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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Le Roux

What is the Process for Composing a Video Game Music Score?

Music plays a vital role in creating immersive and captivating experiences for players in the dynamic world of video game development. Composing a score for a video game involves a unique process that combines artistic creativity, technical expertise, and a deep understanding of the game's narrative and mechanics.


This article will explore the step-by-step process of composing a video game music score and illuminate the fascinating world of game music composition.

What is your favourite video game score?

  • The Final Fantasy Series

  • Uncharted

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

  • Journey

You can vote for more than one answer.

Is your favorite score not listed above? We'd love to hear from you! Comment with your all-time favorite video game music score, and let us know what makes it so special to you.

 

Understanding the Game


The first crucial step in composing a video game music score is gaining a comprehensive understanding of the game itself. Delve into the game's genre, storyline, characters, and gameplay mechanics. Immerse yourself in the game world to align your music with the intended emotions, atmosphere, and pacing, enhancing the overall player experience.



A Violinist performing music during a recording session
Violinist during a Cinemagic Scoring recording session

Priorities of Sound


Composing for video games presents unique challenges due to their interactive and non-linear nature. A composer has to contend with three different priorities of sound:


  1. Dialogue: Ensure clear audibility above other sounds at all times.

  2. Sound effects: Enhance the immersive world of the game.

  3. Score: Create the mood and emotion that define the game world.


Collaboration with Game Developers



Effective collaboration with game developers is essential for composing a game music score. Work closely with game designers and developers, engaging in regular communication and feedback exchanges. Adapt your compositions to fit seamlessly into the gameplay, enhancing critical moments like boss battles, cutscenes, or exploration sequences.


Establishing the Musical Style


Every video game has its unique musical identity, and game composers play a crucial role in defining it. Define the desired musical style in collaboration with the development team. Whether it's an orchestral masterpiece like "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" or a nostalgic soundscape like "Super Mario Bros.," the musical style sets the tone and creates a cohesive audio experience that complements the game's visual and interactive elements.


When exploring the musical style for a game, it's essential to draw inspiration from well-known video game soundtracks that have left a lasting impact on players. For instance, listen to the iconic themes from "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" or the atmospheric compositions from "Journey." By studying these masterpieces, you can gain insights into how music enhances the storytelling and emotional aspects of the gaming experience.


Composing Themes and Leitmotifs


Craft memorable and evocative themes and leitmotifs associated with specific characters, locations, or events in the game. These recurring musical elements create a strong sense of identity and emotional connection with the game world, enhancing the narrative and immersing players in familiar and immersive experiences.


Adaptive Music Systems


Video games offer dynamic and interactive experiences; the music must adapt to match the ever-changing gameplay. Utilize adaptive music systems like interactive music engines or middleware to match the ever-changing gameplay.

Create seamless transitions, layering, and music synchronization with in-game events. Adaptive music enhances player engagement and reinforces the immersive qualities of the gaming experience.




File for sheet music at a Cinemagic Scoring recording session

Layered Composition Approach


Instead of composing horizontally, compose vertically in layers, considering harmony (pad), rhythm (motor), and melody as self-sufficient layers that seamlessly fit together or stand-alone.


For example, layer one could be a low-intensity harmonic layer, layer two more rhythmic, layer three melodic, and layer four musical stingers. Ensure that the composition enhances the gaming experience without tiring or distracting players.


When composing layers, be conscious of how much time a gamer will spend listening to that exact piece of music. Think of ways to create music that will enhance the gaming experience and not tire and distract the player. Music with many climaxes, many accents and bold and intrusive elements can be tiring to the player's ear.


Choosing Instruments


Depending on the budget and artistic vision, you can hire live musicians for a recording session. Live musicians bring an organic and authentic touch to the music.


Consider the game's period and geographical placement when selecting instruments for game music. Whether set in space or the Wild West, the instrumentation should align with the game's world and automatically evoke the desired atmosphere.


Recording and Production

Collaborate with recording engineers and producers to capture the music with the highest quality. Musicians perform their parts in a recording session while the conductor ensures the best performance. Meticulously edit, mix, and master the recording to achieve the desired sonic quality.


Integration and Implementation


Integrate the composed music into the game's audio engine or middleware. Work closely with audio programmers and sound designers to ensure seamless integration and optimal performance. Fine-tune the mix, implement interactive music systems, and address any technical challenges that arise.



Sound engineer preparing for a shared recording session.
Preparing for a Shared Recording Session

 

Composing a video game music score is a collaborative and multifaceted endeavor, requiring artistic vision, technical skills, and a deep understanding of the game's world and mechanics. Game music composers play a vital role in enhancing the player's experience, evoking emotions, and immersing them in the game's narrative.


Are you a game developer or aspiring composer interested in creating captivating music for video games? Contact us to explore how our team can bring your music to life with an exceptional recording.

Feel free to reach out to us, and let's embark on an extraordinary journey of game music composition together.



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