Music & Sound: Where To Start
One of the best aspects of writing music is getting to use the same tools over and over to produce wildly different results each time. An orchestra alone already offers limitless possibilities in music, but when you start to pair some of those possibilities with other art, you truly produce unique results. This is why I always prefer scoring art, rather than writing music for the sake of music. This is also why I leaped at the opportunity to score Heroes Must Die, as it seeks to blur the lines between every facet of art.
And so pre-production began. Art of any genre was fair game in helping to realize the shape of this game. We discussed inspirations from all our old favorites. The sprite art of Suikoden, the haunting music of The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly, the rock 'n' roll style of Castlevania... to name just a few. What we created from this open discussion was a unanimous agreement of where we come from and where we'll be going. It's safe to say in 2013 that all art is derivative. It's been safe to say for a while, but I think it's especially relevant in today's sea of social media and instant-access. It doesn't have to be a bad thing, either. What's so exciting about this team of developers is how keen they are to the classics while driving art forward. I hold games like SNES and Playstation RPGs near and dear to my heart. Not only as wonderful games, but for one of the main inspirations behind wanting to create music. Games like Final Fantasy VI will be the springboard for the soundtrack of HMD, but we're not stopping there.
Hopefully the title sets the tone for what kind of game this is going to be. One of the first points we nailed down was that the soundtrack is going to be dark. Even the protagonists will be carrying some dark matter in their hero's cue. But that doesn't mean the game will consist of funeral music. We still want the themes to be FUN. If I had to guess Storm's instrument of choice, it would have to be electric guitar. And this will absolutely be the driving force behind most of his cues. On top of that, since the game is going to be so dark, moments of peace and lightness will really shine in this project.
Once we had a round table discussion about our ideas and inspirations, I whipped up a one minute demo cue. Using sound libraries like EWQL and Logic 9 (music recording software), I was able to deliver a full orchestra effect in just under a day. This gave the production team a chance to hear my initial vision for the game, and give their input so that we could grow the feel for the music as a group. Refer to our teaser trailer for a good idea of what direction the music is headed in, featuring music composed by Ian Faleer. In it he uses nods to the named protagonists that beautifully ties the teaser together.
Aside from that I also put together a short sound demo, exploring some of the possible paths to take in terms of sound design. We're going to be exploring all possibilities, from cinema level FX all the way down to the old school NES feel.
These are just a glimmer of the design ideas behind the music and sound of Heroes Must Die. Over the next few months, we'll be giving you insight into how a character gets developed musically, and what in music helps drive a game forward. This is a project of firsts for me. It is by far the largest game in scope I've worked on, and I'm very excited to have a team of composers joining me, Ian Faleer and Jerry Federspiel. We've already worked together to create some amazing stuff, and we're just getting started!