March 13, 2009
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MMORPGs and Music

I rather enjoy City Of Heroes. The art direction is wonderful – each zone is a new city, and some of those cities are fresh and thoroughly imagined. But the sound track is sketchy at best, some short musical phrases and intros, some ambient sound loops, and lots of bangs and booms.

I sometimes enjoy running missions with an iPod; there's nothing like wicked slayage to the soundtrack of Bruckner’s Second Symphony. But then you don’t hear the game’s sound cues, and that’s a bother.

Why don’t games compose music on the fly? This doesn’t need (or want) to be great music, after all. It’s movie music. And we’ve all seen Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey, so we know that genre isn’t the issue here.

Automatically-generated music has been interesting since Mozart played with dice. Besides, if rock is basically the rhythm section of a big band with everything else stripped out, this should be even easier with rock or blues. And we’ve got plenty of inputs: the tempo of the fight, whether we’re winning or losing, whether there are bad guys sneaking up the back way.

Twenty years ago, there was some cool AI work on autonomous composition of music in the style of various eras. How has this come along? Is there, say, a Ruby library for composing? Email me.