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Killzone Mercenary Interview: Scoring Music For The ISA And Helghast
Walter: I even had an instrument built from scratch that was a mixture of cello and double bass. We screwed metal objects onto the corpus which created all sorts of interesting resonances when played with a bow. These sound creations became the base for many of the more stealthy tension tracks in the game.
Fighting for both sides, the ISA and later on the Helghast, brought another level of detail to the soundtrack as it requires the music to create a distinct sound for each campaign. It was necessary to choose specific sounds and instruments that represent the core mood and temper of the ISA and the Helghast.
The music for the ISA features a palette of analog and digital synths (Moog, Access Virus, etc.), electronic drums accompanied by an orchestra. The music for the Helghast campaign had to have a sonic twist and reflect their more ominous and darker mood. This is where I used many of the bespoke sound creations like extended playing techniques. These included: playing with bows/metal/rubber/wood and are not limited to string instruments only but also a wide selection of percussive instruments e.g. cymbals, glockenspiel, etc.
We also recorded a vast selection of man-sized percussion instruments including modified bass drums, snare drums that were filled with shrapnel and other metal pieces - adding distortion etc. Once recorded, many of these sounds were heavily processed with a range of analog and digital outboard equipment.
Gaming Blend: How does scoring for an FPS differ from other genres? Or, compared to movies/television, how does the process differ between video games and those other media?
Walter: Film and TV are linear media so you know exactly how long the action cue will be played before it ramps up to a crescendo that ultimately peaks on an explosion of the spaceship. With a video game it is the player who determines the length of each section with his actions. Some in-game music is triggered by certain events which makes it easier for us composers to decide how to start a cue. But most of the time the player is listening to a background track which has to sound as varied as possible to not give the impression of the player listening to a loop all over again. This is where the main difference lies between games and film/TV – to keep these tracks interesting and allow the player to stay in a particular scene for as long or short as he/she wants to. Then there are the cut-scenes which work exactly like film/TV. The composer is being given an exact timing of the entire sequence so I can write the music in the very same way I would do for a movie.
Another of the main differences between film and games are the development and delivery schedules. The timings for movies are extremely tight ranging from a few weeks to several months to write, produce and record an entire film score.
Games are being developed over a much longer time period. On my game projects I’ve been lucky to be involved from an early stage. This means you can be working on a big title like Killzone for more than a year. The delivery dates for missions or campaigns are sometimes months or half a year apart which leaves enough time to work on multiple projects within the same year.
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