We need it to make you feel…

Howdy Ya’ll, I would like to take some time today to discuss how technical processes can influence different aesthetic outcomes in video games and examine how this impacts their target audience. For this discussion I have chosen two songs from my two favourite games; the “Kredits Music” of Mortal Kombat X and the “Evolved Theme” from Geometry Wars 3 – Dimensions Evolved.

The two examples you are about to hear are polar opposites and after we have analysed the technical requirements for creating these soundtracks, we will see why they were successful in making us feel emotion and discover why the audio matches the visual aesthetic, making a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Mortal Kombat X – Kredits Music

Unless you have been under a rock for the last 20 years then no doubt you know what Mortal Kombat is, for those in the audience today who don’t know what Mortal Kombat is…shame! Just joking, MKX is an arcade style fighting game where the characters brutally fight to the death for their realm.

To begin with, let’s have a look at some of the instrumentation for this piece of music written by Dan “Toasty” Forden, Audio Director at NeatherRealm Studios.

There is a very nicely balanced blend of traditional orchestral, ethnic and synthesised instruments in this track that suits the feel of this game, the blend of instruments being analogous to the eclectic cast of characters. Some of these instruments include,

  • Choir
  • Synths
  • Taiko Drums
  • Strings
  • Brass
  • Bamboo Flutes
  • Duduk

NeatherRealm Studios is a part of Warner Bros. and it is quite obvious, for the “Kredits Music” sounds more like a superhero movie than a humble fighting game, with ostinato’s from the strings, big bold brass sections, pounding drums and panning synth rhythms.

Admittedly, because of the recent release date of this game, there is not an overwhelming amount of information on the recording process of the music, however, if you would like to see an interesting insight to the ethos of MKX’s sound design then click this link!

 

So how does the technical process influence the aesthetic in MKX? Maybe we should take a step back before answering that question and look at what this game wants its audience feel emotionally. I had the pleasure of seeing one of my friends mothers playing this game (that’s right, a kind lady in her 50’s) and she said something while playing MKX that the Game Designers would have been thrilled at, she said “It makes you feel brutal” (Scurry, 2015).  Feeling brutal would have to be at the core of this game’s emotioneering so well done NeatherRealm for achieving the goal!  I have made a list of what the “Kredits Music” makes me feel and some of these feelings include,

  • Powerful
  • Brutal
  • God-Like
  • Warrior
  • Strong
  • Triumphant
  • Immortal
  • Eclectic
  • Super Hero
  • Victorious
  • Hallowed
  • Neo-Tribal
  • Dark

Thinking of these intended emotions or feelings, we can then reverse-engineer the aesthetic, using instrumentation and technical requirements to suit, for example, using ethnic instruments to capture the eclectic nature, or big brass and busy strings to achieve a super hero or god-like feeling. With this in mind we can see that to capture the feelings I have mentioned above, an orchestra or large ensemble are near-vital and the project requires a team working on a common goal to achieve it.

The aesthetic of MKX has influenced the technical requirements, and the technical requirements have supported and enhanced the aesthetics (the cycle), I believe that the two shouldn’t be isolated, rather thought of as a whole if the game is to have impact to its intended audience (which this game has!).

Geometry Wars 3 – Dimensions Evolved

Geometry Wars 3 – Dimensions Evolved is a twin-stick arcade style shooter developed by Lucid Games.

Once again lets take a look at the instrumentation.

  • Digital Synths
  • Programmed Drums

This theme was originally composed by Chris Chudley from Audioantics and has been remixed by Chris Mann to suit the new aesthetic of the game, which is the introduction of three dimensional levels instead of the classic top-down view.

Produced digitally, this theme puts you in the right frame of mind to play the game and because of the EMP style, it really appeals to a younger demographic while also keeping the retro gamers happy. When playing this game, the action can get very intense very quickly and demands your unwavering attention for as long as you can survive, and that’s where the electronic music serves as mechanism to put the player in a trance-like state. Some feelings that this game conjures are;

  • Neutral
  • Focused
  • Futuristic
  • Other Dimension
  • Retro
  • Travel
  • Success

If we think back to MKX and how the feelings dictate the technical requirements, then Geometry Wars is the same. It seems like a no-brainer to use the techno soundtrack for a futuristic feel, the repetitive rhythms make you focused and the lack of emotion give you a neutral feeling and a sense of travel. Personally I don’t listen to much techno (don’t hate me!), but after playing this game I feel that nothing else could match the aesthetic as well as the style of music chosen.

The technical requirements for the GW3’s “Evolved Theme” are a lot simpler than those of MKX’s “Kredits Music” and this is because of two reasons,

  1. Geometry Wars has no back story, you are just a simple representation of a space ship, shooting shapes that come towards you. Because of this lack of story, the music has the ability to just be there to support the player with enhanced concentration, rather than making the player feel a particular emotion, adding to the aesthetic.
  2. The intensity of gameplay in Gw3 is so high that if the music were to be more complex or emotional (which would result in a more elaborate technical production), then it could be distracting and work against the aesthetic.

MKX’s “Kredits Music” had to be complex in terms of the technical process, simply because the world of Mortal Kombat is complex, with each character having rich and detailed histories. The technical process was inline with the demand of the aesthetic and has given the game credibility, as has the doof-doof electronic music of the Geometry Wars “Evolved Theme”, the end result is that the target audiences are amazed by the coherency of the aesthetic.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment!

Useful links on this topic.

http://www.mannmusic.co.uk/

http://www.netherrealm.com/

http://www.gamezebo.com/2015/06/02/geometry-wars-3-dimensions-review-evolved/

https://youtu.be/mmPm4ugMs4Q?t=9m23s

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “We need it to make you feel…

  1. I wonder if “Toasty” is the face that appeared after a big uppercut in MKII on SNES. That face is burnt into my brain from far too much gaming as a kid. Nice to think that face may belong to the audio director of NeatherRealm Studios. TOASTY…..!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sure is his face! I think we both know his face better than our own! lol It’s funny how the “Toasty” came about, Dan would always help with the play-testing and was actually really good. When he was versing some of the other programmers he would start to win or do a big uppercut and would sing out “toasted” then over time it got abbreviated to the “toasty” we know today! Thanks for commenting reubpress!

      Like

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