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Staying In Tune: Richard Jacques On Game Music's Past, Present, And Future
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Staying In Tune: Richard Jacques On Game Music's Past, Present, And Future

June 16, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 10 Next

Just as an aside, do you find it difficult to compose a distinctive theme for Highlander when you're following Queen [who composed the original film soundtrack]?

RJ: Uh... (laughter) Not really. I can't talk about it too much, since we're releasing in a few months' time, but no.

We've taken a different approach that's right to the game, to be honest. And you wouldn't even try to go anywhere near that music, because it's so awesome.

How have you found the process to have changed over the years? You've been doing this for a really long time, longer than most have been doing it consistently.

RJ: In terms of actually creating the music, or...?

Both in terms of the creation of the music and the tools available to you, but also in terms of the designer-composer interaction, and what they want from you and these sorts of things. It's a very huge question, sorry.

RJ: Sure. Well, no, it's a great one that needs covering. When I started my career, we were working on very limited technology. The first game I shipped was on the 32X, which had no...

Which one was it?

RJ: Darxide, which is a 3D asteroids game made by David Braben of Frontier Developments. And then Shinobi X, which I did the European version. That was on the Saturn. I wasn't allowed to use the CD-ROM for any music on that.

The technical challenges were pretty tough in those days, but creatively speaking, I would say that I was given more free reign then than I am now. I think it should be the other way around.

I'm sure composers who have only been in the industry for a number of years or just recently will say, "Oh yeah, we get all this freedom," but back in the day, I was literally given a game and pretty much did my first instinct -- composed on my first instinct, whereas now, it kind of tends to be about comparison.

"Oh, we want it a little bit like Hans Zimmer, with a little bit of this and a bit of that." Well, that's fine, and I'll take that on board, but I'll still interpret the game in my way. The game is what speaks to me, not a bunch of CD references that someone's put together, because that's just referencing something else, and I don't understand why people do it all the time.

I always say to a developer or a lead designer or whatever, "I want my score to sound like your game. Even if we haven't worked out a brief, I want my music to sound like your game, not this film or TV series or this other game."

I think that's stifling the creativity of the composer greatly. It's fair enough giving guidelines like, "We want electronica or orchestral," or this, that, and the other, but I always want to put my own identity to the game, because it helps identify the game in its own right.

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