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Construction for Modular Recreation Music (Composing for Lineage M: GDC 2022)

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By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Observe

Hey all people! I am online game composer Winifred Phillips. Thanks for becoming a member of me for this second article in my sequence primarily based on my Recreation Builders Convention 2022 lecture, “Composing for Lineage M: Modular Development in Recreation Music.” In my GDC presentation, I mentioned my work composing music for a current installment within the well-known Lineage franchise (some of the common MMORPG sport sequence ever made). This text sequence will share the content material of that GDC speak, together with the audiovisual samples I included in my presentation on the convention.

Within the first article of this sequence, we explored how retro gaming has made an superior influence on the sport business, resulting in the discharge of a port of the unique lineage PC sport for cellular units underneath the identify Lineage M. We additionally mentioned the model new gothic DLC content material for this sport, entitled Lineage M: The Elmor.

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I shared my expertise being employed to compose new music for DLC content material supplementing a sport initially launched over 24 years in the past. We mentioned how conventional interactive music approaches have been tailored to this sport’s retro music system, and the way a modular strategy was essential to the music implementation technique for this mission. You may discover all these concepts mentioned intimately partially considered one of this text sequence.

Persevering with our dialogue of modular music system, let’s choose up with the thought of ​​structural compatibility. If all the inner parts of a sport’s musical rating are designed to be suitable with one another, this can be a nice approach to allow the modular strategy. Within the gameplay music for Lineage M: The Elmor, every thing was designed for compatibility. For example, I composed the entire gameplay music for Lineage M in E minor at 130 beats per measure – it is all structured round these two immovable components. This allows the modular development, and there are execs and cons to this strategy. Having a cohesive tonal heart and pacing helps to instill aesthetic unity into all of the in-game tracks. However we have to take care that there is nonetheless range and variation, regardless of the frequent tempo and key signature. So let us take a look at among the ways in which subject was addressed for the music of Lineage M: The Elmor.

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Town of Escaros is situated within the bigger kingdom of Elmor, and the playable panorama consists of 5 distinct territories: The Cave of Sorrows, the Plains of Silence, the Metropolis Partitions, the Sacred District, and the Metropolis Middle. For every of those territories, I composed a gaggle of musical sections, every lasting 8 measures. The sections could possibly be taken in any order, and have been incessantly juggled to assist maintain the music feeling recent. The philosophy behind this strategy bears a robust similarity to the Horizontal Resequencing methodology of dynamic development, lengthy favored by sport audio specialists for contemporary interactive music design. I mentioned this concept in my e-book, A Composer’s Information to Recreation Music (The MIT Press):

This is the book cover of A Composer's Guide to Game Music, published by the MIT Press and written by game composer Winifred Phillips.

“In music, we mentally image the ephemeral idea of time as a horizontal phenomenon, transferring inexorably from left to proper (just like the notes on a musical employees). Likewise, most audio enhancing software program visually presents audio as a waveform transferring horizontally from left to The elemental thought behind horizontal re-sequencing is that when compose rigorously and in keeping with sure guidelines, the sequence of a musical composition might be rearranged. steady free-flowing transformation of musical content material.” (Chapter 11, Web page 188)

For every of the 5 territories that comprise the town of Escaros, I ready an assortment of 8-measure musical segments. As a result of the music had been purposefully divided into these distinct sections of equal size, they have been able to being freely rearranged. This helped to instill selection into the music over time. The sections have been additionally designed in order that their instrumentation could possibly be taken aside with advantageous element, permitting them to be stripped right down to a spare atmospheric combine, or constructed up in complexity and momentum. Every of those instrumental recordings is also blended and matched between the sections – in order that they weren’t functioning solely as particular person music compositions, but additionally as units of modular elements. The sections cross-fertilized one another, not solely throughout the gameplay territories, but additionally between them. For example, a melodic phrase or instrumental efficiency from The Cave of Sorrows may reappear in the course of the Metropolis Partitions sequence, or within the Sacred District. It was a versatile system that instilled a way of unified musical identification throughout the sport’s new playable territories.

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So let’s begin inspecting the music of these 5 gameplay territories, ranging from the muse of the modular construction. This is a quick style of probably the most low-keyed, ambient content material within the modular system, organized by gameplay territories:

Now let’s add some rhythm on prime of some of those sections, in order that we will see how they’re distinguished by the territory for which they’re written. Rhythmic modifications assist to introduce selection into the musical construction, though the meter and tempo stay mounted. Discover that the meter generally shifts from straight frequent time to compound quadruple meter, however this does not result in any alteration to the tempo, and it would not change the downbeat placement.

Along with rhythmic modifications, lots of the sections incorporate melodies – and generally countermelodies – into the modular system. These melodic traces have been written for specific territories within the metropolis of Escaros such because the Cave of Sorrows or the Sacred District. We’ll be trying out how all of this capabilities in-game later on this sequence of articles, however first let’s get a style of some melodic content material from this music system.

Lastly, the instrumental performances of those melodies have been handled as modular elements, in order that they could possibly be simply transplanted from one part to a different. With a view to finest perceive the construction of those recordings throughout the modular system, we’ll want to debate the function of stemming within the modular strategy, and the division of single instrumental performances into a number of modules. Since this can be a extra complicated subject, we’ll deal with that dialogue within the subsequent article. Till then, thanks very a lot for studying!


Winifred Phillips is a BAFTA-nominated online game composer whose most up-to-date mission is the music for one of many newest blockbuster releases within the lineage sequence (one of many highest-grossing online game franchises of all time). Latest initiatives embody the hit PlayStation 5 launch title Sackboy: A Huge Journey (soundtrack album now out there). Phillips’ common and award-winning Murderer’s Creed Liberation rating was not too long ago singled out by GameSpot as their favourite within the franchise, naming it one of many “finest online game soundtracks you may stream.” As an completed online game composer, Phillips is finest identified for composing music for video games in 5 of probably the most well-known and common franchises in gaming: God of Struggle, Whole Struggle, The Sims, Murderer’s Creed, and Sackboy / LittleBigPlanet Phillips has acquired quite a few awards, together with an Interactive Achievement Award / DICE Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, six Recreation Audio Community Guild Awards (together with Music of the Yr), and three Hollywood Music in Media Awards. She is the creator of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, revealed by the MIT Press. As one of many foremost authorities on music for interactive leisure, Winifred Phillips has given lectures on the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the Society of Composers and Lyricists, the Recreation Builders Convention, the Audio Engineering Society, and lots of extra. Phillips ‘enthusiastic followers her showered her with questions throughout a Reddit Ask-Me-Something session that went viral, hit the Reddit entrance web page, acquired 14.9 thousand upvotes, and have become some of the common gaming AMAs ever hosted on Reddit. An interview along with her is now featured as part of the Roulette textual content, Girls’s Music for the Display screen: Numerous Narratives in Sound, which collects the viewpoints of probably the most esteemed feminine composers in movie, tv, and video games. Observe her on Twitter @winphillips.