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Shuffling cards and impact noises are cool (it is a card based game), but should I invest the time/effort in hooking up background music? I have found Play Audio from Stream Using C# which could be used to allow hooking to DI if online or similar code could be used to play local MP3s, but is it worth the effort? Which game generes need it and which can do without? Release it without it and add it as a .5 feature?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Well, solitaire (that comes on Windows machines) doesn't have background music.

Despite that, I think if you can find a decent background music loop that fits the feel of the game and is not obnoxious (i.e. can the user tell when the song is starting over again? and again? and again?), then you should add it. Just be sure to add an option to turn it off.

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Games need to provide feedback to the player to let them know what's happening. Chiefly feedback is provided in one of 3 ways:

  • visual feedback (graphics, flashes)
  • aural feedback (sounds)
  • tactile feedback (vibration/rumble)
  • (... maybe one day there'll be taste + smell feedback too)

Feedback can be given for aesthetic reasons as well as for practical reasons:

  • set mood/ambiance eg. music track (aesthetic)
  • alert the user that something is happening (pragmatic)

They key to providing great feedback is recognizing whether you're sending the player appropriate feedback and whether it is useful and aesthetic. You don't want to annoy the player - so adding the ability to tune music/sfx ratios as well as turning these off would go a long way to helping your players.

So considering appropriateness of feedback is an important question, some of that appropriateness is segmented by 'genre', but ultimately it comes down to figuring out what emotional response you want of your players. Taking your card game as the genre, here are a few examples:

  • Are you doing a horror card game? Sound track should match your goals. Horror cards might be silent, have the odd clank and some scary sudden sounds.
  • Is it a fun/jaunty card game? The jaunty game could be enhanced by a fun/bouncy/wacky soundtrack
  • Is it casual? Perhaps you want to add a background track that just sounds like a bunch of people in a restaurant eating and interacting. Perhaps the sound of a railway with slight screen shakes every now and then when the train passes. Are you playing at dusk with the sounds of crickets chirping? etc.
  • Is it suspenseful? do you have a timer counting down? Background sounds can become more climatic as the countdown gets closer to zero. "Who wants to be a millionaire" did this brilliantly.
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I'd say games should always have sounds. In 90% of cases they add to the experience. Have an option to mute it and then you will be catering for the people who don't like it as well.

Just as an example Canabalt is a game that uses music very well.

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Regarding letting the user specify local MP3s to play.

The only reason I see to do this is if the background music needs to stop (or reduce in volume) at certain points (say while some voice-over dialog is playing) then it is good because the game maintains control of the BG music but the user can pick the type of music they like.

If user-selected BG music will have no interference with gameplay, just let them play the music themselves, its not like your game is the only time they listen to music, they will have a method of playing it if they want to.

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+1 I totally agree – o0'. Nov 29 '10 at 18:41

I'd would say it's all a matter of opinion.

Personally, As a gamer I tend to turn off the ingame music and play something I want to listen to on winamp/spotify in the background. That is, unless the game music is actually really good and not looped to the point of irritation.

Using an online radio stream might remove the repetitiveness, but a player could stream their own music separately anyway (and pick their own streaming preferences).

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Put SOME sort of continuous background soundtrack in there. It disturbs me when games are completely silent but I haven't told it to mute anything. Always have the option to turn it off of course, but don't just leave it with a sparse range shuffle noises.

If you're going for the Windows Solitaire feel, then this question is already answered for you: it'd be better to have no sound at all. But then you should ask yourself, why are you remaking Windows Solitaire? This is your game--make it interesting!

Not that there's anything wrong with remaking Solitaire. But it feels to me like that'd be a stepping stone to bigger games, and if so, start making those!

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