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What are your thoughts on dynamic music systems in games?

Content of the article: "What are your thoughts on dynamic music systems in games?"

I always felt like these should be a focus in future games and that they should be used in more expressive ways.

Dynamic music goes back to LucasArts' iMUSE system made for Monkey Island 2, the first to allow seamless horizontal track mixing. The game had any variations for each track and the game would transition smoothly from one to the other with each screen transition.

It's only in the last decade or so that these systems have become common place and I think more could be done. Some implementations are iffy. Phantasy Star Online 2's soundtrack is great but the Sympathy system that provides horizontal mixing feels like it's in the wrong game sometimes. When fights happen in free fields, it's very common for the music to transition to a battle variation after the fight is done and immediately end because in such a fast-paced game, the transition takes longer than the actual fight. You end up hearing the intro of the battle variation outside of combat so often that the otherwise great soundtrack becomes unpleasant to listen to.

The problem is generally due to how these systems deduce context. It's often difficult to tell what the player is or should be feeling, and thus, complex dynamic music is a challenge.

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There's also times where the system betrays itself. Sea of Thieves has a pretty good system in my opinion, but it's very awkward when, for example, you sail a little too close to Flameheart and hear battle music (as well as his insults) when you're nowhere near his fleet and just carrying cargo with no intention of fighting him. There's all these times where you're minding your own business and the Megalodon theme comes up, with no meg in sight, and then just goes away. These issues are seen in many games, unfortunately lowering the tension the music intends to create.

I also dislike how big budget games all try to implement some forms of dynamic music but never do anything interesting with their compositions. All you hear is generic movie-like music. It's not bad music but it's something we hear in everything. I get that composing for dynamic systems is hard but I would really like to see games with more unique soundtracks experiment with them.

I want to know what your favorite implementations of dynamic music are and how they deal with the problems that commonly plague it. Anyone?


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