Non-repetitive Design

Non-repetitive game audio is said to be complimentary to its visual counterpart, Whitmore (2003) states,

“In a sense, linear music is to pre-rendered animation as adaptive music is to real-time 3D graphics. What did games gain from game-rendered art assets? The ability to view objects from any side or distance, and the flexibility to create a truly interactive game environment. These graphical advances give gamers a more immersive and controllable environment, and adaptive music offers similar benefits.”

A musical score that is game-rendered allows player action to determine what musical components are called upon, this makes the music more integral to the visual changes. Although this process gives a greater audio dynamic, the separation of audio assets into a stem style format, increases memory usage.

This kind of adaptive audio can be seen here:

Some developers take early principals of game audio and use synthetic sound, but whereas 8-bit audio of earlier game releases can still be repetitive, as seen here:

modern synthesised game audio can have a seemingly infinite pallet of variation.

Paul (2015) demonstrates in Pure Data the possibilities of programming a bespoke audio tool. The randomised sequencer means that the music will never play the same way twice when revisiting the same moment in the game. For further variation, game cues inform the system to change its timbral output to compliment visual changes. Paul’s system not only generates the musical score but also the sound design, text box’s for example play randomised additive synth one shots that change slightly every time it is called upon.

His work on Sim Cell (2013) by Strange Loop Games was intended to use this system but due to processor constraints he was forced to render various takes of the systems output to be placed into the game in a more typical way.

Paul’s system can be seen working here:

It is notable that both memory and processor constraints have played their part in limiting the amount of audible variety that is available in current generation game development. The end user however is generally unaware of this, developers still manage to work within these limitations to produce a rich sonic environment.

Ways in which developers work within these constraints can include musical genre, according to Collins (2008), minimal ambient music paired with ambient sound design in puzzle games avoids the need for numerous compositions or the repetition of melodic music over a lengthy period of time. Monument Valley (2014) by USTWO makes use of this technique:

The ambient sonic scape could also have an affect on a players perception of time passing whilst playing, in this sense, the audio is playing a temporal role. Noseworthy & Finlay (2009) state that individuals are able to estimate more accurately the amount of time that has past better whilst music is present alongside ambient sound. Accurate perception of time passing is also reduced when only ambient sound is present. When paired with puzzle games, the use of ambient music instead of melodic music could be seen as intentional temporal audio, this would not fully prevent perception as music is still played but would reduce the users ability to do so somewhat. The dimishing ability to accurately perceive time passing would be beneficial to game, keeping the players attention for longer.


Collins , K (2008) An Introduction to the History, Theory and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design. The Mit Press. London:England.

Noseworthy, T. & Finlay, K. (2009) A Comparison of Ambient Casino Sound and Music: effects on Dissociation and on Perceptions of Elapsed Time While Playing Slot Machines. Journal of Gambling Studies.

Paul, L (2015) Advanced Topics in Video Game Audio. Video Game Audio. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 11 October 2015].

Whitmore, G (2003) Design With Music In Mind: A Guide to Adaptive Audio for Game Designers. Gamasutra. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 11 October 2015].


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