Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

Please follow me on twitter for all of my latest articles: https://twitter.com/AlMartinet

Early this year, Bioware’s Mass Effect saga came to five year run. Rest aside the ending; the series is one of the most complete trilogies in video game history. There are two aspects that Mass Effect nails perfectly. The series was first to interweave choices all the way through the third and final installment captivating fans from start to finish. However, you can’t tell a great story if you forget to create the atmosphere for your game to breath in. The music in the game really doses shape Commander Shepard with it having one of the best scores in gaming, but do people notice? Do people look at soundtracks as a whole or as background noise?

It’s often in movies and television that soundtracks are ignored and not given credit for their role in a project. In our five part series, I got a chance to talk with composers and had them recall their pervious work and asked them how they think fans look at soundtracks. Our first roundtable discussion is with the minds behind the Mass Effect score: Sascha Dikiciyan, Cris Velasco and Sam Hulick. Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco wrote music for Mass Effect 2 Kasumi’s Stolen Memory and Arrival and scored many of the key scenes like Rannoch and Sanctuary. Sam Hulick has been with the series since the very beginning and his suddle work with ambient sounds helped form the Mass Effect galaxy.

GamerLive.TV: Just to start us off, what else have you worked on besides Mass Effect?

Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco: Some of the titles we’ve scored include the God of War series, Clive Barker’s Jericho, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Borderlands, TRON: Evolution and many more.

Sam Hulick: I got my start working on Maximo vs. Army of Zin, followed by a few indie titles. I also composed the orchestral score for Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. I was immediately drawn to the project as soon as the developer told me they were looking for a very intense and somber score, influenced by Russian and German classical music. It was a chance to veer in a very different direction from Mass Effect. Currently I’m very excited to be working on Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. I saw the mysterious baldursgate.com website earlier this year and I figured Trent Oster had to be behind it, so I sent him an email about it. He was rather mysterious in his response, but we wound up having a meeting at the Game Developer’s Conference about a week later, after which I was officially invited on board their project as composer.

GamerLive.TV: Growing up, what composers did you listen to and now influence your professional work?

Cris Velasco: I’ve always listened to (and been inspired by) John Williams. It wasn’t until my 20’s when I really started listening to orchestral composers though. Some of the most influential composers for me are Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Beethoven, and Mozart. I’m also a big fan of John Powell, James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, and Edward Shearmur.

Sascha Dikiciyan: Growing up in a classical house, the likes of Beethoven and Mozart have left their mark, however when I was 14 I really got into electronic music. After that the works of Vangelis, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Devo, New Order and many others have influenced me. While I still enjoy these artists today, I also love some of the more modern electronic composers out there, Trent Reznor’s work on The Social Network, The Chemical Brothers’ work on Hanna and Massive Attack.

Sam Hulick: Early on, mostly John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Ray Lynch influenced me. At this point, I don't think I can pinpoint specific musical influences that have an active role in my work. I feel like I've reached the stage where I've discovered my own personal signature, or it could simply be that my various influences have been merged into my own style.

GamerLive.TV: Cris and Sascha, Your first experience with the Mass Effect Franchise was scoring Mass Effect 2: Kasumi's Stolen Memory, which is one of one of my favorite parts of the score because it stayed away from the Mass Effect that everyone is adjusted to hearing and gave us something new. Is it easier to work with established themes or do you prefer creative freedom when entering a project?

Cris Velasco: For myself, I prefer to work with a blank canvas. Creative freedom gives me the most satisfaction as a composer. Working with an existing theme can be fun too though. I’ve had my own themes worked on by other composers and it’s always interesting to hear a different interpretation of your own music. Usually, it’s something I never would have come up with on my own. So hopefully, if I have to work with an existing theme, the other composer feels the same way! Mass Effect was a unique situation in that we were allowed creative freedom to do our own thing, but we still worked within the confines of an established style.

