In theatre, there are four distinct disciplines completely vital to a production: set, light, costume, and sound. I’m pretty convinced that video games are starting to clue in on this methodology, and sound is becoming increasingly more important to sell a AAA quality game. A trend has recently taken wing in the gaming industry: using full-scale orchestras to produce a truly stunning soundtrack. The influence of music on a player can completely revolutionize their gaming experience, and thatgamecompany’s composer, Auston Wintory, understands (I mean, it was nominated for a Grammy. This guy knows what’s up).
Confession: I’ve listened to this hour-long soundtrack for Journey about four times today. I didn’t even notice the commentary until my third listen, which has great tidbits from Wintory about the process. Here are some highlights in case you can’t sit around to watch the entire hour-long commentary.
Jenova would ask constantly, “when was the last time you felt a genuine sense of awe and wonder?” He felt the game would simply not work without that. After Jenova heard the music, he said, “this music is more beautiful than the game,” so they scrapped it and re-made it to try to match.
The chirps [when players interact with each other] were actually incredibly difficult to get just right. I designed several thousand individual sounds in total, eventually discarding the vast majority of them.
One of my favorite Easter eggs from the commentary is about its most controversial single note:
NO, that was not your iMail sound! Apparently a flute playing F# is very similar, but being an Android user I never noticed! We caught it during the mix and removed it from the game. It remained on the album… perhaps a mistake 😉
In case you’ve never played Journey, I really suggest giving this a good listen. In the four hours that I’ve been listening to it, it’s helped me write, it’s helped me spelunk through my Minecraft cave, it’s even helped me make lunch. Sure, it makes good background noise for being productive, but it really shines under deep examination, proving just how well-executed the composition really is.