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Research Paper *long*
Posted By: j41m3z <>Date: 12/19/07 11:21 p.m.

Avateur said it was good. I know there are mistakes and copy and paste didn't help the formatting. It's about Marty.

From Riven to Halo and Beyond

In 1962 the first true video game arrived. Pong was a table tennis simulator. The goal of the game was to outscore your opponent by having them miss the ball. As a signal that you had hit the ball a noise was made. “Blip-blop” is what that sound is described as nowadays. About 24 years later Super Mario Brothers was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The NES was very limited in the number of sounds it could create. Composer Koji Kondo was able to overcome the challenge of limited technology to create one of the most well known video game themes. In Japan, video game music has been very popular for quite some time. Nobuo Uematsu is one of the most famous game composers in the world. For example, his work on the Final Fantasy series even expanded into symphonic concerts. Uematsu was the start of a new emphasis in music when making games. Squaresoft knew the importance that music had in portraying emotion. But in America few companies chose to give that emphasis in their games. Only recently has music, and sound in general, received the spotlight in video games.

This new interest in the audio side of games spawn concert tours dedicated to video game music. Of these concerts the most well known and successful are PLAY! A Video Game Symphony and Video Games Live. These concerts are dedicated to video game music and play music from a wide range of games using symphony orchestras. Music from Halo is almost always in the program. This is a new age in games but it is very slowly progressing. Audio has always been the last thing to be considered during production. Now as music takes the stage, studios realize the importance of having quality audio in their games. But still only few are bringing in talent early enough. Bungie Studios was one of the first to realize the importance of bringing in audio talent early in production.

Martin O'Donnell received his Bachelor of Music in Composition in 1977 from the Wheaton College Conservatory. Four years later he received his Master of Music in Composition from the University of Southern California's School of Music. This schooling prepared for what became a successful career. O'Donnell started his career by writing jingles and other music for advertisements, television and radio. His first work was music for a Sears point of purchase video ("Shiny"). He then went on to do work for, Kellog's, Mr. Clean, and McDonald's (Halo). One of his most famous jingles is for the Flinstones Vitamins' "Ten Million Strong and Growing" television ad.

O'Donnell is a gamer but had never planned to do audio for games. In 1993 a friend's son, Josh Staub, showed Martin O'Donnell a still in development version of the game Myst. "Once I played it I was determined to expand my audio business to include game audio" says O'Donnell ("Halo"). When he contacted the developers the game was almost complete and therefore he was unable to work on it. Work on Riven: The Sequel to Myst was soon to start and that was his entry into the video game industry. In 1996 while still working on Riven, O'Donnell contacted "Bungie to let them know [he] was available if they needed him." (Giocando). This was the start of a new relationship. At the time Martin O'Donnell was still like many other audio people in the industry, they are being hired to work on a game to game basis. These sound directors, designers, composers are not part of a studio. This is a problem that does not allow the sound in games to be at the same quality as the rest of the game.

June 19, 2001, Microsoft announced that it had bought Bungie Studios. Two years before Bungie had Martin O'Donnell write a piece for the premiere of Halo, their latest game, for MacWorld 1999. This would prove to be the hook that would garner many awards in music. O'Donnell, coming from an advertisement background, knew the importance of giving the audience a melody they would remember. "The first words that were used to describe Halo to [O’Donnell] were 'ancient', 'alien', and 'epic'....[He] figured plainsong chant for the 'ancient', Qwalli chant for the 'alien' and orchestral strings and percussion for the 'epic'" (Marks). This short three minute piece would become iconic to the game.. Bungie had been a mostly Mac developer but soon after the premiere they were offered to be bought by Microsoft. Ten days before the 2000 acquisition by Microsoft, Bungie hired Martin O'Donnell as a full time employee. This is an exception and not the norm in the industry. O'Donnell would now be there through the whole development of the game.

As audio director of Bungie Studios, Martin O'Donnell was now in charge of things audio. Sound effects for every object in the game, dialogue, and music were now the responsibility of O'Donnell and Jay Weinland, the sound designer. O'Donnell wrote all the music for the game with help from Michael Salvatori. Salvotori and O'Donnell "have collaborated for more than 25 years" (“Interview with Halo 3"). The actual scoring would have to wait until the actual game was near complete. Until then Weinland and O'Donnell would be creating the sounds to all the weapons, vehicles, and environments in the game. The care taken to have everything in the game have its own unique sound was only possible by having O'Donnell there from the start. Concerning making all the sound feel real O'Donnell says "that for sound effects to be believable they first and foremost have to be in sync. The best sound effects in the world are useless as soon as they fall out of sync with the action on the screen" (Marks). The sound team also took the actions in the game into account, "[keeping] track of every shell casing,[in game], and its impact velocity as well as the surface that [it impacted]” (Marks). This really shows the cooperation between the whole studio in creating this game. If a sound designer was hired after the game was near completion it would be hard to be there and design for a feature such as that to be implemented.

Although the actual scoring was left until the end of development, Martin O'Donnell already had a theme for the game. The 1999 MacWorld premiere piece left O'Donnell with the feel the game would have. Throughout the development of the game O'Donnell says he would sit with a level designer and "spot" the level and talk about what would happen during gameplay (Marks). This would allow him to know what to compose for and what different actions would occur throughout the levels. When a piece of music was completed the designer would put it into the game and "[they] would play through it to see if it worked as desired" (Marks). This continued for every level and had to be done for cutscenes. Cutscenes were easier to compose and score because they are in-game movies. They are not effected by player actions.

