Post Magazine

March 2018

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DEPARTMENT www.postmagazine.com 31 POST MARCH 2018 t's the driving force. It's the emotional tone. It's the thread that ties the game experience together. A game's score is a prominent feature of the soundtrack, and it significantly contrib- utes to the identity of the game overall, whether it's the main theme or the entire OST. So how do audio directors and game composers work together to craft the perfect game score? And how do those scores ultimately interact with the other in-game sounds? Post takes a look at the successful music collaborations on Assassin's Creed Origins, Call of Duty: WWII, Dauntless, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. ASSASSIN'S CREED ORIGINS For Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Origins, audio director Aldo Sampaio and music supervisor Simon Landry worked with composer Sarah Schachner (www.sarah- schachner.com) to create a score that had a "mystical digital" vibe, one that combined electronic/synth ele- ments with organic instruments of Ancient Egypt. It's a tonal palette that's synonymous with the Assassin's Creed brand. "Sarah [Schachner] blew us away with her vibrant and unique sound to the game. She made some amazing textures when combining her recorded instruments and feeding those signals through old analog synthesizers to create a feeling of an ancient, mysterious-yet-oddly-familiar sound that Assassin's Creed fans love," says Sampaio. Designing a sonic palette that relates to Ancient Egypt was an interesting challenge. What did music sound like 2,000 years ago? Schachner had the opportunity to explore instrumentation, rhythm and melodic and harmonic structures. Her score is tinged with Middle Eastern instruments and percussion, but it's not overly ethnic. Electronic elements and digital processing give it a haunting, twisted feel. "For example, we wanted Bayek's theme to be iconic and instantly recognizable, so Sarah created this amazing arpeggiated analog synth sound of which we now hear in the main theme of the game," says Sampaio. Right away, Sampaio knew he wanted a score that would ebb and flow with the player's experience in- stead of being wall-to-wall music that "would become repetitive and ear fatiguing after playing for many hours," he says. Sampaio wanted the score to feel refreshing when it came in, and for every musical cue to have meaning. Schachner's score highlights the narrative aspects of the game. Landry notes that Schachner's first 10 minute-long music suite, which essentially became the sound DNA of the score, "was a remarkable musical journey designed to match Assassin's Creed Origins' early script and tone. The key melodic and textural motifs were there," he says. Over the course of the scoring process, Schachner continued to add to the richness and complexity of the score by introducing new production and harmonic ideas. "She kept finding room to step up her game and push the envelope, especially for the narrative material. We had such a strong start that we never really changed direction from the initial concept to the final track. The score just became more elegant and powerful every day!" Schachner composed more than 150 differ- ent music cues over the course of two years. She began with the open world music cues, like those for systemic conflict and stealth, location discov- ery and exploration stingers. Then she moved onto story-driven music, like those for specific missions and cinematics. In Assassin's Creed Origins, a player can choose between different quests, from rescuing a prisoner to investigating a murder, and the music needs to convey the appropriate emotion to match the quest. Schachner also composed 'alarm' music layers that signal when a player is in danger or too near an enemy guard. The challenge was determining what the play- er would be doing in-game and then supporting that musically. Having Schachner deliver her score as separate stems for each group of instruments meant the team could be flexible in driving the game music systems. "The quest music system working in parallel with our conflict music system worked really well. For each quest type (transport, kill, explore, investigate, etc.), we had Sarah create a variety of cues. Then the game would dynamically change the music intensity depending on whether the player was in conflict or not. This worked on every quest type and seamlessly supported what the player was doing," explains Sampaio. Landry notes that having the music systems in working order early on, meant they could share game footage with Schachner that featured her music. "Every new iteration was only getting better, with game sounds and the score influencing one another as we went along. Therefore, we never had any 'bad' surprises in terms of fit. For me, the biggest surprise was how getting the score onto the cinematics had such a sweeping and positive impact on the game. Suddenly the scenes became so epic and emotional. The score brings a great deal of narrative life to this game," concludes Landry.

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