A game needs a good story and characters to match. Another key element into the mixture is music. A fantastic musical score can mean everything to a game. It sets the tone and emotion to a game, sometimes without the need of dialogue. Once a cord is struck, you instantly know if it’s from Halo, Legend of Zelda, a Mario game or Final Fantasy. It is these pieces of music that can trigger the emotion felt during a certain scene in a game, be it happy or sad. Instruments that can sing you a story, even when you close your eyes and it doesn’t even matter if you’re a fan of that particular series or not.
I was able to attend the Behind the Music panel at PAX Prime with Jesper Kyd (Assassin’s Creed), Micheal McCann (Deus Ex), Inon Zur (Dragon Age) and Sam Hulick (Mass Effect), all fantastic composers that bring life to the games we know and love. Those who attended the panel at PAX Prime was greeted with a surpise guest who was Martin O’Donnell, most known for his work with the Halo series.
They went into how they got into the industry and how it has changed since the early video game days when it was easier to just loop a track over and over again and no one would second guess it. In today’s video games, the music truly weaves the story together, taking it to new heights that would have thought impossible to reach, lets say in the 1980’s. Yes, there is a place in my heart for 8bit music, but nothing can move you than a beautifully done piece, be it with vocals or without from the games of today.
Take pieces such as Wake Me When You Need Me from Halo 3 or the more recognizable Legend of Zelda Suite or Final Fantasy VIII‘s Liberi Fatali. Each piece can tell the story or trigger a memory for a gamer, even when listening to the music via headphones and not while playing the game.
Composing music can come from a beautiful accident or a long thought out process. Either way, a composer can never tell if their piece will be the one that carries the game or series. If it will be the one that generations from now will hear a single note and just know what game it is, regardless if they played it or not.