Developer Diary: Music to Our Ears

by on Apr.09, 2013, under cognition, developer diary, music

Last May, composer Austin Haynes wrote a guest blog about composing the music of Cognition–music that went on to win the Adventure Gamers’ Aggie Award for Best Music 2012, AND win the Reader’s Choice poll for the same online pharmacy levitra category! So I think it’s safe to say the man knows his music. 😉 Here’s what Austin has to say about composing for Cognition.

If you love Austin’s work as much as we do, head over to the store to download the free soundtrack to The Silver Lining or buy the soundtrack for Cognition!

Hi, I am Austin Haynes, the lead composer for Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller. I also did the music for The Silver Lining, which was a fan game based off of King’s Quest. When I got involved in Cognition, the first point cheap viagra canadian pharmacy to discuss was what kind of music would fit the game? I had seen the lovely artwork designs and after discussing with Cesar Bittar, the project director and CEO of Phoenix Online, we both came to the conclusion that electronic elements along with some acoustic instruments would be a good fit. In our discussion, I learned that the game had dark imagery so the textures of synthesizers and otherworldly sounds would fit nicely along with dynamic instruments such as piano and strings. It is dark, mysterious, but also personal and heartfelt too. The setting was clearly different in comparison to The Silver Lining. This would be our first commercial game but as with the rest of Phoenix Online, we welcomed buy viagra in canada the challenge.

Cognition (Main Theme)

When making the music for the trailer, the visuals were so rich and strong, that it was quite clear in what emotion was needed to capture the moment. It had to be creepy, scary, gritty, and compelling. I used drones and processed sounds to achieve this along with screams I recorded to emphasize the pain and fear these victims were experiencing from these killers surrounded by the city.

There are a few different ways music is used in Cognition. There are some themes used for main characters and also of places that the player may visit quite a bit to make it special and memorable – nothing like music to set the mood. There are cinematic scenes that have to have the music timed and locked in with the visuals. This is very much in the same way that music is scored to film. I like to watch the video and get the sense of timing to start the composing process. This helps me set the pace for the music. Because a lot of changes happen in these videos, the music needs to reflect that so it can be challenging and rewarding at the same time.

Another different use of music is during gameplay. How long will Erica be in certain areas? What is the mood we are looking for here? Because things can change while you are playing and as you progress, we have certain music layers that can come into the mix when needed, making it a very immersive experience. For example, I have some distortion running through large ensemble percussion that comes in as the tension increases during a moment in Episode 1. Being able to have these layers is possible do to the Unity Engine we are using. For intense scenes, distortion was a great way of getting that gritty sound which brought a whole other level of dimension musically to the experience. This is exciting and different from movies that are always locked and set with how everything will go.

There is also the question of implementation. Because a player can spend a long time in a certain area, how long should this music be? Should it be looped or come and go? When it comes to in-game music, I sometimes need to imagine what it is like during early development because the objects, animation, graphics are still being implemented. Most of the time artwork, music examples, or descriptions are provided which gives a good indication of what is needed.

Momma Rose (Rose’s Theme)

I hope fans of The Silver Lining will like our newest creation and enjoy the music I’ve created! I am excited for everyone to hear the soundtrack and play the game!

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Get Ready for Face Noir!

by on Mar.17, 2013, under face noir, music

We’ve got great news for adventure fans (I love when I get to say that!): Phoenix Online is officially working with Mad Orange on the the English language version of their game, Face Noir!

Already available in Germany, Face Noir is a fantastic, Raymond Chandler-inspired noir story set in New York 1929: the middle of the Great Depression.

The dark side of Destiny

The Black Thursday. That is how the press rechristened that October 24th, 1929, a day in which U.S. began to face the darkest years of his history: the Great Depression years. All the great values professed by this nation vanished within a couple of months, the American dream was dead and trust in God begun to shake.

Few years had been enough for people to show their real side: false, mean and, above all, open to bribery. But the one thing I would have never imagined is how far corruption had gone; so far that somebody would actually try to bribe God.

And now here I am, a gun barrel pointed at me, a corpse on my conscience, and a young lady to protect. How could this ever happen? How is it possible that everything has stemmed from a series of coincidences?

Do you believe in Destiny? …I don`t.

Not only will we be working with Mad Orange to add English voice acting to the game, but there also a number of improvements planned for the summer release. You can read up on these and more in Adventure Gamers recent hands-on, in-depth preview of the game, and stay tuned to our site for more updates!

