Here at Gaming Blend we were given the opportunity to ask some questions about the development and creative process behind the music of the upcoming Tomb Raider game from Crystal Dynamics and Eidos. Composer Jason Graves was nice enough to answer some of the long-winded questions we posed, and some of his answers are rather surprising, especially in regards to the blank check of creativity he was offered when writing, composing and performing the music for Tomb Raider.
Gaming Blend: You’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of story-oriented franchises over the years. One thing that always stands out with story-based games is that the sounds, the music, the atmosphere usually have to help tell the story in progression with the character and plot. Do you prefer that style of music composition, especially for character-driven narratives like the upcoming Tomb Raider, or do you just kind of gravitate toward whatever seems interesting to you at the moment?
Jason Graves: I’ve always been drawn towards the more story-based games. A lot of it comes down to the emotional impact music can provide. Ironically, most composers are not able to pick and choose every project they work on. I’ve definitely done my fair share of games that have no cohesive story or plot whatsoever. It’s a lot more satisfying composing music to a rich, detailed story with proper character development. It makes my job a lot easier!
Gaming Blend: There's been a lot of comparisons between the upcoming Tomb Raider and the Uncharted series, even though most gamers would agree that Uncharted is sort of a male Tomb Raider meets Indiana Jones. Did you draw any musical inspiration from Greg Edmonson's work on Uncharted to help craft the sounds for Lara's adventure in Tomb Raider, or was it more about finding an original sound specifically designed to tell Croft's story?
Jason Graves: Greg did a fantastic job with the Uncharted music, but my score for Tomb Raider was intentionally crafted with completely new and original themes and textures. There are obvious general similarities between the two franchises, but especially for this initial reboot Lara is a completely different character than Nathan Drake. It was very important that the music reflect her vulnerability, insecurity and fear.
Gaming Blend: Some projects have a very strict creative boundary on them and the writers, director or designer has a specific vision for the game. Did that play any part in how you developed the music for Tomb Raider and how much creative freedom were you given on the project?
Jason Graves: Tomb Raider is one of the most iconic game franchises in history. Honestly, I was initially expecting to iterate on any one piece of music for a considerable bit of time before anything was approved. Especially considering that Crystal Dynamics wanted something completely different for this reboot. The main theme was the first thing I wanted to work on and I knew that would be the perfect litmus test for how much creative freedom I was going to have on the rest of the project.
Obviously, I spent some time tweaking the notes and distilling my personal idea of Lara’s origins into the most essential, basic 5 note phrase. But I fully expected my first submission to be version 1 of many, many versions. When I received nothing but positive feedback, I realized they were intending to give me a whole lot more creative freedom that I have had previously. With big franchises like this, it’s usually the exact opposite!