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Being Flexible as a Composer for Games

by Kole Hicks on 12/01/11 09:00:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Composing music for games is very unique in that along with the usual number of challenges that comes with writing compelling music for media, we have an additional set of obstacles not often found when writing for other mediums.  Furthermore, we often find additional unique challenges in different sectors of the industry (Ex: Mobile games)  This is not to say composing for one medium/sector is easier or more difficult... just different.

In my article 'Things to Consider When Scoring for Games - Part 2,' I discuss three unique issues that I had to consider when composing the music for Hidden Variable's game 'Bag it!' Platform Constraints (it is a Mobile game), Creating the Appropriate 'Feel', and Being Aware of Other People's Perceptions of Music.  However, there is one other item I'd like to mention... Being Flexible.

I don't just mean when it comes to making a revision on a track either.  I like to think of it more of a way of approaching how you work/collaborate with others on the game.  Understandably, there are many different viewpoints on exactly how flexible you should be and each scenario is different depending on the project and people involved.  On one hand, you don't want to be so flexible that you're getting trampled over and taken advantage of.  However, you also don't want to be so rigid in your stance that other people don't enjoy working with you or the end product suffers.  

So, I recommend assessing the situation and having as much in writing as possible (number of iterations, etc.), but if you go over the allotted amount of iterations a few times be open to it.  Rather then getting upset, perhaps it would be best to just have a loose term in your original agreement mentioning that both parties will meet at a later date to discuss additional compensation on multiple iterations.  As long as it's a term that is understood by both parties & you have a respectable working relationship, this'll help you feel a little bit more covered while relieving any potential stress from the company (especially on a tight budget) on getting everything "Right" within the first few tries.

**Just a note as this may not be preferred in some situations, but (after assessing your own) it may work. 

Getting back to 'Bag it!,' we went through many different stylistic options before settling on something we felt fit best with the gameplay and art.  Was I originally expecting this many versions or iterations on a single track when signing our agreement?  No, but I was open to this exploration and it led to a more clear 'audio identity' for 'Bag it!' because of our previous experiments.  Don't get me wrong, I had much of this covered in our agreement and I have absolutely no problem with iterations, but it's worth mentioning.

Beyond iterations, this also includes consulting in some manner.  Especially if you're working with smaller indie teams or companies without any audio person on staff.  Your knowledge on how music/audio should work in a game, where it comes in/goes out, how loud it should be, etc. are all very useful.  I don't recommend just finishing a piece, e-mailing it over, & being 'done'... often times your opinion and expertise is highly appreciated.

Last but not least, be as flexible with your time as possible without it diminshing your personal life.  This differs from project to project, but some weeks you'll only have a small workload to finish while everyone else is focusing on a different aspect of the game.  However, you may also run into short deadlines that could slide into working over the weekend. 

As long as it's a rare occurance and there is mutual respect for each other's time, I feel it's best to be flexible and work within the company's schedule.  They're working very hard as well, so it's really appreciated when you send over iteration #3 on Sunday at 2 am for that tight deadline.

**Again, this may not be practical in every situation, but I've found that it tends to build quite a healthy working relationship.

Thanks for reading and if you've yet to read through the article linked at the top, I highly recommend it for more specific details on things I considered when scoring the music for 'Bag it!' 


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