Soundtracks are key to video games, they have been a part of gaming since the 1980’s, where the first song was in a SEGA arcade game called ‘Carnival’. Music is a key element to gaming because it allows the player to be submerged into the atmosphere of the game, which can make the overall gaming experience better. The soundtracks in the late 20th century were very 8-bit, this was mainly early consoles didn’t have enough storage to run both the game and the music, so only one or maybe two songs were added. When Nintendo became a larger gaming industry, it began investing more time into to the music of video games and increasing the storage on consoles, that music became better. It started with ‘Donkey Kong Country’ that had cutting edge 16-bit music. After that technology has created bigger and better sound games where things such as orchestras, bands and dubstep took over. Some excellent example of modern day soundtracks in video games would be Mortal Kombat X, DmC: Devil May Cry and Never Alone, three very different video games.
Mortal Kombat X
Even though the sound effects are very specific, there isn’t much of a soundtrack because all the fight scenes seem to be in the same environment/ atmosphere. This soundtrack in particular is when the player is selecting with character to battle with, using this piece implies that the character selection process is very serious and tense. The song has a tense and frightful feeling to it- a suitable ambience for a brutal fighting game. From the soundtrack we can tell that it was composed from a lot of brass and deep sounding instruments. Overall the piece is heterophonic because it had one melody and everything else compliments the melody. The sudden pounding in the drums throughout the song makes the gaming experience very panicky. The drummers are altering the timbre by heavily hitting the drums, making a strong and intense sound, this also changes the dynamics of the drums making it louder. Even though this soundtrack provides a tense and dangerous atmosphere, I feel that there could be more songs for different scenes in the campaign mode- there are very different scenes in the video game, from a rotting swamp to a demonic temple.
These sound effects were created by ‘Foley artists’, who are artists who create noises for video games, movies and TV shows- the artists used a microphone to get a clear recording of the sounds. Using an up close microphone allows more sound to be captured and for there to be less of an echo in the recording room. The artists used items such as Nickelodeon slime, plungers, their hands and a bowl to make their sounds. The artists hired to create the disgusting sounds were from the audio company Netherrealm. One of the lead audio designers is Shaun Gallagher, who uses softwares such as Unreal Engine, Final Cut pro and Sony Sound Forge.
DmC: Devil May Cry
Similar to the Mortal Kombat X, this soundtrack is very tense and serious, however is has more a mechanical sound to it, almost like modern day dubstep. This soundtrack was released by Capcom and mainly composed by Nosia and Combichrist in 2013. This video game has many soundtracks unlike Mortal Kombat X, this is because this game has several different stages and environments/ atmosphere to explore, whereas Mortal Kombat repeats the same fighting scene, only with different playable characters. The pounding beats of notes in the several pieces gives the impression of an action packed/ slasher game. However there are songs on this soundtrack such as ‘Remember Us’, where there is no dubstep and has just one instrument, a piano. This kind of break from dubstep shows that as well as being a slasher game, DmC: Devil May Cry also has an emotional side that may pull on the heart strings of both the characters and player. In total this video game has 36 songs in its sound track varying from dubstep (to implying action packed fight scenes) to calm piano music (symbolising an emotional scene). Both artists composed the different songs in a recording studio where they recorded their voices and various instruments.
When the game was released so was a DmC: Devil May Cry soundtrack released on both digital and hard back copy, produced by both Nosia and Combichrist- each band released two separate albums because of the amount of songs they produced. The foley artist who created the sounds such as gun shots and slasher actions was Noul Vought, as well as that they were a trio of sound designers (Mark Jasper, Matthew McCamley and Chris Pinkston), a dialog recordist (Rob King) and a foley mixer (Kyle Billingsley).
Never Alone is a small indie game released in 2014 and is a puzzle platformer where you play as a little girl who is a part of the Alaskan Native people and is accompanied by a spirit wolf-like creature. Unlike the previous two games, Never Alone is a very peaceful game so it very minimalistic when it comes to the music, mainly using an organ, cello or piano for the music. On the other hand ‘Bear Chase’, ‘Arena Battle’ and ‘Manslayer’ stands out from the rest of the music because of the pounding of drums, loud whining and deep echoes, implying that these particular scenes can be dangerous for the little girl and her companion. The use of calm instruments such as a piano puts the player into get into a unique atmosphere where they are able to concentrate on the gameplay, rather than the music clashing with the video game, kind of like DmC: Devil May Cry. Never Alone has a total number of 12 songs in its soundtrack, all composed by Kisima Innitchuna, I believe that this collection could have been improved by adding a few vocals linking to the story or message that the video game is trying to portray.
The main sound designer who helped produce the sound effects in this game was Brendan Hogan who took numerous road trips to snowy mountains to record sounds. Hogan and Jamie Hundsale (his designing partner) used a microphone to record sounds such as twigs breaking, ice crystals twinkling and foxes stepping in snow, they used the old trick of fitting a glove with paper clips on each finger to simulate the foxes clawed paw. Brendan Hogan also contributed to the soundtrack of the game, as well as Collin O’Malley and Daniel L.W. Caldwell, however the duo composed 11 extra songs which were used for Cultural Insights and the numerous trailers. The music was created in Valve Gaming Company.