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There has been a huge advance in game development capability over the last decade, and we’ve heard the spine tingling results in some breathtaking audio production for game soundtracks in many popular titles. Sure, a few duds left us wondering what the developers were thinking, but the clear superstars are doing it right, with audio production studio software. Giving it the Hollywood treatment, here’s ten of the best soundtracks from the last decade of gaming.
The Max Payne Theme is moody, atmospheric, and has a noire feel to the environment. In 2012, L.A based band Health took inspiration from Brazilian influence and instrumentals, and combined several stems to create a synthesized ambience that fits well in the world of Max Payne
The track entitled ‘Tears’ is where the creativity of Health shines through. The track adds beautiful electrifying vocals that taunt your emotions. Synthetic, industrial, and well scored. The album is available from Rockstar and iTunes.
Rockstar are known not just for their amazing game development, but also superb audio soundtrack production in all their titles. The soundtrack for Red Dead Redemption is no exception. Mostly composed by Bill Elm and Woody Jackson. Of particular note is the track by José González called “Far Away – immediately conjuring images of the Wild West as you listen to the vocals and masterful score.
The entire soundtrack is produced at 130 beats per minute in A minor. The innovative audio production process involved the use of modern instruments played in an unusual manor to fit perfectly within the game’s Western theme. The daunting task of the soundtrack was to set the ambience using 5 minute loops that interacted with the player’s actions, really pushing the boundaries of stellar sound production in games.
Red Dead Redemption was critically acclaimed for its soundtrack, and went on to win Best Original Score at the Spike Video Game Awards, and José González won Best Song in a game for “Far Away”.
David Arkenstone is one of a large team of composers who created orchestral music for the WoW franchise, including Cataclysm. Creating a masterful soundtrack for a large open world mmorpg is no easy task. Each zone has its own theme developed from inception and then the orchestral music is composed around it in line with the theme. Every song in each zone is telling a story, matching the theme. Inspiration came from exploring artwork of the old world, and the new revamped environment introduced in Cataclysm to create an epic ambience throughout a vast online world.
Creating the soundtrack required composition of tracks in such a manner that mood could easily transition into other tracks as players crossed zones and left environments behind. David Arkenstone states that artwork and sound effects best helped him choose the right instrument to score with for each zone. Some of the most recognized titles and skillfully composed rendition include Nightsong, along with vocals by Laurie Ann Haus, and orchestral performance by Northwest Sinfonia Orchestra, and let’s not ignore the Night Elves theme from Mount Hyjal.
The Skyrim soundtrack is inspiring, evocative and uses beautiful orchestral compositions with draconic chants, and haunting primal vocals throughout. The Dragon language developed entirely for the game’s development features largely in multiple areas of the game, and in several musical scores.
To provide orchestral and majestic themes, Jeremy Soule used a Nordic choir and primal drum beats to immediately set the mood with visions of barbaric heroes, vast wild landscapes and treacherous dragons and Viking hunters. The theme continues throughout the game as the tempo increases during mounting tension and interactive gameplay.
Dragonborn is a prime example of how game design and soundtrack production should be done by aspiring game artists. The Elder Scrolls V soundtrack features 4 CDs with 53 tracks, and is available on Amazon and iTunes.
What’s your favorite video game soundtrack of the last decade? Let us know in the comments.