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  #1  
Old Jul 27, 2010, 04:35 AM
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Default VGM Research: I need your help!

Hey guys,

I'm about to start what will give me my Bachelor's in Musicology in September. The whole semester will be focused on a research paper and, being the geek I am, my research will be about game music.

Currently what I'm planning is something similar to "Town Music in Japanese Role-Playing Games On The Fifth and Sixth Generation of Video Game Consoles". Bulky name, eh? That's a later issue.

I thought it'd be interesting to investigate if "town music" (i.e. the music present in the game's "hubs", like towns, world maps and similar) has a much different expression and function than the rest of the games music. My theory is "fuck yeah it does" but pinpointing why and how this is achieved will be very interesting.

So, why do I need YOUR help? Well, first and foremost let me know if something about the actual idea is off. Do you have a better idea? Out with it then! And secondly I'd like you to list as many RPGs for the fifth and sixth generation consoles as you possibly can. These consoles includes PS1, Saturn, Gamecube, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast. I might even be missing one or two but those are the big ones!

If you think that a particular game is big enough to really be highlighted, please make a note of that in your post. The same goes for a game that in your opinion has exceptional music.

Thanks for your input, I appreciate it!
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Old Jul 27, 2010, 04:45 AM
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Nice idea and I wish you good luck for the paper! Only point I'd specify is the term "role-playing games". I know you probably will focus on die-hard RPGs with health and magic points like Final Fantasy but therefore you probably will leave out "action-adventures" like Zelda (which features great music ).
Also you left out the N64, but as it has not very much RPGs you could just ignore it.

EDIT: here are some links to start off:

http://www.listal.com/list/rpg-world-nintendo64-edition
http://www.listal.com/list/rpg-world-ps2-edition
http://www.listal.com/list/rpg-world-gamecube-edition
http://www.listal.com/list/rpg-world-dreamcast-edition
http://www.listal.com/list/rpg-world-xbox-edition
http://www.listal.com/list/rpg-world...tation-edition

Last edited by suicider; Jul 27, 2010 at 04:52 AM.
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Old Jul 27, 2010, 04:49 AM
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Nice idea and I wish you good luck for the paper! Only point I'd specify is the term "role-playing games". I know you probably will focus on die-hard RPGs with health and magic points like Final Fantasy but therefore you probably will leave out "action-adventures" like Zelda (which features great music ).
Also you left out the N64, but as it has not very much RPGs you could just ignore it.
Ah, that's true, forgot about N64 for the reason you just said! I'm going to specify at the beginning of the paper what I mean with Japanese Role-Playing Games AND introduce them as the abbreviation JRPGs to avoid any confusion! Might add action RPGs too, that way at least Zelda gets a piece, so feel free to list those too everyone!
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Old Jul 27, 2010, 05:43 AM
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Of course, Shadow Hearts 1/2 needs to be mentioned. The town music can be quite different than the other (equally good) music.
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Old Jul 27, 2010, 01:24 PM
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This a very broad topic if let alone as is.

"..has a much different expression and function than the rest of the games music"

The very obvious answer is yes. All music in a game has its purpose and use. I'm not sure if I'm getting this right, but are you trying to find out the musical style that dictates the mood of the piece and use to the player? Will you be looking into psychological aspect of a human mind towards these "town/hub" music? Be a bit more specific.

The idea you have is a very interesting and good one, I would like to see your goal in a more specific manner and what items(topics) within the paper you plan on touching upon.

I'd like to help out if I can because I wrote a research paper for my Music History class in 20th century music about The Music in Horror Games.
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Old Jul 27, 2010, 01:28 PM
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This a very broad topic if let alone as is.

"..has a much different expression and function than the rest of the games music"

The very obvious answer is yes. All music in a game has its purpose and use. I'm not sure if I'm getting this right, but are you trying to find out the musical style that dictates the mood of the piece and use to the player? Will you be looking into psychological aspect of a human mind towards these "town/hub" music? Be a bit more specific.