Sascha Dikiciyan: While the sound of that DLC was indeed a bit different, we tried to still keep some of the familiar elements from the previous games. Coming onto an established AAA franchise like Mass Effect is never easy and while I prefer a fresh start, I think the original Mass Effect has this brilliant mix of 80’s influence meets orchestra, which we then applied again into our Mass Effect 3 score. So coming onto a new project, creative freedom is pretty much required for me to do great work. In the case of Mass Effect, we wanted to simply add to the universe that was already established.

GamerLive.TV: What was one of the biggest challenges you faced when you were creating the Mass Effect 3 soundtracks?

Sascha Dikiciyan: Well, it was a good warm-up gig for us to compose DLCs for Mass Effect 2 before we were called onto Mass Effect 3. It gave me a lot of confidence that we could pull it off. I always like to do research for the projects before I start. Like what reverb sounds best, what synth would be best for this sound etc. Luckily that was already somewhat established on the DLCs so besides having to write good music very fast, the most important aspect was to keep that Mass Effect sound while still adding our own flavor to it. That was the biggest challenge, at least for me.

Cris Velasco: As I mentioned earlier, we were given our creative freedom but obviously within the confines of the established sound. The challenge for us was to work within those boundaries and still have our own voice heard. We definitely wanted to bring something fresh to the series if possible. One of the best quotes we’ve read online is, “it sounds like Mass Effect music, but new.”

Sam Hulick: Nailing just the right feel for some of the more emotionally charged scenes can be challenging. Particularly, composing "An End, Once and For All" took a few rounds of revising some elements to get just the right feel to it. It had to be very subtle in the right spots. Too much and it would have ruined the scene.

GamerLive.TV: What's your favorite piece you worked on in Mass Effect 3?

Cris Velasco: It’s impossible for me to choose one piece. I still like the “Reaper Chase” though because of its sheer epicenes. Not just the music, but also the scene it accompanies is so much fun! I also really like the track “The Scientists”. It’s another action track, but I think there’s a nice mixture of the orchestra combined with Sascha’s electronics.

Sascha Dikiciyan: I love “The Scientists” cue. There are a few others I love that you cannot find on the soundtrack unfortunately.

Sam Hulick: It's difficult for me to pick just one, but I'd have to say the romance theme, "I Was Lost Without You," is probably my favorite. It's just a really emotional piece of music, and I think the mix of different styles (piano, orchestral, and synth) make for a particularly interesting sound.

GamerLive.TV: What's the composing process for a video game, does inspiration come from visuals only or from written word?

Sascha Dikiciyan: Well, for me most inspiration comes from the visual source material. That can be artwork, actual gameplay or cinematic. For example, For TRON: Evolution I had a ton of amazing artwork. Every piece had a certain color or mood to it. To me that color/mood translates into sound or music. It’s hard to explain but you start to get a ‘feel’ for something. For Mass Effect 3 we had not only artwork but also a detailed script and QuickTime movies of the levels themselves.

Sam Hulick: It comes from both. You have to have a pretty solid understanding of the storyline, characters and settings. Visuals serve to provide a face for these elements, and are usually a huge help for a composer trying to immerse him-or-herself in the world that the game takes place in.

Cris Velasco: It’s all about the visuals for me. Someone could describe one of the Reapers in extreme detail to me, and I’d be able to visualize it in my head and my imagination would make it seem amazing. However, it still wouldn’t get my creativity jump started like seeing a picture of them would. As soon as I saw that Mass Effect 3 trailer with the Reapers invading London, I already knew what I wanted to do with the music.

GamerLive.TV: Besides scoring a soundtrack, how much behind the scenes work (sound effects) goes into a soundtrack?

Sascha Dikiciyan: For music, I do a lot of what I like to call MSD or ‘musical sound design’. There are a lot of sounds that make up the musical soundscape of Mass Effect that you could call sound effects however they are used in a musical way. I usually do a lot of pre-production, creating a folder full of sounds before I would begin writing. However with our tight schedule for ME3, I pretty much had to do it all at the same time.

