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Music affecting player's percetion of time


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As if you didn't already know.

If there's a long section in a level that requires a lot of travel (eg, a tunnel without a teleport, beneath a building, those massively long grates, a section of swimming where the player will lose a little health, just to make them scared, etc..) the score, or lack of, the volume and several other factors come into play. It has a residual / lasting effect.

This is also true for loading screens for levels that take a "long" time.

How music (even foley) is used in level design is a subject I've had to research of late - here is an interesting study as an introduction, although I am sure there are more simple articles with less graphs:


One trick to use on a corridor / whatever where nothing is going to happen, but it's safe for the player to move - is simply raise the ambient / music volume as this inspires confidence in the player and unconsciously cues them to run down that corridor a little faster than they might otherwise.

// if it's locked - there's always scihub. also here's an article, rather than a study, for people who don't like words, but want info: http://nautil.us/issue/9/time/how-music-hijacks-our-perception-of-time

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Um, no, I was talking about the actual T1 and T2 missions. Due to obvious copyright concerns, there are no "officially" sanctioned efforts to recreate the Thief games in TDM. I haven't heard of any unofficial efforts either.


This topic can be applicable to any game development, so I mentioned some of the Thief greats.


Back when I first played the games and really sucked, I must have heard the themes in Shipping and Receiving for hours on end. And even longer for First City Bank and Trust.

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This is a good topic. I never thought about music serving this purpose before.


I do believe music to be terribly misused in most games. Music has so much power over us and we still mostly use it like a white noise looping in the background. All elder scrolls games abuse their tracks. They have these beautiful orchestrated tracks and it plays 100% of the time, nonstop. It's too much; It waters down the epicness and you get tired of listening to it.


There's a lot of talk about procedural music generation to synchronize game states and music. And that's all fine and dandy for the future but right now I feel there is A LOT to be accomplished simply by choosing when to have silence and when to have music. Or, like you're suggesting (teh_saccade), to solve specific problems like making obligatory and uneventful long sections seem less so.


I play a lot of simulation games and these long uneventful sections are part of the package. For orbiter, whenever I started a long boring part of the travel I would play some classical music to get in the space-travel mood. Suddenly, the long boring of waiting for the next maneuver becomes the most memorable parts of the game, when I allow myself to go into an existential crisis while looking out the window.


I think something similar could work in TDM and thief-like games. We're not traveling through the dark empty space, so the mood is different and it requires different music, maybe this long sewer walk is the ideal moment to drop some acid jazz heist tune or something similar. Because I love this kind of music but it has no place in a game where you need to use your ears, with horns and drums blasting. But in this specific moment? I think it could work!


Let me illustrate my point. Well, don't use THIS because of copyright, but this is what I'm thinking you should use on your long walks through the sewers (which sounds like a weird Tinder bio):



If this started playing during a boring section, I swear, I would not notice if this was a 10 minute walk and it would make my thiefy experience much richer.

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Half Life made great use of silence. There is a particular part of the game that really stuck with me. It's in HL2 episode 2; you are defending this crossroad of tunnels shooting creatures. They come in waves, with their numbers indicated by lights on each tunnel. Each wave gets stronger but all you hear are gunshots and the other characters talking. Then, after several waves, a moment of peace, then all lights go up at the same time, every characters starts to panic, and THEN and only then, music starts playing. It's truly glorious. Amazing moment in gaming during a ridiculously simple gameplay loop of glorified whackamole, achieved by a careful buildup with music sitting at the very top of that buildup.


At 13:28 this youtuber gets to this part:




Music starts at 24:10

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There's some interesting research on boredom in game design.

It can be analogised to a combat mission. Spend 12 hours pretending you're not scared, another 12 being very bored, perhaps another 24 on the ground sitting doing nothing - then the part that lasts 2 minutes feels like 2 years.

Our perception of time can be altered in so many ways - some games need boredom to make the action interesting. Music can form a big part of that, especially since it augments our response to a situation.

One reason some gamer might end up with a massive backlog of games is because they get bored very easily with hi-octane, repetitive action (unless it's a routine for them or they're lucky to not form habitual dopamine tolerance), yet another gamer will happily play a train driving game for several years and never feel "bored" with the "boring bits" where they just sit back and tick along.

I know one fella who did just that with a train sim for most of his college life, and he's now been a train driver in Belgium for several years.

After the Falklands/Maldives, I got to have a go in one of the flight simulator things as my old man was transferred to training Tornado pilots - it was basically a computer game designed to familiarise people with the real life kit, so they didn't smash millions in training and machine by pushing the wrong button. Guiding a SAM missile was basically using a trackball to keep a cursor (laser pointer) on a moving target within a limited field of view - software does that now, better than humans.

The US military use Xbox controllers, pretty much, to operate drones.
Bohemia's stuff has been used in the past as a training tool, also.


Life is boring, most of the time - else we wouldn't have excitement.
But engineering a virtual experience to alter someone's state of mind and perception of space/time/reality is an interesting topic.

Games (and other entertainment media) are a fascinating way to train/teach or manipulate people into ways of thinking/behaving.

One job, when WoW came out - an advertising agency's head tech was big into it (and would play every night, sometimes from the office due to the better machines).
Dropping off the mail every day and becoming friendly to the point bringing in cups of coffee and hanging out a bit, hoping it would mean he'd go take a leak so as to be left alone in the room - found out about the WoW playing and started to do that. Being "schooled" in how to play WoW by the guy.
One night, asks if it's possible to log in and do something with his character as he's out. Turns out it was the same password as his admin login.

Co-op gaming built a level of trust with someone that was not possible to create in real life.

Turned out there was about 3.4gb of Kirsten Dunst pictures (along with all the non-disclosure agreement stuff that everyone was working on for VW) on the servers when examining the system, cos the friendly mail guy gets in early and security don't question it at weekends - the tape backups were locked up in a safe, so they were impossible to get at - but the system's security ended up being compromised because of playing a game with someone and doing them a favour one time.

Those kinds of things aren't very nice, pretending to be friends - but it's a function.

For some people - that's also a game, from which they get their achievement dopamine and level up.

Time passes very quickly, listening to the sound of a server-room.

Some of the ambient noises in hiding places in games such as Thief or TDM or other stealth games - they help speed up perception of time through an induced white-noise hypnosis, while waiting for the guard to return.

A reason why someone coughing in a library or an annoying, constant sniff by a co-worker in a quiet office can become a major irritation - it breaks the flow of time by introducing a disctracting event.

In stealth games, that's a good thing - to hear the approaching footsteps and the door open again, after waiting in a corner for 4 minutes for a guard to pass on their patrol.

(I think you've got to be a bit different in the head to go that deep into stuff).

That's a good example, with the HL2 section.

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