The idea you have is a very interesting and good one, I would like to see your goal in a more specific manner and what items(topics) within the paper you plan on touching upon.

I'd like to help out if I can because I wrote a research paper for my Music History class in 20th century music about The Music in Horror Games.
Well yes, I'll be a lot more specific. REmember I'm Swedish so expressing myself about a research paper in English puts a bit of a strain on my vocabularly so I'm deliberately keeping the information to a minimum The point will be examining if there are musical "styles" or gestures that are present in many different games and their town music and HOW it differs from the OTHER music in the game. From such simple things as "slower tempo" to more advanced stuff I can't properly spell out in English
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Old Jul 27, 2010, 02:39 PM
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This sounds like a fascinating topic, if a bit broad. Good luck with it.

As for RPGs, those lists posted above are good to start with. Here's a few more lists that might have some other RPGs on them, and I'm sure we can namedrop several specific games if you need. Are you going to have a focus on a particular type of RPG (popular titles, certain types of music, etc.), or keep it all-inclusive?

PS2: http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps2/list-48
Xbox: http://www.gamefaqs.com/xbox/list-48
PS1: http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps/list-48
GCN: http://www.gamefaqs.com/gamecube/list-48
Dreamcast: http://www.gamefaqs.com/dreamcast/list-48
Saturn: http://www.gamefaqs.com/saturn/list-48
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Old Jul 28, 2010, 04:56 AM
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Well since the subject is quite broad my focus will be on the top sellers whil highlighting more obscure titles of the music is particularly good or adds something to (or against) my goal.

Thanks for the help so far guys!
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Old Jul 28, 2010, 01:09 PM
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A game that's easy to overlook, but worth investigating, is "Tsugunai: Atonement". It's a JRPG for the PS2 and the soundtrack is by Yasunori Mitsuda. The soundtrack was released under the name "an cinniuint" and, if my understanding is correct, the town theme changes depending on the time (morning, afternoon, evening). Sounds like it could be useful for your research!
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Old Jul 28, 2010, 02:28 PM
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One game I would recommend with A large town with a couple of themes in effect is Radiata Stories. Different town sections that are themed and accompanied with their own Track. You can also bet that ever-so-pompous castle music is in effect here as well.

I'll grow through my collection now to see if any games are noteworthy of mentioning. I'd also look into Star Ocean 3. Styles and genre of music definitely have reason and isn't there to just be there.

brb
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Old Jul 28, 2010, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Boco View Post
A game that's easy to overlook, but worth investigating, is "Tsugunai: Atonement". It's a JRPG for the PS2 and the soundtrack is by Yasunori Mitsuda. The soundtrack was released under the name "an cinniuint" and, if my understanding is correct, the town theme changes depending on the time (morning, afternoon, evening). Sounds like it could be useful for your research!
I actually own the album so thanks for the info! It'll be easy for me to check out. Definitely something I'm going to hunt down youtube videos of to examine, thanks!

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Originally Posted by Rhythmroo View Post
One game I would recommend with A large town with a couple of themes in effect is Radiata Stories. Different town sections that are themed and accompanied with their own Track. You can also bet that ever-so-pompous castle music is in effect here as well.

I'll grow through my collection now to see if any games are noteworthy of mentioning. I'd also look into Star Ocean 3. Styles and genre of music definitely have reason and isn't there to just be there.

brb
Hey Roo Radiata Stories is a good tip, like FFXII the concept of a "split town" came late in RPG's lives and definitely helps further adapting town music. One of the problems I'll touch upon is how a "town theme" will capture all parts of a town and, in early cases, many different towns.

Keep 'em comin'
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Old Jul 28, 2010, 04:19 PM
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Anosou, I don't know why this didn't hit me but Grandia (the original) is a GREAT game to look into. The town themes definitely represents their local

A good town them in Grandia that is the Scottish feeling bag-piping town theme of "The Port town Parm". The track uses bagpipes, stand-up Bass and clanking of pipes. The percussion int he back resembles that of tin/trash cans. There are also seagull layered in with the track, giving that "port town" feeling in it. Anything to note is the busyness of the track. One instrument, the horn (french horn), is heard in certain intervals and usually gives the feeling of adventure or the beginning of an adventure.

