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About Rainier

PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!

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'Heroes of Might and Magic V' - Developer Q&A #2

by Rainier on March 31, 2006 @ 1:06 a.m. PST

Heroes of Might & Magic V will benefit from the features and characteristics that established the success of the initial saga while offering a wealth of innovations such as a highly immersive scenario, a variety of appealing factions, modern 3D graphics, a revolutionary tactical combat system, and a story-based campaign mode. Composer Rob King tells us about his experience to work with Ubisoft on HOMM V.

Q: Why were you contacted to work on the first HOMM? What attracted you to the project? Were you familiar with the heroic-fantasy universe prior to this?

Rob King: Heroes of Might and Magic was the first score Paul Romero and I worked on together. When Jon Van Canegham and Mark Caldwell (from New World Computing) gave me the green light and creative control on the music production, I knew I wanted to take a very classical approach to it. On HOMM I, the graphics encouraged me to do a very baroque score. I really wanted it to be like a classical soundtrack in a sense.

A friend introduced me to Paul back in 1992, at one of his infamous parties where he gets friends together to play music at his house. I remember seeing him play the piano and was extremely impressed not only with his abilities but also with how genuine a person he was. We immediately hit it off and remained the best of friends ever since. When it was time to get into the score, I gave him a call and he came over to my apartment at the time for a meeting. Back then I had a roommate and my “studio” was basically my bedroom with tons of gear and a small futon in the corner. We started bouncing ideas back and forth and came up with a couple of pieces. I knew that we were going to make something special with that game. Between his Classical background and my pop music background our collaboration was not only melodic but very catchy and had all the elements of good classical arrangements. We did that whole score in the bedroom of my apartment in South Pasadena, California at the time.

HOMM was the 4th project I worked on and I was very new to the whole game design thing and my vision of audio was purely based on the films I saw from the past. So my interpretations of a heroic-fantasy universe were images of King Arthur, Excalibur and all those cool historical documentaries from the ‘80s. Jon’s vision is what attracted me to the game and Jon and Mark are two of the most genuine, cool, and generous people I know. I will continue to remain great friends with them.

Q: Is this the kind of game you play? If yes, is there a chance to meet you online? What's your nickname?

RK: Yes!! I must admit I don’t have too much time to play games, but the HOMM series has always been one of my favourites to play. I have spent months playing all versions of the game and really look forward to installing HOMM V on my computers. I have always been a fan of RTS and strategy games, but for some reason Heroes has always been my favourite to play and working on it has absolutely nothing to do with it. To me HOMM is like a large animated Chess game. It feels so damn rewarding beating those armies and snaggin’ up a town! Hopefully more people will enjoy the series on this next installment. I have never played online, but I might be willing to get my ass kicked when the game comes out. For the record, Paul has never played a game in his life.

Q: HOMM V offers a very different graphic universe and scenario from previous episodes, does it have an influence in the new soundtrack?

RK: I think our main influence for HOMM V is what HOMM has evolved into, also drawing from our past work and really aiming at keeping the player into the game. Believe me, I have been guilty of turning off the music when I play a game, but not with HOMM. It has always been so fitting to hear that score during gameplay.

Q: How closely did you collaborate with the developers?

RK: We worked fairly close with Fabrice Cambounet, Sylvain and Thomas at Ubisoft. They had some good ideas for the direction of this game and came up with the idea of having a “Theme” based score similar to film. On the previous games, we pretty much just wrote songs from the heart for everything. On HOMM V, we came up with a Main melodic theme and two sub themes and wrote the score around those.

Q: Which are the tracks with which you are the most satisfied with?

RK: For me it is the Academy, the Haven, Sylvan ,and the main title theme. Our good friend Karin Mushegan returned to do a solo vocal on Haven. She has been on all the Heroes games since HOMM II. Back then she was only 17, I believe. Now she is a professional singer working in Philadelphia and New York. The choir we recorded for the Main theme was great, as well as Fang Fang XU who played the Solo Cello through the score. I really enjoy the new battle and siege themes as well. Another favorite is the grass adventure theme. The melody is just so sweet, and we like sweet. ?

Q: Will HOMMV offer more music than the previous ones?

RK: Yes, a full two hours!

Q: How does your collaboration with Paul Romero go? What other musicians did you collaborate with?

RK: We usually just sit around reading gossip magazines like US weekly and Enquirer discussing music direction while reading the misfortunes of celebrities. Seriously… In some cases Paul comes to the table with some brilliant ideas and we work out the arrangements, or I might have an arrangement of drums completely laid out with melodic ideas that we work from. We have two workstations here at the studio and usually we are both doing something on the song then go back and forth on both rigs. There really isn’t any certain way of doing anything, just get it done fast, you know? When we use other musicians, the arrangement is usually done and tracked in advance, and we replace the sampled parts with the appropriate musician. On the main theme, we actually just did a choral arrangement to a click/piano track, recorded it at a studio and brought it back to our studio and wrote the music around the vocals. Pretty tricky but I actually enjoyed the results. It lets you think a bit differently about the musical parts.

Q: Are the songs performed by real lyric singers? If yes, how did you select them?

RK: Yes, they are all people Paul and myself work with on a regular basis. Top-notch players, every one of them.

Q: What is your favourite instrument while composing HOMM music ?

RK: Always the Cello.

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