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Friday, April 14, 2017

The DDNet Debate: On music and soundtracks; what works, what we love, and what we don't

Welcome to this week's DDNet Debate, where the whole DDNet team comes together to discuss something that we're passionate about with games.

This week we've decided to chat about the use of music in games; when it's done well, music can turn a great game and make it exceptional, but helping to develop the emotional complexity of the game and give us a very real, very primitive link to the action on-screen. So we decided to talk about examples of soundtracks done well, what we look for in game music, and why music is so important to us in our favourite games.

Matt S: Perhaps if we can start by talking about some of the game soundtracks that have inspired us the most?

I know there's the obvious ones; NieR: Automata, NieR, Persona 4 and 5, but if I think back to game soundtracks that have had a real impact on me, I always come back to Ni No Kuni. Composed by Joe Hisaishi - the guy that worked on many Studio Ghibli films - I felt in that game it really was the music that held the game's emotional core. And that's saying something, as I found Ni No Kuni to be quite emotionally affecting at times.

Ginny W: I actually really enjoyed the use of music in Transistor. Not an orchestral soundtrack by any means, and a lot of it was looping synths that would be otherwise nondescript, but I think that the music in Transistor was incredibly central to it - it drove the tempo of the game both in and out of combat, it swelled and dipped with the various cutscenes, and the absence of it was often used to emotional effect. A lot of the music in that game had the effect of capturing specific narrative moments in time and capturing the essence of specific characters, which made it almost like an extension of the storytelling and immersion to me.

Trent P: Ni No Kuni sounds like it has a soundtrack that embodies the feeling of a whimsical adventure, however I have not played the game. If I take that similar line of thinking, for me a soundtrack of recent years which digs into my mind like an emotion earworm while playing the game would have to be the soundtrack for Life is Strange. I often say it is the pinnacle of video gaming that title, and its soundtrack is no exception. From the OST comprised of smooth yet edgy music to topping off the soundtrack with indie songs from bands I never heard of prior to that yet still enjoyed. The game has excellent sound design in a lot of cinematic areas which put it at the top of my list.
The DDNet Debate: On music and soundtracks; what works, what we love, and what we don't
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