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How to Create Loopable Music for Action/Adventure Games


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Video game music differs in many ways from film music. While a film composer can follow the scenes from shot to shot, in video games, this is impossible since events occur in real time, generating quasi-randomly. (Except, of course, for pre-rendered frames.)

This is why the background music for video games often consists of one or more loopable tracks for each mood, key moment, activity, etc. There are tracks specifically for battles, different locations, or rooms, often even a more dynamic combat music for boss fights, and the list could go on.

These tracks reflect the mood and emotional scale of the respective situations. In this kind of music, it's essential for the finished track to be loopable, as it's unpredictable how long a battle will last or how long a player will stay in a certain location.

I've just created loopable "combat music" for an action/adventure game, and I'll briefly introduce its steps.

Basic Characteristics of the Music

When composing music for any media product, it's always important to consider the emotions carried by the specific event, location, and characters, as well as the genre of the work itself. In relation to this, the following must be considered:

  • orchestration (with particular attention to the number of instruments sounding simultaneously)

  • tempo

  • volume

  • articulations (the manner in which instruments are played)

  • melody/chords

I've decided to use symphonic orchestral instruments with epic drums for the demonstration. For their sound, I've employed the following Native Instruments – Kontakt libraries (not paid promotion, I use these libraries regardless):

  • Audiobro – Modern Scoring Strings

  • Cinematic Studio Brass

  • Orchestral Tools – Berlin Woodwinds

  • Laboratory Audio – Strikeforce (epic drums)

  • Keep Forest - Ferrum

  • HybridTwo – Project Chaos

Since our hypothetical game falls into the action/adventure genre, I thought that the grandeur of symphonic music would suit the display of the game's emotional/mood spectrum. Additionally, I used epic drums considering that this is combat music. The tempo is pretty high, it's 150 bpm.

Strings

The strings mostly play in staccato, while the violas, cellos, and double basses occasionally play in legato. Staccato, along with the tight rhythm, is suitable for creating tension, which is essential for this type of music. The string section can be heard here. (Unfortunately, I couldn't embed this track with a player, so click on the link, and it'll open in another tab. And of course, you don't have to purchase these tracks, I just didn't find another opportunity for some reason than bandcamp.)

https://olivercomposer.bandcamp.com/track/action-adventure-game-strings

Brass

The trombones play during the introductory theme, while the horns play the main melody during the main theme. The dramatic sound of the brass instruments also enhances the mood. The trumpets play the main melody one octave higher than the trombones and also play chords.

https://olivercomposer.bandcamp.com/track/action-adventure-game-brasses

Woodwinds

The woodwinds are present only as accompanying instruments. In most parts of the music, the first oboe and first clarinet play together with the strings. Additionally, the passage bridging the secondary theme and main theme is played by the flute and piccolo. The clarinet duplicates the secondary theme's trombone melody an octave higher.

https://olivercomposer.bandcamp.com/track/action-adventure-game-woodwinds

Drums

Although this is combat music, it would be a mistake for all drums to play at all times. Therefore, in the secondary theme, only these hi-hat-like drums are heard. This amplifies the contrast between the main theme and secondary theme, highlighting the main theme.

https://olivercomposer.bandcamp.com/track/action-adventure-game-drums

Loopability

As I mentioned earlier, loopability is crucial for most video game music. It's often not easy to solve this problem, but there are a couple of tricks that can make things easier.

The first one is to use roughly the same instruments at the beginning and end of the music (in most cases, exactly the same). The other trick, as you can hear in my music, is that the first and last secondary themes complement each other; the first secondary theme (roughly the first six seconds) poses a musical question, and the last six seconds provide an answer. If you have the opportunity, import the file into a game engine (Unity, Unreal, etc.) and see for yourself! 😊

And now, all sections together

Finally, the music is complete in its entirety. 😊

https://olivercomposer.bandcamp.com/track/action-adventure-game-full

Possibilities for Further Development

Video game music can build vertically and horizontally. Vertical building usually involves turning instrument tracks on and off. For instance, having the same music with drums and without drums. The developer decides which one to use in which situation.

Horizontal development is excellently exemplified by concluding the music or carrying the variations of the musical theme into another related piece. By using these methods, the game developer can handle the auditory material of various in-game situations more flexibly. I plan to expand on this topic in another article.

If you enjoyed the content of the article, please like, share, and feel free to provide feedback in the comments! Follow for similar content!

You can download all of the wav files from here:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-9UMuzjTp0GprPrpTvMiiunE4rJ0HM40?usp=sharing

Have a great day!

Edited by olivercomposer
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