The last audio that Martin O'Donnell was in charge of was the dialogue. The game has three types of dialogue: cinematic, mission specific, and combat. Every character had to be voiced and many were done by professional voice actors. The combat dialogue in Halo was very innovative. The amount lines recorded for combat dialogue for the game numbered in thousands. The engineers at Bungie then design a dialogue system that randomized the rate at which the lines appeared in game. The lines of dialogue were given "tags" that "tells the AI what sort of thing to say based on several factors such as spotting an enemy, seeing a dead comrade, feeling pain and the like" (Marks). This complex dialogue system allowed an almost new experience, sound wise, each time the game was played.

Halo: Combat Evolved and its soundtrack received many awards. At the Game Developer's Conference it received the "Excellence in Audio" Award and Rolling Stone gave the Best Soundtrack of the Year in 2001 (Marks). Bungie went on to make to sequels for Halo. Halo 2 was released in November of 2004 and Halo 3 was released in September of 2007.

Martin O'Donnell was able to accomplish this because he was at the studio throughout development. He has an odd position compared to many other talented composers in the industry. Many other composers are brought in once the game is completed. The are payed anywhere from "from $700 to $1500 for each minute of music-more if it's being produced for an orchestra" (Pearson). This is very appealing to many including Hollywood composers. If these talents aren't brought in early enough they are wasted. They have less time to get a feel for the game and the intentions of the creators, but even then it is not enough. O’Donnell says that he wishes he had more time for the final mixing of sound at the end. “We always had planned a two week period that was going to be dedicated to mixing this game, but by the end of the project so many other (important) things had squeezed in that we ended up with a two day audio bug fixing/final mix session that just didn't satisfy me” (“Interview with Halo 2”).

Martin O’Donnell’s philosophy “sound makes it real, music makes it feel” (“Interview with Marty”) drives his devotion in his work. He is the start of a new level of quality in video games. Although many studios are not ready to adopt this practice of having a composer or audio director in their offices throughout a project, this is the next step. As Martin O’Donnell puts it:
“Now, more than ever people who make games seem to understand how important it is to pay attention to producing and implementing audio at a higher level of quality and technical skill. The public is listening to games on the same platform and same home theater that they listen to movies, music, and television. We have to meet or exceed their expectations.” (Marks).

Works Consulted

Carpenter, Susan. "The Next Level." Los Angeles Times 6 May 2004. SIRS Renaissance.

25 Nov. 2007 <>.

"electronic game." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 25 Nov.

2007 <>.

Giocando, Tom. "The History of Bungie." 6 March 2007">.

Halo 3 Original Soundtrack. 10 November 2007. Bungie LLC. 26 Nov. 2007">.

Kelman, Nic. Video Game Art. New York: Assouline, 2006

Marks, Aaron, and Martin O'Donnell. "The Use and Effectiveness of Audio in Halo: Game

Music Evolved." Music 4 Games. 2 Dec. 2002 <


O'Donnell, Martin. "Halo 2: Of Music and Sound." GameSpy. 4 Nov. 2004.>.

---. "Interview: Bungie-Jingle all the Way" Edge 24 November 2007>.

---. "Interview with Halo 2 Composer Martin O'Donnell." Music 4 Games. 1 Nov. 2004


.---. "Interview with Halo 3 Composer Marty O'Donnell." Music 4 Games. 20 Sept. 2007


---."Interview with Marty O’Donnell, Audio Director, Bungie Studios" Dolby <>

---. "Shiny New Q&A." Online Posting. 24 Nov. 2007 The Marty Army. 27 Nov. 2007.


Message Index


Research Paper *long*j41m3z 12/19/07 11:21 p.m.
     Worth the readAvateur 12/19/07 11:49 p.m.
     Re: Research Paper *long*vlad3163 12/20/07 12:17 a.m.
           Re: Research Paper *long*Raulboy 12/20/07 1:02 a.m.
     Re: Research- Pong !!! ( noooooooooo)vshields ash 12/20/07 1:30 a.m.
           Re: Research- Pong !!! ( noooooooooo)Eiii 12/20/07 1:36 a.m.
     Re: Research Paper *long*Louis Wu 12/20/07 5:49 a.m.
           Re: teh 1 fo de obvious ;)vshields ash 12/20/07 9:15 a.m.
                 Re: teh 1 fo de obvious ;)Vandle Valsher 12/20/07 9:20 a.m.
                 Re: teh 1 fo de obvious ;)CYBRFRK 12/20/07 9:30 a.m.
                       Re: teh 1 fo de obvious ;)Bufhimat 12/20/07 9:36 a.m.
                             Re: teh 1 fo de obvious ;)mercury 12/20/07 1:56 p.m.
                                   Re: teh 1 fo de obvious ;)Bufhimat 12/20/07 2:15 p.m.
                                   Re: teh - no tiny screenz...vshields ash 12/20/07 5:25 p.m.
                       if you're ever in the area...Miguel Chavez 12/20/07 9:52 a.m.
                       Re: teh 1 fo de obvious ;)Usul 12/21/07 3:35 p.m.

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