ARTS 2610: Designing Musical Games

Arts Department, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Monday/Thursday, 10:00-11:50am, VAST Lab, SAGE

Instructor: Rob Hamilton, West Hall 305/6

e: hamilr4 [at] rpi [dot] edu


Office Hours: TBD





One of the most exciting areas of music technology development is happening in the realm of gaming and interactive virtual space. Music and Sound Design play crucial roles in the design of gaming environments, narratives and flow. And as designers create ever more innovative game experiences featuring rich graphics, fast multiplayer networking and next-generation controllers, new techniques for creating immersive music and sound for games to complement and showcase these advances are not only possible but necessary.

This Studio class will explore cutting edge techniques for building interactive sound and music systems for games and 2D/3D rendered environments. To better understand the link between virtual space and sound, students will learn the basics of designing sound and composing music for interactive game spaces by designing and implementing rich musical games within the Unity and Unreal gaming engines. Coursework will require the ability and desire to code game logic and design game environments. Techniques for integrating sound and music within games including game-centric middleware tools like FMOD and WWISE, interactive sound synthesis and computer networking using Open Sound Control may be explored.

Working in teams or on their own, students will design their own music-rich game experience, compose music, design sound material, and implement their own playable interactive musical game experiences.


Students will explore the artistic role of music and sound in gaming by building their own interactive sound and music-rich games and 2D/3D rendered environments. Within the context of their own creative game projects, students will learn the basics of designing sound and composing music for interactive game spaces. Using workflow programming languages and software tools, students will program basic gaming interactions, link them to interactive audio software, and create a musical gaming experience.


    Students who successfully complete this course will demonstrate...
  1. an understanding and appreciation of game design and musical creation through an awareness of the many disciplines underlying the field including: software design and programming, interaction design, listening skills, musical theory, musical acoustics, digital audio theory, and digital signal processing.
  2. basic technical facility in the areas of game development, audio recording, editing, sound synthesis, software development and post production.
  3. creativity and resourcefulness through the creation of musical game environments and composition of your own sonic projects


Evaluation is based on the following:


You will be required to present some of your assignments to the class, to show your work within the software environment you used to create it, and to engage the class in discussion of your work. When you are not presenting your own work, you need to be attentive to whoever is presenting, and to engage them in discussion of their work. Failure to participate in class will lower your grade.


You must attend class to succeed in this course.

  1. Since much of the class is focused on listening to and discussing work in class, attendance is mandatory.
  2. ** More then two unexcused absences will affect your grade, detracting 1/2 grade each additional 2 unexcused absences. **
  3. Absences can only be excused by a letter from a medical doctor or from the Dean of Students' office.
  4. Late arrivals are very disruptive - continued late arrival will affect your grade.
  5. It should go without saying but no use of mobile devices or personal computers during class time (except for as required by the coursework itself) is acceptable. Continued violations will be treated as an unexcused absence.


Collaboration between students in this course is strongly encouraged. Likewise, students are encouraged—indeed, to some extent required—to exchange ideas, opinions and information . You are also encouraged to help each other in the lab and with performance, production, and presentation of composition projects.

Plagiarism of any kind is in direct violation of University policy on Academic Dishonesty as defined in the Rensselaer Handbook, and penalties for plagiarism can be severe. In this class you will be expected to attribute due credit to the originator of any ideas, words, sounds, or music which you incorporate substantially into your own work. This applies particularly to citation of sources for sonic "samples" included in your compositions.

The use of automated technical aids (e.g. ChatBots, AI code plugins) is not strictly forbidden but if used MUST be documented in great detail and discussed with the Professor prior to use in a graded project/assignment.

Submission of any assignment that is in violation of this policy may result in a grade of F for the assignment in question. Violation of this policy will be reported, as defined in the Rensselaer Handbook


Students requiring assistance are encouraged to contact Disability Services: to discuss any special accommodations or needs for this course.


Office Hours for Fall, 2023 will be TBD


Designing Sound, by Andy Farnell

Musimathics (Vol. I), by Gareth Loy (bad link)

Musimathics (Vol, II), by Gareth Loy (bad link)

Theory and Techniques of Electronic Music, by Miller Puckette


The proposed course topics and schedule will be as follows (take note of project due dates!). Based on class progress and interests, this schedule is subject to change. Special topics, guest lectures, supplemental reading, listening and additional assignments to be announced.

Week 1:
Monday, 8/28


Thursday, 8/31

Introduction to Designing Musical Games 2023 - Syllabus review and Class Overview

Welcome to DMG Questionaire: Goo-drive link

Tool Overview:
- Audacity:
- Unity:
- Unreal engine:
- Pure Data (PD):
- ChucK:
- WWise:

Week 2:
Tuesday, 9/5

Lecture: Designing Musical Games :: Gaming Musical Design
The role of sound and music in games; filmic influences; spectra of interactivity

- Destiny Trailer:
- "Hope for the Future"
- Destiny 2 musical lore:
- Marty O'Donnell talks Destiny/McCartney:

- Journey Trailer:
- Journey Grammy Nomination: Forbes
- Austin Wintory Interview (BAFTA):

- Smule Magic Piano:
- Smule Musical Scoring paper: Social Composition: Musical Data Systems for Expressive Mobile Music

- Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman:

- Q3OSC (Quake 3) paper: Q3OSC: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Game
- Nous Sommes Tous Fernando:

- In C (Sirikata version):
- In C (Terry Riley):

- OSCCraft (Minecraft + Open Sound Control):

- Carillon article:
- Carillon:

Thursday, 9/7

HOUSEKEEPING: file submission folder
- You all received an invitation to a shared "DMG Assignment Dropbox" Box folder. - zip up all your files into one .zip archive
- use the following naming convention: "a" + assignment # + "_" + rcs username + ".zip" (e.g. "")
- if files are too crazy large, you can break your submission into multiple .zip archives. For example if you have 3 large .zip files, each would be titled as: "", etc.

