How do you prefer to control music in your game?

ADMtn

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Some design questions regarding music (it's not about gameplay "mechanics," so I think General Discussion is the right forum for this):

1. Do you have music almost everywhere in your games (relatively common JRPG approach)? Or do you have more quiet moments, perhaps utilizing more ambient noise, and only play music once in a while (more common for open-world games).

2. Do you set your maps to autoplay BGMs; do you exclusively use events to have greater control as to when BGM or MEs play; or do you use a mix of both?

Obviously, I'm trying to brainstorm and decide what to do with my own project.

My current project is open world, so I'm leaning towards having music only play once in a while through MEs when the player enters a "region" or otherwise triggers an event. Ideally, these would be spread out enough so the music track doesn't constantly change or restart while the player is exploring, but close enough together so there isn't too much quiet time. In comparison to the 3D open-world games by major developers, I would probably prefer to have music play at a higher ratio in my project since it's a 2D RPG with smaller spaces to explore (and, obviously, these spaces won't have people stopping to marvel at the environment as they might do in The Witcher 3, Skyrim, or after climbing a tall building in Spider-Man).

I'm somewhat conflicted since I spent hours and hours listening to music and setting looping points so the tracks I've compiled would loop properly as BGMs. I'm not sure I want all of that effort to go to waste, but the player's enjoyment and experience will have to take priority (of course, battle track loops will still be useful--though I'm also not a fan of forcing my player to sit through too many long fights...). After writing this post, I am leaning towards a mixed approach (BGM loops for certain areas; and MEs which play once in other areas where some quiet exploration/travel moments are more suitable).

Would love to hear your opinions. Thanks!
 

Finnuval

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. Do you have music almost everywhere in your games (relatively common JRPG approach)? Or do you have more quiet moments, perhaps utilizing more ambient noise, and only play music once in a while (more common for open-world games).
I have the more openworld approach since it fits my setting and game better (despite not being openworld lol) . Ofcourse it does mean going heavy on ambient sounds. Silence is rare and only for those moments that really need to drive home a specific point.
It also depends heavily on what 'gamemode' the player is in. (my game is a detective game) so when activly detecting there is a soft BGM playing both forr athmosphere aswell as cclue to the player what gamemode they are in.

2. Do you set your maps to autoplay BGMs; do you exclusively use events to have greater control as to when BGM or MEs play; or do you use a mix of both?
Pretty much always use events for all sounds including BGM as it is easier to control that way.

And thats my two cents :)
 

ADMtn

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Thanks for the response, Finnuval!

A detective game sounds promising. I guess yours is kind of on-rails with the narration and gameplay, since you said it's not open world. A detective game where you had to travel around an open world to talk to potential witnesses and find evidence would be pretty interesting (but more time consuming to create, obviously; I guess that's kind of what L.A. Noire is).

Was hoping someone would show up with some unique methods to share, but I guess I'll have to start experimenting on my own.
 

Finnuval

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A detective game where you had to travel around an open world to talk to potential witnesses and find evidence would be pretty interesting
Well there is a lot of this except the travel around - you are limited to the crimescene so to speak - the rest is in there though :)


Was hoping someone would show up with some unique methods to share,
Give it time. You might still get those responses.


but I guess I'll have to start experimenting on my own.
That is always a good thing to do xD
 

Lornsteyn

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1. Currently yes.

2. I use events, autoplay isnt very useful, since I need the bgm to fade etc.

There are probably moments in game where only ambient sounds are fitting for a scene, but Music is one of the most important thing and shouldnt be discarded.
 

Scribblestick

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Sort of depends on the type of level I'm building. I have a few levels where the same background music plays the whole time, so I just autoplay it and move on. Some levels are a bit longer, and having one song would get annoying, so I'll mix it up, either with new music for a mid-level boss or a different song for a section of the level. In those instances I'll use events.

I absolutely have quiet sections, as I think the narrative warrants it, though I don't think I've used complete silence yet. I'll have some quiet water drips, or a generator hum, or rain, or something like that.
 

Sheklon

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So far in my current project I'm using the traditional JRPG approach of a theme song for each location. Some things must be considered in that regard, because although I wanted to have more variety in the music in my game, having too many audio files can increase the overall size of the final project.

I thought about coming up with a dynamic OST system such as Skyrim's which has a playlist that plays random tracks based on the location and whether you are in combat or not. Besides the file size, though, this could also be a bit painful to manage, since I would have to disable this everytime I wanted to make a special scene with specific music or have any other type of audio control in my game.

