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Orchestrated Music and the Video Game Industry

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Orchestrated Music and the Video Game Industry

Music has cultivated many things in this modern time period. It has set the mood in movies, shows, events, and especially video games. Video games first started off with no music, and in a matter of fact, it didn't have a variety of color and complex sounds. As time progressed sound effects, background music, and theme songs were added into games to enhance it. Music has impacted video games in these decades, and it has evolved to what it is today, a great complexity of masterful orchestrated pieces.

In 1952, A.S. Douglas created what many consider what was the first game ever created, a graphical game, which was a tic-tac-toe game. Between the 1950's and 1960's, a variety of other games started to make their appearance on large computers that were tube-based. The first official home video game console was the Magnavox Odyssey. Just like the tube-based game, it was silent with graphics, which would be considered very simple compared to present day games. Thus, sound could not be projected through this machinery for games back in the past.

In 1975, Atari made its first big hit with the arcade game Pong. It was believed to be the first video game to ever have sound in it. Pong's unique feature is a single chip that produces both an on-screen score and the sound the game makes when a paddle meets a ball. These systems helped Atari success at selling at-home video games to the masses and made them a common household object.

The start of game music begins with the Nintendo Entertainment System, which was one of the first widely popular home video game machines at the time. This original Nintendo system could produce four simultaneous sounds; the system could produce one sine, one noise, and two pulse-wave voices with one voice channel of 7-bit delta-modulated sample playback. The early games used three channels for music, and one for sound effects. The quality of this sound was awfully low. Nevertheless, it allowed composers to experiment the textures of their pieces.

Back in the early days, video game music was defined by its limits. "Early on, you were just thankful to get any sound out of the thing. " says Mike Pummel, a composer for software. There were numerous challenges to overcome at every turn. For instance, how can one produce a four-voice chord if the hardware only allows three voices at once? Composers figured out a way to assign one voice to play arpeggios so quickly that listeners believed they were hearing sustained chords. This not only produced the chord, but it feed up the other two voices to play other things. Synthesized notes could be made to sound more impressive though. Spare voices were used to double melody lines, playing a millisecond off to create a primitive echo or a chorused effect. Percussion sounds were created with carefully timed bursts of static and distortion on the noise track, but often had to be omitted entirely of sound effects.

Technology became more powerful later on. In 1991, Nintendo introduced the Super-NES, which produced eight 16-bit data-compressed sample-playback voices. The Sega Genesis, Nintendo's biggest rival during this period, could produce 8-bit digitalized voices. The sound capabilities of these two systems were greatly improved compared to their predecessors, but still highly limited compared to orchestrated music. The industry was revolutionized in 1995 with the introduction of the Sony PlayStation. It allowed for 24 sample voices, which made it possible for the first time for composers to approach orchestral scoring. Its flexible architecture allowed for different types of music.

Composers could then produce music on synthesizers; it allowed for more sounds to be made and combined together. The music also took up less memory on the game consoles. The PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 were capable of producing these dynamic sounds. Their audio quality was very limited and gamers back then demanded more. Nevertheless, later on orchestrated music was beginning to have an impact onto the video game industry as consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation 2 were introduced.

Many composers say that video game music's most attractive feature is that players



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