Evolve is the latest release from Turtle Rock Studios, yet another co-op shooter from the developers who made a name for themselves with the Left 4 Dead franchise. Evolve follows a similar structure to its zombified predecessors in terms of gameplay, with the whole game revolving around a premise of kill or be killed. Once one of these outcomes has been achieved, the game is over. You would think that with such a narrow and unchanging gameplay, it would be difficult to conceive of new creative ideas once a central musical theme has been established. But British Academy Award Winning composer Jason Graves uses a number of interesting tactics to keep the soundtrack fresh and original.
Often games use a style of audio presentation called ‘reactive music,’ which is music that fits specific events that a player experiences in real time. The difficulty for soundtrack composers on multiplayer games is that reactive music is no longer an option as every player is experiencing something different. To overcome this obstacle, Jason uses what’s called ‘stingers’. Stingers are snippets of music that last only a few seconds which are used to emphasise particular events that happen during gameplay. Jason made hundreds of these stingers and set them to background music to be triggered by each player during gameplay.
Apart from stingers, the OST for Evolve could be considered ‘atmospheric music’. This means that the music focuses mainly on the atmosphere and tone of the game, which makes sense in the style of game such as Evolve where the emphasis is placed on the gameplay.
Another interesting quality of the Evolve soundtrack is the instrumentation. Although it sounds entirely computerised, Graves actually created much of the soundtrack using a myriad of percussion instruments, guitar effects and even household products such as pencils, a pizza box, part of a bird cage and a roller chair.
Graves also has his name on over 50 other game soundtracks, including EA’s ‘Dead Space’, Square Enix’s ‘Tomb Raider’ and Sony’s latest release ‘The Order: 1886,’ which was released on the 20th of February 2015, only ten days after the release of Evolve. He is also the winner of 31 awards including the British Academy Award for Best Original Score (Dead Space).These accomplishments add up to a very well established career in the gaming audio world for the young composer who will no doubt continue to please gaming audiences around the world.
Hotline Miami is a game that has seen glorious and lasting popularity because of a number of refreshingly original qualities. It emerged straight from the bowels of Europe as the first and most admired work by Swedish indie game developer Dennaton Games. Perhaps the most notable trait of Hotline Miami is the unavoidable, unashamed and (a little worryingly) addictive violence. The soundtrack for Hotline Miami seems to be generally accepted by the wider gaming community as one of the best of its genre in recent years. It contains all the right ingredients for a soundtrack that you’ll struggle to get out of your head, and will forever remind you of the many sleepless nights you spent in front of Hotline Miami.
The Hotline Miami OST has so far wrangled a staggering 2,000,000+ YouTube views which is impressive for any standalone game soundtrack, let alone a debut release from an indie game developer. The artists behind the music include MOON, Jasper Byrne, Elliott Berlin and El Huervo, to name a few. The music they have used for Hotline Miami follows the tried and true pattern of catchy, repetitive beats that ride along beautifully with the infamously violent gameplay. There are four main segments in each chapter of the game, each with their own splendid tracks.
The start of each chapter takes place in the player’s home, which is one of two segments where death isn’t looming around every corner. The music reflects this with cool, breezy tracks that really do remind me of what I would imagine the sleazy side of 1980’s Miami to be like, despite never having been there. Next comes the violence that you will no doubt replay many times each chapter, accompanied by the bread and butter of hypnotic techno, with the track ‘Hydrogen’ by MOON being a perfect example of one of many such tracks featured in Hotline Miami. During this stage of the game the music puts you in a sort of murderous craze that has you grinning through the murder and carnage. What follows is one of my favourite examples of how game audio can be used to influence a game’s mood. After the massacre is over, the music dies down to a single mournful drone as you are forced to retrace your steps through the blood and gore you so happily wreaked only moments ago. You’re given a chance to reflect on your motives and question why you’re even performing such atrocities in the first place, the lonely noise amplifying any mixed emotions you may feel. I never fail to be amazed at how effectively creepy such a simple level ending can be.
Miami Hotline is ultimately a great game with a soundtrack that is arguably of equal enjoyment to listen to. As far as indie games go, there is little doubt about the ingenuity of Miami Hotline and its music, hats off to Dennaton Games and the artists.
Terraria is a side-scrolling, action-adventure, sandbox indie game created by Re-Logic, and with a soundtrack composed by Scott Lloyd Shelly.
Terraria is sometimes described as a 2D version of Minecraft but there are enough unique aspects for the two games to stand apart. Behind the pixel-style art is a surprisingly deep RPG. The gameplay involves exploring, mining, crafting, building and boss fights. The procedurally generated world is full of loot, monsters and bosses such as the Eye of Cthulhu and Eater of worlds. Dig down to find precious items that can be used to take on tougher enemies.
Terraria has over 30 tracks, each designed specifically to suit certain levels. Airy ambient sounds drift along as you explore the magical surface land then the pulse increases as the action heats up and you take on hordes of creatures that spew forth from the dark depths. In an interview with cheerfulghost.com, Shelly explains that, “A) this is a 2D game, with a retro-ish 80’s style pixelated look – and b) potentially huge (and magical) worlds are getting created, so maybe some big orchestral sounds can be created as well. I was pretty much trying to create a hybrid of those two elements that would hopefully become unique to the game.”
Shelly’s audio concept comes to fruition in Terraria’s soundtrack. Anyone who was a part of the gaming world during the 80’s and 90’s will be sure to feel a great wave of nostalgia while playing Terraria, and anyone who is prone to states of emotional reminiscence of their younger days are warned to proceed with caution. Nothing beats a game that can marry a soundtrack with its gameplay and Scott Lloyd Shelly really hits the nail on the head with Terraria.
"Game audio can have a significant impact on the player in a variety of ways. Audio tells a story by setting the mood or directing the player with queues. Audio immerses players in a world through music and ambiance. Music creates emotional responses such as anticipation, wonder, fear and joy."