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If you ask ordinary gamers to name famous game composers, they will surely remember Mick Gordon, Akira Yamaoka, or, say, Jesper Kyd. In the popularity list, Frenchman Olivier Derivière is unlikely to even make it to the top ten – largely because his music is most often heard in passing games from the Metacritic yellow zone. But it’s not worth skipping Derivier’s work – few people care so much for the interactivity of music in video games.

Driver studied music from the age of five and received a classical French education. Along with this, Driver has always loved video games: his first encounter with the media was Lode Runner on the Commodore 64, and after Shadow of the Beast on the Amiga, he realized that he wanted to compose melodies for the pixels on the screen. But then the music in the games remained primitive – it seemed that the composing craft in the cinema was much more promising and in demand.

Fortunately, at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, music in electronic entertainment began to evolve rapidly. Therefore, Driver went to work in video games, and not in films. His first official project was one of the parts of the racing simulator Rally Championship.

And then came the experiments.

Alone in the Dark

 

According to Driver, the best musical instrument is the voice. It is the most natural, humane, and understandable. Passion for parts with a voice is already felt in the first major project of the Frenchman – the soundtrack for the horror ObsCure, where the children’s choir of the Paris Opera sounded. But the power of voices made itself felt much brighter in the next work of the composer – Alone in the Dark in 2008.

Here the pretentious Hollywood sound perfectly complements the “Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices” – the State Women’s Choir of Radio and Television in Bulgaria. The soundtrack of Alone in the Dark was written in parts: the choir sang a cappella, after which Derivier connected the voices of “Mystery” with his music.

Already in Alone in the Dark, the musician adhered to his main principles: the soundtrack should be closely related to what is happening on the screen and be repeated as rarely as possible. Therefore, many situations in the game have unique soundtracks (for example, rising singing during a car chase, climaxing at the moment of jumping over a precipice), and character melodies develop throughout the story.

 

Derivier is sure that the main task of the soundtrack is to support not so much the plot as the gameplay. It is through the gameplay that the player receives the main emotions from the game, which means that the music should enhance the gameplay experience. To achieve this effect, you need to have an excellent understanding of the game. Therefore, Derivier prefers to join the project at an early stage, when the developers dig into the prototypes and brainstorm the mood and intonation.

Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry

 

Freedom Cry is a story based on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. It was uncharacteristic for the series because it was not about the struggle between the Templars and the Assassins, but about slavery. The developers did not know what to do with the music, so they turned to Driver.

The composer loves Assassin’s Creed but believes that the music of the franchise lacks historicity, a stronger emphasis on the melodies of the respective people and eras. For Freedom Cry, Driver recorded a real Haitian choir with percussion instruments and traditional Haitian songs and then weaved his music. Driver admits that he composed this soundtrack with an eye to the compositions of Peter Gabriel (Peter Gabriel) from the movie “The Last Temptation of Christ”.

 

Derivier calls three main idols:

Get Even

 

The psychological thriller Get Even has become a platform for bold experiments. The driver has already written music, the sound of which directly depends on the actions of the player – in Remember Me, the melodies adjust to different combo options in battle. But Get Even goes further: here the soundtrack seems to be generated from the surrounding sounds.

For example, the sound of the wheels of a passing train gradually turns into the rhythm of the composition, the sounds of the piano on the radio are synchronized with the heartbeat of the character, and the use of game sonar generates a wave of amplification in the music. All this not only sounds spectacular but also emphasizes one of the key themes of getting Even: “What is real about what you see?”

The result is an interactive soundtrack that is extremely closely related to the gameplay and game environment – Driver is very proud of this work.

 

Oddly enough, Derivier himself plays little musical instruments: they require a lot of patience and painstaking work. Melodies constructed on a computer are the predominant element of Derivier as a composer.

Vampire

 

You can see how Driver chooses the soundtrack of the game depending on the themes of the game, using the example of Vampyr. Time of action – 1918. The world survived the First World War and plunged into the industrial period. So a lot of electronic sounds appeared in music – they should convey the feeling of machines, factories, automation, and other similar features of the first half of the 20th century.

The protagonist of the game is Jonathan Reed, who unexpectedly turned into a vampire and now opposes the world around him. In the soundtrack, the cello became the symbol of the character: the beautiful singing of a lonely classical instrument seems to be fighting with a lot of artificial electronic sounds. In addition, the cello allows you to convey Reed’s mood: it can be smooth and graceful in calm moments, or abrupt and chaotic when the protagonist is faced with a storm of emotions.

 

Derivier says that the best project is a project that is done by good people. Yes, commercial success and critical acclaim are glorious, but life is short. If you come across a team that is unpleasant to work with, it is better not to waste your time on it.

11-11 Memories Retold

 

11-11 Memories Retold is a World War I game that looks like a painting come to life. The gameplay here is very simple, so recording the soundtrack was more like working on a movie, Driver recalls.

Visually, 11-11 strove for impressionism, characteristic of painting at the end of the 19th century. To match the era, Driver abandoned multi-layered compositions with complex computer generation and opted for a classical orchestral form.

The main idea is to convey a live performance as if the listeners were in a room with musicians. Melodies 11-11 should create a sense of peacefulness and brightness, despite the military surroundings. Here Driver was helped by his education: in his student years, he carefully studied the works of the musical impressionists of France like Claude Debussy (Claude Debussy) and understood how to compose compositions in the spirit of that time.

Music for 11-11 was recorded with the participation of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the famous Abbey Road Studios. The sound engineer was John Kurlander, who worked on the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. He helped to achieve a sense of sincerity, and believability as if the orchestra had come to us from the period of the First World War.

 

Time to create a soundtrack depends on many factors, so the timing is very different. For example:

Streets of Rage 4

In the retro action Streets of Rage 4, Driver returned to musical experiments. Here he worked with many other composers, including guest artists and Yuzo Koshiro, who composed the original Streets of Rage soundtrack.

After brainstorming, the developers came up with the following structure: The driver writes the music for the main part of the level, and guest artists for the bosses. Thus, the Streets of Rage 4 team gave guests creative freedom and at the same time emphasized the uniqueness of the leaders – they included tracks with their unique characters.

The driver again stressed interactivity. The music of Streets of Rage 4 goes hand in hand with the progress of the players: say, while there are few enemies – the rhythm of the track is slow, a storm begins – the beats intensify, the end of the level approaches – the dose of sonic adrenaline rises.

According to the authors, they got an unusual album that follows the rules of good taste for music releases, but at the same time fits perfectly into the game and emphasizes the gameplay and atmosphere of Streets of Rage 4.

The driver is pleased that he did not become engaged in films. He believes that the golden age of film music began in the 70s with John Williams (Star Wars) and ended sometime in the 90s. And soundtracks in video games have not yet reached their peak – according to Driver, they have every chance to bypass music in films in terms of scale.

Composers in the film industry are now tormented by bureaucracy: they have to push their work through crowds of bosses – and they all need to be pleased. In addition, cinema does not like experiments. Game developers allow Driver to record orchestral music from London professionals, and then cut it into pieces and process it on a computer. In films, creators with this approach would be looked at as crazy, Driver is sure.

The Frenchman continues to do what he loves. Over almost 20 years of activity, Derivier’s portfolio has accumulated over 25 games. He is not going to stop: among his upcoming projects there is at least Dying Light 2.

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