The power of the soundtrack within in a game, dynamic transitions.
Personally, I’m very intrigued by music in video games and how it could be used to re-enforce what happens on screen (or even give you a clue of what to expect even though it’s not on screen yet). I’m not talking about how catchy a song is, (or about dance/rhythm games), but rather how music is used to enhance the interactive experience.
Music is a great tool for game designers, especially since it’s used in an interactive environment, allowing for many creative uses of sound design overall. If you want to see some amazing examples of proper music use in games, you should check the smooth transitions of Journey, the clever use of enemy themes in Left 4 Dead or the gameplay dictating music from Beat Sneak Bandit.
Again, this is not example of good music, but good USE of music. On their own, they don’t sound impressive, but implemented in the game, they make the experience so much more richer.
The audio aspect of a video games is usually implemented at the end of the development, more often than not coming off as a chore/necessity so the game isn’t considered unfinished. It feels like it’s slapped onto the finished game instead of it being a part of the design process from the very beginning. Music and overall audio in a video game should have the same importance as visuals, story and game feel.
Dynamicity of music
In Move or Die, the entire soundtrack is dynamic, by that I mean that the soundtrack is composed of multiple songs, each having the same length, same tempo, different instruments and loops perfectly. This means that if I were to play all the songs at the same time, they would still sound good and they would make a clear beat, not a mess of random melodies.
Here is a piece of audio that goes through 4 of those songs, you will notice when the song changes, however you will also notice that the rhythm stays the same.
Imagine the songs as lego blocks, seeing that we can easily transition from one to another it allows us to craft a custom audio experience based on what happens on screen without ever pausing the music. We are literally mixing and creating one huge custom song while you play the game.
There is a specific song for when you are in the menu, one for when you are in a match, one for when the winner is announced… etc.
Here is a video of the song transition in action. In this example it goes from Tutorial Loop – to – InGame Loop – to – Winner Loop.
For those who are wondering how it actually works, we simply play and loop all the songs when the game is launched and we simply change the volume of each song to fade them out or to make them audible. We have a timer that restarts every 422531250 nanoseconds (that’s basically 0.42 seconds) which is the interval of time between 2 kicks in a song. That gives us a solid reference for triggering animations that are supposed to be in sync with the music, more on that a bit later. The reason why the number is so precise is that the more decimals you have, the less likely it is for the timer to get out of sync with the audio.
Sound complementing visuals
The soundtrack in Move or Die isn’t there just for the sake of having music in the game, it’s there to reinforce what is happening on the screen.
We have a song for winning, a song for the score screen, one for “sudden death”, two songs for the menu, about 5 for in-game and many more to come!
The in-game songs, just like the gameplay itself, are quite fast paced and keep the action going. They were designed to fit the fast game modes of the game resulting in the player being even more engaged in the action.
Another example of the songs being used to create a specific experience is the menu itself. When you launch the game you can hear the Move or Die theme loud and clear, however as soon as you navigate away from the title screen, the song becomes muffled. This gives you a sense of depth when it comes to navigating the menu and it also sounds good because the transition is seamless.
Everything in rhythm
There are a lot of small details animated in sync with the music. Here is a list of elements in the game that sync up with the soundtrack.
- The Countdown – Right from the very beginning, the countdown of the game syncs with the beat.
- The Bomb – In the “Bomb Tag” game mode, the bomb’s animation and sound effects are matched up with the soundtrack in such a way that it seems like they are part of the song itself. (Explosion included)
- The Background Assets – Each one of them pulsate with the song’s rhythm, the animation looks like a heart beat and it gives life to the entire level.
- The Timer – When the time is almost up, there is an audible “tick tock” sound effect followed by a “time out bell”.
- The Joe Animation – When he sits idly, he does his little tiny skips animation where he jumps from one leg to the other. Each kick in the song syncs perfectly with his foot stomping the ground.
In this video you’ll be able to notice all the elements listed above in order. Feel free to replay the video in order to pay attention to each one individually.
All these combined make for a much better experience. They make the game feel consistent, fast paced and they give an overall feel of rhythm to the entire experience.
The game is way more fun when you can hear the music and the sound effects. If you pay attention to the other players in the room, you might just notice them bobble their heads on the rhythm.
The entire game soundtrack and the songs from this post were composed by Waterflame. Check out his other songs here!