Recently, I was able to chat with composer Ben MacDougall about his work on Godfall, one of PlayStation 5’s most famous release titles. Join us in this adventure to discuss the inspiration for the sound of the game, what Swamp Koto is, and how players affect the sound of the game. Or are they? Let’s dive!
Push Square: Even from the early trailers, it was clear that Godfall had a strong identity. Did it extend to music? Did you know how you want the game to sound right away?
Ben McDougall: After discussing in detail with the counterplay team, who has a very detailed vision of the world of Aperion, I devoured all the art I could get. It could be a sketch, a screenshot, or a model that was barely rendered, but it was so moving that I thought it was inevitable to translate it into music. It also helps that I have been working with developers for several years. So we speak a pretty good language about how music sounds.
Basically, the sound of the game went on like the game. However, from the early sketches, it was clear that the score had two very different “personality”, except for all places and characters. I’ll talk about that a little later.
What source did you look for when creating the Godfall sound? Which sources may not be immediately apparent? Given that the fantasy element is working, don’t you think the impact is obvious just by looking at the game?
The new IP could make Godfall’s musical identity just as exciting and frightening, but in the end, emotionally speaking, it was art that made it happen. did. I also found it important to include new instruments in the score. It simply makes sense to me that new games need unprecedented sound.
I am an avid woodworker and started making my own instruments a few years ago. So, among the myriad of custom sounds I recorded for this score, there is a * real real wood and string * instrument that I affectionately call the swamp koto. It started as a fragment from a local hardware store … and after a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, it turned into this truly exciting instrument that appears throughout the game. Rubbing, strumming, plucking, amplification, processing, hits, and much more. It was actually pretty wild and required a lot of tame, but I think the end result was pretty cool.
I was always impressed in nature, and this game gave me the opportunity to score just a little bit of it-musically speaking. I mentioned earlier that the score is a two-headed beast, so let me explain a little more. Godfall is primarily a predator, combat-driven game, so it has a lot of music suitable for fierce combat. But while neither the “predator” nor the “slasher” suggests a vast beauty opportunity, the entire game is an ancient paradise with history, magic, mystery, and vibrant colors and birdsong. Set against a background of an aperion, and all the depth of lighting has become a reality with the new PS5 hardware that changes the game. It’s a lot of material to work on inspiration before reaching the fact that I grew up playing in an orchestra and am very accustomed to writing larger “movie” ensembles.
How did the elemental areas in the game affect your score? Do you want each of the earth, water, and air to have a unique feel? Did you keep in mind the interactions in which one element hints at another?
It is impossible to ignore the elemental aspects of the game, and as a result, each realm has its own sound world and thematic material. The Earth has an underlying graininess and weight compared to it, but in the water realm, this synth, which can only be described as “wet,” occurs throughout. It’s a synthesizer experiment that brought about a real “oh” moment and is incredibly effective.
At Airrealm, I thought it would be easy to win because I was a flute player, but in the end, the flute was only a small part of the score. I’m always looking for new cool sounds. After a random ad was served on Instagram, we delved into the rabbit hole in our research on timbre hand drums. A few days later, my luggage arrived at the front door and was sucked in! The drum itself is made of thick metal, but after a lot of experimentation and suspicious techniques, I was able to create an airy swirling sound that I had never thought of attending a session.
How did Godfall’s gameplay elements influence the musical style that approached this? It does not necessarily mean that it is influenced by “fantasy”, but from a mechanical point of view. How did the game mechanics affect the sound you pursued? Certain motions (which may include the use of a controller) are better paired with certain sound increments.
Players have to perform their own scores while actually fighting monsters. There is no music unless you take command … and of course I’m kidding.
The biggest challenge was to ensure that the two extreme balances of musical violence and extreme beauty did not give the player musical whiplash. The problem was to structure the music into sections / gestures so that everything made sense to the rhythm of the game. This is pretty fast paced.
Does the cooperative nature of the game affect how the title is won? If you intended to play to multiple different people at once, wouldn’t a track playing alone to one person work exactly the same? How did you explain it musically?
In multiplayer combat, all players are experiencing the same music. But the whole world is more musically open, and people have more opportunities to hear different things at different times. After all, the two gusts are not the same. This was handled by allowing freedom while keeping things semi-localized (and therefore contextually correct). Therefore, you will not hear emotionally inappropriate music, but you will react to what is happening on the screen.
How did the scoring of this project differ from what you did in your career? More specifically, I would like to know how the creation of the soundtrack for the game aimed at hitting the PS5 changed in the process.
As one of the PlayStation 5 release titles, it’s humble to say that it’s not only something I’ve never done before, but only a handful of composers have. You should start a reading club or something. That said, projects of this size will always be exhilarating, exhausting and amazing, especially as they have overcome all the challenges of 2020.
Musically speaking, the cinemascope has reached a stage of gaming technology where screen size does not determine it. At that point, if Counterplay Games first came to me and said they were making this game for mobile, I think their musical ambitions hadn’t changed much. Sure, the backend works differently, but the music itself is different.
I always like to conclude my first interview with this question, but what led you to the gaming industry? Did you always want to make game music? Or was it something that happened suddenly?
Music has always been a big part of my life, but when I was a little kid I really wanted to be a marine biologist and work with animals. I don’t think hiding under the duvet playing Super Mario at the time really drove me to this moment, but definitely all the other decisions in my life since then. did.
The only real difference between film (or linear) and game scoring is the amount of music you write and the format in which it is delivered. Your job as a composer is still to help tell stories in music, and those stories happen to be interactive in the game. Yes, yes, I always wanted to win a video game. And how fun it is!
I would like to thank Ben again. And I can’t wait to hear what people think about both games and music when the PS5 finally begins to penetrate consumer homes. How do you hype Godfall? Please let us know in the comments below.