A Game of Musical Layers: An Investigation into the use of a Vertical Layering Soundtrack as an Integral part of the of the Information System of a Video Game

  • Will Ashton

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This thesis contributes to the field of game audio research by investigating the hypothesis that a vertical layering musical soundtrack can be used as an integral part of the information system of a video game. The concept of dynamically controlling music through multiple layers, as well as the idea that music can be used to convey information to players, are currently underexplored areas within game audio research. The analytical and information-rich genre of real-time strategy games is used to contextualise the research, although this research has wider relevance to other genres, as well as the field of game audio in general. The work presented here is supported by a discussion of the relevant knowledge base and an analysis of the audio in a selection of current real-time strategy games.
    In order to test the hypothesis, and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the approach, this research employed a methodology that consisted of empirical user testing of three purpose-built game levels, featuring vertical layering soundtracks and in-built testing mechanics, in order to produce both quantitative results and qualitative feedback from a small group of research participants about the effectiveness of the information transfer achieved by these vertical layering soundtracks.
    As was shown throughout all three test levels, players appeared to be able to learn individual layers of a soundtrack, recognise them during gameplay and respond accordingly to the information they conveyed, while attending to other gameplay tasks. Based on the findings of the research, potential design considerations for the use of vertical layering soundtracks as a source of information have been put forward which could be used as a basis for further research within the topic. which stacks these layers on top of one another in perfect synchronization.
    Interactivity is achieved through the independent manipulation of the layers, enabling the overall track to change in accordance with the fluctuating state of the game." (Phillips, 2014: 194)
    Date of AwardJan 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPaul Carr (Supervisor), Robert Smith (Supervisor) & Ben Challis (Supervisor)


    • Video games
    • Design
    • Sound
    • Recording and reproducing
    • Digital techniques

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