Many video games developers today are selling their titles short by not considering music early enough.
That’s according to Chuck Doud, director of music at Sony Worldwide Studios, who delivered the opening keynote at today’s Game Music Connect 2015.
“A lot of developers continue to fail [when it comes to music],” he told attendees. “It’s not enough to hire a composer, go to Abbey Road to record, then drop the music in at the end of the development cycle.”
Games music, he said, is a different experience, a different medium, and if you don’t consider the soundtrack from the beginning, you’re missing the opportunity to create something powerful.
Doud pointed to several of his own team’s projects of examples where music was considered a crucial pillar from the beginning. These included Journey, a game that famously features no dialogue and therefore depends on the music for its emotional tone, and The Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, which the team at Sony helped to produce.
He also cited The Last of Us, acclaimed for its score as well as its storytelling, giving examples of how a single theme was used in different ways to express the relationship between main characters Joel and Ellie.
In fact, one scene of the game was designed entirely around the music.
Composer Gustavo Santaolalla came up with a series of themes for various elements of the game, including a piece entitled ‘All Gone’, which is used for a variety of Joel and Ellie’s scenes together. Once the theme was composed, the Sony Worldwide music team created multiple versions and an entire suite based on this single cue.
When Naughty Dog was designing the scene in which Joel helps Ellie escape from hospital, it was originally designed as an action sequence, with Joel gunning down enemies while supporting Ellie with one arm. The scene wasn’t working, and the Naughty Dog team decided to revise it entirely.
At this stage, the music team presented an unused version of ‘All Gone’ that resonated well enough with Naughty Dog that the studio redesigned the hospital scene around the emotional tone of the music, according to Doud.
“The reason music succeeds in these games is because it was identified as an integral part very early on,” he said.
“Games are unique in how we can marry the creative vision for music and the technology that delivers that vision.”
He added that while many studios “continue to fail”, leaving music until too late in the development cycle, there are a number of games creators starting to take notice of the titles that don’t.
“There’s a lot more talk from developers pointing to games that get it right, and asking the right questions to work out how they can do this,” said Doud.
“No matter how good the music is, if it’s not delivered in a way that’s emotionally compelling, it’s not doing its job.”