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LONG BLOG

It Is Time To Drop The "Warning Music"

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Since time immemorial, videogames have used music to warn us of impending danger. In most games where this is relevant, you always know when there are enemies around because the regular music turns into "battle music". When you clear the room, the music goes back to normal.

This has been such a staple of videogames for so long that, until recently, I hadn't even noticed it. I mean, of course I noticed the mechanic, but like Ubisoft delaying Rayman Legends without really thinking it through because "this is how things have always been done", I never stopped stopped to wonder WHY.

Then I played Demon's Souls.

As some of you know, I'm a giant Souls fan, but it wasn't love at first sight. Believe it or not, I knew almost nothing about the game when I bought it in 2011 other than it was an Atlus game, and my mind went something like "ATLUS-RPG-PERSONA". Not quite what I expected, to put it mildly.

I gave up on the game after the third boss, and didn't go back to it for months. When I tried again, this time knowing what to expect and with my mindset in the right place, it didn't take long for me to fall hopelessly in love with the game.

Demon's Souls has almost no music, and definitely no "warning music". The game never tells you when an enemy is right around the corner, it's up to you to pay attention. At first I was a little annoyed by the lack of music (likely a result of my muscle memory telling me games must always have music at all times because reasons), but I soon warmed to it. I didn't truly grasp it right away, but that one design change drastically affected the way I played it, and made Demon's Souls and its successors far more "survival horror" than any self-described survival horror game ever could.

But what really drove the point home wasn't even Demon's Soul. It was Dead "survival horror" Space 2.

It just so happened that I started Dead Space 2 less than one hour after finishing Demon's Souls, so everything was super fresh in my mind. The suspense killing music was the first thing that I noticed, and boy do I wish I could un-notice it. It was, if not quite ruining the whole game, completely killing my immersion.

And so it is with most games. The last two games I finished were Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider, two fantastic games well worth of the hype, expect for... you guessed it, the freaking music. In Far Cry, you don't need to pay attention to the jungle around you to make sure you're not about to be eaten by a tiger, in Tomb Raider you don't need to carefully check if there are no enemies left behind cover, you simply run forward without a care in the world, confident the game will have your back. To me, that is really, really mood killing, almost like the time my wife asked me if I'd remembered to pay the health insurance right in the middle of sex. Almost.

And why does it have to be like this? Sure, it was probably put there in the first place to make the game more accessible, but these days, I don't think developers really think it through, it's just "how things are done". But really, what commercial impact would dropping the WATCH OUT ENEMIES warning have? Would people not buy Tomb Raider because of that? I don't think so. At the very least, it could be an option.

So yeah, all these words just to say what the title already said. Who shares my disdain for this archaic design choice, and who couldn't care less?
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About CaimDarkone of us since 11:02 AM on 08.19.2011

I am a Brazilian student in Norway. I also happen to really, really like games! I'm a huge RPG fan, especially JRPGs and party-based WRPGs, but I also enjoy nearly every genre, from Mario Kart to Limbo to Bulletstorm.

Backlog:

Fatal Frame 2
Dungeons And Dragons Chronicles of Mystara
Silent Hill Downpour
Anarchy Reigns
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Crysis 3
X-com Bureau Declassified
Dust Elysian Tail
Deponia
Tokyo Jungle
Plants vs Zombies
Dante's Inferno
Retro City Rampage
Batman Arkham Origins
Outlast
Rayman Legends
Splinter Cell Blacklist
X-Com Enemy Unknown
Castlevania Lords of Shadow Trilogy
Deus EX The Fall
Syndicate
The Saboteur
X-Com Enemy Within
Crimson Gem Saga
Riviera The Promised Land
Knights in the Nightmare
Hexyz force
Growlanser Wayfarer of Time
Gungnir
Class of Heroes
Battlefield 3
Heroes VI
Metal Gear Revengeance
Sniper Elite V2
Pikmin 3
Velvet Assassin



Currently playing (as of 12/06/2014): Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, Mario Kart 8, Chronicles of Mystara

My 3DS code: 3995-6846-8256. For some reason it doesn't appear in the player profile.
PSN ID:CaimDark
Steam ID:CaimDark
BattleNET:CaimDark1
3DS Code:3995 - 6846 - 8256


 

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