Sam Hulick: For a game like Mass Effect, quite a bit of work happens before actually jumping into composition. Picking out a synth sound palette can be challenging simply because of the way sounds are named. For orchestral works, it’s straightforward: composers see “oboe staccato” in their patch list and they know what that sounds like. But synth libraries often give more colorful and interesting names to their sounds, and while there are efforts to help categorize these sounds (and there are literally thousands upon thousands of them!) it’s still quite a task to sit down and figure out what to use and how to tweak it. Sometimes composers will actually hire other musicians or sound designers to create synth sound palettes for them because of how time-consuming it can be.

GamerLive.TV: Do you feel you get enough recognition for your work?

Cris Velasco: I actually feel that recognition for game music has taken some very positive steps forward over the years. For example, I’ve had my own music performed at numerous video game music concerts over four continents! We may not always feel the love when a new game comes out that we’ve put so much work into, but there are in fact tons of people that do appreciate what we’ve contributed to the industry.

Sascha Dikiciyan: I think there’s still this misconception that video game music is inferior to its movie counterparts. Which in a lot of ways is ironic since there is a ton of music that's at least equal in quality to movie scores, if not better. When you listen to our Space Marine soundtrack, it could easily be a movie score. I think we need to gain more recognition via award shows. The Grammys, for example, include video games in their awards but we get lumped together with other media. I think video games deserve their own category now. I mean, they have a category for Best Album Notes so why not Best Video Game Score?

Sam Hulick: For sure. There are many awards that recognize video game music, such as the Canadian Videogame Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Games Awards, G.A.N.G. Awards, the list goes on. Not all of these are what you may consider “mainstream” but video game music has gained much traction in recent years, and will continue to do so, I’m sure.

GamerLive.TV: Do you think people discount your work?

Sascha Dikiciyan: Well the real fans love what we do of course. But as composers it’s tough getting the same level of respect as rock stars. This goes back to what I said earlier. We need to have more opportunities for our work to be taken seriously. Winning a prestigious award would obviously help to get the word out. However, for me, the most important appreciation factor is the fans. They know how much work goes into a score for a video game these days and in the case of Mass Effect 3 it has been really rewarding so far.

Sam Hulick: Just as there are people who are highly enthusiastic about film scores and collect soundtracks, there are legions of gamers who really get into the music for games, buy their favorite soundtracks, collect autographs from composers, etc. So no, I’ve never really felt like my work was discounted or seen as irrelevant. In fact, quite the opposite!

Cris Velasco: Back when I first started composing for games (around 2004 or so) it was a lot different than it is now. When I told people that I was writing music for video games, they would get a sheepish look in their eyes and tell me to “hang in there” and “I’m sure something better will come around soon”. So back then, yes, our work was definitely discounted. Now though, I get a stack of emails every week from fans or other aspiring composers looking for a little help. I think that game music is making great headway and is really starting to be recognized for the legitimate art that it is.

#1 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

Please follow me on twitter for all of my latest articles: https://twitter.com/AlMartinet

Early this year, Bioware’s Mass Effect saga came to five year run. Rest aside the ending; the series is one of the most complete trilogies in video game history. There are two aspects that Mass Effect nails perfectly. The series was first to interweave choices all the way through the third and final installment captivating fans from start to finish. However, you can’t tell a great story if you forget to create the atmosphere for your game to breath in. The music in the game really doses shape Commander Shepard with it having one of the best scores in gaming, but do people notice? Do people look at soundtracks as a whole or as background noise?

It’s often in movies and television that soundtracks are ignored and not given credit for their role in a project. In our five part series, I got a chance to talk with composers and had them recall their pervious work and asked them how they think fans look at soundtracks. Our first roundtable discussion is with the minds behind the Mass Effect score: Sascha Dikiciyan, Cris Velasco and Sam Hulick. Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco wrote music for Mass Effect 2 Kasumi’s Stolen Memory and Arrival and scored many of the key scenes like Rannoch and Sanctuary. Sam Hulick has been with the series since the very beginning and his suddle work with ambient sounds helped form the Mass Effect galaxy.

