How to create video game music

[Publishing my own translation of the article by TitanSlayer , author of music for video games, films and TV]

I always liked video games. Since childhood, I have been fascinated, mesmerized by games such as Quake , Hexen , Heroes of Might & Magic .

At some point in my musical career, I realized that now I am able to compose music. Composing and making music for the media has always been my dream. And now, having turned my dream into reality, I am engaged in the creation of musical compositions for films and video games. But this work, like any other, is full of pros and cons.

In this article I am going to highlight the fundamental principles: the features of interaction between the author of the soundtrack and the developer, and how the author should approach the work on music for the game.


Communication and Consistency

For a constructive and effective working relationship, the composer and developer should develop a general understanding of the soundtrack as early as possible. This is a necessary condition for the success of the final result.

The reason for this is commonplace - everyone hears and understands music and sound effects in slightly different ways. Someone can hear the “power” in heavy metal riffs, but they don’t feel it in a distorted digital synths , for example. Therefore, it is important to develop your own understanding of which instruments and sounds convey the right mood and make the final decision with the developer of the game you are working on.

There are some simple ways to come to a common opinion:

Reference tracks ( the Reference tracks) - tracks of a particular artist or group that the developer selects.

Sound effects for individual game events - experiment with sound until you both agree which sound conveys the exact state of the game’s world.

Acquaintance with the game history ( game lore ) - the more you know about the game and its history, the better you can convey the main idea of ​​the game through sounds and music.

Scenario analysis

In order for your soundtrack to fit the entire project as well as possible, you should carefully study all the components of the game story, plot, and the gameplay itself. If possible, ask for a demo. If not, watch all the gameplay videos that you have access to and imagine that you take control of the game under your control and play it.

When I was working on Quake 4: False Dawn , an unofficial Little Gears add-on , it was very important for me to add something fresh and new to the Quake legacy . I came to the conclusion that in order to do this, I need to start completely ignoring the Quake headerIn the title. And to think of this project not as another part of this series of games, but simply as another shooter.

Having done just that, I set about deeply studying the project in order to create exactly what I wanted. Knowing the background of the game, knowing where it occurs and how it will end, I formed a certain concept of this game: the action takes place in a futuristic world of gloomy science fiction with aggressive alien cyborgs, and yes, where the fate of humanity is in the hands of the player. So, in the end, in the main menu we will play a track in the style of massive industrial , dark drone ambient ( dark ambient drones) in parts of the game that are related to research, as well as a hybrid of orchestral, electronic and rock music during the battles, plus a bit of sound design during the transition from one event to another.

And it doesn’t matter at all what type of game you are working on, you will need time to understand the game, its history, and its world. The game itself sets its own soundtrack, so your knowledge about it, as well as hints and instructions from the developer, will become the starting point.

Organization and production

When working on game soundtracks, I often need to compose tracks for individual locations, or game events that partially repeat melodies from other levels or scenarios. In these ways, the developer or the audio director sets the atmosphere using unique sounds that would be associated with the whole game. Therefore, it is very important to have an organized system that will allow you to make the production process more effective and efficient. This system, in fact, was invented before us. I call it Building Blocks.

Let's look at them:

The main units ( the Main blocks The): this is the basis. The main blocks contain musical instruments and sounds that are used throughout the game. If you draw a parallel, then the Main blocks are similar to the blocks from the Lego constructor. These elements are our Lego of which we will build our design

units Studies / Adventure ( Exploration has / the Adventure blocks The ): it is the musical themes that will play in the background, ambient, or elements of sound design in those moments when the player is focused on the study and exploring the world of the game. Depending on the scenario, they may consist of elusively similar, vague, repeating elements that are created on the basis of the Main Blocks. But they should not be very different.

Action blocks ( the Action blocks The): This is where the fun begins. As in the case with the main and adventure blocks, action blocks can be either a mixture of all elements, or be an add-on to create a certain mood. Usually, I use a combination of heavy electric guitars and synthesizers, which subconsciously cause the player to move and act in unison with the music. That's where your music works to the fullest.

Here I will provide a screenshot that shows the basis of the track I made for the fighting scenes in a sci-fi first-person shooter.


Megagorny ( of The Megahorns ), green is main blocks. Synthesizer Arpeggio Part ( Arp Synth ), Main Synthesizer Part ( Lead Synth ), Texture), all blue, these are our research blocks. Bass part, crashes, etc., red color, these are action blocks.

As you can see, I have combined these components, and now they form the core of this track.

The tracks of the research blocks have already been used by me as ambient music at the same level. In moments of calm and silence, when the player will look for key cards, the main elements of the study blocks will serve us to create ambient.

Electronic drums and an aggressive bass line are added in order to set a powerful tempo, accompanying movement and shooting, enhancing the atmosphere of a certain level.

Here is an example of my track where I used a block system.

TITAN SLAYER - Project Hyperion

It contains all the blocks that I spoke about above.

So how does this work?

Swinging dapstep bass, orchestral strings, and an intense drums set a manly mood, perfect for any action scene, from shootouts to chases.

In order to make an ambient version of this track, I removed the powerful elements that I wrote about above, leaving only the sub ( sub drops ), piano and synthesizer parts. With these remaining elements, the track acquired a dark and mystical mood. And now, we have a track ready, suitable for studying and researching the level.

I will give an example.

TITAN SLAYER - Outlander

The plan is the same. Use the whole original track for action, and its variations for exploration scenes, and now you have your own video game soundtrack!

Remember, you do not need to repeat all these elements, you just need to organize the blocks correctly. You are working with Lego constructor. Blocks is an elegant, effective solution that works for me, and which can help you organize your work and improve your writing skills for soundtracks for video games.


The process of composing and creating a soundtrack will always be different, since all developers have different requirements. But mutual understanding, immersion in the history of the game, understanding of gameplay, and effective organization of the workflow are vital. Following these simple recommendations, you can achieve a fantastic interaction of gameplay and music, and immerse the player on an unforgettable journey into the world of video games.

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