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  • Music: Getting Satisfying Results On a Low Budget

    [09.13.16]
    - Davi Vasc
  •  Making video games is expensive. Especially if you are at the very beginning of your game development journey without any kind of funding other than your own pocket money. In this article I will share some advice on how to save money on the music for your game without renouncing quality.

    Needless to say, this will be most helpful to beginning developers that are faced with the challenge of producing a video game on a low budget. But additionally, some of the more well established developers as well as composers might also make some use of the techniques described here since those have been often used in big budget projects by choice, and not by necessity.

    Looping Tracks

    Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. If you have played a video game before chances are you probably heard a looping track on the background. It is one of the most time proven approaches to video game music. Among other things, what makes looping tracks so appealing is that they save you money. If you have a gameplay segment that is 10 minutes long, you don't need to pay for 10 minutes of music, the best composers will be able to make a short loop play many times before most people even realize that the music is repeating.

    A track that is simply on repeat is different than a track that is specifically designed to loop seamlessly, though. So make sure to communicate your needs clearly to your composer. 

    Silence is Free

    Not only free but also underestimated. A lot of people seem to think that if a game doesn't have music playing at all times, the silences will feel out of place or anti climatic. The fact is triple-A games use silence as a powerful design tool all the time. As an example, the very popular Dark Souls games are silent almost all the time, boss fights being one of the exceptions. If you played any of the games in the series you know how special the boss fights feel, partially because of the themes that fill the previously quiet soundscape when you encounter them. Silence works very well on games with a darker mood because it reinforces sensations such as loneliness, emptiness, anticipation and fear.

    Your game is not dark and somber in mood, you say? You can still use silence to convey sensations of peacefulness, solitude and quietness. As another example, most of The Legend Of Zelda games that feature an overworld with a day/night cycle are silent during the nights. I'm pretty sure Nintendo had the budget to make one or two more music themes for those games, they chose silence because silence sounds good.

    Notice that when you choose not to use music, your sound effects will be more evident than ever, so make sure those sound as good as possible for the best results.

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