GamerLive.TV: Just to start us off, what else have you worked on besides Mass Effect?

Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco: Some of the titles we’ve scored include the God of War series, Clive Barker’s Jericho, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Borderlands, TRON: Evolution and many more.

Sam Hulick: I got my start working on Maximo vs. Army of Zin, followed by a few indie titles. I also composed the orchestral score for Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. I was immediately drawn to the project as soon as the developer told me they were looking for a very intense and somber score, influenced by Russian and German classical music. It was a chance to veer in a very different direction from Mass Effect. Currently I’m very excited to be working on Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. I saw the mysterious baldursgate.com website earlier this year and I figured Trent Oster had to be behind it, so I sent him an email about it. He was rather mysterious in his response, but we wound up having a meeting at the Game Developer’s Conference about a week later, after which I was officially invited on board their project as composer.

GamerLive.TV: Growing up, what composers did you listen to and now influence your professional work?

Cris Velasco: I’ve always listened to (and been inspired by) John Williams. It wasn’t until my 20’s when I really started listening to orchestral composers though. Some of the most influential composers for me are Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Beethoven, and Mozart. I’m also a big fan of John Powell, James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, and Edward Shearmur.

Sascha Dikiciyan: Growing up in a classical house, the likes of Beethoven and Mozart have left their mark, however when I was 14 I really got into electronic music. After that the works of Vangelis, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Devo, New Order and many others have influenced me. While I still enjoy these artists today, I also love some of the more modern electronic composers out there, Trent Reznor’s work on The Social Network, The Chemical Brothers’ work on Hanna and Massive Attack.

Sam Hulick: Early on, mostly John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Ray Lynch influenced me. At this point, I don't think I can pinpoint specific musical influences that have an active role in my work. I feel like I've reached the stage where I've discovered my own personal signature, or it could simply be that my various influences have been merged into my own style.

GamerLive.TV: Cris and Sascha, Your first experience with the Mass Effect Franchise was scoring Mass Effect 2: Kasumi's Stolen Memory, which is one of one of my favorite parts of the score because it stayed away from the Mass Effect that everyone is adjusted to hearing and gave us something new. Is it easier to work with established themes or do you prefer creative freedom when entering a project?

Cris Velasco: For myself, I prefer to work with a blank canvas. Creative freedom gives me the most satisfaction as a composer. Working with an existing theme can be fun too though. I’ve had my own themes worked on by other composers and it’s always interesting to hear a different interpretation of your own music. Usually, it’s something I never would have come up with on my own. So hopefully, if I have to work with an existing theme, the other composer feels the same way! Mass Effect was a unique situation in that we were allowed creative freedom to do our own thing, but we still worked within the confines of an established style.

Sascha Dikiciyan: While the sound of that DLC was indeed a bit different, we tried to still keep some of the familiar elements from the previous games. Coming onto an established AAA franchise like Mass Effect is never easy and while I prefer a fresh start, I think the original Mass Effect has this brilliant mix of 80’s influence meets orchestra, which we then applied again into our Mass Effect 3 score. So coming onto a new project, creative freedom is pretty much required for me to do great work. In the case of Mass Effect, we wanted to simply add to the universe that was already established.

GamerLive.TV: What was one of the biggest challenges you faced when you were creating the Mass Effect 3 soundtracks?

Sascha Dikiciyan: Well, it was a good warm-up gig for us to compose DLCs for Mass Effect 2 before we were called onto Mass Effect 3. It gave me a lot of confidence that we could pull it off. I always like to do research for the projects before I start. Like what reverb sounds best, what synth would be best for this sound etc. Luckily that was already somewhat established on the DLCs so besides having to write good music very fast, the most important aspect was to keep that Mass Effect sound while still adding our own flavor to it. That was the biggest challenge, at least for me.

Cris Velasco: As I mentioned earlier, we were given our creative freedom but obviously within the confines of the established sound. The challenge for us was to work within those boundaries and still have our own voice heard. We definitely wanted to bring something fresh to the series if possible. One of the best quotes we’ve read online is, “it sounds like Mass Effect music, but new.”