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Cesar Bittar, Music Director, talks about the soundtrack.

by on Dec.11, 2010, under music, tsl

Cesar shares his thoughts on the soundtrack. Read all about how some of the tracks came to fruition:

“This started as a forums post, but I decided that maybe others who don’t frequent the forums would be interested to know a bit about the process behind the creation of this Soundtrack. This list was just me pointing out my fav tracks in the soundtrack, but I decided to go the extra mile and talk a bit more about them. So here it goes, hope you enjoy it:

“Something Wicked This Way Comes”: The intro piece took a lot of work to get it to sound as epic as it now sounds. I kept asking Austin to push it further and higher. I wanted to open with that epic feeling and I intended very much for the intro to be speechless and mostly sfxless because I wanted Austin to drive the whole thing. The mockups for this music included James Horner’s a Kaleidoscope of Mathematics, from the Beautiful Mind score –as a ways of opening, and Depeche Mode’s Pimpf for the Valanice follows Alex sequence, which I had heard in Broken Saints and fell in love with. There were also other pieces like where we see the Crystal Ball that had originally a heartbeat sound attached to it, and Austin turned it into a little melody but based on that idea. I still can’t get over how beautiful the piano section is as we enter the castle and meet the royal family. Absolutely perfect! Brings shivers down my spine everytime.

“In The Name of Family”: This is one of those tracks that became Graham’s main theme after I listened to it being composed for another scene in which it didn’t work. I liked it so much, that I decided to call it Graham’s theme and use it from now on. There are many tries at music composed for Graham (What is Decreed Must Be, A Promise to Never Break, Graham Seeks Answers), but I was never really happy, and I felt it was lacking until I heard this piece and asked Austin to use it now as the main theme for Graham. This is one of the newest tracks made, dating from sometime late in 2009. It was originally composed for a scene called “Can You See How Dark It Is”, which you will see (and hear!) in Episode 4.

“A Prophecy of His Own”: Incredibly beautiful track. I asked Austin to compose the music for the bad guy, and gave him his full description, his complete back story (that you guys still have to learn), and asked him to compose something based on that. There’s a lot of duality going on in this track and Austin captured that essence beautifully. This was one of those tracks where he nailed it on the first submission and made me very happy with it. It’s also the original track that spawns the many versions that you hear in the rest of the soundtrack.

“The Ranger Watches”: This track plays the theme of the prophecy and is one of my favorite renditions of it. I liked it so much, that I used it for the closing credits of episode 1. Simple and elegant. I often play this on repeat in the background while writing –helps me get into that state of mind.

“Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of”: Another one of those tracks that happened on the first go at it. This was supposed to be a slow down version of the track that you heard back in the main menu of the demo, but honestly, it’s really hard for me to spot the similarities. However, it was such an amazing work, that we had to keep it. This was also the first track in which Austin used his voice, and it was definitely a turning point in what I requested from Austin. After such an amazing work, I kept asking to use real voices, and we started doing this more often, with his voice, or his sister’s voice (which you will hear in Ep3’s music). This style has also greatly influenced the music for Corridor 9.

“Journey of Eternities”: I was looking for a theme that could go with the most epic journey the Daventry family would ever embark on. Because King’s Quest never really had a theme (the closest thing being Greensleeves), the idea was to come up with something that could become some sort of an anthem to this game. It had to be strong, adventurous, epic and mysterious, but it also needed to have the ability to come down to the personal level if needed. It was definitely not an easy task, and it took many tries to get it right. The main theme was Austin first composition when he came into the project back in 04. There were literally about 20 attempts at making this theme by many talented musicians, but it was only until Austin joined that this came to be. The funny story is that the actual melody came to me when I was taking a shower one night, and I ran out of the shower to record it through a microphone. I then turned it to Austin and he came back with this beauty. This is one of the most prominent themes of the soundtrack and you can hear it in a lot of the tracks. Pure brilliance! This is, to me, the strongest theme in the whole soundtrack! Blast it through your speakers and you’ll see what I mean!

“The Day You Were Gone”: Either its acoustic version or the pop version, I love them both. The interesting story about this theme is that it’s based on the “Love Theme” for the game. The Love Theme was another one of those tracks that, the same as the Main Theme, was problematic. Austin would come up with something that worked great for a love theme, it was approved, but then, later, I would think more of it, and try to picture it in different situations and it wouldn’t work. I wanted something similar to Xenosaga’s Sakura’s theme –a very beautiful and haunting melody, but also with the ability of being strong and carry more “actiony” sequences. It went through about 5 rewrites, until Austin turned in a very simple piano rendition of what is the chorus melody for this song. I was immediately grabbed by it, and many versions of the Day You Were Gone followed, including these two, an unreleased orchestrated version (Which you can hear in the Making Of), and the final version, which was offered for a download earlier on, where the verses are different and the chorus is slowed down. After hearing that piano one Austin submitted, I thought of turning it into a song, so I grabbed pen and paper, jolted some words down, and started to sing it. This was later passed on to Amy Kurylo, who brought her lovely voice to the track. As a tidbit, you should know that she composed the pianos for the acoustic version of The Day You Were Gone. She sat in her studio, putting things together, and came up with this to use in the pop version. We later found this piano was too “busy” for the pop version, so Austin replaced that, but, experimenting, I grabbed her voice and the piano and mixed that, and voilá, this version came to be days before the soundtrack was finalized –Austin later did the proper mix of course.

