As a composer for games, my goal is to always create an experience that not only complements the world of the game but adapts to the actions of the player. While audio middleware gives composers options to bring their adaptive music to life, it is apparent that the primary focus of these tools is sound design.  Because music implementation is a secondary feature, it tends to be overly complex, un-intuitive, and difficult to adapt to musical ideas. With that in mind, at GDC 2017, I was introduced to a new middleware called Elias, which had me interested enough to shove all of my audio friends to their booth just so I could check it out multiple times.

Screenshot of Elias

Elias has an interface that is designed to provide a platform for a musical score that is intuitive and scalable. With the layered approach that Elias provides (seen above), you are able to take a score that is designed to adapt to the player’s input, and have complete control on how it is delivered to the player.

The core idea of the interface centers on ease of implementation. Horizontal layers comprised of individual instruments or sections can be controlled in conjunction with vertical layers that hold new pieces of each theme. As the player progresses throughout the game, the music can progress along with them, creating opportunities for the player to experience the game’s events in a way that the composer can specifically write for.

A good example of this system in use would be for exploring a game’s world. Having a central exploration theme per area is a standard and wonderful way to have players remember where they are. To accent each thematic identity, you can write music that builds, deconstructs, and changes in mood as the player progresses. Breaking the fog of war on a mini-map, minor combat encounters, and visiting world landmarks are all specific and common circumstances that can be exploited in this way.

For me personally, the approach that Elias is taking to musical implementation is what excites me the most for the future of my work, and for game music as a whole. Empowering composers to create without fear of miscommunication between themselves and those handling implementation of the score’s flow is invaluable to creativity without limitation. Secondly, it alleviates time taken from the technical sound designer usually in charge of implementation so that they are able to tackle the myriad of other tasks that have most likely cluttered their Trello board by the time the score has arrived. As someone that has worked as the composer handing the work off, and also as a person implementing someone else’s work, this movement to empower composers is a breath of fresh air.

Over the course of the next few blog entries, I intend to dig deeper into Elias. I, along with a few other experts in technical sound design, will be digging into comparisons on workflow between the different available audio tools for game development, as well as how to best get started. From there we will be covering more advanced techniques, bite-sized tutorials, and workflow tips to help you get started on making dynamic, adaptive music for your game.

About the Author

Marc Straight is a composer, sound designer, and creative director for video games, film, and haunted attractions around the world. Featuring a blend of emotional invoking simplicity, epic orchestra, and dark experimental sound design he has always pursued a passion for developing his own sound for visual medium.  Focused of creating unique audio experiences, Marc has become a driving force in the horror industry with fifteen years of experience in haunted attractions. With original content in some of the most respected attractions in the world he continually strives to push fear to the outermost limits.

Marc also has worked on several films and games for both sound design and original soundtrack. Ranging from nightmare spirits with orchestra to zombie girls and electronic dance music he brings a memorable experience with him in each score.To date Marc has been featured in over one hundred attractions worldwide and has quickly made a name for himself in the world of sound. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Marc strives to represent his hometown of beauty and constant evolution in all that he does.

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