Sam Hulick: Nailing just the right feel for some of the more emotionally charged scenes can be challenging. Particularly, composing "An End, Once and For All" took a few rounds of revising some elements to get just the right feel to it. It had to be very subtle in the right spots. Too much and it would have ruined the scene.

GamerLive.TV: What's your favorite piece you worked on in Mass Effect 3?

Cris Velasco: It’s impossible for me to choose one piece. I still like the “Reaper Chase” though because of its sheer epicenes. Not just the music, but also the scene it accompanies is so much fun! I also really like the track “The Scientists”. It’s another action track, but I think there’s a nice mixture of the orchestra combined with Sascha’s electronics.

Sascha Dikiciyan: I love “The Scientists” cue. There are a few others I love that you cannot find on the soundtrack unfortunately.

Sam Hulick: It's difficult for me to pick just one, but I'd have to say the romance theme, "I Was Lost Without You," is probably my favorite. It's just a really emotional piece of music, and I think the mix of different styles (piano, orchestral, and synth) make for a particularly interesting sound.

GamerLive.TV: What's the composing process for a video game, does inspiration come from visuals only or from written word?

Sascha Dikiciyan: Well, for me most inspiration comes from the visual source material. That can be artwork, actual gameplay or cinematic. For example, For TRON: Evolution I had a ton of amazing artwork. Every piece had a certain color or mood to it. To me that color/mood translates into sound or music. It’s hard to explain but you start to get a ‘feel’ for something. For Mass Effect 3 we had not only artwork but also a detailed script and QuickTime movies of the levels themselves.

Sam Hulick: It comes from both. You have to have a pretty solid understanding of the storyline, characters and settings. Visuals serve to provide a face for these elements, and are usually a huge help for a composer trying to immerse him-or-herself in the world that the game takes place in.

Cris Velasco: It’s all about the visuals for me. Someone could describe one of the Reapers in extreme detail to me, and I’d be able to visualize it in my head and my imagination would make it seem amazing. However, it still wouldn’t get my creativity jump started like seeing a picture of them would. As soon as I saw that Mass Effect 3 trailer with the Reapers invading London, I already knew what I wanted to do with the music.

GamerLive.TV: Besides scoring a soundtrack, how much behind the scenes work (sound effects) goes into a soundtrack?

Sascha Dikiciyan: For music, I do a lot of what I like to call MSD or ‘musical sound design’. There are a lot of sounds that make up the musical soundscape of Mass Effect that you could call sound effects however they are used in a musical way. I usually do a lot of pre-production, creating a folder full of sounds before I would begin writing. However with our tight schedule for ME3, I pretty much had to do it all at the same time.

Sam Hulick: For a game like Mass Effect, quite a bit of work happens before actually jumping into composition. Picking out a synth sound palette can be challenging simply because of the way sounds are named. For orchestral works, it’s straightforward: composers see “oboe staccato” in their patch list and they know what that sounds like. But synth libraries often give more colorful and interesting names to their sounds, and while there are efforts to help categorize these sounds (and there are literally thousands upon thousands of them!) it’s still quite a task to sit down and figure out what to use and how to tweak it. Sometimes composers will actually hire other musicians or sound designers to create synth sound palettes for them because of how time-consuming it can be.

GamerLive.TV: Do you feel you get enough recognition for your work?

Cris Velasco: I actually feel that recognition for game music has taken some very positive steps forward over the years. For example, I’ve had my own music performed at numerous video game music concerts over four continents! We may not always feel the love when a new game comes out that we’ve put so much work into, but there are in fact tons of people that do appreciate what we’ve contributed to the industry.

Sascha Dikiciyan: I think there’s still this misconception that video game music is inferior to its movie counterparts. Which in a lot of ways is ironic since there is a ton of music that's at least equal in quality to movie scores, if not better. When you listen to our Space Marine soundtrack, it could easily be a movie score. I think we need to gain more recognition via award shows. The Grammys, for example, include video games in their awards but we get lumped together with other media. I think video games deserve their own category now. I mean, they have a category for Best Album Notes so why not Best Video Game Score?

