14 August 2023

UniSA gaming and music researchers have won a $20,000 grant to explore the potential for automation of music in video games.

The research team, led by UniSA music scholar and CP3 member Dr Sam Whiting, includes gaming lecturer Dr Susannah Emery and John Oestmann, composer for the Adelaide-developed indie game Rooftop Renegade.

The Digital Futures Initiative grant was provided in partnership by music rights management organisation APRA AMCOS and the Australia Council for the Arts.

Dr Whiting says the new frontiers in automation and generative AI have the potential to make significant contributions in empowering composers and musicians – but the question is ‘how?’.

“While much of the current discussion has been on generative AI in design and text-based communication, musical automation contains a huge amount of potential, with most of the R&D in this area having been developed by the film industry,” he says.

“Musical automation in games, however, could make a significant contribution in empowering composers and musicians.”

The project will produce a video game in which all audio is generated live, from scratch by a human-designed digital synthesis system. This audio will then change and adapt based on the actions of the person playing the game.

The game will be developed using Unreal Engine’s MetaSounds tool, which was created by UniSA Academic partner Epic Games.

“The design framework, developments, and critical reflections will be shared freely to empower other composers who are excited to create in this unfolding space, and contemporary industry research will provide important context for the creative project,” Dr Whiting says.

"One of our biggest goals with this project is to develop knowledge to freely empower other music-makers keen to explore this unfolding space.

“Being able to do this alongside the creation of our own game that will road test and demonstrate this new technology means that our research will have a tangible impact with real-world outcomes.”