Basics of Sound File Editing with Audacity
- download Audacity:

SUGGESTED READING: Chapter 7 "Digital Signals" in Designing Sound by Andy Farnell

MEDIA: I Just Want A Bit Part In Your Life Drive Link (.wav)

Assignment #1: In Class/At Home: Sound Design/Editing Challenge - Bit Part
- DUE DATE, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 9:59:59 am EST (before class begins)

Your challlenge, should you choose to accept it, is to create a set of sounds for your next AAA game project using only the Bit Part single source sample, and Audacity. FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT YOU MUST USE AUDACITY AND NOT ANY OTHER DAW/EDITOR/SOFTWARE

    - Using Audacity, create FIVE the following audio cues/sound events listed below.
    - Each file should be exported as lossless .wav files at 44100Hz, 32 bit, Stereo or Mono
    - For each sound event you create, write a 2-3 sentence description of the processes you used to create it.
    - Create more than five for Extra Credit (each with a written description)
      Laser beam
      Jet Engine
      Rolling ball
      Large object impact
      Small object impact
      Space-ship flying
      Player Death
      Player Spawn
      Game Victory
      Game Failure

Week 3:
Monday, 9/11

Introduction to Unity

- IDE, simple navigation, basic GameObjects, Components
- C# Scripting

Thursday, 9/14
The Art and Science of Foley


Video : Digital Foley: "Mortal Kombat Foley: The Sound of Violence"
Video: "The Hunger Games" & "Frozen" Foley Artists Turn the Sound of Junk into Miracles

Assignment #1 Review: Super-Mega Lazers


- Basic C# Scripting Overview
- AudioSource, AudioListener, 2D vs 3D audio settings
- Roll-A-Ball tutorial:
Week 4:
Monday, 9/18
Unity Overview Continued:

- Roll-A-Ball tutorial:
Unity Audio Continued:

- (Video/Tutorial): Audio Setup Tutorial
- AudioListener - the "ears" of your Player
- Audio and Visual Perspectives: Camera vs AudioListener placement
- AudioSource and AudioClip classes
- AudioMixer: hierarchies of Mixer Groups
- Mixer plugins: Attenuation + effects, order of operations/signal flow
- Parent/Child relationships
- Randomizing AudioSources
- C# AudioScript playback: Play vs. PlayOneShot

* In Class Haxoring: Roll-A-Ball Audio Madness

Script/Asset Share folder: Goo-drive

Thursday, 9/21
AudioMixer: Exposed Parameters and SetFloat() (tutorial video")

- Unity Asset Store and Package Manager: accessing Starter Assets
- - Third-Person Character Controller assets
- - First-Person Character Controller assets

Limbo Walkthrough:
WWise Limbo Project: WWise Limbo project
GDC Talk: Martin Stig Andersen: INSIDE: A Game that Listens:

Assignment #2: Sample-based game audio scene (- DUE DATE, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 9:59:59 am EST (before class begins))

Using your favorite samples, either from our in-class recording challenge or new samples you make yourself, populate your Roll-A-Ball project OR either the First or Third-Person Starter Assets scenes with sound. You can modify and add functionality or assets to the scene as needed/desired to make the game do what you'd like it to.

The success of your scene will revolve around whether or not your scene is sonically-coherent, i.e. all the sounds exist and belong in the same space. Coherence can be helped by creative use of reverberation in game, by careful editing of sounds in Audacity, or simply through artistic choices you make in your role as sound-designer.
In addition to the project itself, create a detailed "call-sheet" list of all the sounds you will use/are using in the project, including variations. List file-names, extensions, durations, and any notes that would be helpful or useful to your programming team*. Please include a short paragraph or description of the overall-zeitgeist of your scene, and why we should care.
Please include examples of the following Unity audio processes in your scene:

    * Simple Audio Source playback (multiple)
    * Mixer Groups
    * Basic C# scripting of audio playback events
    * 3D sound/distance-based attenuation
    * Varying pitch, amplitude, etc.
    * Sounds triggered through collision
    * An awesome looping stereo background "musical" track
    * EXTRA-CREDIT: Make your background track a multi-channel "stem"-based playback example
    * EXTRA-CREDIT: include MIDI file control and/or Microphone input

Please upload your entire project to the Box dropbox folder using the same naming conventions as Assignment #1, i.e:
HOUSEKEEPING: file submission folder
- You all received an invitation to a shared "DMG Assignment Dropbox" Box folder. - zip up all your files into one .zip archive
- use the following naming convention: "a" + assignment # + "_" + rcs username + ".zip" (e.g. "")
- if files are too crazy large, you can break your submission into multiple .zip archives. For example if you have 3 large .zip files, each would be titled as: "", etc.

* the programming team is a lie...