NGDC 2012: The importance of music in gaming

Freelance music composer Rich Vreeland, responsible for the stellar soundtrack of this year’s Indie success Fez, spoke about the importance of music in games during the NASSCOM Game Developer Conference in Pune.

Having worked on Fez most recently, Vreeland frequently referenced the puzzle-platformer in his keynote address.

Speaking about the role of music in games, he said that music could mimic what the game wanted to achieve, so in a puzzle-based level, he designed music that had shifting, interlocking elements”, just like a puzzle.

When it came to creating levels that were more sinister and sombre, Vreeland used an unpredictable score akin to a storm to elicit that feeling of fear and dread. With regards to gameplay, he mentioned using music to enable platforming in certain areas, whereby platforms would appear in sync with the beat.

Unlike choosing a more conventional approach, where designers implement sound and music into a game after nailing down gameplay, he felt that bringing the music composer in during the early stages could be beneficial and could also help inspire gameplay elements or level design.

Vreeland also touched upon the importance of subtlety as he felt that quiet moments would give the player time to breathe. This is probably why 20 percent of Fez’s 150 levels have absolutely no music but rely on ambience.

Finally, he encouraged developers to curb the urge to reuse music, as hearing the same tune over and over again, no matter how good it is, would diminish its importance and ultimately begin boring the player.

We caught up with Rich Vreeland shortly after his keynote speech. Check back soon for our interview.

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