National style martial arts romanticism: on the music design of the mobile game “Heavenly Sword”


Please indicate that the article is from the “Zhenjing Pavilion” column of Tencent Game Academy

Lecturer Introduction Danna Tencent Interactive Entertainment Northern Lights Studio Group Audio Planning

Introduction

This article elaborates one by one from the current situation of game music in the international context to how to create the national style martial arts romanticism of the mobile game “The End of the World”.

1. The status quo of game music in the international context

A good game is often inseparable from the original music created by the game team. As a new industry, game music is being paid attention to by more and more groups.

Everyone knows that GDC, as the most authoritative game development conference in the game industry, is attended by tens of thousands of game developers every year. Let’s first look at a set of data about GDC:

As can be seen from the above figure, the content of the game audio salon involves all aspects of sound module content such as music, sound effects, voice, audio technology, and its number of sessions ranged from about 21 sessions in 2004 to about 41 sessions in 2019. Shows a steady growth trend.

These audio salon games include “Battlefield 5”, “God of War”, “Assassin’s Creed: Mutiny”, “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey”, “Life is strange” and other international 3A masterpieces. “Battlefield 5” talks about the design of the AI ​​voice system, how to use technical means to make the AI ​​voice in the game more realistic; “God of War 4” describes the sound design process, how the sound helps the picture to create a realistic experience , Including the technical challenges encountered by their team and solutions, etc.; “Life is strange” tells how to design good music in a narrative game, and how music can enhance the sense of story and picture of the entire game. Of course, the music designer of “Life is strange” said that in fact, in many cases, no amount of technical means and gorgeous processing skills are as good as playing a piece of music that is just right at a specific time. I still find it very enlightening. How do we get a good balance between the artistry, matching and technology of sound is actually a very difficult thing.

Obviously, in the international game industry, the more well-produced international 3A masterpieces of game audio are, the higher the emphasis on sound. The background music of these 3A games often has the following characteristics.

1. Building the brand image of music

They often have a musical image with a very distinctive style that matches the worldview and cultural background of the game itself, and thus create the brand influence of music. When the music of Stormwind from “World of Warcraft” comes from a distance, I believe most players will be able to emerge from the game and remember the emotional experience that was deeply shocking at the time. This is the powerful force that music brings to us, and it has gradually formed a proprietary cultural identity, which has become one of the important elements of game brand recognition in the hearts of players.

2. Pursuit of high sound quality

Nowadays, more and more products have chosen to follow the highest international standard of sound production mode. Game music is no longer a low-cost fast fast food music, but a game music designer, professional composer, musician teacher, High-quality original music jointly created by top recording studios. In 2011, the Grammy Awards officially announced that it recognizes the value of game music and will set up a special award for game music to recognize outstanding game music. This also proves from the side that the quality of game music has reached the highest international production standards, and can be uniformly evaluated in such awards.

3. Strong support for audio technology

The production of game music is not only about creating a piece of music itself, it involves a complete set of design ideas such as overall style control, playback logic, interactive content, and program functions. Its nonlinearity is one of the most basic characteristics that distinguish it from the traditional film and television industry.

To put it simply, a movie is a linear process, and its stories, expressions, emotional expressions, etc. are all an established framework. The emotions that the director needs to express, when he wants you to be moved, when he wants you to laugh, are all arranged in advance, and you watch it again 10,000 times, and it will be the same process.
The non-linearity of the game means that our experience is an unknown and uncertain content. In the same game scene, the player may stay here for 1 minute or 10 minutes here. Players experienced the main story related story today, and tomorrow they may want to have a refreshing 1v1 battle. We have no way to accurately judge the player’s behavior. In this case, we still want the player to hear what we have arranged for the player to hear at certain times and in certain important places. There will be a lot of logic and function-related issues involved, and a powerful sound engine and technology are needed to support our design ideas, which means that linear control is introduced into a non-linear game experience.

How to solve this problem is a worldwide problem. We can see that different 3A manufacturers and sound engine manufacturers are constantly trying to provide designers with more functions and possibilities. The division of labor among audio programmers, sound designers, and composers is clearer.

