Adaptive music

In video games, adaptive music (also called dynamic or interactive music) is background music whose volume, rhythm or tune changes in response to specific events in the game.


Adaptive music was first used in the video game Frogger by Konami (1981), where the music would abruptly change once the player reached a safe point in the game.

After this, its next uses in major video games were Wing Commander, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss. It has since been used in such games as Mushroom Men and Guitar Hero.

Many of LucasArts' games used the iMUSE dynamic music system, from Monkey Island 2 onwards and including games like Dark Forces, Star Wars: TIE Fighter, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. The iMUSE system is notable in that it segues seamlessly between different pieces of music rather than having an abrupt cut.

Later games which made notable use of similar dynamic music systems include the Deus Ex and Freespace series of games.

It is also a staple of the role-playing game genre, often being used to change the music when the player is in combat, such as in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind or Kingdom Come: Deliverance[1]

Horizontal and vertical techniques

The music in video or computer games and certain films is meant to draw the audience through a storyline using two distinct techniques: horizontal re-sequencing and vertical re-orchestration. Horizontal re-sequencing is the method by which pre-composed segments of music can be re-shuffled according to a player’s choice of where they go in a storyline or environment. The most basic re-sequencing technique is to simply crossfade between two cues immediately. When the scenario changes, the first cue is faded out while the second cue fades in. A more elaborated technique when using this method is phrase branching. In this case the change to the next segment starts when the current musical phrase is ended.[2] A more sophisticated and flexible technique are dedicated transitions. Transitions are triggered when switching between different segments. These transitional elements make the changes musically fluent and therefore keep up the flow of Music.[1]

Vertical re-orchestration is the technique of changing the mix of separate parts of an ongoing loop of music in relation to a player’s movement within the narrative of a game. Games, such as Halo 2, employ a mixture of these techniques in the creation of their soundtracks. Street Fighter II and Mario Kart DS are examples of games which change the music's tempo under certain circumstances.

Algorithmic music

Instead of relying on individual tracks of audio such as in horizontal re-sequencing and vertical re-orchestration, some games automatically generate their content on the fly, such as the case of Spore, which uses an embedded version of the music software Pure Data to generate music to certain cues such as the addition of parts to your creature throughout the game.[3]

Soundtrack switching

Games may also employ two soundtracks and mix between them, as in the case of FTL: Faster Than Light, which has an "explore" and "battle" version of each track. When the player is in battle with another ship, the audio fades into the "battle" version. This "battle" version is usually reasonably similar to the "explore" version with the addition of drums and similar dark timbres. Because of this, the transition is rather smooth and doesn't ruin the player's immersion. This is in contrast to the invincibility theme in the Super Mario series which aims to stick out, making the change sudden and obvious.

Interactive blending of music and sound effects

Some video games, such as Rez and Extase, use sound effects triggered by the player's actions that are automatically delayed to stay in synchronization with the background music and that blend well with the music. This creates an interactive musical landscape in which the player's actions actively and instantaneously take part, enhance, shape and influence the music. On the box of Extase, such a music system, created by Stéphane Picq, was advertised with a sticker as "Interactive Music System."

As goal of the game

Music games such as Sound Shapes use adaptive music as the goal of the game. As the player gets better at the game (and collects more 'coins'), the soundtrack (which is entirely composed of the melodies and beats created by these 'coins') intensifies as a sign that they're doing well.

Other occurrences

Adaptive music was used notably in theatre in 2010 in the play 'Dom Duardos' from Gil Vicente, co-produced by Companhia Contigo Teatro and Grupo de Mímica e Teatro Oficina Versus, with music by Pedro Macedo Camacho.[4][5]

See also


  1. ^ a b Sporka, Adam; Valta, Jan (2 October 2017). "Design and implementation of a non-linear symphonic soundtrack of a video game". New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia. 23 (4): 229–246. doi:10.1080/13614568.2017.1416682.
  2. ^ Sweet, Michael (13 June 2016). "Top 6 Adaptive Music Techniques in Games - Pros and Cons - Designing Music NOW". Designing Music Now.
  3. ^ Kosak, Dave (20 February 2008). "Gamespy: The Beat Goes on: Dynamic Music in Spore". GameSpy. IGN Entertainment, Inc.
  4. ^ dnoticias, Newspaper news about Dom Duardos from Gil Vicente, retrieved 2011-01-15
  5. ^ audiokinetic, Audiokinetic interview with Pedro Macedo Camacho (PDF), retrieved 2011-01-15
  • Lieberman, David 2006. Game Enhanced Music Manuscript. In GRAPHITE '06: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Australasia and South East Asia, ACM Press, Melbourne, Australia, 245 - 250.
A Composer's Guide to Game Music

A Composer’s Guide to Game Music is a 2014 book written by Winifred Phillips, a video game composer with over 11 years experience creating music for such games as Assassin’s Creed Liberation, God of War and multiple games in the LittleBigPlanet franchise. Through the use of autobiographical anecdotes, scholarly discussion and practical advice, Phillips explores the creative and technical process of composing music for video games. The book was published by The MIT Press on February 14, 2014. The book has received many positive reviews and has won multiple awards.

