The Music of Rebel Inc.

A deep dive into what it means to write music for games

Marius Masalar

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Game audio can feel like a thankless industry.

In our distracted world, the idea of listening to music for music’s sake is rare enough as it is. To expect people to notice and appreciate music when their attention is being drawn to enjoyable gameplay is just unrealistic.

Yet music is a critical aspect of establishing the gameplay experience, even if it’s mostly subliminal. It sets the mood, suggests pacing, and offers a sense of triumph in moments of success.

In Rebel Inc., a popular strategy game from the creators of Plague Inc., the gameplay challenges you to avoid combat as you attempt to balance the needs of separate factions.

What follows is a peek behind a curtain few folks ever experience: the process of writing music for games. Specifically, my process for writing the music of Rebel Inc.

I’ve been scoring games for nearly fifteen years now, and I want to offer a look at what that looks like. My hope is that it makes it easier to appreciate the tremendous effort and time that goes into bringing music to your favourite titles.

Writing Music for Games

One of the reasons I love writing music for games over, say, film or television, is that games are dynamic.

In a film, a given scene will play exactly the same way no matter how many times you watch it. Musically, that makes it predictable and consistent-much easier to score. In a game, a given sequence could unfold hundreds of different ways depending on the programming of the game and the choices of the player.

This element of player agency is what makes writing music for games so satisfying. You never know exactly where and how the emotional peaks and valleys will present themselves, yet you need to make sure the musical accompaniment always feels like it’s supporting the action. It’s a tremendous and thrilling task.

Writing music for combat is fun but generally straightforward. Writing music for conflict is complicated and rewarding, which made this a very cool project for me to work on.

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Marius Masalar

Senior brand content strategist at 1Password. Occasional game composer, frequent photographer.