Saturday, February 16, 2002

There are no major advances in game music technology on the immediate horizon. Since sound effects stole the spotlight, the major hardware improvements have been to achieve clearer sounds at higher sampling rates, and to standardize three dimensional sound positioning. In an interview with Blizzard composer, Andrea G. Pessino (see link below), he expressed his desire to make game music more interactive, and went on to describe, almost exactly, the imuse system abandoned by LucasArts in the early 90s.

In the meantime, game music is in a "more of the same" valley, where music comes second to flashier graphics and more realistic explosions. One reason for this could be the general decline in popularity of adventure games. This genre was one that really depended on a strong score to complement its slower pacing, where the popular 3D shooters rely mroe on keeping your adrenaline pumping.

When Doom II was released in 1995, I spent hours playing it online with a high school friend over our 14.4K modems. Following the release of several level-editing tools, I created a set of twenty multiplayer levels, all well-balanced for two player games. The editing tools I used had the option to embed original MIDI music in place of the music that came with the game, and allowed me to create my only major entry in game music since the BASIC days (MP3, 2.9MB).

This particular song was modelled after the original Doom soundtrack, and written in eleventh grade, before I was doing all this composing nonsense. The main goal of the tune was to be looping, unobtrusive, and exciting enough to play during a multiplayer game. it's painfully apparent from the Baroque-sounding guitar counterpoint at the end of the loop that I didn't have much experience in rock composing, but I think it came out well nonetheless.

This concludes Game Music Week, the first special feature of the URI! Domain. This summarized look at music history will always be available in the Archive under "Yesterdays' News", and I may turn it into a single-page essay on my Writings page at some point. I hope my recollections brought back old memories or new insights, even if you aren't a fan of video games. As always, feedback is welcomed.

Below are some links that you may find interesting for further reading on the subject.
History of Nintendo
Gamespot's Timeline of Video Game Music
A History of MIDI
mobygames.com: Indexed information on older games
Quest Studios: Reproducers of classic Sierra On-Line game soundtracks
Bard's Library: MIDI files of soundtracks from the Ultima series
Soundtrack from The Longest Journey
Andrea G. Pessino interview on game music and the Sibelius music notation program
Diablo II Soundtrack: MP3s by composer, Matt Uelmen with development notes
LucasArts composer, Michael Land
The Fat Man

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