- 1 Job Distinctions
- 2 Platforms
- 3 See Also
There are no standards for crediting music. While more modern games often have detailed credits similar to movies, earlier games had ambiguous credits, if they existed even at all. This page explains the different jobs involved in the video game music industry. Early on in the industry, one person had to do many or all of the jobs below.
The job of an arranger is to take existing music, and rework it for an electronic device. This was a common practice when a game was ported from one platform to another because each platform used a unique audio chip.
Composers are the creative forces behind the music. They write the actual music that will be played in a game. In the early days of video games, composers were limited by weak audio chips, and often had to use very creative ways of fitting a good song into only a couple instruments. Composers would often give their music to an arranger who would work with a programmer to convert the music into something the audio chip could recognize.
Later games that features a proper score would have a conductor and an orchestra. A conductor's job is to keep an orchestra together by keeping their rhythm and signifying to each group how they should be playing.
Engineers are responsible for the hardware involved in the recording process including the wiring, microphones, speakers, and various other devices.
Foley artists make and record sound effects. Before digital audio became common in video games they would often program sound effects directly onto the audio chips.
More recent games, with digital audio capabilities, feature full lyrics. Singers will sing the words, but it is the lyricist who writes them.
Mixers work with the sampling levels of recorded music to reach a desired sound that can't be achieved in the original recording.
An orchestra, also referred to as a band, an ensemble, etc., includes all of the musicians and their instruments. As orchestras get larger, they often require a conductor to keep them organized, but smaller groups do without. Sometimes only one or two people are listed with their particular instruments.
Programmers work directly with the audio chips to come up with new ways to make better and more realistic sounds. They often work closely with arrangers and composers by showing them the capabilities of the audio chips, and developing new ones.
Vocal talent is responsible for the instrument of the human voice. A well trained vocalist adds the necessary flair to lyrics to really make them come alive.
The work necessary to take music from conception to realization changes depending on the device you intend to play the music on.
Games that play digital audio are often the easiest and most friendly for non-technical musicians. Music is recorded using traditional means, and then played back on various audio chips. Early chips only supported minimal sampling rates, but modern chips can playback digital audio higher than CD quality. Digital playback does take much more processing power, and it also limits some special effects like being able to control the volume of individual instruments dynamically.
MIDI is an industry standard without very much customization. Arranging for MIDI was pretty simple, especially with there being so many programs available to work on. Early games usually only allowed for a couple simultaneous instrument tracks playing at once.
The NES audio chip was programmed using assembler. Many of the musicians took up the job of composing, arranging, and programming all together.
The Roland MT-32 was a special synthesizer supported by numerous DOS games. While some simply piped General MIDI music to it, others took advantage of its highly programmable instrument banks. This allowed for a much richer and impressive sound.
The SID stands for Sound Interface Device, used assembly language to write music or sound on, and contained only three or four channels.
This chip was used primarily in the SNES.
Sound Blaster featured an AdLib emulator chip along with a digital audio chip.
These chips were predominantly found in the Sega line up and several arcade consoles.