Composing the music for a videogame

This past weekend I participated in the Spooky 2D Jam. This is a gamejam, where you create a small spooky videogame in a weekend. I participated as the music composer.
In this video I show you the music themes I wrote for Crypt Climber, the game we created, and explain them a little bit.

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To make to music for a little game I used my Synthstrom Deluge for some synth sounds and also Logic Pro X with a few plugins. I also used a lot 2 plugins from Felt Instruments: Lekko and Jasno that added a lot to the atmosphere we wanted for the game.

For all of us who want to make music for games we need to learn to use FMod (or other middleware like Wwise). This is the better way to implement the music and the FX in the game. It also great for making some generative tricks to create the music. A middleware is basically a plugin for Unity or Unreal.

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Well to be fair you do not need to know how to operate a middleware to be able to score music for a videogame. You need to learn a middleware if yourself are doing the implementation, though it is nice to know how they work to create material that can be implemented easily and that suits nicely the kind of interactivity the games requires.

Also, saying that a middleware is “basically a plugin for Unity or Unreal” is misleading and reductive.

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The part of FMOD available on the asset store is really only the integration package. This can also be downloaded from the FMOD webpage. The standalone FMOD studio application is also available from their webpage. Not sure how up to date the package is on Unity’s asset store but FMOD itself gets updated very frequently.

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I for one really like FMOD Studio, but I haven’t worked with Wwise so I can’t compare.

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If people here are interested to try making music for games, I definitely recommend joining some game jams events. It’s a lot of fun, you meet people, and you learn a lot during a weekend :slight_smile:

I’ve done a few, and I recommend global game jam (https://globalgamejam.org/) and ludum dare (https://ldjam.com/).

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Absolutely. I haven’t attended enough and I plan to do the ludum dare this April.

With regards to FMOD I also really like it. The issue for me comes in when the developers need to integrate it in the engine. Documentation for that part of the process is much better now but used to be quite thin a few years ago. I would love to get a developer’s perspective on this since from a sound designer and composer’s perspective FMOD really nails it. The workflow and paradigm fits well with someone who is used to working with DAWs and it approaches the unique non-linear nature of sound in games in a way that will be palatable for anyone with a sound background.

I haven’t used Wwise extensively but looks amazing although very different in approach to FMOD.

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how are these organized online ? I’m familiar with game jams but I’ve never done one before !

I would love to be involved somewhere akin to this space in the indie game scene

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I’ve done most of them in person, but last one I did (global game jam) was using discord or MS teams servers for each “game site”. I was with the edinburgh site, and we used discord. My team had a dedicated voice channel, and you can stream your screen to others, made it really easy :slight_smile:

Files transfer are a bit more challenging, esp in a short time frame when everyone works on everything at once. But it’s manageable :slight_smile: Learn git/github if you haven’t already, makes integration with a dev team a lot smoother.

Also, doing some Unity tutorials and learning scripting basics makes you a strong asset in a jam team. Being able to integrate the audio yourself and not relying on the devs to do it let them focus on other things (and the devs are on a more hectic schedule than the audio peeps in this situation, so it’s really appreciated).

EDIT: forgot to add → If you’re looking for a indie game community, there’s tigsource https://forums.tigsource.com/ cc @andrew

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You are right. You don’t need to learn a middleware to be able to score music for a videogame. But if you do, you can have more control over the final result. And you can do some semigenerative tricks that are very nice, like having different melodies driven by probabilities or create semi-random melodies. You will not be able to do this kind of things if you only provide them the final wav file. I think it’s very interesting for a musician to learn this things. Fmod is not difficult to learn, in fact is more or less like a DAW. And I am not talking about Unity programming.

I find it OK. I am learning to use it and it’s not difficult. At the same time is very powerful. The probabilities, triggering conditions, randomized multi-instruments and sync options are very nice, and very lines like I think.
As a musician you need to download Fmod Studio from their web. It’s more or less like a DAW.
As a programmer you should need to download Fmod for Unity from the Unity’s asset store

I haven’t use Wwise either. Sorry

Yes. This is also my opinion. In this video I also talked about my experience participating in the MalagaJam12, that was part of the Global Game jam event also.

I also have had problems with the integration in the engine by the developers. In gamejams there is very little time too.

Have a look here to find gamejams. There are a lot of them everyday:
https://itch.io/jams

This is exactly how I have done it this last time.

This is an area I don’t control, and I would like to. But I have to dedicate time to learn Github. Though it seems to me that sometimes is even difficult to use it for the programmers.

Yes. I also noticed this. If you can control the basics of Unity to integrate the audio yourself, you are king.

If you (or anyone from lines) want a intro to git/github via video call I’m happy to help out.

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@mcpepe’s game audio is truly inspiring, and it is also something i’ve always been intrigued by - generative music in games and the experience of music through a virtual environment. (maybe this could be adjunct to “demoscene” - something i’ve heard of but never experienced)

is there a framework for a (very) low barrier to game development that allows integrating music compositions?

i really like the idea/challenge of producing music that is part of a virtual experience, like a game. however i don’t want to necessarily have to dig into a giant ecosystem to make a tiny simple pixely game- i’m more focused on the music and use the game as a simple conduit to explore it. for instance i know of pico-8 which is super norns-adjacent (e.g. both lua with tiny screens), but from what i can tell it has limitations on its audio. i.e. i guess i’m wondering if there’s is something as concise and powerful as pico-8 but with support for full 16/24-bit stereo audio.

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The easiest way to participate is simply making music (and music FX if you want) and pass the programmers the wav files. This is already a great experience, I think. You learn a lot about the progress seeing the developers work.
Later on, you can have a look at Fmod. It’s really easy for us musicians. I have not tried Wwise, but it seems a bit more difficult, though a few people told me is very powerful.
Participating in gamejams is a great way to learn about the all process. There are a lot of weekend online gamejams now with the pandemic.

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When covid reached Finland, I had to reorganise my master studies completely and I decided to take my minor in games. I was very uninterested in game development before, but I’ve been very happy for going in that direction. Over the school year we’re developing three games in different teams and now we’re currently in the middle of game three, which has got the development period of 16 weeks (the longest of them all). For the first two games I implemented the music and sounds directly in Unity, but for the third one I’m about to get deep in FMOD. The soundscape will be a lovely hauntology-inspired mess of melancholic piano and reel tape noise.

My Wwise experience last year was horrible, our teacher from UK couldn’t return me at all after the workshop and I ended up spending 30 hours making sounds that I in the end couldn’t implement to the final game due to a weird bug. I’m trying to avoid it for now as long as I can :smiley:

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That would be great. Thanks.

I have begun a few times to learn Unity and Godot, and I did a few very very simple games. It’s a difficult thing and needs time, like everything. I would like to retake it soon.
I have not tried Wwise, but I have experienced when programmers had a lot of bugs in the code that prevent to use some sounds and music, for the lack of time in a gamejam.

I just have to point to these channels as I found them invaluable.

The first goes over approaches to music and happens to use Wwise: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNpTJ4IJdJqfio1aAwphtAIczWYs59op3

The second is a very thorough overview of sound design in FMOD and its integration in Unity: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2zNbaZ-EOYyCERWgleXK7ZynOVLcPjTa

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Just chiming in to show my appreciation for this thread! Will be eagerly following it as this is an area of interest that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about but have barely scratched the surface of. So glad to see others sharing their experiences and resources, I’m sure they will be useful to people like me who want to begin exploring the intersection(s) between indie game dev and music.

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