Later on you encounter tribal villages that use foreign instruments like the Gamelan. Another village that uses vocal track that chants.

This may be odd...but also look on youtube for playlists of only town themes, which people actually do. That will be a grand help. they are all RPG town themes too most of the times.. here's a playlist for ya.


If you decided to go past 6th generation systems, I would recommend Eternal Sonata (Trusty Bell), Infinite Undiscovery. I also know you said only RPGs, but Look into Sonic Unleashed at least.It was released to the PS2, so it counts as a 6th gen game. Do let me know if there are any more questions. I have soundtracks lying around and music I still remember from my gaming past that could help out when needed.

Last edited by Rhythmroo; Jul 28, 2010 at 04:24 PM.
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Old Jul 28, 2010, 05:29 PM
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I admire your bravery in choosing to explore and write about game music academically, but I think you'd be much more successful if your narrowed down your area of research as much as possible. 5th/6th gen JRPG town music may seem pretty specific, but when you look at it from a musicological perspective, the music you will be examining will still be exceptionally wide in its variety.

The topic, as it stands now, is not actually conducive to the use of specific examples from specific games--in my opinion, anyway. You can't list them all and therefore the act of listing only some will invariably result in the exclusion of others. How do you decide which games to mention? What makes those examples representative of RPG town themes from the era in question?

At the very least, you do have the advantage of game music's relative infancy (if not outright nonexistence) as a serious academic branch of musicology. As a pioneer, you have the right to construct your argument any way you see fit.

If you maintain the topic for your paper, you'll definitely have to illustrate the role of music in JRPGs. There is no real precedent for this, so you could literally say whatever you want. I guess what I would do is briefly discuss roles of specific music relative to plot advancement. You could draw a clear dichotomy between music played during scenes where the plot progresses (cutscene music, or whatever you want to call it) and music that plays when the plot progression is static (battle themes, town themes, etc.) Naturally, there's that gray zone where plot progression could happen anytime, anywhere in a JRPG--but chances are your professors don't know that, and it wouldn't really serve this topic to agonize over the details anyway.

Once you establish your theory about what town music is supposed to do in a JRPG, your task will be to convince the reader that you're right. Is it a break from the action, a bridge between one segment of plot and the next? Should it calm the player? Is it more melodic than other selections from the score? If it is, is there a reason for it?

Or, is the music very candidly tied to the plot, where a town near the beginning of the game has innocent, light-hearted music but a town further along in the story is in the middle of a war and instead carries heavier, burdensome emotions?

You can see how easy it is to ask questions, which is why I thought it might help to narrow your topic down even further.

My other concern is your criteria related to the console generations. Your topic might suggest that JRPG town music from this specific era functions in a fundamentally different way than JRPG town music from an earlier or later period. I know that's not what you meant--I know you're just using the criteria as a means of narrowing your subject. However, on the surface, and probably to anyone reading, music of the 5th/6th generation JRPG must be somehow different than other generations.

If you're still adamant about soldiering on, I'll list a few RPGs that just have generally great town music: Breath of Fire III & IV, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Shadow Hearts 1 & 2, Suikoden 1 & 2, SaGa Frontier II, Vandal Hearts. (And I'm sure you're well-versed on Mitsuda so I won't even bother mentioning any of his other work.) Those games pretty much throw a wrench into the commonly accepted vision of what "JRPG town music" is supposed to sound like. But now that I think about it, that might actually be a reason to avoid discussing them in your paper...
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Old Jul 29, 2010, 05:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Jormungand View Post
I admire your bravery in choosing to explore and write about game music academically, but I think you'd be much more successful if your narrowed down your area of research as much as possible. 5th/6th gen JRPG town music may seem pretty specific, but when you look at it from a musicological perspective, the music you will be examining will still be exceptionally wide in its variety.

