Game music audio may be important in all games, but when it is a vital component of the gameplay, the sound is going to be scrutinized from all angles. Child of Eden is the spiritual successor to the rail shooter Rez, which replaced the sound effects that you'd expect to hear in a shooter with electronic music to give players the ability to create their own melodies with their actions. This time, the music is from designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi's band, the Genki Rockets, and there are a few samples below for you to listen to. We had an opportunity to speak to Mizuguchi as well as sound designer Yuki Ichiki about the project and learn more about the collaboration between music and sound. For a chance to win a copy of Child of Eden (US residents only, sorry!), follow @gs_soundbyte for details!
Yuki Ichiki Interview
GameSpot: Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Yuki Ichiki: I was born in a town called Toyonaka of Osaka city, started to learn the violin when I was 4 years old, and came to Tokyo at the age of 18. I graduated from Musashino Academia Musicae as an instrumental major. Through my college years I went through hard training to become a professional musician. I was never interested in becoming a member of the orchestra but oftentimes found myself playing in a string quartet or piano quartet. Influenced by my mentor, my repertory back then was the Romani-style music of Faure and Brahms. I was a fan of Kronos Quartet, and I used to arrange and play music from Nirvana in a quartet. Nirvana was a counterculture symbol of my generation, so I guess I was a little bit off from other students in a traditional music academy. After graduating from the academy, I mainly performed in music shows on TV, TV commercials, events, and weddings. My favorite violinists are Heifetz and Kremer.
GS: How did you get into sound design?
YI: After graduating from the academy, I started to write my own piece and learned to play the guitar. With a four-track cassette tape MTR, I recorded many songs and music of my own. Back then, I had a hardcore gamer friend, and while she was surfing through websites of her favorite game companies, she found that one company was seeking a sound creator to join their sound section. She recorded my music from a cassette tape to MD and sent it out to this company. This company, known as From Software, liked my work, showed interest in the process of my creation, and hired me: A guy who did not even know how to turn off the PC decided to take this challenge and get into the world of sound design.
GS: What other projects have you worked on?
YI: I was a sound director and a lead composer in the games O.TO.GI series, Armored Core Last Raven, Murakumo, and eM～ENCHANTED ARM. After leaving From Software, I became a freelancer, and Child of Eden is one of the first major titles that will be released.
GS: As a sound designer, what is your typical day like?
YI: In my case, in the morning I am called into some meetings, or drink coffee to wake my brain up while I answer some e-mails. I check out the schedule, I surf the Net for some interesting news, I read blogs on the Net, I watch some news on the Net, I watch some movies on the Net…yes, I am not working. In the afternoon, I finally put my headphones on. I start working on stuff I can do with the left side of my brain and with my hands, cutting out voice-overs, digitizing wave files--the kinds of things that would not be a problem to resume when being interrupted. There are usually lots of visitors, IP messages coming in, or I get called into unexpected meetings, so it is quite hard to concentrate at this time of the day. Later in the evening, game creators find it easier to concentrate for some reason, and I belong to the same group. For creative work, creating music, in other words, a work that involves emotions, nighttime is easier to work on it. Once that switch is turned on, I work until the next morning, and again my day starts as usual. To be honest, I work until the morning not because of the switch, but because I am always haunted by deadlines.
GS: What are some of the strangest things you've done to get a sound that you want?
YI: I was in a student orchestra for just one year, and one day I was listening to the tape of our performance Pictures at an Exhibition. While I was listening to it over and over in loops, I suddenly was attracted to the tuning part that took place before the performance. I edited the tape and cut out just the tuning portion and listened to it carefully over and over. I noticed a lot of phrases I have never noticed before. Usually orchestra tends to tune to an A provided by an oboist. The concert master adjusts the A based on this, followed by string instruments, woodwind, and brass. This is the standard procedure, so you might think all tuning sounds the same, but that is not the case. The timing of the sound played or the timing of the tuning to complete per string differs, which leads to unique "phrases" being born every time. Enlightened by this, I started collecting live CDs of orchestra around the world, which some included tuning and some not. I managed to find a few that did have tuning and searched for phrases that inspired me, cut them out, connected with other phrases I gathered, changed the pitch, controlled the keys, and created a piece of music out of this. Maybe this is not that strange?