4. Diversified promotion

Game music is no longer limited to the background music of the game itself, but gradually formed a game music culture centered on IP. Taking Japan, Europe and the United States as the starting point for the diversified development of game music, we see that more and more manufacturers use music as a means of publicity by releasing soundtracks, holding offline concerts, promoting theme song MV, and launching star song cooperation. , To expand the IP influence of game products.

2. The music design of the mobile game “Heaven Sword”

Regarding the music design of the Tiandao mobile game, we still elaborate on the four characteristics of game music in the international context summarized above.

1. “Tiandao”‘s music brand image creation

When it comes to the end game of “Heavenly Sword”, in addition to the plot, art, gameplay, and sense of battle, the music of “Heavenly Sword” has always been recognized and loved by the majority of players. It has already formed a musical characteristic of the “Heavenly Sword” style, and has a strong sound cultural IP identity. Therefore, when we control the overall music style of mobile games, one is to retain the classic end-game music so that old players can resonate; the other is to refine the characteristics of the end-game music style to better adapt to it. The style and characteristics of mobile games. To this end, we take the three main directions of inheriting classics, theme adaptation, and music extension:

1.1 Inherit the classics

Many people say that the music of “Heavenly Sword” is very nice and has a very distinctive style. So, what are the characteristics of the music in “Heavenly Sword”?

I have summed up a word myself, called Guofeng Martial Arts Romanticism. This is actually relative to the classical romantic music represented by composers such as Chopin, Brahms, and Dvořák that emerged in the 19th century. It emphasizes more subjective emotions and romantic fantasy, with very obvious Music listening characteristics. Taking western classical traditional composing techniques as the cornerstone, incorporating Chinese characteristic national musical instruments and national modes, through the blending of Chinese and Western musical instruments and smooth melody lines, it constitutes a very “Heavenly Sword” style of musical listening.

After refining the core music points of the mobile game, we need to make certain adaptations based on the existing classic melody to better adapt to the content and characteristics of the mobile game.

1.2 Theme adaptation

Take map music as an example. On the one hand, we have selected the most representative map music in the terminal game and inherited its different weather and day and night playing rules; on the other hand, we hope to be able to retain the classic songs of the terminal game while passing The theme adaptation allows the music to better adapt to the rhythm characteristics and gameplay content of mobile games.

For example, when we experience mobile games, we will find that the melody lines of daytime music on some maps are too obvious. When we perform tasks such as the main line and branch on the corresponding map, we will repeatedly hear a very obvious inherent melody in the middle and high frequencies, which will cause fatigue.

The reason for this problem is that on the one hand, the mobile phone has an inherent characteristic of amplifying the sound in the middle and high frequency bands. On the other hand, the limitation of the mobile phone package determines that we cannot use many pieces of music to avoid it like a terminal game. The player hears the same music repeatedly. In response to this situation, we adapted part of the map music for about 2 minutes to unify the listening experience while keeping the classic melody while appropriately increasing the duration.

By weakening the melody, the use of different instruments, and the change of rhythm, we have allowed players to retain their familiar listening experience in the end game while solving the listening fatigue caused by the overly obvious musical melody.

1.3 Music extension

The rich plot and powerful partner interaction system in mobile games requires us to pay more attention to the connection between players and various characters in the game, and use theme music to better shape the character image and deepen the experience of each gameplay.

Music creates characters: Zhao Waner

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Let’s take a look at Princess Song Zhao Wan’er. Although she was born noble, she has no princess. Her heart is actually longing for the world and freedom. When creating such a character theme, we not only need to take into account the noble status of the royal princess, but also need to portray her softness on the outside, strongness on the inside, heroism, and yearning for the world. Based on the above points, we chose the adapted version of Duanyou’s “Wang Ji Tian Ya” as the introduction. On the basis of the original song, we used girls’ singing and violin-like solo melodies to emphasize Zhao Wan’er’s inner desire for freedom. After the introduction, she used Guzheng and Zhongqi to express her aristocratic temperament, and piano and string music to express her gentle color. Cooperating with the plot and the appearance of the animation, it can immediately give players a sense of substitution, and understand the complex emotions in Zhao Waner’s heart from the sense of hearing.