Additionally, having a whole playlist of songs to play would require these songs to play in a larger area so that the player would actually ever get to listen more than one track. Since most RM maps are relatively small and I don't intend to make the player fiddle too much in one spot, I ended up scratching that idea.
 

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For dungeons, I use ambient sound effects instead of "music". Like the 1st dungeon in my project is a Damp Cave, so you hear water dripping, a bit of echo, etc... Towns get music, but not "songs", i.e. no vocals.

If you're doing an open-world game, perhaps this will be useful (it was linked elsewhere on the forums)
This way you have ambient sounds that fit the environment. I use one of them for my 1st dungeon. The tracks are like ~25mins long so you'll definitely need to cut it shorter lol. I bought the whole pack, even though it was pricey heh. A single track is super cheap though, like £1.50 (prices on their page is in Pounds).
 

RCXDan

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Not quite sure what you mean but I'll give it a shot.

So in my games the music often shifts depending on the tone even in places that aren't dungeons - I almost never use the auto play bgm feature since I feel it's too limiting.

I keep a parallel processing box active on every map that changes the music dynamically to fit the scene, like the once happy town having sad music when its deserted.

Dungeons I absolutely have a special theme play for them, as they often play major roles both in gameplay and story.

Ambient noises and silence are used when they are the most effective, like investigating a murder or sitting back to watch the sunset on the horizon.
 

cabfe

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I use BGM everywhere, but my game is story-focused, not a RPG. But that doesn't prevent BGS to be used as well. You have to correcly balance the volume, but it's not too hard.

And I don't use the autoplay because I prefer to have more control about the when and where + fade in/out.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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My games have been notably narrative-heavy, linear but character-driven. Take my methods as you will.

1) Do you have music almost everywhere in your games?
I've used silence, fadeouts and song changes for dramatic and storytelling stuff. There's almost always background music, so the absence of sound means that stuff is about to happen. Usually bad stuff.

2) Do you set maps to autoplay music (etc)?
Mostly. Unless it's the cutscene version of a map, each one has music that auto-loads when the player enters. As mentioned above, I have used eventing to tweak when and where music plays. I'd only changed music during longer dialogue and cutscenes thus far, though. I'm pondering cool ways to change music mid-exploration as I type this.

Regarding the open-world stuff, I'd say it depends on your ideas. I played The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion till 3 AM last night, and I wouldn't say it'd be the same without background music. The countryside of Cyrodiil wouldn't be as majestic, the dungeons wouldn't be as tense, and even city sprawls wouldn't feel as cozy without a fitting tune. Same with Bethesda's Fallout titles, and even The Quest's few tunes rarely felt old. Well, except the battle theme, but that's an common RPG problem.

That said, From Software's exploration-based games do well with quiet. Not even just Dark Souls lacking songs outside of bosses, but even their PS1-era Echo Night games also did well with a silent atmosphere. I think. I'd only watched reviews. In this, I feel FromSoft did the opposite of how I handle BGM: when music breaks the silence, it's time to pay attention.

If you're worried about music breaking immersion from repetition, I'd say to go the route of Bethesda's open-world RPGs or heck, even the Mother series and its battle songs. It may be worth it to randomize when songs play in areas, changing each time the player enters them. Walking into a town could be evented to search for Town Themes A thru D, and keep the picked track until a) the player leaves and re-enters the town or b) a cutscene requires a different song.

It may be possible to have the game shuffle tracks, and remember which song is "active", through both Common Events and conditional branches. However random numbers are picked in RM (I assume variables), it should set a switch for that track and turn off all others. If the song must change mid-area, once the song would change back, have it call a conditional branch like "If [Town A Theme] is ON, play this track; else, If [Town B Theme] is ON", etc.
 

Sheklon

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It may be possible to have the game shuffle tracks, and remember which song is "active", through both Common Events and conditional branches. However random numbers are picked in RM (I assume variables), it should set a switch for that track and turn off all others. If the song must change mid-area, once the song would change back, have it call a conditional branch like "If [Town A Theme] is ON, play this track; else, If [Town B Theme] is ON", etc.
It's possible to use two variables instead of using switches, actually. Have one variable for "active song" and another for "last song played", and it should function the same way.
 

ADMtn

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Guess I should finally respond.

I went ahead and experimented with a few things after the first responses. At the moment, I basically have a playlist that cycles through a number of songs during exploration and hanging out in town. The playlist also includes silence (i.e., no BGM) once in a while to give the player's ear drums a break. I did this using a common event and utilizing a variable counter. On top of that, of course, I'm also using normal events to change music for scenes which require more specific moods.
 

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