GS: I understand that the music from Child of Eden is from Genki Rockets. How closely do you work with the musicians? How do you coordinate?
YI: The basic approach in Child of Eden was to work with several DJs to remix Genki Rockets tracks. I worked with those DJs. Based on the play time of the archive, I do a rough mock-up of the music, and programmers and artists create the archive based on this composition. Once the archive is roughly implemented, I show the game to the DJs to display the images for their remix. Once things start coming together, the communication becomes more frequent. We exchange folders of Pro Tools and Cubase session files. Game development is a living session. We ask them for retakes to include sounds in their remix which can be cut out as an effective sound effect. We asked them to add or remove a few phrases for game design reasons. All DJs were very supportive in trying to meet our request, but all the final work was in the hands of my sound team. There were archives that we needed to change a great deal after the remix was delivered. All DJs we worked with were looking forward to our final implementation, so it was a very meaningful process.
GS: What is the most challenging part about your job?
YI: Sometimes the challenge lies in creating music that nobody has heard before, or creating new sounds. Sometimes the challenge is how to arrange a method or existing music that people already know of. Either way, the most challenging thing about this job is whether you can imagine all the way through till the very end, on how people will be influenced or how people will react when they access your sound. In a more simple term, "How can you make people feel good?"
GS: What advice do you have for aspiring sound designers?
YI: Try adjusting your method, your style in various projects, in some cases never bend, and enjoy the process and keep on creating!
Tetsuya Mizuguchi Interview
GS: Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi: I studied media aesthetics in university. I felt a big influence from music videos; I am from the MTV generation. Visuals and music, this is my life's theme.
GS: What motivated you to combine music and visuals in such a unique way?
TM: The concept of "synesthesia." It has a crossover feeling. The work of Wassily Kandinsky is a big inspiration for me.
GS: How much of the music in Child of Eden is from Genki Rockets? What kind of tone were you going for with the soundtrack?
TM: All of the music is Genki Rockets, but all of the tracks are remixed. Any type of sound of music was fine for Child of Eden, including rock, ballads--anything that fit the mood of each archive.
GS: How did you work with the sound team and the design team to get the product that you wanted?
TM: Through much trial and error--it's like making a music sculpture and a moving sculpture. I know this is a very abstract expression, but if we changed the sound effects even a little bit, the feeling of the archive would change dramatically. So to achieve the synesthesia feeling, we spent a long, long, long time polishing this with the sound team.
GS: What do you hope gamers will experience when they see and hear everything in Child of Eden?
TM: I hope they enjoy the experience, the music, and the visual effects and that they feel hope and happiness.
GS: How is video game music viewed in Japan?
TM: It seems to be more generally accepted as an art form in itself, since you can find game soundtracks for almost everything at most music shops, but it's still relatively niche. I think it's more visible as a genre than it is in the West, though.
GS: Where do you see video game music heading into the future?
TM: I see it merging with the games themselves, more and more, with many experiments between really famous artists and the game developers. It's like a movie.
GS: What kind of music do you listen to now?
TM: Ambient, kecak (music from Bali), The Go! Team.
GS: Will we see more Child of Eden-type games in the future from you?
TM: I don't know the future. But I'll never stop.
Sound Byte is GameSpot's game music blog, which covers every aspect of music and audio in games, including interviews with top game music composers and sound designers, as well as discussions of new or classic game soundtracks. Have a question or suggestion? Leave us a comment below or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For a list of previous Sound Byte features, click here. Follow us on Twitter! @gs_soundbyte