Richard Jacques is a legendary name among
Sega die-hards, thanks to his music composition work during his time at Sega Europe on games such as Sonic R and Metropolis Street Racer - as well as assists on other classic Sega titles such as Jet Set Radio.
But, having left Sega for a freelance career, his compositional credits extend to the current day, with
projects like The Club, additional work on Mass Effect and Sega Superstars Tennis on his resume -- a
blend of the old and new, even in 2008.
Here, in a wide-ranging interview, Jacques
talks about his feelings on how iconic music may be making a comeback in games,
the importance of dynamic soundtracks, the concept of a composer-led game
design, and even spills the beans on classic Sega projects that fans have
debated the merits of for years.
what have you been doing most recently?
Richard Jacques: Last year was an
incredibly busy year. I was working on Mass
Effect -- focusing on that -- I was working on The Club and Conflict: Denied
Ops... Also, I've been working on Sega
Superstars Tennis, which is going to be great for the fans, I think.
They've done a really good job on that. And I'm currently working on Highlander, which I have another three
or four weeks to finish.
the Sega game, is that kind of back to form?
RJ: Oh yes. I'm a big Sega fan. I spent
eight years of my career working with them, and I love their games and their
look and feel and stuff. This particular game, using all their huge characters
and IPs and putting them all together with the Virtua Tennis 3 engine, which the guys at Sumo Digital over the UK
put together...it's just a great celebration, really, of all things Sega.
I was asked to write a whole bunch of
custom music for the frontend and the main theme and the trailer, and I've been
remixing Space Harrier and Virtua Cop and things like that. We've
also done... 85 of the original tracks have been upmixed to 5.1 surround. So
they've gone all-out on that, and it's going to be a lot of fun, I think.
seems to me that over time, music has gotten much less iconic and more like
background-y, or representational. It's like sweeping orchestral stuff, and not
like real iconic music. Why do you think that happened?
RJ: It's a good question. I think partly,
it's because of the way games have changed. If you were playing, ten or fifteen
years ago, a Sonic or a Mario or a Metroid or something like that, it would be very clearly
level-based or goal-based, and there would be a piece of music for that zone or
Consequently, the gameplay challenges would warrant you playing
that level quite a few times before completing it and progressing.
Now, games are structured quite a bit
differently, and the atmospheric and orchestral thing is just as valid now,
because the gameplay is so different.
If you're on a huge, 30 to 40 hour
playing game like Gears of War or Halo or Mass Effect or something like that, you can't be bombarded with
music. It has to be there to back up story and characterization.
I think back in the day, with the Sonics and Marios, music played a different function, whereas today, it's to
support characters and narrative, to create emotional rises and falls in the
stories and arcs, etcetera.
I think we have gone through a
certain..."renaissance" is the wrong word, but I think the whole
orchestral thing has now peaked, because everyone wanted to do it, and they've
done it, and blah blah blah. And now they're finding, "Right. We could go
that route, or we could go a world-ethnic music route, or we could go a
So I think now, it's finding its place as a
valid tool and a valid stylistic point of reference for game designers,
producers, and composers alike. But it's not necessarily the be-all and end-all
of it. I mean, I love composing in that genre, because that's what I was
trained to do -- I was classically trained, etcetera -- but you could easily do
a score with a completely different approach, which would make just as good a