David Bowie Talks
Music legend David Bowie talks to us about his involvement with Eidos' upcoming game, Omikron.
GameSpot News got a chance to talk with David Bowie about his experience of moving from the role of musician to game character in Eidos' upcoming PC game Omikron. Not only is he providing the music for the game, his likeness has also been digitally duplicated for the character Boz."Here's what he had to say about the happening.
GameSpot News: Could you describe the sort of preconceived notions you may have had about PC/video-game music before you started the project and how those notions changed (if they did) while working on Omikron?David Bowie: When I was first invited to participate in this project, I wasn't sure what their frame of reference was. Were they expecting Earthling 2 , or were there some really old farts on the team?! This state of mind may have had something to do with a preconceived notion of what game music was all about, having supplied the odd adrenaline-pumping track myself in the past. My fears were eased during our first meeting, probably somewhere midway between the discussion of Jacques Brel and Blade Runner. I wanted to write something that added an emotional charge to the game, and I was given free reign to let my music evolve naturally alongside it.
GSN: Graphics are usually touted as the most seductive element of gameplay - at least in the last few years. Good gameplay is just expected. But what about sound? Being a visual and aural artist, do you think game music is typically underrated or goes unnoticed in the face of stunning graphics? DB: It's like putting music to any kind of visual stimulation - it can help or hinder. In games, it seems to be especially important, for example, where a player is stuck, or is repeating a sequence over and over again - here's where your two-minute track has to comfortably expand to symphonic proportions. It's an interesting relationship - sometimes, in Omikron, the music steps back to allow the sweet crescendo of the graphics, sometimes, as in the song Survive, we're telling you directly in words and music what's going on in the head of that digital guy that's filling your screen. I think that it also helped that Quantic Dream went about the total design of their game in a very cinematic way, making it easier to realize the music in those same terms.
GSN: Omikron seems heavily graphics-focused, but the right music can balance, if not entirely make, a game experience. How did you approach making music for this game, and what sort of moods and environments did you call to mind from your own bank of personal experiences, as well as from your exposure to the medium?DB: Is it heavily graphics focused? I don't know... I would say it was more story-focused. We were given an incredibly rich world to play with, and tasked with creating a soundtrack that reflected the diversity of that world. If anything, the balance was achieved by helping to create, in music, the beating of the "heart" of Omikron - I suppose it could be a cold and lonely world without a bit of love!
GSN: Speaking of your exposure, what is your game history? What types of games do you like, and most importantly, what do games give us, socially or artistically, that strikes a chord with you?DB: I'd no time for computer games, of course. I had to get on with my schoolwork... (laughs). Games like Omikron, and in a similar way the Internet, seem like great places to go explore, maybe they affect our worldview on things, maybe they help us simply understand... maybe it's just the tip of the iceberg. I do know that the longer you play Nomad Soul, the more you feel it has a strong empathy with the real world.
GSN: What instruments and sounds did you use for the soundtrack? Are they sounds you associate with technology, or were you going for a sort of juxtaposition in some sense? Perhaps more natural or biological sounds?DB: It's actually very hard to define the technology level of Omikron, and therefore to make parallels with the technology of the sound. On the one hand, you have a sophisticated computer AI menacingly omnipresent on every corner. On the other, you have great hairy beasts living in a snowy wasteland. The situation demanded a flexible approach, which is good, because between us, Reeves and I can probably play everything! Some fairly subtle effects hinted at the "other-worldliness" required, subtle so as not to break the implied and fragile link with Earth. Fragmented and distorted vocals were used, for example, to highlight the singer's semi-awareness, through visions, of the parallel dimension of Earth. The Omikron version of Something In the Air has the singer confusedly crying out distorted lines as he feels the physical pain of "receiving" these visions.
GSN: A character in the game is modeled after you in more than the physical sense. Were you critical of this character? Is it revealing in any way, or was being motion captured the digital equivalent of watching a tape of one of your performances?DB: Which character do you mean? - the omnipotent digital super-being, or the scruffy hallucinating singer? The motion-captured dance sequences were actually designed and performed by Edouard Lock, a longtime friend and collaborator. So what we have here are dance steps designed for me and performed by my digital counterpart - stranger still.
GSN: Since day one, games have included visual components, if not been entirely held up by them. Could you envision a game genre based entirely on aural gameplay? Is this a thing of our future? Are we ready?DB: We may be ready, but are we worthy? One interesting aspect could be to exploit the way in which we "trust" what we see and hear on the screen. Sounds like a warthog? But what if it's a chicken? Similar to the way in which digital tricks can be played on the eye, sound could be used equally effectively to mislead, toy with your emotions. Just as that harmless granny, framed in the periphery of your vision, may transform into a savage demon, so might the sound of a helpless child crying in the corner turn out to be something altogether more malicious. In a way it's a bit like surround-sound, you're exploiting what lies just offscreen, or the space between the speakers.
GSN: Is a game's pace important to you? Do you look for speed? Responsiveness? Mental challenge? Does your music for the game reflect that?DB: As I said, there are many situations where the music has no easily definable start and finish point. It must be flexible enough to respond to whatever way the player decides to play the game. I haven't yet decided if I'm a "sneak around the corner quietly" or a "rush in with all guns blazing" type of player. However, I think I'm more of an "it's a nice evening, I think I'll go for a stroll through the city" type.
GSN: Is game development an area you'd like to explore more? Will you? DB: Who knows? I'm always up for a good explore. But thinking about it, yes, from a writer's perspective it could be a real buzz to write a storyline from the ground up.
GSN: Music is shared socially, much more so than, say a movie where everyone is in the same room, yet there's little or no interaction. Do you think there are ways to make imagery social, and would music likely help this process? Could games be the format in which this could happen? What do you think?DB: Certainly the Internet is taking many of these social ideas forward, with group browsing and the like. In games? You may find that eventually multiplayer mayhem gives way, the carnage may pause for just one second to let the odd social interaction of a different kind take place. Some of the online worlds seem headed in the right direction - If Omikron were eventually opened up to group play, you might find us all taking apartments and forming our own renegade splinter bands. Instead of just coming to see the Dreamers perform, you'll be hopping on stage yourself, playing a terrible blues progression and getting booed off at the end.
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