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Why Reactional Music is the future of gaming audio

Reactional's president David Knox explains the art of turning game soundtracks into personalised gamer avatars
Why Reactional Music is the future of gaming audio
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Music is a massive industry, generating an estimated $26.2 billion globally in 2022. Now, Reactional Music is hoping to combine music and gaming like never before.

Reactional Music is a new platform which lets players customise their own soundtracks. While other games have toyed with this idea previously, Reactional gives developers the chance to incorporate the player’s unique soundscape into the gameplay experience by affecting the visuals, music, and sounds, all specifically tailored to each individual player, recently raising $2.05 million in funding to help achieve its goals.

We spoke to Reactional Music president David Knox about the platform, how it works, and what makes it unique.

Tell us about your work at Reactional Music

We believe that music and sound is so often forgotten. Rules based physics and graphics
engines have enabled so much to change visually in gaming. Music and sound has remained looped and hard coded for the most part.

Gamers we know turn the sound off and stream their own music. This music is passive and streamed. It has little or no place or relevance within the game.

We also know from our consumer research that gamers wish to personalise their experiences. We enable the developer to have creative control over how gamers can create or personalise their own music and sound experiences as part of any game.

Reactional allows any music to be brought into a game and the entire game - visuals, music and sounds - to react live to that music, something that has not been possible before.

What kind of opportunities does this open up for developers?

Reactional enables so much to be created and explored in music and sound for developers, creators and music artists. As well as opening up a new era of music personalisation and of course music as in-game purchase.

We want to enable developers to change the way gamers can experience, interact with and enjoy music in games. Reactional can enable this for new games and also as a refresh to existing games.

We know that gamers worldwide over index on music consumption. We are also a music delivery platform for developers and have been working for two years
with the world’s leading commercial and production music rights holders, independents, specialist labels, publishers and artists.

Developers can use their own composed music or work with Reactional. Reactional is built to bolt on to any platform and access is open now.

Games like SSX and Tony Hawk have previously toyed with custom soundtracks. What makes Reactional different?

Customisation of music previously has really been non-interactive and streaming. Reactional makes it part of the core gameplay. We do this by enabling any song or music to be generated in real-time around the user. This is a first.

Reactional Music’s Engine reacts to every movement in the game, making the music an integral part of the game and opening up real music personalisation where music has a place and meaning in context of the game. To go deeper, Reactional allows for music to be modulated and procedurally created note by note in real time. It is directly controlled by game events, or used to control the game itself. Reactional does this with a super simple API.

The game visuals and the game soundtrack react to whatever music - commercial music or otherwise react to whatever music you bring in. Music becomes part of the gaming experience and gives music relevance and place.

What's going on behind the scenes to make this happen?

We apply metadata to every piece of music and sound on the Reactional platform. This allows the developer to tie any part of the game to that metadata. This could be the beat or
key for example. This will enable the game to change as a gamer introduces different music and sounds.

What barriers have you faced along the way?

There were a great many barriers. Going from the current industry standard of using hard coded music, mostly in the form of loops, to having a rule based music system is a huge undertaking and it has been years in the making since it need solutions to musical issues like analysis and coherent real time generation of pitches and rhythms, sound quality issues and technical issues regarding footprint and similar. Then when we decided to match this with commercial music and have the entire game adapt to the musical choices of the gamer we also get into issues of music rights and licensing- which are difficult in themselves.

Music games have recently seen a boom in popularity on mobile devices - what should developers and publishers keep in mind when trying to break into the genre?

Music games have so much potential with the Reactional engine, but Reactional is about any game being able to enjoy new capabilities with music and sound.

What are your first priorities with the new funding?

Reactional will be gradually scaling up the beta invitation rate with developers in order to make sure the platform is ready for open mass market launch by the end of 2023.

What can we expect next from Reactional?

The use of music generated note by note around the gamer we believe will be the new norm. One of our next key steps is working more closely with the development community, ensuring we meet their needs. We understand that our job is to deliver the tools. The exciting bit is to see what happens when the Reactional tools and capability are in the hands of the creative community, the developer, the creator and the gamer.

We also see a deeper relationship developing with music artists and music rights holders as the intersection of music and gaming becomes more tangible creatively and commercially.