Sam Hulick: For sure. There are many awards that recognize video game music, such as the Canadian Videogame Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Games Awards, G.A.N.G. Awards, the list goes on. Not all of these are what you may consider “mainstream” but video game music has gained much traction in recent years, and will continue to do so, I’m sure.

GamerLive.TV: Do you think people discount your work?

Sascha Dikiciyan: Well the real fans love what we do of course. But as composers it’s tough getting the same level of respect as rock stars. This goes back to what I said earlier. We need to have more opportunities for our work to be taken seriously. Winning a prestigious award would obviously help to get the word out. However, for me, the most important appreciation factor is the fans. They know how much work goes into a score for a video game these days and in the case of Mass Effect 3 it has been really rewarding so far.

Sam Hulick: Just as there are people who are highly enthusiastic about film scores and collect soundtracks, there are legions of gamers who really get into the music for games, buy their favorite soundtracks, collect autographs from composers, etc. So no, I’ve never really felt like my work was discounted or seen as irrelevant. In fact, quite the opposite!

Cris Velasco: Back when I first started composing for games (around 2004 or so) it was a lot different than it is now. When I told people that I was writing music for video games, they would get a sheepish look in their eyes and tell me to “hang in there” and “I’m sure something better will come around soon”. So back then, yes, our work was definitely discounted. Now though, I get a stack of emails every week from fans or other aspiring composers looking for a little help. I think that game music is making great headway and is really starting to be recognized for the legitimate art that it is.

#2 Posted by mandude (2669 posts) -

They've been background noise ever since the advent of voice acting.

#3 Edited by NTM (7386 posts) -

I listen to them, I definitely listen to them. To call them "background noise" is a disgrace. Just like in film, the soundtracks that accompany your experience are a great thing; well, if it sounds good. I certainly pay attention to music in games and I consider them to be a big deal. Personally, I find music in games and film much more tolerable than anything any of the popular mainstream pop/rock/rap stars and what have you put out. I really have to go back to the 80's and before to find a lot of great music in that department. Oh, and thanks for posting these interviews, that was interesting.

#4 Posted by solidejake (484 posts) -

I listen to them on my own time. What bothers me is a lot of times people will say "Such and such has the BEST SOUNDTRACK EVER" just because they really like the game.

#5 Posted by ZeForgotten (10397 posts) -

Audio Settings for most games that feature good soundtracks, for me at least. 
Music: 10 
Sound Effects: 7 or 8 
Voice: 6 
 
So, yeah, I listen to the music

#6 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

I think this proves things wrong. I listen the hell out of them.

#7 Posted by mlarrabee (2965 posts) -

I absolutely listen to them.

Video game soundtracks take up a couple of gigs of my music library.

#8 Posted by Animasta (14693 posts) -

@mlarrabee said:

I absolutely listen to them.

Video game soundtracks take up a couple of gigs of my music library.

YUP.

not that many western ones because I always feel that western game soundtracks are a lot more... generic, I guess?

not enough sweet guitar riffs, basically

#9 Posted by medacris (660 posts) -

Depends. If they're meant to be an active experience, they definitely are. In other games, the tracks are mostly ambient, but if you remove them, they remove a massive part of the experience, one you don't even notice unless it's gone.

#10 Posted by weavminas (84 posts) -

I have several game soundtracks on my phone that I listen to on a regular basis. Bastion, Borderlands 1 & 2, Shank, and the Portal compilations are great. The problem is sometimes game soundtracks don't make good albums because they have several relatively short loops being dynamically mixed.

In some games the soundtrack doesn't stick out to me or over the course of 30+ hours the impact is lessened. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put the theme from Cosmo Canyon on loop.

