For fans of all ages, 2009 is gearing up to become another watershed milestone in the timeless franchise by introducing even more new ways to engage, immerse and play within the G.I. Joe® universe. The G.I. Joe video game will feature an exclusive storyline that picks up where the live-action movie leaves off, allowing players to re-create and re-live the greatest moments from the film, cartoon series and action figure toy line. The game will feature 12 G.I. Joe characters, each with unique abilities and weapons. Adding to the adrenaline rush will be an intense single-screen co-op mode allowing two players to easily unite as a team in a classic struggle between good and evil as they work together to defeat the powers of the COBRA organization.
Developer Blog #4: Creating the Music
They’ll fight for Freedom...
So how do you update the music for a franchise that millions of people around the world can hum the theme too? No pressure or anything. EA and Hasbro just asked you to bring a piece of your own childhood into 2009. I was born in 1980 so I literally grew up with the G.I. JOE toys and TV show. This was one of those times where you are scared, excited, and honored all at the same time. Now I just needed to not mess it up!
First, I had to figure out what style of music/composer would work well for the game. I went through hundreds of songs trying out different temp music in the early stages of the game we had running. It’s a high energy, up tempo, action shooter. Standard military music would be too melodramatic. A full electronic score would sound too sci-fi. The game needed something with a modern twist with an epic hero feel that the G.I. JOE team represents. I decided to go with a hybrid approach. The G.I. JOE team gets a very modern feeling orchestra that is used to show the adventure aspects and globe trotting nature of the unit. COBRA gets a much more aggressive electronic vibe to convey their attitude and superior technology. Since the video game is so action heavy there are only two intensities; Medium and High. There is no time to relax in this game except for the mission briefings.
Allow me to introduce the composers for the score of the game, Cris and Sascha. Cris Velasco is the orchestral and guitar oriented half while Sascha Dikiciyan is the international super villain of the team (just kidding… I think). Sascha actually handles all of the percussion and electronica elements. Even if you don’t recognize the names, chances are you’ve heard their work before. They’ve worked on the God of War series, Splinter Cell series, and Hellgate: London. What do you get with awesome talent like this? Awesome music of course!
Once Cris and Sascha were on board we had a lot of writing to do for 80 minutes of music. The 1st piece we started on was the new G.I. JOE theme. Don’t worry; I have a special treat for fans of the cartoon theme! I wanted something that if you heard it a few times it would immediately become hummable. Too many soundtracks today go big, but forget to include memorable hooks. While it isn’t your 8 bit melody from Megaman or Castlevania, I think you will be very happy with what we came up with. After that it was time to write action music for every level and every boss encounter.
Since this is a G.I. JOE game, you will of course be sent on missions across the globe and the music will change with each location. The different instrumentation for the G.I. JOE team conveys location, threat and story. Take for example the arctic tracks. These use a lot of cold sounding strings which sell the cold and isolation that the G.I. JOE team is battling in. Since Brass like Horns, and Trumpets tend to warm the sound up, those are kept to a minimum and help punctuate the action beats. Once the team travels to a desert environment (location classified) the music changes dramatically. The orchestral themes still remain, but there are much richer ethnic cues and instrumentation through out. Native vocals, indigenous instruments, and new rhythmic elements bring life to each location the player travels to.
COBRA is a totally different style. They are edgy, technically advanced, and domineering. Sascha took this and ran with it. COBRA is extremely aggressive and up-tempo. It is primarily hard electronica based with some touches of industrial and rock. When you invade a COBRA compound you will know instantly that you are not on G.I. JOE turf anymore. No orchestral elements at all, just cold aggressive beats. COBRA troops are unfeeling and sometimes not even human so their music conveys that. The COBRA bosses do incorporate orchestral pieces to show their personalities and position in the organization. COBRA Commander is the megalomaniacal leader and is very bombastic. Destro is the business man of the group is smoother than the others. Storm Shadow uses traditional Japanese touches on top of his COBRA attributes. Keep a listen out for the escalation of his track during each encounter. Firefly is not the most stable character so his music is a little erratic. All of these pieces use aggressive orchestral arrangements combined with the hard hitting COBRA styles introduced during the levels leading up to the encounters.
3 months later...
Now that all of the music is written it’s time to get it recorded. Where do you head when you need a kickass orchestral score done? How about the mother ship of modern audio? I’m talking about Skywalker Sound. You may have heard of it before. Some guy named Lucas started it up back in the 70’s and they’ve been turning out some pretty great stuff ever since!
We booked 2 days of recording time at the ranch with a 42 piece orchestra. Our recording engineer was Leslie Ann Jones (she’s won 2 Grammies!). Getting 80 minutes of music recorded in only 2 days is no joke. These musicians are some of the best I have ever heard. They can knock out a great take minutes after seeing the music for the first time ever. All microphones are setup for 5.1 recording and are run through a Neve console into a ProTools setup. From there the music is edited so that only the best sections of every track are kept and then used for mixing.
For mixing I did everything in house at Double Helix. I secluded myself in my suite for weeks and proceeded to mix track after track. With everything being mixed in 5.1 things are both easier and more complicated. The easier side is that you have more room to spread the sounds around, but the more complicated side is that you have 3 times the speakers to deal with. The strings swoop, beats hit the sub, and effects swing around. It’s not distracting, but it is more intense than other 5.1 scores. I hope you have a 5.1 system to really enjoy the full effect!
Thanks for reading and a huge thank you to everyone on the G.I. JOE team and at EA for making this possible.
Play it loud!!By J. P. Walton, Audio Director on G.I. JOE The Rise of Cobra
The G.I. Joe video game is under development for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, NDS, and mobile devices, currentrly scheduled to coincide with the movie's August 7, 2009 release.
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