Scoring the Falconeer – PlayStation.Blog
Hi everyone, I’m Benedict Nichols, the composer and sound designer for the third-person aerial combat game, The Falconeer, which is coming to PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 on August 5. I have worked with the solo developer of the game. Tomas Sala, for almost two years, helped bring his vision of the game to life. It has been an incredible privilege to work on such a unique game, and it is my pleasure to share a little insight into how I used music to bring the world of The Falconeer to life here with you today.
Thomas knew that he wanted the deep Mongolian chant to be the sound of the Ursee (The Falconeer’s ocean world), and thus, as the waters provide a stark reminder of death below, they provide the bedding for almost all music and atmospheres. After receiving the liberating directive to “be brave and unique,” my creativity ran wild!
I felt that the music needed to do more than just accompany the player’s journey, so I set myself the ambitious task of creating a complete sonic world that not only represented the game and its various factions in the ‘present’, but also immersed the player. with a sense of history, creed, musical development and emotional journey that the people of Ursee have experienced.
Each location at The Falconeer has its own unique set of music, written with guidelines for each faction, which varies based on your relationship with those people (friendly, neutral, or hostile). More thought was given to the physical position of the locations. For example, Mawbridge, which is right in the center of the map, draws on the influences of various factions around it, as it is a sticking point for traveling sailors, who would bring their cultural heritage with them. This pseudo-anthropological approach results in a much more immersive experience for the player, as if he flies from one side of the map to the other, he will experience changes in the music and the environment that transmit information about everything that is below. This becomes essential to Establishing a Fascinating “Believable” World that is much more than just a stunning visual backdrop to classic dogfighting!
Below are the guidelines I established for the various factions. These were instrumental in establishing the credible and immersive game world the player inhabits. I tried to find unusual ways to use and combine instruments that felt unique in the world while still resonating with the player:
Fighting for survival among warring factions, their independence is characterized by solo stringed and woodwind instruments. Their melodies are somewhat regretful of their history, but in places like Saladmount, there is still a bit of determination in them. Meanwhile, places like Sacred Steps feature ‘religious’ chants, while monks perform their rituals indoors, informing the player of the type of people they are approaching.
Strong and imposing, the rhythm of its machinery runs through the blood of its workers. There is a feeling that they are stamping their mark wherever they go with heavy drums (often emphasizing beats 1, 2 and 3) and brass hits, while brass combinations (including some non-idiomatic flugal horns), bagpipes, cimbalom, bazantar and synths boldly proclaim their presence.
Listen to the track ‘Cleftspire’ here – Cleftspire is home to great shipbuilders, their strong melodies highlighting their defiance above the loud percussion and growls.
A technological cult that guards the mysteries of history, its music is composed of an eclectic collection of instruments. I was looking for a sound that could define your religious zeal and depth of purpose in the same way as a deep church bell, but without being metallic (as the bells represent a sense of freedom in the game) and I settled on a sitar very out of tune, as if they were hung and beaten in the towers of Stargazer.
With this faction I represented the fusion of technology with nature, which resulted in combinations of staged didgeridoo, more intense Mongolian chant (as they reside below the surface) and characteristic synths and orchestral forces.
Guitars, cymbal, massive drums, strong strings, deep throaty chants (by myself) and a few non-idiomatic saz (by me too!) Characterize these pesky hordes. The shifting composite time signatures reflect your rolling over the waves.
While writing the location music, a balance was needed to make it feel somewhat semi-diegetic. He had to be careful that there were not too many details in the music, but with the battle music of each faction, everything changes. Their job is to bring the player out of the serene beauty of gliding through a dazzling world and into an instant visceral battle. It pushes the player forward as well as being informative, packed with little musical details to reduce tedium.
Listen to the song ‘Pesky Marauders’ here – Sets the Pirates’ sonic signature on the world at the beginning of the game when they launch a surprise attack.
I hope this has given you some insight into my approach and why music is so important in creating a sense of a living world in The Falconeer. Having a ‘worldly’ reason for every musical choice and nuance gives the music more authenticity, and I hope it has resulted in a much deeper and more immersive experience for the musicians.