#11 Posted by Pezen (1607 posts) -

I remember listening to an interview with the composer for Star Trek TNG a while back where he said he made music that was in a specific range not to interfere with the dialogue. And I think that is the mark of a good video game soundtrack as well. It's complimentary but not trying to be center stage within a scene. It's more important than background noise because it's sets a mood, but if the music is such that I would be actively listening to it instead of paying attention to the game, it might be good music but it's not actually doing it's job as a soundtrack.

That being said, there are plenty of great soundtracks that I easily can listen to outside of the game.

#12 Posted by Veektarius (4845 posts) -

Interesting feature here. Hope someone notices your work!

As far as soundtracks go, I always listen as I play - maybe not so actively that I pause the game so the track can go, because I want it to enhance my experience the way it was written to. But every so often I'll think to myself "Man, this music is making me feel ____ - I hope this goes on for a lot longer." In general, though, i don't care for listening to game soundtracks independent of the game. It isn't necessarily a failing of the music in its medium, but VG tracks are not meant to grab your attention, and that's what I want in my music when I'm listening to it on its own. Still, soundtracks definitely *have* come a long way. I've been sort of on and off replaying Knights of the Old Republic, where BioWare became a juggernaut back in 2003. It just feels barren. It's downright distracting how dead the soundscape is.

#13 Posted by canucks23 (1087 posts) -

The soundtrack to the first Mass Effect was really a big part of why i liked it so much, it definitely wasn't just background noise to me.

#14 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

@Veektarius: thank you much appreciated !!!

#15 Posted by Pr1mus (3920 posts) -

Anyone who considers music to be only background noise is dead inside.

More than any other elements of a game, the music is usually what brings me back to playing a game i've already finished once before.

I used to keep a ton of different save files in games to go back to and listen to the music of specific scenes or locations.

Online
#16 Posted by DizzyMedal (399 posts) -

I would enter and exit a loading door to the open world in Oblivion until I got the track I wanted before setting off to god knows where. If it's music I like, it's not background noise. Everynow and then a game has music I really don't like but lucky most games these days come with audio options to just get rid of it entirely.

#17 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8699 posts) -

I personally often do not like the scores. I want iconic music, I want songs you remember and ones that put you right into the mood.
 
A lot of games go the movie route, slowly building up for ages and then have a moment of madness/theme music blasting. Long winded strings doing the basics we barely notice.
I actually prefer the older approach where we had iconic themes. Which is what spawned a lot of our favorites (Mario, Zelda, Halo). Let's say I prefer stuff like Borderlands 2 did it.
 
Or Witcher 2:
  

#18 Posted by damswedon (3191 posts) -

I think good video game soundtracks are those that sit the closest to background noise. It is like how the best comic book letterers and colourers are those that fit perfectly in with the comic as a whole but you never notice unless you are looking for them.

#19 Posted by EVO (3913 posts) -

I finished Halo 4 earlier and immediately read Jeff's review afterwards; he praised the music but honestly I didn't even notice it.

#20 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

Not really. The only game music I listen to is that from Persona games and fighting games, now that music is very good to listen to even without the games being played along with it.

Jungle beats!

#21 Edited by Andy_117 (169 posts) -

Nothing is background noise. Nothing. If you don't notice something in a game, try turning it off. Turn the music down (off, if you can), turn the dialogue up. You tell me you didn't notice it.

As a composer for film myself, I've always been of the belief that just because you aren't noticing something, doesn't mean your brain isn't. We all listen to scores, especially of videogames. If your concentration isn't fixed on it that means that score has done its job. So in a sense, it is "background noise," in a sense that it is designed to sneak in the back door to the brain, but it is not background noise in the sense that you don't notice it, that it just fades away. It definitely fades, but it fades into other elements of stimuli - the visuals, the pacing, what have you.

Frankly, there's never been a videogame score I haven't been interested in listening to on its own. I'm listening to Halo 4's right now - it's pretty fantastic stuff. But while you're watching a movie, while you're playing a game, the point of that score is to simply sink in softly. If it doesn't do that, then the composer - or the mixers - have failed their job. Unless it was intentional, I guess.

