Come listen to several orchestral scores from the Mafia II soundtrack and see what it takes to create the right mood for this action adventure.
Before I jump into the two interviews, I'd like to share five exclusive tracks from the Mafia II soundtrack, courtesy of 2K Games. Mafia II is a blend of original music, as well as licensed tracks, which help re-create that 1940's atmosphere. It's one of the more memorable scores of 2010, so take a listen and tell me what you think in the comments below!
Below you'll find a Q&A with Jack Scalici, the director of creative production at 2K Games who worked as a lead writer, music supervisor, casting director, and voice director for Mafia II. That's quite a list! He worked on choosing licensed tracks for the game and sticking them in appropriate places, so if you're curious, continue reading. I know we generally like to do a video component, but unfortunately, the composer, Matus Siroky, is in the Czech Republic. Skip over to the third page of the blog if you want to read what he has to say about how he got his start and what it was like working on Mafia II. Enjoy!
GameSpot: Tell us about yourself and your role on Mafia II.
Jack Scalici: I've been in the game industry for about 12 years now, and I'm lucky to have worked on so many fun projects. At 2K, I'm director of creative production. My team and I deal with things like a game's story, dialogue, casting, voice-over recording, mo-cap, cutscene and trailer production, orchestral score, and licensed music. All the fun stuff, basically.
For Mafia II, in particular, I took a personal interest in the game and functioned as lead writer, music supervisor, casting director, and voice director. Unlike most of our other projects, I actually became part of the dev team for a while.
GS: How do you decide what tracks make it into the game and what doesn't?
JS: Early on in development, I requested submissions from all of our regular partners in the music industry and a few smaller labels we discovered when we were working on BioShock. I asked for everything recorded between 1920 and 1960. I ended up with thousands of songs from around a dozen different licensors' catalogs. I listened to almost nothing but this music for a long time and ended up with around 1,000 songs that I liked. I kept on listening to those songs, especially as I worked on the game's script, and eventually narrowed it down to what you hear in the game. What you have in there are the songs I didn't find annoying after listening to them a few thousand times.
I should point out that game's story actually ends in the early 1950s, but I didn't want us to miss out on the phenomenon of rock and roll, so I put the cutoff date for the music at 1960, though I did allow a few songs on the soundtrack that were recorded after 1960. If it sounded like early rock and roll, no matter when it was recorded, it was fair game. Only one reviewer considered this a negative, but, hey, you can't please everyone all the time, right?
As for why a song that's on our wish list doesn't make it into the game, there are many factors.
The rule we operate under is that no song is sacred. We don't consider any particular song necessary to ship the game. If a licensor makes things unnecessarily difficult for us or if licensing a certain song presents too much of a risk, the song gets cut and we move on. It breaks your heart sometimes, but it's the only way you keep your sanity and avoid potential lawsuits.
Another factor is the artist and the songwriter--or their estate. Many of the biggest artists and songwriters have a say in whether or not their music can be licensed for a particular game, movie, TV show, etc. If the artist or songwriter has passed away, their estate makes those decisions. There were a few of these artists, songwriters, and estates that declined to be part of the game. Unfortunately, some people still don't consider video games a legitimate medium. Others were scared away by the game's title and subject matter.
GS: Do you take into consideration what the fans want?
JS: "F" the fans. Just kidding. I try. Most of the feedback I got from fans was that Django Reinhardt and Louis Jordan were their favorite artists from the first game's soundtrack. I completely agreed and made sure those artists were featured on the soundtrack of Mafia II.
GS: How do you determine where a particular track will fit in the game?
JS: It wasn't easy. One thing that really helped was that I was working directly on the script with the team, so I knew the game inside and out. Once I had narrowed down the potential soundtrack list to about 500 songs, I categorized each song by things like tempo, mood, subject matter of the lyrics, etc. When the game got to a playable state, I looked at each segment of gameplay where music could be used and matched it up with one or more songs that fit. This presented another issue though…the radio.
Every game I can recall playing that has a radio system does it in one of two ways. They either have a linear radio system, meaning everything you hear plays in one order and then it repeats, or they have a randomized radio system where a pool of audio assets are played randomly, which is like having your music player on shuffle. Neither of those solutions was going to work for Mafia II. The last thing I wanted was for "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" to play during the darkest moment in Vito's life.
The solution I came up with was a scripted radio system. I think this was the first time in my career where I described an idea to a dev team and they didn't look at me like I was crazy. Here's how it works: Each time the player isn't already listening to music (meaning Vito is on foot and he cannot hear a radio or jukebox from where he's standing) and he enters a car or another location where music can play, that is defined as a new gameplay segment. Each gameplay segment has a number assigned to it, and all radio stations have a unique playlist associated with each gameplay segment number. In addition, and most importantly, this lets me control which song the player hears first when the radio or jukebox starts playing.
For an example of how this works, look at the end of the chapter named "Balls and Beans." I'll set the scene for you: Vito has just rescued two of his associates and has caused the death of Luca Gurino, a man who was responsible for a lot of hardship in his life. Vito (and the player) is feeling like a total badass at this moment. We want the next song the player hears to reinforce this. This is where the scripted radio comes in.
Right now, we know a few things: No music is currently playing and Vito is on foot. This means that where the radio system is concerned, we are now in a new gameplay segment. We made sure that the next shiny object the player sees is Luca's convertible sports car, and we know they're probably going to steal it. We chose a convertible so Vito can just hop in and hotwire it without having to break a window or pick the lock, getting him to the music faster. Once the player hops into Luca's car, I wanted the music that plays from the radio to reinforce the badass mood, so I scripted what is arguably the most badass track on our soundtrack to play--"Mannish Boy" by Muddy Waters.
But players are always free to change the radio station if they don't like the song I scripted, so I also had to make sure an appropriate song (or at least a non-inappropriate song) was playing on all of the other radio stations. No good deed goes unpunished.
We also used music in some of the cutscenes. I worked closely with the cutscene production team to find a song that was appropriate for each cutscene.
Awesome interview, best Sound Byte blog post so far - Mr. Matus Siroky was widely generous in his answers. I'm glad I didn't skip this. :) My favorite track from that list is "Follow that car!".
The greed of these petty gamedevelopers that make halfbaked games and obviously is proud of their flipflop product amazes me. FU take2 and go make Mafia 3 the way mafia 2 should have been. last chance chop chop.
I dont understand why they release this months after the game has been released and yes it is a good score.
it's an ok Game for me but I wished if it was more engaging,quite lengthy,got story's epic climax and a good twist
Man Jimmys character looks awesome and is that the person lying with he's boxers on the cement Vito? please tell if it is or not hope not lol and the new music is GREAT
I played the game LOVED it, it was soo epic though at times it was a little hard and fraustrating but I got pass that I am way ! better than before too bad I had to return it for Fallout 3 yet a other Epic game can't wait to get it next week! :D
The ending track that came with the special editions was fantastic. It took the main theme from Mafia 1 (which we all know, love, and have fond memories), but jazzed it up by adding in trumpets and the like. Great soundtrack.
I think the music for both Mafia games were well thought out and executed. Mafia 1 had more music I had never heard but Mafia II had more modern tracks, I really dug the birth of rock vibe. Mafia II was just as stirring as the original, Vito was just as interesting a character as Tommy was. Great games, I hope to see more in the future.
I enjoyed the music in Mafia 1 better. The Mafia 1 Main theme blows Mafia 2 away: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VURwmP6bbqs
Found myself getting sleepy whenever I listened to the radio stations in Mafia II and New Vegas. Mafia II worked really well with Kanye West's "Graduation" and 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Tryin." Made the racism a bit more tolerable
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