SFP: InFamous for PlayStation 3

Jun 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson

CREATIVITY, COLLABORATION AND LOTS OF PERCUSSION MAKE FOR COMPELLING GAME SCORE

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Indeed, ultimately it was up to Bajakian, Mayer, and various editors and implementers — spearheaded by Scott Hanou — to make the music work within the game. Mayer notes that though a lot of the music that Tobin delivered went into the game as he delivered it, at SCEA they also sometimes edited and altered the stems the composer delivered, “whether it was to fit a scene or make it behave in an interactive manner. We'd create layers out of the piece of music and then have high, medium and low-intensity layers within a single piece of music that the game engine drives, depending on the intensity of the scene.

“We also might tell the editor to take a piece of music and ‘taffify’ it — turn a two-minute combat piece into a four- or five-minute piece that loops with a lot more peaks and valleys than it had when the composer turned it in,” Mayer continues. “So we'll poke holes in it, we'll tweak the arrangement and do whatever needs to be done. Then, in the actual game engine, we have playlists, so when you get to a checkpoint in a mission, we make a certain number of pieces of music available, and if the player ‘dies’ and restarts at that checkpoint, the playlist progresses to a different piece of music or it might be a different version of the same piece. For us, the worst thing in the world is for the music to be noticed negatively. It's got to be part of the world and part of the experience and part of the emotion.”

Adds Doud, “Sometimes you want the player to know the music's changed, but sometimes you don't want them to know; you don't want to pull them out of the experience. So the challenge is to have this music composed and arranged and produced and integrated into the game where you've got this system running under the hood that is pulling pieces in and out on the fly depending on what's going with the game-play, but it's not interfering with the player's experience.”

Of course, the musical soundtrack is just one key ingredient in making InFamous such an inviting and exciting PlayStation 3 experience. Other parts of the game audio were handled by other teams in other cities — from sound effects and Foley (the San Diego post group led by Mike Johnson) to dialog recording (in L.A. and New York).

The final sound mix took place over a period of several weeks at Sucker Punch in Seattle, and involved creative director Nate Fox, SCEA sound design manager Ken Felton, Sucker Punch audio director Andy Martin and Mayer. “We actually turned down the music in a few places,” Mayer says. “We wanted to make sure the music stayed out of the way of the dialog.”

No worries. There's still hours of visceral, eerie, disturbing, mind-bending and atmospheric music in the game. And, predictably, there is also a music-only soundtrack available for gamers to enjoy away from the PlayStation 3 console, as well — edited versions and cleverly constructed pastiches of different cues, plus the end credit's song, “Silent Melody” by Working for a Nuclear Free City.

“Players become passionate about the music because they live with it for 20, 50, 100 hours, and if it's done right, it's an integral part of their experience,” comments Doud. “Does that translate to them wanting to sit in their car and listen to the music they've been listening to for the last few weeks? Maybe, maybe not. But if we can offer them something that's authentic to what they experienced in the game but a little different, something that can continue and expand the music experience, that takes itto a whole other level.

“We're not going to play it safe,” Doud concludes. “We think the only way you can be better and break new ground is to take chances. We're in a very fortunate position here where we have an incredibly talented department. They're the best at what they do, and operating from that position gives you the ability to have more confidence and take more risks. Besides, taking risks is always more fun than playing it safe.”






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