Adaptive Music Techniques in Games

by doli89 | Aug 14, 2023

In a game and film, music has an important role in explaining and emphasizing certain emotions in a scene or events that occur in the game. Music can add or take away pressure, create anticipation, depict happiness or sadness, and so on. In addition, music can also describe the characteristics of a person, or describe the situation that is happening. Overall, music is the soul that describes the person, place, situation, and game or film.

However, there is a difference between the music used in movies and games. In films that are linear and one-way, the music is made linearly and follows the flow of the film, while games that are non-linear and branched can use non-linear music, and the data and coding in the game will play songs according to the context of the game going on, such as talking to people, fighting enemies, or entering a new area. This non-linear music can also be called adaptive music, or it can also be called dynamic music, where the music can change to capture changing moods effectively. In addition, compared to linear music, non-linear music, or adaptive music, you can play different music without having to stop the music being played.

1. Horizontal Mixing
The first technique in creating adaptive music is horizontal mixing, where one piece of music can change to a different sound smoothly through a musical transition. The most commonly used way to achieve horizontal mixing is generally to fade in and out of the music, but that would be considered tedious. To create optimal transition music, the designer can create a short piece of music that transitions to different music. For example, Secret of the Monkey Island (1990) and Furi (2016), where the music being played can be changed to a different piece of music or linked to the same music by playing a short piece of music between the two pieces. The short transition music will be played when the player moves to a different level segment, and when the transition melody ends the same or different music will then be played. It keeps the flow of the music being played without interrupting it and gives a sense of accomplishment.

2. Vertical Mixing
Next is vertical mixing, where the faders, EQ, and other tools used to create the mix change when the player is in a certain place. One example is Banjo-Kazooie (1998), where the music mix changes depending on the location of the performer, as well as on the ground where the music is playing normally, underwater which causes the music to sound more stressed, or different levels where the pressure and tempo of the music changes. change completely, and another example is Portal 2 (2011) where the music can change if the player is in the air or near certain objects playing the same music with a different mix. Like horizontal mixing, the music will only change when the player enters a different level segment, and this gives each level segment unique characteristics, a sense of completion to the player, and encourages the player to explore.

3. Different Musical Variations
The last is to make different song variations, or even use a completely new song, and use one of these songs according to the context of the game that is happening. One of them is Animal Crossing (2020), where the game uses 24 different songs according to the 24 hours in the game, as well as 2 variations of the 24 songs depending on the weather, which means there are 48 choices of songs that can be played when playing and changing. -change, without counting the other songs, and give it a different vibe every time the time and music change. One other example is Super Mario Odyssey (2017) which plays a variety of songs or different song effects when players enter an area or do certain things. Just like the two previous methods, the variations of music or new music describe the situation, the characteristics of the game world, and the actions taken by the players.

Overall, adaptive music is a type of music that is more flexible when used in games and can describe the situation and atmosphere of the game without having to significantly replace the music. Just like music in general, when making adaptive music, each of these parts must relate to other parts, and disorder is not the purpose of adaptive music. When used and designed properly, adaptive music can capture the mood of a game more effectively than regular music. This is an explanation of the different techniques for using adaptive music, and it is hoped that this knowledge can be used to make good games.

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