Up For Debate - Can Indie Games Compete With AAA Titles For Sound And Music Quality

Written by Jacques Waugh on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 2:00 PM
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Ask anyone about some of their favourite games and you’ll more often than not hear them discuss the music behind the great moments. Series such as Zelda and Halo have become synonymous with a specific musical style that evokes a sense of familiar character for the worlds they guide you through.

Other games are remembered for the quality of their sound design. Dead Space was a terrifying but excellent entry into the horror genre and a huge part of what made the game so eerily tense
was the way in which it employed all sorts of swells and tension wires that kept you on edge as you roamed the halls of the USG Ishimura. You’d hear were metallic clanks and echoing noises that conveyed the paranoid claustrophobia you’d imagine Isaac would be feeling.

Compare this to Amnesia: The Dark Descent. By most accounts one of the greatest horror experiences of recent memory, however in many areas the level of quality is noticeably less than a AAA title. Sound design in horror games in particular is a crucial part of the experience due to the immersion it provides. If you’re not immersed the sense of threat won’t feel real enough for you to enjoy the horror experience as it was intended. It became telling in Amnesia when you would hear a repeated sound effect, which could bring you out of the fear as fast as it had gripped you.

There are exceptions to the rule of course. Darren Korb is a great example of providing an Indie game with excellent music as he won awards for Best Original Score and Best Song in a Game for "Build That Wall (Zia's Theme)” in Bastion. The haunting, melancholic melody really drove home the emotions at the centre of the game. Then on the flip side you have the Metal Chocobo song from Final Fantasy XIII-2 which was just so out of the blue. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my metal but what on earth is it doing in a game like Final Fantasy?

So what do you guys think? Are Indie games being held back by the level of sound design quality available to them vs AAA titles with big name composers? Or do you think there are hidden gems in indie gaming that the mainstream titles could never hope to much? Let us know!

Are Indie games held back by cheaper or poorer sound design?

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09:02 Mar-29-2016

nowadays it's actually much more simple to make music on low budget, countless virtual instruments and soft synths, even midi keyboard isn't needed since many daws let user use regular keyboard keystrokes and just quantize them appropriately :)

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06:19 Mar-29-2016

Sounds are a bit harder to design with a lower budget,but music is not.You have so many programmes available,and you can compose with only your MIDI keyboard and those programes,and it can sound like you have an entire live orchestra.It mostly depends on sound designers and composers,not the budget itself that much.

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05:41 Mar-29-2016

Some of my Favorite Indie Titles with stellar enough Audio and Sound are Bastion and Path of Exile.

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03:01 Mar-29-2016

If someone says that the Indie can't compete with the AAA companies the assumption would be that by default all AAA games have good sound and music, while all Indie games do not, and the only variation is within those 2 categories...


Obviously ridiculous. There are dozens upon dozens of games each year from AAA companies with ****e for audio, while many Indie titles have fantastic audio. A personal favorite, Dust: An Elysian Tail.

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03:03 Mar-29-2016

Dust has not only an excellent soundtrack, but the gameplay is solid and the design is nostalgic and new at the same time. All of which is made even more impressive by the fact that other than the voice acting, soundtrack recording, and some story elements, the game was entirely designed and programmed by one person.

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20:07 Mar-28-2016

As long as you have a good composer (for example), and sound designer the sound design can easily be on par!

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18:45 Mar-28-2016

Music yes, absolutely, sound itself well yes and no, because for more realistic sound it requires more work, time, resources and development, but if the game is NOT aiming for realism, then yes it is more than possible.

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17:34 Mar-28-2016

I really think it's unfair to compare AAA and indies in literally almost any sense.

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16:56 Mar-28-2016

Every time I talk about Crysis 2, sound is the first thing I mention! The whole score is astonishing and multiplies the atmosphere 10 times. It really is in my opinion one of the best examples of a perfect match of content with music.

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19:12 Mar-28-2016

Another one would be Witcher 3. Le-le-lei-le-lei-le-lei-le-le-le-le.

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15:44 Mar-28-2016

Undertale is an excellent example of brilliant OST.

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15:27 Mar-28-2016

indie games are often let down by poor sound design.compare that to any final fantasy's music or life is strange's excellent music indie games have alot to make up for.but for me it doesn't matter as the only game i've ever played with music on is starcraft broodwar(only during campaign), life is strange and witcher 3 as they have some of the best music otherwise i use my own.even in final fantasy games.

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15:25 Mar-28-2016

AAA games are big business and they invest a lot of money but idk what to say :)

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15:24 Mar-28-2016

Triple A developers have become too complacent that they can't see the tidal wave of competition coming their way! No Man's Sky is just the first wave!

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15:21 Mar-28-2016

After playing Dust an Elysian Tale, and listening to the great music on there, I can honestly say yes, Indie games can compete, and even beat, AAA titles!

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15:26 Mar-28-2016

Agreed. I love that game!

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14:43 Mar-28-2016

Loved the Unravel soundtrack.It was just so calm and cool.It fitted the theme very well!

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14:40 Mar-28-2016

I don't personally care much, good soundtrack is a plus, but definitely not necessity.

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14:36 Mar-28-2016

Definitely

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14:11 Mar-28-2016

Some indies have an awesome soundtrack. not to give out much info im working on a indie game and the soundtrack i think is great :)

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14:10 Mar-28-2016

It depends on the preference too. Triple AAA games can make awesome musical pieces that are grand and sound like an orchestra but indies also have a simple charm with their music as well.

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14:06 Mar-28-2016

There's been some indie games with amazing soundtracks. I think Child of Light and Ori and the Blind Forest were some of them

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14:01 Mar-28-2016

Well there is not difference between them in music! that's my opinion.

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