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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jun 2019 > BANANA DRAMA


Video-game soundtracks can be impressively reactive, but with indie action title Ape Out, game sound designer Matt Boch has made a virtual drummer to improvise along to your actions

If you were born after 1985, you’ll know Rock Band, the 2007 game that challenged you to play along to your favourite songs with plastic guitars and drum controllers. One of the minds behind that play along rhythm game was developer and musician Matt Boch. With a background playing in bands and making electronic music, Boch is now an NYU professor of game design.

For Ape Out, a top-down action game for PC and Nintendo Switch, Matt has used his skills in music, audio production, programming and machine learning to create a game soundtrack that is both integral to the game and remarkably responsive to the player’s actions and playing style. That’s to say, the soundtrack is never the same twice.

Before working on Ape Out, Matt Boch spent over a decade working in a variety of roles at Harmonix Music Systems, the makers of Rock Band. In his time there, he had a hand in developing other play along rhythm games Dance Central and the critically acclaimed Fantasia: Music Evolved, which puts you in the role of an orchestral conductor. Both relied on the detection of the game-player’s body movement using Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect technology.


From a gameplay perspective, Ape Out is remarkably simple. The aim is for your character – an enraged ape – to escape a labyrinth without getting killed. As you unceremoniously dispatch scores of faceless, gun-toting enemies, volleys of rapid drumbeats are generated. The more violent and frequent your altercations (and they get fairly bloody), the more frantic the music becomes.

“I think the role of music in Ape Out is fundamentally different from the role of music in [play along] rhythm games. Rhythm games ask you to pay attention to the music, whereas with Ape Out, the music is paying attention to you, the player.”

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About MusicTech

In this issue, we look ahead, and analyse two massively exciting innovations that are already fundamentally affecting the music-making and listening worlds. In our cover feature this month, we explore the history, science and music-production implications of virtual reality. VR headsets are becoming increasingly popular and with a wide range of music-themed VR applications available to buy or in development, we ask whether making music in virtual space will rival the traditional DAW-based method, and how composing with virtual reality in mind requires a whole new approach to mixing. Elsewhere, we explore the astounding new realm of hologram performance, speaking to those companies that have used modern optics technology to, in a sense, resurrect deceased musicians and send them back out to the live arena. We discuss the technology behind – as well as the ethical implications of – holograms. Also in this issue, we speak to the legendary Howard Jones, LA’s genre-defying Battle Tapes as well as video-game sound designer Matt Boch, who explains how, when working on the recent game Ape Out, he approached soundtracking in an incredibly unique way. We review the latest tech from Universal Audio, Elektron, EastWest and Korg and also bring you a buyer’s guide to turntables, should you want to try your hand at a spot of DJ’ing. I hope you enjoy the issue.