Thursday, 12 April 2012


Sound is often overlooked by many gamers, baring down to merely that stuff in the background. However the sound within a game is an absolutely crucial component of creating that immersive environment. Would a horror game be as scary without an eerie soundtrack or the sudden bangs that make you jump? Would a fantasy game be that epic without a sympthony orchestra and choir? Even down to the small pieces like boss battles or that jaunty tune playing in the background of a tavern.

Music within games seems to fall into two categories to my understanding. There's the music that just fades into the background, nothing innately wrong with it, maybe helps set the scene yet ultimately forgotten as soon as you leave the game. Then there is the memorable music; not just in an 'Oh yeah, I remember that' sense but in a unanimous anyone who played that game will remember it kind of way.
For example, anyone who played morrowind would remember the title music. This was such a fan favourite among gaming that they redid it for Skyrim. The music of Oblivion was also so well liked that they included a lot of it (untouched as far as I could tell) within Skyrim as well.

Musical score however, is not the only sound within a game. Equipment sounds(guns, spells etc), ambience, voice acting and lets not forget the little things like menu browsing and footsteps are among the things all help to enrich the gaming experience. The best part for me is when sound plays a direct part in the game-play like the aforementioned footsteps in games like Thief and SplinterCell. I love me a stealth game.

Voice acting is a fervent interest of mine, I just love it when a character is brought to life with a well suited voice. I put a few of my favourite examples in the Characters blog several months back but I like voice acting so much I'm gona put some more up alongside my favourite voice actors.

Kel'Thuzad – Warcraft 3 Reign of Chaos, voiced by Michael Mcconnohie
Excuse the dodgy fan art.
War never looked so terrifying...

War – Darksiders, voiced by Liam O'Brien
What I find great (and sometimes disturbing) is hearing a voice on a character and then seeing the guy who did it to then go 'Wait, what? This dude did that voice?' 'Cus they never look how you'd expect. Liam O'Brien is a perfect example of this, if you skip to 1:00 in this video you'll see him and more importantly, hear their normal everyday voice.

I suppose it would be bad to bring the voices of Darksiders into this blog without mentioning Mark Hamill. Ever wonder where this guy went after Luke Skywalker? Fuck knows, but in the last few years he's done some pretty bad ass voices for some pretty evil characters, you'd never have known this was him unless someone told you.
The Watcher – Darksiders; Joker – Batman.

Nathan Drake – Uncharted, voiced by Nolan North
This guy also did the voice for Desmond Miles in Assassin's Creed among many others including the Penguin in Batman: Arkhum City. Although it's the same voice for both Desmond and Drake, I really feel like North was perfect for Nathan, he got the humour across without making me want to throttle the character (Hawk – Dragon Age 2) as well as making the more serious scenes believable proving to me he wasn't a one-dimensional character. On top of that he's a funny fucker and does an amazing Christopher Walken impression... 

Going back to the musical scores, or more specifically, the composers, I think it's fucking faboo that some big-time composers are taking an interest in the games industry. My favourite of all is Danny Elfman pretty much because he did the music for Fable which is, out of all the games I've ever played, my absolute favourite. The reason for that can wait for another time but about the music.
To sum up Fable in one sentence: A colourful and often times playful exterior with an interior of misery and sadness. Kind of like a 1960's household.
The visual for fable were all vibrantly coloured and highly saturated, the characters were somewhat out of proportion with funky movements and you often went around doing silly little things like kicking chickens or sneering at children. The game was so light-hearted and fairytale-like that when it got into the darker stuff, dealing with treachery, death and fear it in a weird way became quite serious. As if while playing this game you, yourself, started as a child and as it progressed you had to mature and realise life isn't all fun and games. From happy and easy to pain and hardship.

So Scott, what about the music?

Well, funny you should ask, voice-in-my-head. Danny Elfman does the music for many a Tim Burton movie, probably most renowned for A Nightmare Before Christmas. The relevance of this being that Tim Burton's movies are gothic fairytales, essentially. Boy meets girl, little adventure etc So this complimented Fable perfectly and, I gotta say, Elfman delivered. Maybe it's the rose-tinted goggles but I remember every tune from the different zones, they all just worked so perfectly to make the atmosphere while not being so varied it just seemed almost garish in an audible sense.

I'll leave you with the theme from Bowerstone South, the town you first arrive in. It's a standard little medieval town with wooden houses, merchant stools, a tavern where people drink and play games. Combined with the sunny day, green grass on the ground and chirpy townsfolk it was a really welcoming experience. For probably the first time ever in gaming, I felt like I could spend ages in a town whereas usually I cant wait to get out of those dreary quest-hubs and get on with the killin'.

No comments:

Post a Comment