Using Songs with Lyrics in Games

watermark

Playing around with MZ
Veteran
Joined
Dec 25, 2012
Messages
699
Reaction score
750
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
So in our game Einherjar I put in songs with lyrics (all PURCHASED and legally LICENSED btw) as an experimental thing. Got the idea after playing GTA games actually. I personally loved the music, but quite a few players absolutely hated it. Interestingly, it wasn't the specific song they hated, but rather the idea of playing a song with lyrics in the background, which apparently distracts some players during play, especially in an rpg. Never thought about that before. So that got me thinking a few questions:

1. How do you feel about using songs with lyrics in games, especially RPGs?

2. Do you think they should only be in cut scenes? Can they be used in battle?

3. What games have, in your opinion, successfully used songs with lyrics in their game? Why did you think it was used well?
 

cabfe

Cool Cat
Veteran
Joined
Jun 13, 2013
Messages
2,356
Reaction score
2,555
First Language
French
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Unless it's a cutscene or a gameplay part with no text to read, I don't think it's distracting.
But if you have to read, the brain cannot do the hearing and reading parts at the same time. That'd be like following two conversations at once. Some people might be able to do it, but most cannot.

As for battle, the one that comes to my mind is the Final Fantasy 7's Sephiroth battle theme.
And I remember that I was unable to do the battle and enjoy the music at the same time.

There is another game that used a song during a battle, Alpha Protocol.
.
I think it was only used once and matched the enemy's personality, so it kind of worked there. But it was a bit distracting too.
It hasn't been used anywhere else in the game, as far as I recall.
 

Kes

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Aug 3, 2012
Messages
22,846
Reaction score
12,375
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMZ
Like the players you mention, I find lyrics a great distraction. Furthermore (especially in battle) you hear the opening sections a lot, but not the rest. It then becomes like the endless Christmas jingles you hear in some shops - deeply irritating because lyrics are intrusive in a way that wordless music is not. It is also the case, in my experience, that the lyrics are not strong enough to withstand having just the opening section played, or banal if they only last (say) 1:30 minutes as the average track length.
 

KayZaman

Brother-Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Jun 26, 2016
Messages
769
Reaction score
1,752
First Language
English & Malay
Primarily Uses
RMMV
Alright, @watermark .I gonna answer your question.

1) Kinda cool. But the songs really need to fit the genre of the game.

2) Cutscenes? Yes. Battle? I like that idea. Radio? Like GTA.

3) Few games used songs with lyrics in the best way. How? Here’s what I found:



But if RPG or JRPG, Persona 4 is the best example where some of the sountracks contain lyrics especially normal battle and strolling around the town.

I wanna use song with lyrics but the song really needs to fit the certain aspect like scenes, battle etc.
 

Joy Diamond

Talkative
Veteran
Joined
Nov 12, 2017
Messages
135
Reaction score
174
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
Greetings Watermark,

Thanks for putting the effort to add a song to your game & getting a legal license to it ... I know that is a lot of work
1. How do you feel about using songs with lyrics in games, especially RPGs?
Great! ... when done right
2. Do you think they should only be in cut scenes? Can they be used in battle?
Opening, cut scenes --- not in battles.
3. What games have, in your opinion, successfully used songs with lyrics in their game? Why did you think it was used well?
Date Warp used a song great to set the atmosphere at the beginning with the opening song. NOTE: This song was commissioned for date warp & the lyrics where written specifically about what happened in the game. This is what made it so so effective.
I adore your music in Date Warp when I played it years ago & fell in love with the opening song -- In fact, I've played the following YouTube Video many times to inspire me while programming


I really adore that song ... and have played it many times ... as I remember what worked so well, it was the opening song & then the same song (but without lyrics, or just a small part of the lyrics) would appear in the cut-scenes.

I would have hated the song distracting me in the middle of battles.​

Joy Diamond.

P.S.: The song is by @LeetMusic
 

gstv87

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Oct 20, 2015
Messages
2,826
Reaction score
1,884
First Language
Spanish
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
lyrics are usually there to say something.
if what they say has nothing to do with the action taking place,.... they don't belong there.

it's as simple as that.
 

Ms Littlefish

Dangerously Caffeinated
Global Mod
Joined
Jan 15, 2014
Messages
6,417
Reaction score
8,118
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
I think a game like Persona 5 did an amazing job using songs with lyrics. I suppose it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea (since they are playing during scenes with text), but I personally didn't find it distracting at all.

I think the amount of potential distraction will come down to how appropriate the tempo and pulse of the song is for the given situation and if it increases the ambiance or not. I think the reason why the music was so successful in a game like Persona 5 is that it often increased the feeling that you were actually there listening to it as you were walking down the street or sitting in a cafe.
 