Music deepening gameplay characteristics: home music

In addition to the musical shaping of the character image, we have also made corresponding musical design for some unique gameplay. Taking the home system as an example, we need to consider the audibility, comfort and general functions of the melody for the indoor and outdoor universal home maps. For some homeland maps with obvious distinctive styles, we have also added exclusive music to them separately so that players can have a corresponding new auditory experience when experiencing different homes.

Aiming at the two home styles of Huizhou and the Forbidden City, we have selected Xiao and Zhong Qiao as the representative instruments of the two homes respectively. We use Xiao to emphasize the simple and simple style, and Zhong Qi to emphasize the royal temperament. In this way, supplemented by the parts of the harp, guzheng, strings, and pipa, the overall unity and distinction are made.

Music Linkage Cultural Heritage: Three Major Music and Dances

As a product adhering to the original intention of national culture and culture, the mobile game “Tiandao” has joined hands with the Forbidden City, Dunhuang Research Institute, and Intangible Heritage War Drum to launch “Heart King·Luo Shen Fu”, “Heart King·Guangyin Tian”, “Heart King· Three sets of themed appearance suits with far-reaching significance. In the design of music, we also hope that we can show the unique charm of dance music while maintaining the overall music style of Tiandao.

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Since the duration needs to be controlled at about 30 seconds, the content of the music needs to be as rich as possible to match the body language of the dance movements. The King of Heart·Luo Shenfu emphasizes elegance and softness. We have established that the smooth lines of string music are added to the smart guzheng to express the dignified and feminine classical charm; the King of Heart·Guangyintian needs to show the classic beauty of Dunhuang flying dance, we The pipa that matches the dance is selected as the main instrument. For the flying passages, we use the pipa’s round fingers to add female chants to create the progressive line and sense of sacredness when the player ascends to the sky with the dance. Emphasizing the exotic style, sense of strength and enthusiasm, in order to highlight the solo effect on the drums, we use bass drums and footsteps as the main body, and added the shouts of boys to enhance the overall momentum and sense of rhythm.

2. Music quality assurance of “Heavenly Sword”

For most of the national solo instruments and string bands in the music, we have recorded the music to ensure the overall sound quality. The most commonly used solo instruments include flute, pipa, guzheng, guqin, erhu, string and so on. After confirming the recorded instruments, we will begin to prepare the band score and part scores, and then go to a professional recording studio for on-site recording of the instruments, and finally output the finished music through the performance of the musicians and the late mixing.

3. Audio technology support-interactive music

In the music design of the “Heavenly Blade” mobile game, we used Wwise’s powerful audio engine system as support and added an interactive music system to achieve three basic goals: smoother switching, reduced repetition, and response to real-time control.

3.1 Smoother switching

Through Wwise’s interactive music system, we can freely define the switching logic between various music in the Event by adding the State parameter.

Here, I have listed several commonly used methods in mobile games:

  • Next Bar: Switch according to the measure, and switch at the first beat of each measure. According to the specific content, in some music, the transition paragraph of Brigde is added to make the listening experience smoother.
  • Next Beat: Switch according to the beat, suitable for the state transition logic that needs faster response to screen switching and takes into account the smoothness of the rhythm.
  • Exit Cue: Play the next music only after the previous music has been played completely. For example, some short pieces of music about 15s can be played after the completion of the playback, so as to ensure the integrity of the music while not allowing the sound to be too out of touch with the picture.
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Taking a set of interactive battle music in Novice Village as an example, we set four different states according to the content of the game: M_Battle_Level_1, M_Battle_Level_2, M_unBattle, and M_Battle_Ending. We set Next Bar, Next Beat, and the way to join the Bridge section according to the response speed, so that players can experience the smooth music switching experience associated with the battle state when they first enter the game for the first battle.

