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Staying In Tune: Richard Jacques On Game Music's Past, Present, And Future
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Staying In Tune: Richard Jacques On Game Music's Past, Present, And Future

June 16, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 10 Next

I haven't noticed it as much recently, but in the past, when battle music was brought in by your proximity to the enemy, sometimes you could get in and out of that range and make stupid things happen. How do you deal with those kinds of considerations? I know that's not on your side, the implementation, but...

RJ: Sure. Well, sometimes it is. I mean, I try and do as much of my own implementation as I can, but obviously it's down to the programmer, or depending on the toolset, something like that. The choices of how we use interactivity with music are kind of between lead coder, lead designer, and composer, really.

I could say, "Sure, my music changed dependent on how far I am from an enemy, or a number of enemies, or the ferocity of an enemy," but it's about these hopes. There's no real set rules for this. It's kind of down to personal implementation, and it does depend on the game.

You look at something like Mario Kart on the N64, and even thought that was done with a sound chip -- there's no CD drive -- the great thing about that is the tempo of the last lap. That works within the race. It's simple, and it works so well. And of course, CD-based music or any disc-based music, you can't really do that easily, because it's a different beast.

But I think it's a question of... now we can produce good interactive scores. Now we're looking at... well, it's the creative choices that are going to be the most important thing in the next two to four years, I believe.

What we're going to hook into in the game code is... Is it about the speed of driving our car? Is it about how rapidly we're firing our gun? These kinds of things. What kind of feedback do we want from the music? It could be very simple things, very complex things, or the number of hooks we put in to change the music. It's a complex puzzle, and we're still all trying to solve the puzzle, really.

What do you think about licensed music in games? I'm personally not a big fan of it, myself.

RJ: Being honest, back when it first started around '95 or '96, I think most composers were worried, "Oh no, the record industry is taking over." At that time, I was an in-house composer, and the music industry made it seem like composers wouldn't be needed.

From a personal point of view, when I heard Wipeout, I thought it was awesome, because it was chosen so well. The bad thing about licensed music is that often, the completely wrong choices are made.

I don't think people have the game in mind enough when they're choosing artists, bands, DJs, and whatever to license tracks or even create new tracks. All of that is going to be marketing-driven in some sense.

Whatever an audio director will say, there will always be an element of, "We want this band, because they are this band, or this singer, or whatever."

I think Wipeout is still the finest example. I think all of the Wipeout soundtracks have been so fitting for the game. Apart from that, nothing's completely blown me away, to be frank.

But I'm a big fan of stuff like Rez. When Mizuguchi works with those artists, they're producing their own custom tracks. I think that is the way we should be going, because a lot of these guys are gamers, and they want to produce stuff themselves, rather than, "We want this track and this track."

A good thing about licensed music is that we wouldn't have a lot of music and rhythm-action games without a lot of licensed music. So that's a great thing. I'm not a fan of putting it in for the sake of it, and I'm not a fan of... I mean, for a racing game, if they fill it full of rock music, what happens if you don't like rock music?

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