OnslaughtSupply

Ssshhh...
Veteran
Joined
May 14, 2017
Messages
730
Reaction score
766
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
Personally I don't think songs with lyrics belong in text heavy games. It works in GTA because of the voice acting and live action combat, but in RPGs the story is generally text driven, the menu is text driven, and even the combat is text heavy. Its too distracting for most players to listen to one thing and read another. I could see it working in a visually heavy cutscene where the song goes with what's going on or a boss fight after the player has had a lot of time playing the battle system and doesn't need to read what skills do what, but personally I think that it's just a little cheesy, like montage scenes in 80s movies.
 

watermark

Playing around with MZ
Veteran
Joined
Dec 25, 2012
Messages
699
Reaction score
750
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
@Joy Diamond Thanks for the tip! I'll be sure to check out Date Warp.

@Ms Littlefish "Listening to it as you were walking down the street..." Wow thanks! That's a very inspirational tip! Very useful.

lyrics are usually there to say something.
if what they say has nothing to do with the action taking place,.... they don't belong there.
it's as simple as that.
Ah! But you see, my song WAS there to mean something! But it didn't work.

Originally, I placed my song with lyrics where it was as another way to tell the story. The song was supposed to reflect the mc's emotional state as well as internal struggle. I thought the lyrics were appropriate for what the mc was going through. Problem is...no players caught that. It's failures like these that makes one truly admire music masters like Hans Zimmer, who can tell the whole story of Batman with just two chords.

Okay, so it didn't work as expected for Einherjar, but I do think there's potential in using songs with lyrics in games, and do plan to explore this more in future games.
 

starlight dream

Loving life...One dream at a time
Veteran
Joined
Mar 14, 2017
Messages
883
Reaction score
15,370
First Language
EN, EL, FR
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
1. I don't like songs during gameplay in general. In an RPG there's a lot of reading going on and the brain must focus on clues too. In a town for example, I gotta keep track of where I've been already, who I talked to, what to buy, and lyrics steal my focus, so it can become frustrating.

Another problem is that songs with lyrics can ruin the immersion of a fantasy world. The topic of the lyrics, the musical genre, it all brings me back into reality. If I'm thinking: oh they have hip hop? in a Viking setting it's an intrusion from our modern world that is disappointing.

Music is something that lots of people disagree on, on what they enjoy. So it's risky. Even if I like a song or rhythm, many people will disagree^^.

One thing that can work for me is if the lyrics are in a language I don't understand (example a Japanese song) and if they are very low in volume, compared to the rest of the music. Because foreign words don't register as much in my mind.
Also if the lyrics come from a radio device, that is good too, because if it's too bothersome I can shut it off.
But again if they are too "modern" for a fantasy world it bugs me :p

It will mostly depend on the type of game, its content, etc. Anything CAN work.

I think your best bet is to get feedback on your specific game, so I guess I have to play Einherjar and get back to ya lol

2. Lyrics in cutscenes: yes (if there is little or no text)
In battle: there's too much reading required in battle so they are distracting. Especially if the fight requires strategy


3. I don't remember :p Some uses of a radio in modern worlds... When I play games that have the option to turn music off like racing games, I do so. ^.^
 

gstv87

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Oct 20, 2015
Messages
2,826
Reaction score
1,884
First Language
Spanish
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Originally, I placed my song with lyrics where it was as another way to tell the story. The song was supposed to reflect the mc's emotional state as well as internal struggle.

then what you need is a better engineering of cutscenes.
if the song is on point, then you have to adjust the cutscene if you don't want to interfere with the flow of gameplay.
if both the gameplay and the dialogues are on point, then you need to remove the lyrics.

that's how it works.
it's a more complex explanation, which would require to delve into psychology and art expression, but that's how I can sum it up: the player can't focus on too many things at the same time.... so either you focus on the gameplay, or the music, or the dialogues, and use generic fillers for the other factors.
when it's done correctly, they all augment one another.

you can see that technique used to full effect in many animes: when there's a scene where the characters talk and develop the story, there's a backing track with no lyrics, and when the dialogue is over (but not the scene) then the lyrics kick in, even mid-song.
they use a full song and an instrumental only song, and they blend one into the other.
in sum, the scene considers both *the dialogue* and *the song*, when it comes to *narration*
 

slimmmeiske2

Little Red Riding Hood
Global Mod
Joined
Sep 6, 2012
Messages
9,832
Reaction score
6,253
First Language
Dutch
Primarily Uses
RMXP
Interesting topic. I once had my whole game filled with songs with lyrics, because they had a whimsical fantasy feeling that I couldn't find in BGMs. I ended up scrapping that because I was afraid it would be too distracting/annoying for the players and I couldn't figure out the licenses stuff at that time.