So, the answer is - yes, we listen to videogame scores. Yes, they are background noise. "Background noise" in this case does not carry negative connotations though.

#22 Posted by Slag (4431 posts) -

I love Videogame scores. To some extent I actually care more about them than the graphics. Long after I'm done playing, the music is what stays with me,

A game with really bad music usually loses me pretty quick.

#23 Edited by believer258 (11929 posts) -

@LightForceJedi:

The series was first to interweave choices all the way through the third and final installment captivating fans from start to finish.

Not entirely true. Mass Effect seemingly popularized the idea, though. It's also worth mentioning that I only know that those games read your saves and take into consideration things done in previous games; I haven't actually played those games and couldn't at all tell you anything about how the save transfers go.

I haven't read the rest of your article, so if you'll excuse me I'll go back to playing Dragon Age Origins. Or Witcher 2. Or one of the other myriad games I've tricked myself into thinking I can finish in a timely fashion.

EDIT: One quick thing that's actually on topic - I do greatly enjoy some game soundtracks. I really like soundtracks of The Witcher 1 and 2, I've enjoyed what I've heard of Journey's, Bastion's is good, and Chrono Trigger is just plain golden as far as music goes.

#24 Posted by TheHT (11300 posts) -

The score for Alan Wake was a big part of that game for me, not to mention the end of episode songs.

#25 Posted by Hyperglide (149 posts) -

Sound is probably 80% of the experience. There's a reason why so many of the greatest games of all time have amazing soundtracks. To degrade and relegate OST music to just background noise is downright insulting. Probably most of the MP3's I have on my PC are all from Video Game soundtracks and they leave a lasting impression on me more than other mediums, like movies, tv, and documentaries.

#26 Posted by JJOR64 (18996 posts) -

I enjoy me some video game music. Depends on the genre on how much I pay attention to it though. For fighting games I usually tune it out since I'm focused on beating my opponent. For turn based RPGs I pay more attention to it since RPGs don't require you to pay attention as much.

Online
#27 Posted by SeanCoughing (269 posts) -

Red dead redemption, mass effect and jade empire are my favorites. Surprisingly I'm really enjoying borderlands 2s soundtrack considering the first games music almost drove me insane with its repetition.

#28 Posted by Apparatus_Unearth (3157 posts) -

I don't ever listen to any video game sound, I listen to podcasts.

#29 Posted by Ducksworth (662 posts) -

Videogame soundtracks are powerful things but I find that even the best tracks can get blurred into background noise. If there's a particularly tough boss battle or just something that I'm focusing heavily on, all noise whether it's from the game or otherwise gets blurred out so I can do whatever it is I'm trying to do.

#30 Posted by Bucketdeth (8012 posts) -

I always turn up the music in games. When I look back on old videos games from my childhood, the first thing I do is look up the OST on youtube. DONKEY KONG COUNTRY COME AT ME.

#31 Posted by AlexW00d (6275 posts) -

I take them as a whole experience, adding to everything else. But I wouldn't listen to them on their own cause they're not made for listening on their own, they're made for the game.

#32 Posted by Zippedbinders (997 posts) -

Let me preface this by saying I'm really not really a "music person". I buy, at best, one album a year. I don't have any sort of mp3 player and I can't play an instrument to save my life.

That said, I do enjoy older video game music, but once stuff left the 16-bit era, I stopped caring as much about it. When I try to think of any decent game soundtracks in the past 10 years, half of them are Nintendo games, and the other half are Suda 51 games. I completely turned off the music in Skyrim and Assassin's Creed just so I wouldn't have it playing anymore.

#33 Posted by galloughs (192 posts) -

VERY first thing I do after installing a game on my PC: set the music volume to 0. I've used gaming time to listen to podcasts/audiobooks almost exclusively for the past 6 or 7 years. Also, as a musician, I more often than not find video game music to be trite garbage, Mass Effect 1+2, and Hotline Miami included. If it's not pretentious impostor orchestral strains, it's hipster electronic trash.

#34 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

@galloughs: yikes fool