The topic, as it stands now, is not actually conducive to the use of specific examples from specific games--in my opinion, anyway. You can't list them all and therefore the act of listing only some will invariably result in the exclusion of others. How do you decide which games to mention? What makes those examples representative of RPG town themes from the era in question?

At the very least, you do have the advantage of game music's relative infancy (if not outright nonexistence) as a serious academic branch of musicology. As a pioneer, you have the right to construct your argument any way you see fit.

If you maintain the topic for your paper, you'll definitely have to illustrate the role of music in JRPGs. There is no real precedent for this, so you could literally say whatever you want. I guess what I would do is briefly discuss roles of specific music relative to plot advancement. You could draw a clear dichotomy between music played during scenes where the plot progresses (cutscene music, or whatever you want to call it) and music that plays when the plot progression is static (battle themes, town themes, etc.) Naturally, there's that gray zone where plot progression could happen anytime, anywhere in a JRPG--but chances are your professors don't know that, and it wouldn't really serve this topic to agonize over the details anyway.

Once you establish your theory about what town music is supposed to do in a JRPG, your task will be to convince the reader that you're right. Is it a break from the action, a bridge between one segment of plot and the next? Should it calm the player? Is it more melodic than other selections from the score? If it is, is there a reason for it?

Or, is the music very candidly tied to the plot, where a town near the beginning of the game has innocent, light-hearted music but a town further along in the story is in the middle of a war and instead carries heavier, burdensome emotions?

You can see how easy it is to ask questions, which is why I thought it might help to narrow your topic down even further.

My other concern is your criteria related to the console generations. Your topic might suggest that JRPG town music from this specific era functions in a fundamentally different way than JRPG town music from an earlier or later period. I know that's not what you meant--I know you're just using the criteria as a means of narrowing your subject. However, on the surface, and probably to anyone reading, music of the 5th/6th generation JRPG must be somehow different than other generations.

If you're still adamant about soldiering on, I'll list a few RPGs that just have generally great town music: Breath of Fire III & IV, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Shadow Hearts 1 & 2, Suikoden 1 & 2, SaGa Frontier II, Vandal Hearts. (And I'm sure you're well-versed on Mitsuda so I won't even bother mentioning any of his other work.) Those games pretty much throw a wrench into the commonly accepted vision of what "JRPG town music" is supposed to sound like. But now that I think about it, that might actually be a reason to avoid discussing them in your paper...
Well now, this was an informative point. I understand your worry about the subject being broad and I share your concern. This is still in planning stages and I'll have plenty of time to discuss this with my professors and you guys so don't worry. Did you have an idea on how to broaden the inclusion of consoles and at the same limit the games talked about in great detail?

My thought with 5th/6th generation was that after the SNES-era the limitations put on music were severely eased up. Streaming audio, original samples became the standard rather than something odd and obscure. To me this is reason to think the composer had more tools available to make functional music. The issue is that this is true for the 7th generation too which is why I for a long time thought about including this. A REASON for limiting the scope to just ONE generation or ONE console could be that this particular console was either the one with the most successful JRPGs or the one with the MOST JRPGs. Any more thoughts on the limitation of platforms/generations/games are much appreciated.

Also all questions you ask about the music's function are things I was planning to cover, this is numerous months of work after all. All the questions you brought up are legitimate and if I DON'T tackle them it isn't very good research, is it? I guess it'd be easier with a more limited scope, like you said, but I don't see this as a big roadblock. Once again I have a bit of a hard time explaining all this properly in English but hopefully you see where I'm coming from.

