Do we really need BGM (background music)?

Discussion in 'Indie Basics' started by yanuart, Mar 29, 2005.

  1. yanuart

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    Hi, I stumbled upon this question after I realize I never turn on the BGM when playing games (well, most of it).
    I find it quite annoying, sfx will do just fine for me in most games. I wonder how many of you guys feel the same way ?

    Developers (mostly indies) usually struggle with audio production cause making a good song is expensive and with our budget we ended up with crappy repetitive BGM. This is bad cause usually reviewers will bash your audio/sound quality (I read alot about this)

    I agreed on making BGM for the opening menu but I'm not so sure about making BGM for the game itself cause I'll probably can't afford to produce several good songs.
    So why do we need to make BGM for our games ? Is it really necessary ? What do you guys think ?
     
  2. Savant

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    I found with Big Kahuna Reef that I really enjoyed turning on the aquarium background noises rather than the music.
     
  3. stan

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    Funnily enough, the friend who composed the music for Smart Lines says that he doesn't like music in games :). Now, I don't know the answer to your question... Music can contribute a lot to a game if it is good, and it can detract from it if it is bad :]. I tried "Marble Blast Gold" yesterday, and it has a really repetitive music... kind of annoying. But then, a silent game can be boring too. It might be easier/better to find some good background sounds and play them randomly, than to make/find/pay for a good music that isn't annoying :).
     
  4. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    good background music can enhance the mood in a game. Bad bgm can ruin a game. More often than not i turn music off. There are some exceptions though. Zuma for instance had great mood music that was also context sensitive.
     
  5. Rainer Deyke

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    I almost always play mp3s in the background when playing games. However, background music is just something that games are expected to have, so a game without background music will seem less professional.
     
  6. Daire Quinlan

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    I think as pointed out above, that it all depends on the music :)
    Most background music I switch off as soon as I start to play. Some I leave on. In some instances however, The BGM becomes an absolutely essential and evocative part of the gameplay. Anybody remember X-wing, Tie Fighter, X-Wing alliance ?? Great use of BGM in those titles, the music was context sensitive. So for example XWA, you'd be floating around having finished what you thought was the last mission goal, music a nice subdued rebel theme, then suddenly the volume ramps up and segues into the Imperial theme. You instantly feel the FEAR. Seconds later the Super Star Destroyer jumps in. AAaaargh ! The BGM goes a huge way toward creating the atmosphere.

    D.
     
  7. Greg Squire

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    I believe it depends on the game and even the context within the game as to whether you need background music or not. Sometimes silence or ambient noises are the best. If you look at film, silence is often used when there is a lot of dialog going on as you don't want it to detract. If there is music during a sequence like this, it is VERY subtle. Music only enhances the emotion of a game, and since some games are more cerebral (i.e. puzzle, strategy, etc.) than emotional, it isn't needed as much in those types of games. That's not to say that background music can't enhance a puzzle or strategy game, but the need isn't as great. Genre's like FPS, Shooters, and Horror are greatly more emotional than cerebral, so the need for mood setting music and sound is much greater. The music needs to "fit" (ie. no Polka music in "Quake"), and it must be subtle enough as to not take "center stage" (unless of course, the music is integral to the gameplay like in "Dance Dance Revolution", "Beatmania", etc.)

    Here's an article that discusses some of this further - SUBTLETY AND SILENCE.
     
  8. etali

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    It depends on the game for me and how good the score is - I would expect background music of one type in a retro arcade game, another in a space game, and probably none in a driving game (the roar of the engines would be enough)

    No music is better than bad music though!

    I don't know much about the business of making games (I'm a degree student at the moment learning the conding / design stuff) but just as a thought could you contact some independant artists and ask them if they're interested in providing songs for the soundtracks - they get credits and publicity, you get a game that sounds more polished.

    --
    Etali
    http://www.myth-games.com
    http://www.myth-games.com/forum
     
  9. James C. Smith

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    I always end up turning off the background music in games I am working on. I often wondered how many end users keep the music on. I have done poles on my forum, which aren’t necessarily very accurate, but I think there must be some truth in them. The overwhelming majority of the players say they keep the music on. Most of the player who don’t listen to the music turn off all sound so they don’t disturb their family members or co-workers.
     
  10. Yarlen

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    Personally, I enjoy background music - initially at least, though more games need to include volume sliders. ;) The only thing is that most indie games don't have enough of it, so it gets annoying quickly when the tracks start to repeat.

    However, as a gamer (and a former journalist), I can tell you that most people turn off background music. Instead they'll just run Winamp in the background and listen to their MP3s.

    Overall, I think it depends on the game in question. If you don't need it to enhance the atmosphere in your title, you probably shouldn't bother. If you do, then by all means go for it - some people will appreciate it. Or, if possible, use the music sparingly, only playing it at specific points (ala Half-Life).
     