3.2 Reduce repetition

Due to the limitation of the package body of mobile games, we have no way to increase the richness of music through a large number of music in the terminal game. In the mobile game experience, we not only hope to have a vivid theme, but also don’t want to repeat this melody all the time, causing auditory fatigue. In the content of the theme adaptation in 1.2 above, we mentioned that some repertoires were adapted to strengthen the changes of the music while maintaining a unified theme melody. In order to pursue a richer music change effect, we split a complete piece of music into various instrument soundtracks, and realize a random combination of each music playback through the internal split-track playback function of wwise.

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Take the Dongyue map ambient music as an example. After playing the end-game music with a strong sense of melody, we hope that this ambient music can be changed more to enhance its richness. To this end, we split the dizi track and the guitar track, which have a slightly prominent melody. As can be seen from the above picture, the entire track will be played in the first pass, and the guitar track will be played in the second pass. It is an empty part, and the dizi track is also edited in the middle section to make the overall sound more atmospheric. Repeated playback in this way combined with the processing of the Silence section can greatly improve the player’s Experience comfort.

3.3 Real-time response

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the experience of the game is a non-linear process. We hope to respond to real-time dynamic music control through changes in player behavior and strengthen the player’s emotional experience and sense of substitution. In the copy module with complex interactive behavior, we need to understand the content and internal logic of each module as a whole, from the perspective of the player, to summarize its key behavior nodes, and according to the content of the game, through different The mood of music conveys a rich emotional experience and enhances the refreshment of the battle. At the same time, in the rich and changeable music, how to ensure the player’s unified listening sense and switching between various music will not disturb the player’s smooth experience. This is also a difficult point, and we need to make breakthroughs one by one.

Let’s take a copy of the night exploration of the palace as an example.

First, we summarized all the key nodes in the game together with related planning. In order to make the experience smoother and increase the richness of musical mood changes, we designed a complete set of interactive music logic to apply to the game. At each node, we hope to be able to render different emotions through the switching of music and ensure the smoothness of the switching. The figure above summarizes the differences between the past practices and the existing practices.

Based on the above content, we designed the parameters in Wwise.

In order to ensure the smoothness of the switching of each piece of music and a unified sense of hearing, we need to make a unified design and rule-making on the tonality, speed and beat of the music. The above is the specific information of the music resources in the mobs stage and the BOSS stage, and the effects in the game.

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In addition to setting a complete set of interactive music that matches the player’s behavior, in the Imperial Palace dungeon, we designed and produced exclusive battle music for the last BOSS, Shen Guhong. On the one hand, when fighting Shen Guhong’s BOSS to the Canglang Jianhai stage, the art picture performance brings players a strong video impact, and the emotion of music needs to be matched accordingly; on the other hand, as one of the protagonists of the game, Shen Guhong, we hope to adapt it with his exclusive theme to deepen the player’s impression of his music theme, and establish an emotional connection in the sense of hearing, thereby strengthening the sense of substitution.

This audio is the exclusive theme of Shen Guhong’s tenderness for the new work in the mobile game. We use the main theme to adapt the theme of combat music through percussion, brass and strings.

4. Diversified promotion

“Heaven Knife” terminal game has accumulated certain accumulation and experience in the cooperation of songs and offline performances. We have followed its usual pace in the music content of the mobile game. At the beginning of the launch, we assisted our colleagues in the marketing department to launch The album of the same name, “A Song of the End” sung by A Duo, launched QQ Music and added in-game mobile game music for simultaneous promotion. In terms of diversified publicity and promotion of music, we still need more thinking and decision-making, and more in-depth cooperation with colleagues in various departments. In the follow-up, we hope to have more diversified collaborations with more composition teachers, music performers, singers, etc., and create more sparks.

Conclusion

The end game music of “Heaven Blade” has always been praised by the majority of players, and it has irreplaceable significance in the development of Chinese game music. With a strong IP game brand, how can we effectively refine and summarize its music characteristics, and adapt and break through according to the art style and rhythm characteristics of mobile games, has always been a technical difficulty that we need to overcome. In the design of music, we need to continue to experience the game from the perspective of the players, and communicate and cooperate more effectively with the project interface people in all aspects. As practitioners in the game industry, we will always adhere to our original intention, create a comfortable listening experience for players, create national style martial arts romantic music, and bring excellent modern Chinese music to the majority of players and listeners.

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