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"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing - that's what counts." Richard Feynman.

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The repetition factor

2012-03-29 19:11:40 by Vert

So, continuing from a previous rant and, again, for my own personal indulgence, let me talk a little about the the repetition factor when considering a VG song. We, as humans, tend to be, well, indoctrinated by repetition; if we listen to a song enough times, there's a natural tendency towards liking by sure attrition.

Now, of course, this goes both ways; listen to a song too many times and only the best of the best will still seem fresh and interesting after that. But, in videogames, that normally doesn't happen, fortunately, despite the inherent repetition that tends to exist in this format, because developers know of this and try to create at least some diversity. There are some notorious exceptions, such as Castlevania: SotN and the song that plays in the inverted castle, Final Toccata.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hS5dindtEk

This is a song that crosses the line; it's actually quite good, but the length of time most players will have to listen to it will, almost inevitably, make them dislike it eventually.

So, instead, let me give an example of a song that, through sheer attrition, a lot of people seem to like, Battle Theme from FFIV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nh5QcbYvGM&featu re=related

Is it a bad song? No, not really. It's catchy, it gets your blood pumping and it transmits the nature of the fight well; it's not too epic (which would dilute the songs used in boss battles), nor too 'light', and it doesn't become 'bad' after hearing too many times, so it certainly accomplishes what it sets out to do. But is it a really good song? Nope. It's excessively simple, short and, quite frankly, unimaginative, specially when you compare to later Battle Themes of other FF's.

So, again, not a bad song, but certainly not a landmark or brilliant composition.

What example can I give them, of a song that we've heard a million times that really does posses greatness, so to speak? Well, the example may seem trite, but Battle from Chrono Trigger.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUbfeQXsGoE

We hear this song many, many times during the game, so there's a definite repetition factor going on here, but this is a much superior song to the above. Sure, it's also a bit too short, but it conveys all the positive things the previous song does, with a more interesting structure and lasting power. It's also got a few layers going into it and it's overall a better song.

So we have to be careful when considering these choices; a song might sound good if we hear it enough, but it might not be so good when we hear it the first time round.


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