  11. Martoon

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    Personally, I eventually turn off the music on any game I play, since I can't stand to listen to the same music repeat indefinitely. How soon I turn off the music is a function of how quickly it gets annoying (it all does, eventually, but some much sooner than others). It doesn't bother me at all if a game doesn't include BGM, but most reviews I've seen of games that don't include it seem to complain of its absence, so there is an expectation of it. To me, the real cardinal sin is to not have a way to turn the music down or off, since I do want to hear the sound effects (so I don't want to just turn off my speakers).

    Unfortunately, repetitive, annoying music is cheap to license (you can easily "write" techno yourself with sequencing apps like Fruity Loops and a set of royalty-free loops you can string together), but good quality music will cost you.

    If you do create background music, or have someone do it for you, often times the best thing to have are fairly indistinct, textural washes of sound that provide more of a soundscape instead of a clear melody. This will provide a subtle audio backdrop while being less obvious that it's repeating, and will be less likely to annoy the player.
     
  12. maksum

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    I personally turn it off a lot of the time, and even dislike it in my own Add 'em Up. When I play it, I turn it off.

    In fact I originally did NOT have music in it, but users were telling me they wanted it and I was "dinged" in a couple of reviews for not having it.... so I put it in.

    My opinion is that it's probably generally a good idea to implement it, but definitely make it an option.

    Mike
     
  13. Mike Boeh

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    Music is the easiest thing in terms of production costs. There are many fantastic musicians who will create great music for a reasonable price, like Staffan Melin
     
  14. george

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    as many people have already stated, the music has to be an actual element of the game to be successful. if you just put in a couple random tracks, then it's just that: a bunch of random tracks that were put in to make the game look more "professional" and to follow the stereotypes/trends... if you position the music in a way that enhances the gameplay, such as being "conext" sensitive (adjusting to the gameplay, moods, etc.), then it can greatly enhance the game play. IMHO, music is an EASY way to enhance your game, if done right. think about how movies use music, i think thats exactly how games should... most authors ignore this i think...
     
  15. C_Coder

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    What about download size? Several music tracks will increase the game size by quite a lot.
     
  16. Rebrehc's Industries

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    I almost always turn the music off. No matter how long a clip is between repeats, it gets on the nerves big time if you're going to sit and play for an hour or more. I suppose it might not be so bad if you're only playing for 3 minutes in a sitting. My idea would be to include one decent piece of music. If you can't make your own and have to buy it, then I wouldn't even spend the money for exclusive rights. Provide your user a means for putting in their own play list and let them play the music they want if they want music. That will allow you to do another thing the user will really appreciate, keep the prices down.
     
  17. BitBoy

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    Although the majority of people seem to disable the music (at least eventually), I personally would never consider shipping a game without music. It's all about the first impression these days, especially with casual games, and having a catchy tune that sets the mood for the game could really go a long way.

    If I try out a new game and it presents me with silence I must say that I get a bit disappointed. It gives me a feeling that the game is lacking polish or that it's incomplete.

    As some people said above, if you don't want to write your own music, it's easy and not that expensive to get somebody else to do it for you. Please consider it. I seriously doubt that it could ever make your game worse, especially if you include the option to turn it off (which you should).
     
  18. Reactor

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Music is a powerful tool to use, to draw a player into your gaming experience. That's not to say every game needs BGM, but as Bitboy said, most games can seem incomplete without it. It's a powerful tool, and it makes sense to have it in use, in my opinion.
     
  19. Sharpfish

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    Agreed. Never assume what the end player wants based on your own opinions. Give them everything and options for everything. I do my own music so it is easy for me, but I understand it can be a hassle to "source" original music for those that don't.. in those case I may do as suggested above or tailor the game to use ambient effects instead.

    As for my preference, some games I turn the music straight off - others it is part of the experience and the game feels lifeless without it so I leave it on.

    options are you freind.
     
  20. JubeiDOK

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    I'll start with saying Hi! First time post. I too do not keep game music on for most of the games I play. The exceptions are usually Star Wars games.

    I just don't think that a game should need musical score. A movie relies on it to establish mood and atmosphere in an envirnment that isn't interactive. A game is, and it should be the game play that moves the player through the intended moods. It should be the gfx and ambient sounds that establish atmosphere. I think that score is just the easy way out in terms of a game. I mean a music score is basicly telling us things like "be scared now", "you're in a hurry now", or "all is well, have no fear till the next encounter". I also think that score takes away from the true emersion into an interactive game world. I don't know about other people, but I can't stand being in a game where my character is standing on the corner of a busy metropolitan street with some cheesy (even if it's good) musical score playing in the background. It makes no sense to me. Why is this music playing? Where is it coming from? These are the questions that are asked in my head, and then I'm no longer standing on that corner of a busy metropolitan street. If you're going to do it then why not do it in ways that make more sense. Like a guy walking down the street holding a ghetto blaster and the music fades in and out as he passes you by. This "blaster man" can be triggered and designed to come out at a time where tension is about run high.

    On a final note... Game worlds are interactive and I believe that that gives developers a huge advantage over other methods of story telling. Let's start to take advantage of that advantage =)
     

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