Chance Thomas

Chance Thomas is an American composer, author, and entrepreneur. As a composer, he creates original music for animation, video games, movies, television, and virtual reality. His music has underscored both critical acclaim and commercial success, including an Oscar, an Emmy, and billions of dollars in sales worldwide.Chance is best known for scoring video games like DOTA 2, The Lord of the Rings Online and James Cameron’s Avatar. He also scored Columbia Pictures’ The ChubbChubbs!, which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and TV movie Lost Treasure Hunt, which was nominated for two Emmy Awards.

Chance is the author of a university textbook, Composing Music for Games: The Art, Technology and Business of Video Game Scoring. The book was released in 2016 by CRC Press, an imprint of Taylor and Francis Publishing. “As an entrepreneur, Chance founded HUGEsound in 1998 and sold it in 2016 to a large and diversified entertainment conglomerate, R Legacy Entertainment. He now serves as VP of Music and Creative Development for the new HUGEsound Post Production.His projects have won major awards, including an Oscar, Emmy, IGN, Telly, Aurora and several G.A.N.G. awards. He is considered the father of game music Grammy eligibility and was honored in 2013 with the Game Audio Network Guild's Recognition Award.

Guy Whitmore

Guy Whitmore is a composer specializing in video game music, notable for creating the soundtracks to Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, Russian Squares, Peggle 2, Shivers, Shivers II: Harvest of Souls, Blood, Blood II: The Chosen, Shogo: Mobile Armor Division and No One Lives Forever. He is the co-founder of a music production company called Music Design Network, and a founding member of the Seattle Composers Alliance.

Guy Whitmore has specialized in creating "adaptive music" for video games, using techniques such as cross-fading, location-based music, and techniques to render music "on-the-fly" rather than using "pre-rendered" linear tracks.

IEZA Framework

The IEZA framework is a 2-dimensional framework that describes the auditory environment of video games. It was developed by Sander Huiberts and Richard van Tol at the Utrecht School of the Arts between 2003 and 2008, and it can be used for the analysis and synthesis (conceptual design) of sound in computer games.

Paul Thomson (composer)

Paul Ross Thomson (born 18 February 1972 in Walsall, Staffordshire) is an English composer for film, television, and video games who lives in Los Angeles. He won the 2012 Royal Television Society Craft & Design Award for Music Original Title for his theme music The Fades featured on BBC's cult series.

Rom Di Prisco discography

Rom Di Prisco is a contemporary Canadian composer and electronic audio producer of music for video games, movies and television programs. He also produces remixes for other music artists. This article lists his works.

Stanley Jungleib

Stanley Jungleib (born Stanley Young, May 15, 1953) is an American musician, philosopher, author, inventor, and entrepreneur. He is best known for wide-reaching influence in digital music and synthesizer design. Most notably his commitment to software techniques liberated digital audio from the desktop computer, enabling broad applications ranging from game platforms and laptops to cell phones and other miniature devices. Currently he is expanding the field of psychoenergetic computing and writes on philosophy, music, technology, communications, and politics.

The Conduit

The Conduit is a first-person shooter video game developed by High Voltage Software for the Wii console and Android. The Conduit was revealed on April 17, 2008, and on October 29, 2008, the developer announced that Sega had signed on to be the game's publisher. The game was released in North America on June 23, 2009, in Europe on July 10, 2009, and in Australia on July 16, 2009.Development of The Conduit began in October 2007. The game makes use of the Quantum3 engine, a game engine designed by High Voltage Software specifically for the Wii. The engine allows effects such as bump mapping, reflection and refraction, and gloss and detail mapping to be implemented in the game. High Voltage Software's goal in creating the engine was to make The Conduit a competitive experience visually comparable to games on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.The campaign storyline focuses on an alien invasion of Washington, D.C. in the near future. The alien race, known as the Drudge, uses the eponymous portal-like Conduits to deploy their forces throughout the city. A shadow government organization called the Trust sends newly inducted agent Michael Ford into the area initially to disrupt a terrorist threat, but he quickly becomes embroiled in the fight to stop the invasion and save the capital from destruction. The online multiplayer feature of the game can support up to 12 players and includes several game modes such as "Free for All" and "Team Reaper", and has voice chat capability through the Wii Speak peripheral.A sequel, Conduit 2, was announced on March 29, 2010, and released in April 2011. A high definition port titled The Conduit HD for Android was released, initially for devices with Nvidia Tegra chipsets, on March 14, 2013. The port went on to receive critical acclaim.

The Mark of Kri

The Mark of Kri is an action-adventure game developed by SCE San Diego Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment exclusively for PlayStation 2. The game was followed by Rise of the Kasai, which was released in April 2005.

Troels Brun Folmann

Troels Brun Folmann (born 10 January 1974 in Copenhagen) is a Danish composer specialised in epic orchestral music featured in TV shows, trailers and video games, such as the Tomb Raider series, and commercial/trailers for films such as Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Illusionist and 10,000 BC, and the fourth season of TV series America's Got Talent. He has worked on the Tomb Raider series with Crystal Dynamics for Tomb Raider: Legend, Tomb Raider: Anniversary and Tomb Raider: Underworld, and the spin-off Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, refreshing for the first time the classical music style of the old series coming with a new way of perceiving Lara's scores, a much more electronic approach and trailer modern orchestral feeling.

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