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DevDiary 10 - Music and Audio of Rome


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Hey Guys! Thomas here, the composer for Expeditions: Rome - I wanted to talk a little about the scoring of Rome, the process, the recording, and some cool and unique things we got to do with this score.

We recently recorded the entire score, around 75 minutes so we’re all done, and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you guys – I started writing the score in March 2020. It was clear from early conversations with Brad, Jonas and Justin that it’s a hugely complex and challenging game. The initial conversations to do with score were centred around finding the tone for the four distinct regions and also the importance of finding our music for each of the characters we go on the journey with - having spent the last few years writing mostly for film it was pretty interesting transferring that that across to the gaming world. Aside from technicalities (not altering the BPM’s of tracks, and the need for tracks that evolve and don’t get repetitive when playing for hours) I treated it exactly the same as I would any film - I wanted to get under the skin of the characters, learning there life stories, work out why there where they were, and what makes them tick.

We decided early on that the player would have their own theme to take them on the journey: something we could morph and twist to fit their journey and that acted as a reference point for the player and evolved with them. I looked at the vivid colours of the game and had a lot of conversations with Jonas about the feel and tone we were going for, and essentially treated it as a film but one with thousands of possible journeys and endings. Our “Player’s Theme” was the starting point for this: it was essentially a suite that I wrote at the beginning containing the player’s theme, and two other themes relating to two other key characters. I’ve shared it below -

 


The “Player’s Theme” was essentially our Rome Tone of the game. There were three other main settings to contend with - Africa, Gaul and Greece - and whilst the player theme pass across these regions, the palettes are extremely different. We did a lot of research on the Ancient instruments used in those times and it was often interesting as there were some instruments that no one knew what they sounded like - or at least everyone had a different opinion. It was so important to us that our score sounded authentic and true to its time whilst trying to take it a step further and really try and add something extra to the players experience. We used a whole host of ancient instruments, including Lyres, Kitharas, Ancient flutes like Neys, Cornus and a Tibia - one of my favourite days on the score was working with Andy Findon - an amazing Flautist but also a specialist in playing any woodwind instrument under the sun, we spent a day recording tens of woodwind instruments and where we couldn’t find one that suited the tone of what we needed, he would invent one with us in the studio!
 

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For instance Cleopatra’s theme was originally on a Duduk, but it wasn’t getting the sultry arrogance we needed - so he placed some clingfilm over a wooden flute mouthpiece and it created a very edgy but organic sound and something totally unique to Cleopatra - you can hear it below - 
 


The most enjoyable part of the process was the final recordings - we recorded two orchestras, one in Sofia and one In Vienna, and then we had 6 Artists that we choose to represent our characters - on some of bigger battle tracks we ended up with around 140 players on a track, which is quite a sound! The soloists then added the emotion and rawness to ground us in our areas. After all the tracks were mixed, Justin (audio director) and his team have taken them and worked their magic - I’ve been lucky to work with Justin extremely closely over the last year and a half and it’s a treat hearing some of the ways the music has been used. Now I’ll pass it over him to talk a little about his process.


Hi Folks! I’m Justin, the Audio Director for Expeditions: Rome.


Working with Thomas on the music for the game has been a dream. We’ve worked together on a few other projects before this and while Brad, Jonas and I were forming ideas on what the game would sound like in the early days, Thomas was always in the back in the back of mind as a perfect fit!

With a game as deep and vast as this, we wanted to ensure that the music helps set the tone without running away with it or getting boring and repetitive.

In the early stages of composition with Thomas we discussed ways in which we could leverage his pieces into different ones, so there was a lot to consider in terms of musicality: keys that complement each other and keeping the BPM consistent across the tracks so we could transition elements and new sections in and out with ease.
 

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All of the music and sound has been implemented directly into Unreal. Our talented Audio Designers, Pablo and Anders, have built some incredible systems to manage the sounds of the game in its various states.

One of the shining examples of this is the Timesynth system that we use for combat. It allows us to dial the intensity of Thomas’ music up and down depending on certain conditions within an encounter.

In this clip, we see Bestia’s dramatic introduction to the game and it’s the first time we have our combat system do its thing, dialling Hostilia straight up to 10 as he makes his entrance. I recorded this myself on my own computer, so forgive the potato quality video - it's all about the music!

 

The system was always in mind as Thomas and I were discussing the combat pieces. He’s done such an awesome job to provide us with a score that’s so versatile.

There was also a lot of thought put in to how we properly translate the pieces into the game. This is a score that’s wonderful to listen to by itself, but the combat and siege tracks in particular took some careful planning to ensure we had movements within each piece that we could use in specific ways.

We hope you've enjoyed this deep dive into  the music and audio of Expeditions: Rome: We have an exciting, special stream this week where Senior Producer Brad Logston will be in the London Studio with Composer Thomas Farnon. We'll be doing a longer stream where we release a new teaser trailer about the music, listen to various tracks on stream, and announce a unique special event that will be super exciting! We hope you join us on Wednesday, November 17th at 1:00 PM Eastern / 6:00 PM GMT on the THQ Nordic Twitch Channel: 
http://twitch.tv/thqnordic.

Share the word with all your music friends too; this is a unique treat and we hope you tune in for a fun, exciting stream. See you then, Valete!

 


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Hello, can I have few question for the stream?

1. Is there some homage to Gladiator soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer? Particularly track "Slave Who became a Gladiator" which starts as ethnic piece but evolved into tense rising music for coming into gladiator arena. Because there are few characters with gladiator background in Exp Rome so that homage could be interesting. :) 
BTW if Hollywood would make Gladiator now Deianeira would be probably main star. :-) 

2. Can you tell us about main feeling or themes in different companion themes? What character traits your try to portray throughout music?


3. Female choir or voices are often used in historical movie soundtracks like Troy or Gladiator. Did you used them in Exp Rome?

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22 hours ago, Farflame said:

 

1. Is there some homage to Gladiator soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer? Particularly track "Slave Who became a Gladiator" which starts as ethnic piece but evolved into tense rising music for coming into gladiator arena. Because there are few characters with gladiator background in Exp Rome so that homage could be interesting. 🙂
BTW if Hollywood would make Gladiator now Deianeira would be probably main star. 🙂

2. Can you tell us about main feeling or themes in different companion themes? What character traits your try to portray throughout music?


3. Female choir or voices are often used in historical movie soundtracks like Troy or Gladiator. Did you used them in Exp Rome?

Hi Farflame,

I missed these yesterday but such great questions I wanted to answer.

Gladiator is such an amazing film and a legendary score so I stayed well away from it, we wanted something really unique for this so  I took my inspiration from the amazing colours in the game, the characters and then did a lot of research on ancient music of the time as well as the instruments they had back then.

The Character themes were such a huge part of writing the score, luckily theres such solid foundations in there that it made my job a lot easier trying to get a handle of who they were. We touched on it yesterday but I tired to hone in on specific parts of there characters so Cleopatra was very sultry and confident, and Lucullus is such a good man it was really important his theme reflected that.

Regarding voices we sure did, we used them in a couple of diferent ways, we had Empara Mi a great singer with a haunting voice perform on the score for a lot of the more poingnat moments and then on the flip side we used a full choir on some of the combat pieces for the big impact moments and give it gravitas!

Thanks so much for your questions, and if you fancy doing a cover of one of the themes (or know someone that would) THQ are running a cool competition on there page here , where you can win $1000 - https://tc.thqnordic.com/expeditions-rome-music-contest

 

All the best

 

Thomas Farnon

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