Music in Mobile games – What are the challenges?

Making music for mobile games can be a big challenge when the ambition is to make games that will last for hundreds or even thousands of hours. We at Elias would love to help you and find a solution to these problems. We will start by listing some common questions and thoughts that we often hear:

What is the most common problem with music for mobile games?

Repetitive music in longer playing sessions that will make the player turn it off.

Why is it bad that the player turns the music off?

A lot of work and resources could of course be considered being wasted, but most importantly we lose a powerful communication channel to the players. This musical communication can get the player even more involved and immersed in the game by enhancing the story or rewarding the player with an emotional music connection or just good feeling stingers.

How can we solve this with Elias?

With a very varied soundtrack! Creating and handling a very varied score have never been this easy before.

But we don’t have room for hours of music in our games?

Problem to solve: 

We need a long varied score for a game where people could spend 1000+ hours and never feel that the music is in the way or distracting, but instead enhancing the experience and help guiding the player, and at the same time make a very small impact on the limited storage space.

Solution with Elias

With Elias you can do this! By using Midi and creative reuse of assets by arranging your music with segments. A 10 minute long loop could be a beautiful puzzle made out of segments and midi tracks.

Doesn’t midi sound outdated and artificial?

No, midi can sound great with excellent sample libraries and can sound realistic and still take little space. And the most powerful way is to combine midi with audio files, and use the audio when it is really needed to bring in the extra special.

Midi in the context of video games sounds generally very outdated, but this is far from the truth. Midi is an old technology but a very efficient protocol and the number of use cases and users of it has only increased every day since it first was released. We have taken everything that is good with it and applied it to the latest technology today with our sample player built into Elias.

When we talk about transitions and changing the music, midi will in many cases sound even better and more natural than audio since you don’t need to rely on fades that will fade room tails and audio that sometimes can make a transition sound artificial and distracting.

Much of the music we hear today is made with these similar digital instruments so the quality difference could in many cases be unnoticed by most of the players.

Give me a short summary.

With Elias you can have hours of great sounding music that still takes very little space!

Could you give me an example?

Of course! We will summarize and demonstrate this in the video below.

We hope this made you interested so let us expand a bit on it. This was an extreme example with very, very small digital instruments and sometimes this will not fit the demand on quality for a specific game and you might need to have more detailed instruments, and also more of them. 

But let’s say that you can afford to have 20 megabytes of digital instruments, in practice this could mean 20 times more instruments or 20 times better sounding instruments. And depending on how your compositions are and what you need you could basically fit a larger orchestra or band inside the game.

Then remember that once we have the orchestra or band in place, we can then have them play for basically as long as we like without any large additional impact on storage since the midi files that they play are very tiny.

Depending on the game and on the specific devices you are aiming towards you will also need to consider the total amount of instruments being played at the same time. You can see it like this, the more memory you have to work with, the larger the concert hall is and you can fit more musicians on the stage. So if you have a small stage to work with then you need to be creative and not use all of them at the same time, but bring in each instrument only when it is really needed.

A side note to this is that working with these kinds of restrictions can sometimes make the creative process much more exciting, and it could make you write things you didn’t expect from yourself. We know that we really like to just add, and add to an arrangement to make it feel fuller and more complete, and this is basically the fastest way for us to get there. But then sometimes we like to challenge ourselves to not overdo it and find other ways to fill the music without having everything playing at the same time, and we promise you that in all these cases the music turned into something much more focused and much more pleasing to the ears. So limiting yourself can for sure often make you a better and more experienced arranger.

This is it for now but we will follow up on this subject later on and show you more in depth how to set up your Elias project to use Midi and the digital instruments. Variations are quite an easy concept to grasp but we can also expand more on them in the future. We will also talk about segments that can be a powerful way to work with audio files but still to keep the file size to a minimum.

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