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Topic: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

  1. #1

    XBox 360 and "Custom" Playlists

    Edit: I'm editing this original post, because we're going to be running a story on this in an upcoming column at CDM. See my latest post below.
    __________________________________________________ _______________
    I've been reading a lot lately about the next generation consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. While not many concrete details are available, we do know the following detail about the XBox 360:

    "If you have any songs on your hard drive [of your XBox], these can be brought into any XBox 360 game."

    The key word there is "ANY"...While I see this as a boon to gamers - hey, who wouldn't want to listen to their favorite music while playing the next big racing or fighting game, I see this is as a potential threat to the overall "artistic" effect of next-gen games. Composers and sound designers spend countless hours writing music that is design to have a very specific impact on today's games - certainly every bit as (if not more than) complex than Hollywood films.

    Do you see the ability to "customize" the music as a threat to game audio composers? How can we adapt to these new capabilities and keep players interested in what we have to offer?

    Those of you working in the industry, your feedback and thoughts would be appreciated! Aaron, Frogness, Scott - I'm talking to you guys!

  2. #2

    Re: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

    I don't see it as a problem. I doubt any developer will ship a game without music in hopes of everyone having their own music instead. Not going to happen.

    I actually think it's a good option. Sometimes after playing a game for hours on end, it would be a nice feature to swap out your own music. And if it ends up being a selling feature to get more consoles on the market, that means more game sales, which translates into more games developed. I wouldn't worry about it.


  3. #3

    Re: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

    yeah, I worried a bit about it when I saw the Microsoft conference. But as Tim Larkin i'm not too worried - I'm pretty sure only very few composers will loose gigs over this.

    But who knows

  4. #4

    Re: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

    If it's just music swapping then it's not really a technology that developers can rely on to substitute as a music score, so in that sense it's not an alternative to having your game include music.

    The first game I worked on was Horizon's: Empires of Istaria. It was an MMORPG. Being able to switch out the standard content for custom content was actually a selling point. Gamers log months into these games and we had something like 2 and a half hours of music. That's quite a descrepency. And that's actually quite a bit of music for a game, generally speaking. So it can help just as much as it hurts.

    This system will definitely destroy the cinematic effect when put in the wrong hands though, that's for sure. But, I guess if you're going to spend all this money on a game and then augment it so that it sucks, that's your business. They'll be missing out on some killer interactive music, designed to compliment each passing moment, not designed to sell albums.

    Some games just need a good beat anyway: GT4, Tony Hawk, Need for Speed.

    Over-all, I think the composer's future is pretty rosey. We love our entertainment! I don't really see it changing too much until we have tv, games, on-demand content and the internet all rolled into one unit. At that point games will be a sort of on-demand service as opposed to a product and who knows how that could change things.
    Michael Peter

    If music be the food of love...
    play on

    William Shakespeare


  5. #5

    Re: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

    I think supporting a player's own music for one of the "FEATUREs" of the game as an addition to the original music, rather than a complete replacement of or pre-requirement of the games music is a useful idea. ie a CD/Cassette deck in a racing game.

    I've never heard of a film saying, bugger paying Danny Elfman 1.5 million for this film, we'll just get the audience to bring their IPods for the cinematic experience

    Perhaps a "FEATURE" whereby players can purchase new tracks online for their in-game audio may be something worth looking into. You could have new content created in a proprietory format which is useable only with the game.
    Composer / Sound Designer / Audio Engineer

  6. #6

    Re: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

    Thanks, all, for the great responses. I suppose, in retrospect, this type of "feature" as we seem to be calling it, can only be a selling-point for today's games. As pointed out, a user-provided soundtrack cannot rival one that was composed specifically for a particular game - I mean, what would a Legend of Zelda game be without the "Zelda" theme song in some form?

    I think that, as Froggy said, it will ruin the cinematic effect of the game in most cases - but that is a choice the user must make.

    I certainly hope that developers continue to see the value in the devoted skills of game composers, however. I'm learning quickly that it is a very unique artform.

  7. #7

    Re: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

    Update: We're going to be running a story on this over at http://www.createdigitalmusic.com and I would like to get some quotes and thoughts from some of you "for the record". Please let me know via PM or similar if any of you would be interested in making a statement or two about this upcoming feature of the XBox 360.

    Thank you!

  8. #8

    Re: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

    I think that interactive music is on the rise too, switching from battle music to mood music to whatever is appropiate for the player at that moment heightens the players experience immeasurably.

    Throwing in a droning soundtrack after that might not so sound good.
    - SCA - Sound Studios -

  9. #9

    Re: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

    An example of the downside was when I was playing a lot of Dead Or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball. It was awesome that I could use all of my own favorite beach/vacation mood songs, and it really made the game so much more endearing and personal to me. HOWEVER, at the gaming websites I visited, other players of DOAEBV would fill their songlist in the game with stuff like death metal. Now, I'm not saying one music style is better or worse, since I listen to some metal myself, but IMO having nothing but death metal in that game would totally destroy the relaxing vacation mood the developers worked so hard to achieve. If you don't give them that freedom, at least the mood you worked hard to generate would be secured. I guess it depends on how badly you want the game's mood to remain as you had designed it.

  10. #10

    Re: Next Gen Consoles and "Custom" Music

    It all comes down to whether or not its a story driven game. Story driven + custom music is IMHO a bad idea. For more arcade like games (including sports games) its just fine - maybe even recommendable

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