Tue 19 May 2009
Music is an important yet overlooked part of amateur RPG game making. People are quick to toss in Final Fantasy X’s soundtrack and Aeris’ theme in their game, or other mix of random popular music. I’ve heard Donkey Kong music in some, Lost Odyssey, Relm’s theme from FF6, Chrono Cross, and others in RPG Maker games. Come on, everyone who has an interest in RPGs has heard Final Fantasy music and Chrono Cross music.
The problem with Final Fantasy Opening theme and other easily recognizable themes is that people will associate the song to that game, not your game. Unless your game is a Final Fantasy fan game, it should not be in there. I’ve heard people say “But it fits the scene, and maybe people will associate it with my game”. No it doesn’t and no they won’t. It may sound fitting for your scene, but since it’s made for a different scene that everyone recognizes, it’ll take away from the impact that it would have had in your game. You may play your game 100’s of times to test it, the people playing your game won’t. When I hear it, my thought is: “Hey, they have Chrono Cross music”, rather than “Wow, the music fits the scene”.
I recommend you also try to compose your own music. How do you get started? There are a few free midi composing tools you can use, such as Anvil studios, Finale Notepad, Noteworthy Composer (Noteworthy is a trial) just to name a few. Play around with those programs for a bit. Your first few songs will suck, don’t worry. It doesn’t make you a bad composer, nor does it mean that you’re just not talented at music. Everyone starts out with bad songs. In fact, most composers will tell you that the amount of songs they made that they think isn’t good is huge compared to the amount that they made is good. You don’t need formal music training, there are many composers are self-taught.
He is best known for his music in Secret of Mana. His other works are Seiken Densetsu 3, Koudelka, Soukaigi, Sora no Iro/Mizu no Iro, Concerto MMORPG, Alphabet Planet, Kaijinki, Lost Files, and Tennen so Kitan.
So, of all videogame composers, why did I choose him over say Nobuo Uematsu, Yoko Shimomura, Yasunori Mitsuda and all the other composers? Three words: Secret of Mana. If for some reason, you haven’t heard it, go play the game or listen to the soundtrack now. (Contains a link to youtube). Then come back and read this.
A bit of Square history: Nobuo Uematsu, back in the SNES era, was interviewing people for the position of a composer. Hiroki Kikuta had no experience in working with videogame music, but sent in a demo reel. Surprisingly for him, he was chosen. At first he was put to work with sound effects. When Secret of Mana was being worked on, they thought of putting Kenji Ito (Composer for Final Fantasy adventure) as the composer. He was busy, so instead Hiroki Kikuta got the job. Since he had no one to help him with the instrument sounds, he had to do that too. It was a tough job. It was also one of the works he is most proud of, especially since he had to work almost 24 hours a day to make sure it sounded right.
What are his musical influences? Movie music was a big influence for him. He listens to many styles of music, such as Ethnic, Folklore, Fusion, Jazz, New Age, and more. He is a self-taught musician. He studied Religion, Anthropology and Philosophy in University.
He says that Vision is very important when composing for a scene. When you’re working on a song, think from your own experiences and have a clear image about what the scene is. For example, the works of Secret of Mana required him to travel to the Fiji Islands, where he was inspired to make his works by the natural imagery.