What to exclude will be something I'll have to think over and, above all, back up but that's always part of research that's not all-inclusive. Again, any ideas YOU have about how to narrow it down would be welcome but it seems like you're suggesting changing the topic altogether
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Old Jul 29, 2010, 01:14 PM
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My thought with 5th/6th generation was that after the SNES-era the limitations put on music were severely eased up. Streaming audio, original samples became the standard rather than something odd and obscure.
Just wanted to jump in with the note that this mostly happened slowly in the 6th generation (since space on a CD was still rather precious meaning only games with few tracks afforded space for music, while it became relatively abundant on DVD) and the current 7th generation is actually the first where streamed music can be generally considered standard.
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Old Jul 29, 2010, 01:54 PM
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Just wanted to jump in with the note that this mostly happened slowly in the 6th generation (since space on a CD was still rather precious meaning only games with few tracks afforded space for music, while it became relatively abundant on DVD) and the current 7th generation is actually the first where streamed music can be generally considered standard.
I guess streaming was a bit of a stretch, I mixed up the tech, but at least when it comes to samples/synths. Thanks for the correction tho
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Old Jul 29, 2010, 02:51 PM
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The tech didn't change that much either, PS1 is a rather simple evolution over the SNES with the number of voices bumped from 8 to 24 and RAM increased from 64kB to 512kB (same creator). What changed significantly starting with PS1 is that MIDI became the supported sequenced music format in development kits (before that point each developer had their own or licensed sound engines, with no standard libraries or formats to fall back on like Sony started to offer).
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Old Jul 30, 2010, 10:05 AM
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The tech didn't change that much either, PS1 is a rather simple evolution over the SNES with the number of voices bumped from 8 to 24 and RAM increased from 64kB to 512kB (same creator). What changed significantly starting with PS1 is that MIDI became the supported sequenced music format in development kits (before that point each developer had their own or licensed sound engines, with no standard libraries or formats to fall back on like Sony started to offer).
I think another progress of the 5th gene was the introduction of multi-streaming technology (I often heard Saturn was more groundbreaking in this regard because of the ADX format in courtesy of CSK, but didn't the PSX hardware also support such? I remember in some stages of Klonoa which was released around the same time as Grandia, two tracks were multi-streamed). Until then, developers had to use Redbook (aka CD-DA in Eastern) or CD-XA audio which didn't loop seamlessly, and more importantly they had to choice between music and sound (voice) effects to stream from the disc media. It also enabled a game to load both the game data and music at the same time, which worked better for a game where data on memory was frequently updated (e.g. JRPG with a separate battle system).
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Old Jul 30, 2010, 12:41 PM
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Multi-stream as a concept was not exactly new, with sequenced music one was also able to seamlessly fade between several pieces if the number of voices is sufficient. It's one of those things that were pretty much technically possible all the time but only very few developers bothered to implement it.
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Old Jul 31, 2010, 01:48 PM
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Few games where the variety of town themes is great as far as I remember are Suikoden 1 and 2, as well as Breath of Fire 3 and 4.
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Old Jul 31, 2010, 03:24 PM
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Multi-stream as a concept was not exactly new, with sequenced music one was also able to seamlessly fade between several pieces if the number of voices is sufficient. It's one of those things that were pretty much technically possible all the time but only very few developers bothered to implement it.
We can say streaming music as a concept wasn't new either, since with sequenced music, one could technically let the memory only store the very instrumental samples (or the phrases) the sequencer was using, instead of transferring the sequence data and samples all at once? (or, wasn't this how the OP theme of ToP SNES was played?). Semi-joke aside, I think you have a very good point, although I was more talking about how I thought the multi-streaming (along with the extra disc space or the increased read rate) played an important role in the transition to streamed music in video game.

Anyways, when it comes down to town music, I think Chrono Cross is exceptionally good, but I guess the OST as a whole is too popular to mention here.
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Old Aug 1, 2010, 03:09 AM
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Yeah, I would suspect AnoSou will more focus on sound direction than technicalities.
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Old Aug 1, 2010, 05:15 AM
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Yeah, I would suspect AnoSou will more focus on sound direction than technicalities.
That's very true BUT the technical aspect is important since it's one of the big differences between game music and, say, film music. Highlighting what was actually possible and what was "standard" will not take up a lot of space but is important for background nonetheless. Especially considering, like Jormungand said, game music research is really new.
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Old Aug 1, 2010, 07:58 AM
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Sure, but if you want to properly describe the history of the technical framework you will have to go back further than to the 5th console generation. Like you correctly indicated yourself before at the point of the 5th/6th generation there are more personal preferences than technical limitations (Kikuta wanting to do live music -> Soukaigi, Uematsu liking the sound of his SC88 -> FF7-10 "stagnant" sound (and nowadays leaving arrangement completely to other people), Mitsuda wanting live sound, while having a lot of music -> Yamazaki adding all those live-alike guitar playing sound effects in Chrono Cross, and so on...).

