There’s a scene in Inception by Christopher Nolan. Arthur (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to deal with a lack of gravity in a hotel hall while being at another, deeper, level of a dream. Not so friendly circumstances since he needs gravity to awake his fellows with the “kick”.

But what would it be if Arthur simply enjoyed that zero gravity condition instead of fighting with opponents and bouncing from a ceiling? What if he just swam in the air in the rhythm of music? (Nice music by Hanz Zimmer, by the way). I guess that’s what many players would do in a video game. Why? Because they could. And to learn a new mechanic at the same time.

In short, filmmakers and film composers can just create relevant music.

Of course, it’s just a guess without any tests, but Melodrive (a start-up that creates an AI composer) conducted a research asking players what they really think about adaptive music and how it affects their game. In short, filmmakers and film composers can just create relevant music, but game developers and game composers must be very flexible in this field.

Melodrive gave their research forms to various groups of video game players. There were PC and console users and VR/AR lovers as well as members of video games societies like VRChat, Roblox or High Fidelity (a platform on immersive sound). A total of 179 people. Let’s have a closer look at some questions. Does adaptive music improve a general playing experience? No surprise here. Concededly, just 60% of PC and console players said yes to that, but among the VR/AR group it was 80%. Both groups agreed that music should highly relate to gameplay.

Elevate your music production skills!

On the flip side, over a half of gamers are not happy with their current experience with dynamic music. What’s even more interesting, many players would like to have music that fits not only a game they play, but them as well. 60% of respondents are eager to have their own music theme to express themselves along their avatar (some games, like Counter Strike or Rocket League do it already). Additionally, 75% of them would be keen to create their own music inside a game. However, for now, there are no relevant tools that would have allowed players without the particular skill set to do this quickly and easily. All the same, it shows that music’s becoming another way of expression and having a personalised experience.

Ilan Eshkeri

In theory, Melodrive would have assumed that the more tailored a music is, the more immersive a game becomes – kind of obvious. They also could have said that the adaptive music created by human emotions is more, nomen omen, emotional than linear music. With this in mind, a HIM system (Hybrid Interactive Music created by Olivier Deriviere) that uses pre-recorded sound components to compose music in real-time during a gameplay could have been the most engaging system for music creation. Taking it even further, there’s a DAM system (Deep Adaptive Music built by Melodrive) based on AI that composes in real-time relating to emotions a game conveys.

Ilan Eshkeri – music describes what words can not

But, instead of speculating, Melodrive ran another research with 46 participants to test it in practice. They built a space station in a VR environment – two rooms separated by a corridor. Both rooms varied in colour and light. The blue one was calm, the red one was aggressive. Participants were divided into three groups. The first one walked the station with no sound. The second one with linear music. And the third one with adaptive music generated by the DAM system.

Results were pretty easy to predict, but this time they could be considered empirical. The DAM system increased an immersion by 25% in compression to the linear music. It impacted the players to spend 27% more time than the ones who heard linear music and 42% more time than the players who heard just a silence. 90% participants of that research admitted that the music was one of the main elements to keep them in the game and almost half of them said the DAM system adjusted the environment much better then the linear music.

Olivier Deriviere’s tips for composers

In conclusion, Valerio Velardo (CEO at Melodrive) said he talked to many game devs (both indie and AAA games) and they still consider music as an addition and that they adjust it in the final stages of the development process by adding seamless transitions between different tracks. According to Velardo, the researches like that are one of steps to change such approach.

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Maciej Baska

In the games he happens to stand around at a random location only because there is a great music. For over a decade he's composed, written, recorded and mixed.