“The Thousand Years Prophecy”: Based on the Prophecy Theme, this is another of those tracks that was submitted by Austin and I immediately loved it so much, that it became the seed for the idea of changing the main menu music for every episode. It was originally done for the Shamir and Graham conversation for Episode 2, but given that it was too bombastic, we had to tone it down for the conversation, but I kept the original and used it for the main menu and credits. The work with the choirs is just impressive.

“Graham Seeks Answers”: A modest piece that’s very personal to what Graham is experiencing. For a long time, I was accustomed to see this scene playing to Hans Zimmer’s “A Small Measure of Piece” from the “Last Samurai” score –one of my fav pieces ever. I told Austin that he had very large shoes to fill in with this, because I was using a track that meant a lot to me. And he did! Elegant, evocative, personal, signifying in many ways a moment of struggle to Graham in his adventure, the question of whether he will be able to put a stop to this evil that always seems to threaten his family.

Checkmate!: I wanted something wacko for the Isle of Wonders, and upon playing the original Kingdom Hearts, and hearing the music of the Alice in Wonderland world, I knew that’s what I wanted. It had that very “andante/allegro” feel to it. I turned to Nicholas Boland for this piece, because he is great at a more classical composition and gave him directions. He came back with this very stunning and fun piece. Such a great job!

“Journey Through The Green Isles”: The first version of this track wasn’t based on the main theme, and I asked Austin to give it more of that main theme flavor to it. I wanted this main theme to encompass all the music that signified adventuring. The result is this very peaceful track that evokes a sense of adventure in a far away land. Perfect for the map. I can feel the waves of the sea when I listen to it!

Gwydion’s Nightmare: I find this to be such a powerful piece. Again, Austin managed to get this beauty as it is in just one submission. It starts with Alexander’s theme, which you can also hear in “A Kingless Castle”, and then it goes into a very dark section that, to me, represents well what Alexander must have felt in that encounter with his worse nightmare. It wasn’t only fear, but also the anger and the strength to finally stand up and say what the young King had been keeping inside for such a long time. Amazing job by Austin!

Valanice Falls: The only version of the Valanice Theme we can hear in this soundtrack (I promise you, there’s a lot of them coming), I found this piece to be perfect for the moment. Tense at first, then devastating, going well with the tender moment between Graham and Valanice, a family torn apart by the many things going on about. Valanice’s theme was an original composition of Nicholas Boland, and it came about by accident. I kept looking for a theme for the Queen, but I wasn’t pleased with the attempts from the composers.Then, one day, Nick just handed me a 30 second piece where he was testing some new samples for his music software, and he played some notes with a piano at one point and repeated them once. It must had been a 10 seconds thing, but, upon hearing it, it screamed Valanice to me. Nick even joked with me that he wasn’t even trying to get a theme, just playing some random notes and I turned that into a full blown theme for her. Hey, sometimes accidents are how the best things happen!”

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TSL’s Main Composer Austin Haynes’s debut album is now available!

by on Jun.29, 2010, under music, tsl

Love the music The Silver Lining? The sweeping score of our trailer was composed by our very talented main composer Austin Haynes. And the music of our trailer is only just a taste of what he’s capable of! Austin’s debut album, Evening Light, was recently released, and here’s what some people are saying about it:

“Haynes attempts to create the different emotional experiences people might have while off doing there own thing, yet at the same point in time, individually sharing the advent of a stunning sunset. And he hits it.” – MicControl

“Austin has the distinct ability to recognize those spots in anyone’s soul that have to be turned emotionally for music to really grab you and knock you out. … This is a musical journey and Austin boldly expresses what he wants to say in a bombastic manner, and not holding anything back.” – Cesar Bittar, The Silver Lining‘s Director/Producer

Evening Light, with lovely cover art done by our own Assistant Art Director Michael Fortunato, is available at the following sites:
CD Baby

You can also follow Austin Haynes’ music on Facebook and at his website.

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