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Old Aug 7, 2010, 01:54 PM
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Mitsuda posted the score to Shadow Hearts II's town theme on his website for free.

Here. I hope this helps.
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Old Aug 7, 2010, 02:15 PM
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Mitsuda posted the score to Shadow Hearts II's town theme on his website for free.

Here. I hope this helps.
Really nice, thank you!
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Old Sep 2, 2010, 04:10 AM
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Well after much thinking the subject might not be the best fit. Like it was pointed out, it's quite broad but above that it feels slightly unfocused. Like, I don't have a good enough thesis to warrant writing this and there's just too much material I'm not familiar with that needs to played through (games and music).

So, I thought I'd check in with you guys and see if you had any ideas for a subject. The paper would most likely be between 20-100 pages depending on if I proceed with it after this semester.

The important thing is that the subject is tied to game music. I'm much for analyzing music, why it was chosen, how (in the musical sense) it was made and if it serves a specific purpose etc. I'm not a stranger to actually covering a complete game or series but it'd have to be something that's relevant and preferably that I'm familiar with. For example the Persona-series are rather unique among RPGs in their use of "popular music-inspired" music as a soundtrack. This would certainly merit looking into how it's used and the thought behind them more.

Another subject I'm thinking of is "Game Consoles as Musical Instrument". You can make it a bit more narrow by excluding stuff not actually performed/made on consoles and expand by adding the same. It's also something that I think is incredibly unique to game music and that SHOULD be highlighted. Thoughts on the subject?

Any other series or games that deserves to be chronicled about for future generations? Any suggestions appreciated!
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Old Sep 2, 2010, 07:57 AM
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This would likely fall into the "too broad" category as well... but I think it would be interesting to look at how early game music was shaped by the technical limitations of the day, and why some of those traits persist even though the technology has progressed. For example, many RPGs still seem to rely on simple looping battle themes even though storage space is much less of an issue than it used to be. Why?

Another one: the CD-ROM gave companies a chance to incorporate pre-recorded music into their games, which seemed like a good idea at the time... but did it come at the cost of interactivity? Orchestral scores work great for movies, but are they really the best choice for games? Hopefully someone will correct me if I'm horribly wrong, but MIDI offered more opportunities to dynamically adjust music to the player-controlled happenings onscreen. See: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9011939
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Old Sep 2, 2010, 11:51 AM
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Jormungand Jormungand is offline
 
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I think both of those subjects would be great, AS. I could think of a hundred topics I'd want to write about if it were me, so I won't clutter this thread with them. You're definitely on the right track.

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...the CD-ROM gave companies a chance to incorporate pre-recorded music into their games, which seemed like a good idea at the time... but did it come at the cost of interactivity?
No. And I can't see the topic evolving into a serious debate.
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Old Sep 2, 2010, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Jormungand View Post
I think both of those subjects would be great, AS. I could think of a hundred topics I'd want to write about if it were me, so I won't clutter this thread with them. You're definitely on the right track.


No. And I can't see the topic evolving into a serious debate.
Glad you agree with me that they're a bit easier to handle! Really into the "consoles and game hardware as instruments". I was thinking on focusing on use of the hardware and not chiptunes made with trackers or VSTis for example. Then I could also bring forth the Wii-mote and people using rockband stuff live. Again trying to find the reason.. nostalgia? geek creds? etc. etc.

I will most likely keep anosou.com updated when I start working so people can follow my line of thought if somebody's interested
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