1. It can work, but like with most questions: "It depends." is my answer :p
2. It can be used in wordless cutscenes (like on TV shows), openings, endings/credits. It can also be used in certain logical locations (e.g. concert hall, opera house, pub where a band is performing, etc.). In battles I wouldn't use it, unless it's a song battle?
3. I feel like I haven't played enough games for that, but Visual Novels tend to have very nice openings with a custom song made for the game (example). Vacant Sky Vol. 1 is another RM RPG that had an opening with a custom song.
 

Kyuukon

主人公
Veteran
Joined
Aug 22, 2013
Messages
2,278
Reaction score
1,145
First Language
Spanish
Primarily Uses
RMMV
I like it but you can't abuse the loop or players will hate it lol. It has to fit just right with the scene (for credits usually works).

Btw, where can I get songs with lyrics to license for my game? It'd be nice to know!
 

watermark

Playing around with MZ
Veteran
Joined
Dec 25, 2012
Messages
699
Reaction score
750
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
I like it but you can't abuse the loop or players will hate it lol. It has to fit just right with the scene (for credits usually works).

Btw, where can I get songs with lyrics to license for my game? It'd be nice to know!
Oh just type ‘Royalty Free Music’ and add ‘Vocals’ in Google and a whole bunch of sites will pop up. But then you’ll have to sort through them to find the exact song you want.

The faster way of course is to find a singer + composer to score it for you. I imagine it might be pretty expensive though. I think I saw an ad in classified forums a while back of someone offering to sing songs.
 

mauvebutterfly

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Jul 26, 2013
Messages
89
Reaction score
72
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
You might want a way to modify the volume of the song without starting it over. I think that by default the song restarts if you want to change the volume, so this will probably require a plug-in.

What this allows you to do is reduce the volume whenever you want the player to be focusing on something. It can be a dialogue (especially if your dialogue is voice acted) but this can be used in other places as a way to subconsciously signal to the player that they need to pay attention. Suddenly making the music quieter helps us dismiss it as background noise without being as disruptive or eerie as suddenly stopping the music altogether.

I noticed that Persona 4 does this whenever someone is about to talk, and the lyrics in their songs never felt distracting to me as a result.
 

cabfe

Cool Cat
Veteran
Joined
Jun 13, 2013
Messages
2,356
Reaction score
2,555
First Language
French
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
@mauvebutterfly Since you're talking about plugins, I suppose you're talking about how MV handles BGM.
I don't know how MV works, but I know that VX Ace does not restart a BGM if you change the volume, only if you change the pitch.
If MV runs the same, your suggestion should work without a plugin.
 

TheoAllen

Self-proclaimed jack of all trades
Veteran
Joined
Mar 16, 2012
Messages
6,843
Reaction score
9,234
First Language
Indonesian
Primarily Uses
N/A
Putting Song with lyrics is alright. It's also better when you're making an ending scene where you flashback what was happened in your game. Battle BGM also good, though I prefer choir / unsingable voice over the singable lyrics. These songs are great to put as battle theme
W-RPG :
J-RPG :

I'm not sure if I'm gonna like listening a BGM with lyrics during exploration, or scene. It might be distracting. But then I cant recall a game that use it in scene / exploration
 

Bernkastelwitch

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Jul 1, 2013
Messages
173
Reaction score
160
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMZ
I honestly think there are some factors to take into consideration here.

How intense is the song and the lyrics? Does it fit the mood or character?

Some people can handle lyrical songs while others get distracted. To me, it depends if it fits a characters personality or the scene in general. Music is a strong component to making an effective scene and some scenes don't need vocal songs while others would add more emotions or intensity if the song is lyrical.
 

rondchild

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Jul 31, 2012
Messages
362
Reaction score
269
First Language
Indonesia
Primarily Uses
1. I love it, especially those song from main theme or re-arrangement from in game BGM
2. No, you can added it on battle too!
3. Ar Tonelico series!
Check on 1.24

Atelier Aris 3, check on 3.56
 

OM3GA-Z3RO

Wounded Seraphim
Veteran
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
828
Reaction score
184
Primarily Uses
I love soundtracks with lyrics, especially if it has something to do with the situation, Nier and nier automata makes a great example for beautiful lyrics, Metal Gear Rising also has decent lyrics in its boss fights, I dunno why people find it distracting, I find it fitting.
 

Latest Threads

Latest Profile Posts

More words of wisdom: Trying to make everyone happy will just make you miserable.
Ads: "Up to 90% off"
Reality: 9 items at 10% Off, one item at 90% off
if you were working on a rhythm-based retro fighting game, would you rather have the jumps take up two beats (one for jumping, one for landing) or just one?
Only 3 more days to get your copy of Move That Box! with -15% discount!

Forum statistics

Threads
124,381
Messages
1,163,234
Members
163,180
Latest member
Viking
Top