With games like Grand Theft Auto, Rock Band and Guitar Hero tripping over each other to license as much music as possible, at least one eagerly anticipated game is going in the opposite direction. When playing Spore, the latest brainchild of Sim City mastermind Will Wright, gamers won’t hear any songs they know. In fact, they won’t hear the same song twice.
Spore simulates the evolution of creatures from single-cell organisms through the space age, so the changes start at the very beginning: make your creature an aggressive carnivore, and the music will be noticeably different from that of a plant-eating species. The uses procedural music, meaning that the music a player hears will develop and mutate along with their style of play. Iconic producer Brian Eno was brought in to provide much of these tracks.
According to Kent Jolly, audio director for Maxis/Electronic Arts, Eno understood the concept and was on board immediately. “In the first phone conversations with him, he really got the idea that the music was always changing, that it would be procedural, and he was really excited about it,” Jolly said. “Within a week of talking to him, without having set up anything, he sent us a full CD or more of stuff, and some of it was made right then, not just things he found on his computer, which was pretty amazing.”
There is some more traditional music in Spore (Jolly compares the Eno compositions to his 1983 album Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks), but those songs also mutate. Jolly hopes that Spore will open the door for more creativity and game-specific compositions. “I’m interested in the idea of games creating original music,” he said. “It allows you to write interactive music in ways that are very difficult to do when you’re licensing music. With licensing, you have a band who has already written a piece of music without having thought at all about the idea of games or interactivity in any way, and so unless you happen to have some particular thing going in your game — like a radio you can turn on — it’s very difficult to make it blend into the action of the game and be responsive.”
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