Some thoughts on modern days game music composition

By Wang Qian

Usually my normal work and life is reasonable and boring, but there are still a few things that can change my emotions like a roller coaster. Especially something like non-academic composition, just like LUNA. Sometimes I was so touched by the music, sometimes I couldn’t sleep because I had no inspiration, sometimes I got crazy due to lack of patience but still had to pay attention to the details. However, this made my life feel fulfilled and interesting. This composition work was not only just a work project, but it also provided me with lots of new knowledge after I overcame some hardships and challenges.

For example, in the level “Guardian’s Room” there are several different paintings, where every painting is a story that has a logical connection between each other. When I made the music for this level, I could not just develop a music as simple as a straight line, but should show some logical connection between the music pieces. For this interactive music, I met some technical problems which were not regular music composition problems, but instead were related to the interactive and unpredictable nature of a game.

 Screenshot from Level "Guardian's Room"

Screenshot from Level "Guardian's Room"

Note: the text below is technical and boring. If you want to jump straight to the conclusion, here it is:
I don’t want to make cliché music, but interesting and unique music.

During the development of contemporary academic music, there was a bloom of new concepts and ideas about how music should be composed. I didn’t intend to compose any hard-to-understand music for the game (unless the game is avant-garde), but instead try to apply some of the new thoughts and ideas that I got from contemporary academic music concepts.

Here are some thoughts:

  1. About the music composition for the whole game, the music motive should shift logically according to the game scene. The whole game music album should not be a “risotto” with no logical connection with each other. And this logical connection is not only the similarity of the instruments and feeling of the music, but also the connection of theme A to theme B when you develop the motive of the theme.
  2. The music has four elements: melody, harmony, rhythm and tone color. In the long music development history, melody was always the priority. With the evolution of music, the harmony and rhythm are always fulfilling the music development no matter if it’s simple heterophony music or colorful romantic music, or even modern jazz. So nowadays, is it a step backwards if we emphasize mostly on the melody and not the other elements when we compose?
  3. Should we follow the trends of the market when it comes to music taste? Or should we also lead the progress of music according to the games themselves? Movies, as a big part of the entertainment industry, frequently come up with new and innovative ideas for music, so why not games too?

When I composed music for games before LUNA, these thoughts didn’t come to me. I used to think that game music which suits a game was good enough. However, with the composition of LUNA, I began to think more about how game music should be composed. Although we cannot foresee how game music trend will developed, but one thing we are certain, which is that as long as it has the fun and uniqueness, we know we are doing fine.

About how to create nice but not cliché music, I’m still trying to work on it. Maybe when you listen to this music, you’ll feel like: “Hey, that’s cliché, it’s just so so!”. Yes, I also don’t think I’m doing a perfect job, but these are my personal goals and demands for my compositions, which will hopefully turn into some unique and interesting music as follows. If this composition can inspire and help you to connect more with the game, then it would be even better!

You can click Here to listen to the LUNA game music demo.