Richard Jacques Interview

Gamasutra has conducted a lengthy interview with Mass Effect composer Richard Jacques about some of the projects he's worked on and video game music in general.
I wanted to ask you about interactive scores, because not a whole lot has been done with it yet, necessarily, or it seems like there's a lot more that could be.

RJ: Firstly, I would politely disagree with that statement, because... actually, I won't say the name of the website, but there was an interview with me, and one of the questions was "There is a lot of talk about interactive music, but it doesn't mean anything." So, a quite interesting perception, and probably picking up on what you just mentioned.

I think over the last three to four years, there's been a lot of interactive scores, and whether they're not publicized or whatever, but people maybe don't know about them. The most interesting thing about that is that if they're done well, the gamer may notice the changes less than if they're incredibly obvious.

There was an interesting conversation I was having with Russell Shaw, composer at Lionhead who's been working on Fable and Fable 2. He said that he did a focus group test when they were working on Fable 1 of really, carefully interactive music changing seamlessly and smoothly, or two tracks... I don't remember what it was, but let's say "exploring" and "battle music," cut really brutally. The gamers preferred that method, because it was obvious.

Another composer I know on a big title which I'm not going to mention was going through an awards nomination process, and the nominating panel couldn't tell that the score was interactive because it was done so well and so smoothly and so cleanly that it wasn't that obvious.

But if they videotaped themselves playing through the whole game and then did it again differently, you'd guarantee that the score would play out completely differently.

It's a really great question. I think that a lot of composers are doing it so well now that it's smooth and clean and plays underneath the game in this seamless way that we are doing our jobs right.

If it's really obviously done and you're just hard-cutting two stereo tracks, that's what we as composers are trying to get away from, because as a movie soundtrack, the score would play beautifully underneath and support it and etcetera, but it should never get in the way.

That's what we've been trying to do with games. I think there's a lot of it happening, and I think we'll see more of it in the next two to four years, because we've got great tools, and everyone's aware of it. That's why I'm considering giving talks about how to write the stuff.