Award-winning audio director, composer, writer and Game Music Connect co-founder John Broomhall will moderate a panel session featuring several senior games executives at the upcoming BIME event in Bilbao – with the role of music in VR high on the agenda.
Now in its fourth year, BIME is one of Europe’s leading conferences and festivals for music and tech, taking place from 26-29 October in the Spanish city. BIME brings together senior executives and visionaries from across the globe to discuss trends and provide insight across the music and technology markets.
Broomhall will moderate a panel that includes Didier Lord (Worldwide Music Director, Ubisoft) and Alastair Lindsay (Head of Music, Creative Services Group, Sony) to discuss the current zeitgeist of and future potential for music within the video games market.
“The key difference with interactive experiences compared with their linear entertainment cousins is that you can’t really through-compose music for something that is inherently unpredictable; you can’t determine what will happen and when because that’s something driven by the player," said Broomhall. "Therefore scoring music to picture a way that you might for a movie to say highlight a character’s intention, or herald a particular moment, becomes problematic in an interactive, non-linear experience.
“To address these kinds of issues – whether it’s using licensed music, or more likely in these scenarios, original music – you need to create and deliver the score in a form and a structure in which it can be redeployed and remixed and re-purposed, and transitioned on-the-fly by clever technical systems in response to how the gamer plays the game. So, the idea is that music can respond interactively – hence the term ‘interactive music’.
“With licensed music, that might involve the artist handing over stems that the games company can work with, manipulating and remixing them live in the game. It’s important that artists and composers who want to create music for games understand the culture of games and how music is used within them and even to have insight about the technical delivery systems games use to achieve this kind of thing.
“With VR, you’re in a highly immersive, all-consuming experience – it’s amazing – but you have to take care with introducing music because actually it has the potential to bump you out of the experience – to break that immersion. For music to work well you have to be careful about how it comes in and out and it’s important that it truly integrates with the game or the experience – it must feel like an inherent part of it.
“One approach is to make it fully diegetic – for example, Rush Of Blood, a game by Supermassive Games, which features a kind of horror roller-coaster ride set in the world of Until Dawn. In that experience, they have this kind of weird character who taunts you and speaks to you behind the scenes, and that character plays music through speakers that you visually see in the roller-coaster ride. So this spooky music is completely integrated to the experience – it works really well because it’s emanating from within the world and actually it’s part of it with a 3D position – i.e. where the speakers are; so you can turn your head and it will be mixed differently is terms of panning and so on.
“But if you impose music on people’s VR it can make them stop, be reminded they’re in an experience and ask themselves why am I hearing music right now? That’s part of the conundrum of Virtual Reality, and these guys that we’re talking to at BIME are pioneers, they’re trying all this stuff and finding out what works and what doesn’t. Very interesting.”