Composing video game music to build suspense, part 2: jarring jolts

Winifred Phillips, composer of video game music, shown in her studio working on the music of the Assassin's Creed Liberation video game.

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Welcome back to our five-part discussion of some of the best techniques that video game composers can use to enhance tension and promote suspenseful gameplay.  These articles are based on the presentation I gave at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, entitled Homefront to God of War: Using Music to Build Suspense.  If you haven’t read our previous discussion of Ominous Ambiences in part one of this series, please go check that article out.

Are you back?  Good!  Let’s continue!

We’ve already talked about how to create an edgy, ominous atmosphere. By carefully nurturing the player’s suspense and anxiety, we can prime the player with an assortment of quietly unnerving sounds, until the player is perfectly ready for…

The Jarring Jolt technique

This is the second technique we’ll be discussing in our five-part article series on the role of music in building suspense. Like the Ominous Ambience (which we discussed in part one), the Jarring Jolt also owes a debt to the expert work of sound designers.  In fact, the Ominous Ambience and the Jarring Jolt are fairly interdependent. One doesn’t work that well without the other.

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From Total War to Assassin’s Creed: Music from my GDC Talk

From Total War to Assassin's Creed: Music from my GDC Talk (article by Winifred Phillips, video game composer)Last week, it was my honor and pleasure to give a presentation at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. My talk was entitled “From Total War to Assassin’s Creed: Music for Mobile Games.” The talk focused on the best and most effective methods for composition and implementation of music in portable gaming.  The talk was structured for the benefit of video game composers and game audio pros, and as a part of the presentation, I played short excerpts of music that I composed for several of my top mobile and handheld video game projects. Now that GDC is over, I thought I’d provide streaming links to some of the complete music tracks that I featured during my presentation, in case attendees were curious about the complete pieces of music. So, without further ado, here are tracks from my GDC 2016 talk!

Assassin’s Creed Liberation

The Assassin’s Creed Liberation game was released by Ubisoft for the PlayStation Vita, and delivered an immersive experience from the popular Assassin’s Creed franchise. The game was designed specifically for a portable system, and as such, all aspects of the design were adjusted to cater specifically to a portable gaming experience, including the music.

Game composer Winifred Phillips speaking about the music of Assassin's Creed Liberation at GDC 2016

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Game Music Interview on Top Score Podcast

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I’m very pleased to report that I was invited to be interviewed on the celebrated Top Score Podcast, and the interview was just released today!  You can listen to the entire interview here:

 

I was interviewed by Emily Reese, a formidable presence in the game music industry.  As a host at Classical Minnesota Public Radio, Reese has produced and hosted this special podcast dedicated to the field of game music since April of 2011.  The podcast specializes in interviews with game music composers, and has produced over 129 episodes so far.  In this capacity, Reese is a champion of game music and the people who make it.  She has predicted that game music will one day join the playlists of classical radio stations, right alongside the music of Vaughan Williams, Bernstein or Mozart. “There are some scores where absolutely that will happen,” Reese says. “Some of these composers should be remembered in 100, 200 or 300 years. They’re that good.”

Emily Reese interviewed me about my music for LittleBigPlanet 3 and Assassin’s Creed Liberation.  She also asked me questions about my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music.   All my thanks to Emily Reese, editor Pierce Huxtable and the entire team at the Top Score Podcast.  I’m honored to have been interviewed for this terrific program!