How do you keep music synced to action, especially in an in-engine cutscene or something that is highly music dependent like Necrodancer, B.P.M., etc.? It seems like it would be really easy for a brief hitch to completely throw off the music timing.

If keeping the beat is the most important thing in the game, then you build the game around keeping the beat. There are many different ways to approach the problem, but if I were building such a system myself, I would start with a system to handle a data-driven beat (e.g. this level/song sets the beat to X, that level/song sets the beat to Y) and then build all of my visuals and gameplay on top of that. The key component to making this work would likely be an animation system that could scale animations faster or slower in order to match the timing of the music.

On the data side, this would mean all animations would be built so they could be sped up by dropping frames, or slowed down by holding certain frames for additional length. All animations would also need to be the same length (or a multiple of a standard length), so that I can ensure the animations will fit into a standard musical measure. If I wanted to have a variety of attack animations and hit reactions, I would probably also establish a set of rules that each attacking and hit reaction animation must always be the same number of frames. I could further standardize each attack and hit reaction active frame happening on the same frame each time.

The code side would then play my animations to those musical measures along the beat. It would do so by scaling the animations longer or shorter based on the beat. The system could add or cut animation frames so that each animation can play in sync with the music. Once I've got the animation system integrated with the beat-keeping system, I can then ensure each animation should start playing on the appropriate frame to keep the beat. As long as the animations are scaled to the musical measure and the music keeps the same beat for its entire duration, the animations should always sync to the beat of the music.

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