From JOURNEY to ERICA

A primer on interactive music

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JOURNEY

For those who’ve played this game, you know how minimalist its design is. All the storytelling is environmental, and the experience is largely dictated by the player’s exploration (and interactions with other players). Due to the lack of on-screen text or voiceover, music essentially reigns supreme as the narrative device.

THE BANNER SAGA

In stark contrast to Journey, the trilogy of Banner Saga games involved the development of a few key systems which were then consistently repeated. For those who’ve played, you know that the games break down into 3 primary types of gameplay: Travel (which is done in a sort of Oregon Trail-esque way), Combat (which is turn-based in the vein of games like Final Fantasy Tactics or even chess), and dialogue/camp.

My GDC talk about the production process on all 3 Banner Saga games
My GDC talk detailing the creative inspiration on the first Banner SAga

ASSASSIN’S CREED SYNDICATE

The musical systems in Syndicate are so varied that it’s impossible to try and cover them here. However, fortunately, GDC made my detailed post-mortem talk about it (in collaboration with the wondrous music supervisor Christian Pacaud) available so I’ve posted it below.

A short video that perfectly captures the combat music in action
GDC talk “Waltzing with Blades” detailing the entire ACS score, alongside Ubisoft’s Christian Pacaud

SUNSET

Very likely, no one reading this has heard of this game. It sadly went largely unnoticed but it holds a special place in my heart. The game was made by Tale of Tales, a duo who have for many years challenged the developer community by always making risky, thought-provoking games. Even without wide commercial success, their games have exerted a lot of influence and Sunset was my joyful opportunity to finally collaborate with them.

An example of playing vinyl record in SUNSET

ERICA

And now I conclude with what is by far the most technically challenging score I’ve ever attempted: Flavourworks debut game, Erica. I began this article by referencing that oft-asked question about the difference between film and game scoring; well, it turns out that a game which exists at that intersection somehow multiplies their respective difficulties.

Jerry Goldsmith was the master of psychological underscore
“Anatomy of a Scene” from ERICA

Professionally curious about music. Composer for Journey, Abzu, Erica, John Wick Hex, The Banner Saga 1–3, AC Syndicate, Tooth & Tail, etc. Fan of humanity!

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