classics of gaming. The often-forgotten aspect of creating a game is actually a vital component of the immersion process.

Can you imagine playing GTA V without the satirical radio station playing as you drive? Or playing Doom without that hardcore rock soundtrack? Or the most tragic death in gaming history without the epic swell of music that was provided by Final Fantasy VII?

And yet, there are three very different forms of audio demonstrated there: diegetic, soundtrack and original score. That’s because good gaming music will use what it has to put you in the moment. It will invoke a feeling that suits the gameplay.

The Animals’ House of the Rising Sun appears on the best list of casino songs, even though its original meaning and subject matter is greatly disputed, because it evokes a feeling of roaming alone through the desert with a horse and talks of American folklore.

Read on to find out how you can make a memorable soundtrack to gaming that will still be talked about through the gaming generations.

Understand the assignment

The aim of a soundtrack is to create a sound that can be vividly imagined without the use of visuals. If your soundtrack takes you somewhere without a controller, you’ve done your job.

Work with the game creators to understand what they are trying to convey with their game and, to get more informed, play the game for yourself. Is it a slow, dark horror where darkness would fully immerse you, or something light like Animal Crossing? Take notes on what you would want the player to be feeling at different aspects of the game.

Consider what you are trying to do with your music. The Diamond City Radio of Fallout 4’s barren, dying, wasteland is constantly belting out tunes with joyful sounds but lyrics that describe heartbreak, loneliness and the struggles of living. It suits Fallout’s satirical take on disaster to a tee and balances a tone that is fun for the most part but covering various criticisms of man’s effect on Earth. It is the man that dropped the nukes making The Wasteland, after all.

Rather than understanding what happens in the game, understand what the game is trying to say with its plot points and environment. No Man’s Sky is a vastly different game from Mass Effect, saying something vastly different, despite how they are both space epics that see the player hopping from planet to planet.

Don’t forget the in-world noises

Think of the environment. The heavy rain of Heavy Rain is such a vital component it makes the title. The city cars sloshing past on your mission to find your kidnapped son adds to the immersion, far better than singing birds and crickets would.

You can even add elements of the background noise to your music. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s soundtrack incorporates sounds of the wilderness to create a wondrous and immersive experience.

GTA V’s radio stations will shut off once you exit the car, making everything else louder. The hookers yelling on the street corner are suddenly a lot clearer, the gunfire is a lot closer, the bustle of the streets swallows you. An immersive experience will take elements like that into account.

Putting it all together

Unlike creating music for a movie there are a lot of elements to consider when composing music for a game. Mainly, how the player will experience the music. Will they be wearing headphones? With the lights off? Is it a first-person game or not?

Consider that the player will often be moving in and out of the room, halting the gaming experience. Your job is to drop them right back into whatever dungeon, apocalypse, or planet they’ve just left with the music.

What type of music are you going for when you create your soundtrack? Will you go for Doom’s various songs played while you mow down demons? Create a radio station intermingling a disc jockey giving their best Good Morning, Vietnam impression? An original score? Or a mix?

Most games will give a mix of a few. Fallout 4, for example, has the Diamond City Radio, yes, but the player can turn it off and either enjoy an original, more subtle and subdued score or wander in silence.

All games are likely to have some original scoring, to cover the menu screen, loading screens and some cutscenes. If you aim to go for a full score, you will also have to think about the progression of your player along with the progression of the music. Games are designed with peaks and troughs in mind, and your music will have to match that. For example, it should be simmering as the player enters an arena and swell as the big boss appears.

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