Hi Tilman, hi Pierre. You have just finished recording the score to SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars with the Philharmonic Orchestra Altenburg Gera. What was it like working with a real orchestra?
Tilman: It was really an exciting experience for us, hearing over 70 Minutes of our own music brought to live by such a large group of talented musicians. The orchestra gave the music exactly the sound we were looking for, they sounded rich and bombastic on the powerful and energetic pieces, on the other hand very sensitive and emotional on the more romantic and mystic cues. We’ve been lucky to work with conductor Bernd Ruf, technical producer Holger Busse and the Philharmonic Orchestra Gera-Altenburg who have been very open-minded for our project and gave all their best to help creating a unique soundtrack for Spellforce 2.
Pierre: Honestly this was one of the most important moments in my life. We have worked hard on the possibility to get a live orchestra ever since we started working in the industry. It took us four years to get the first German developer to hire a live orchestra for the soundtrack of their game, and it was a special pleasure to us because Phenomic Game Development (the developers of SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars) were the first company to hire us when we started – and now we have brought them this first live orchestra recording for a German game ever.
What can you tell us about the score itself? How would you describe the score and what aspect of it are you most proud of?
Tilman: Like in SpellForce: The Order of Dawn, we were looking for a big epic fantasy-score that is able to support the players emotional attachment to the story of the game. Having the advantage to work with a real orchestra, we tried to evoke the more dramatic aspects of the story, by using the full spectrum of orchestral techniques. So we gave the different cultures a kind of signature not only with individual themes but also with different orchestrations. The Elves have a very fragile and sad maintheme with female vocals, harp and strings, the Human race has a very proud and medieval-influenced maintheme with an ethnic solo-violin, later with heavy brass and timpani. The Orcs theme instead is very archaic and destructive, with much tribal percussion and very dark “orc” - choirs
Pierre: The story of the game itself is woven in a way that we could easily work with string Leitmotifs again. Apart from the three main motives Tilman mentioned we have kept the principal Leitmotif of SpellForce: The Order of Dawn alive – from time to time it works its way through the new themes and takes you back to the beginning of the whole game series. This isn’t a key feature of the soundtrack, but it is a very nice reminiscence to soundtrack of the first SpellForce game. As we have worked with the singer “Talia” for this soundtrack again – like we did for the Add Ons for the first part of SpellForce – it’s all there again, taken to a higher and more fantastic level.
What is the balance between ambient and theme-driven cues?
Tilman: The theme-driven cues refer mainly to the different locations of the cultures; For example when the player is visiting or building e.g. a settlement of the orcs he can be sure to hear the orcs dark maintheme. However the more ambient cues are thematic, too. Although those tracks are more in the background, they often quote the thematic material of the ethnic groups and work with it musically; so sometimes a short sequence is taken out of a Leitmotif and turns into a kind of rhythmical comping-figure , or vice versa. This helps to hold the complete soundtrack together, to make it organic and create an overall-feeling for the atmosphere of the game.
Pierre: The difference between background music and “location” music is not that big when it comes to quoting themes. There are quite a few short tracks that introduce either one of the Leitmotivs or a sub-motif. All the thematic content built into those tracks gets worked up in the background music – plus a lot of minutes just working for themselves – setting the so important SpellForce mood for the player.
How did you approach the scoring of Spellforce 2? Does the approach differ from Spellforce 1?
Tilman: Since the music of SpellForce: The Order of Dawn seemed to be working very well for our developer as for the fans, we surely didn’t try to make something completely different. Nevertheless, we wanted to bring the music of SpellForce: Shadow Wars to a kind of new level, especially in dramatic and emotional aspects. As said, the using of a live-orchestra helped us a lot with that; it resulted in a more cinematic orchestral sound and gives the game a big hollywood-like atmosphere without changing the style of the music too much.
Pierre: The most important difference is surely the experience we have obtained in the last years since we scored SpellForce: The Order of Dawn. As this was our first project at the time we did a lot of experimenting, trying out styles, etc thus creating the “typical” SpellForce style – however this was the base of it – now we have given it a clearer and more focussed note. The first soundtrack together with the 90 minutes of music we wrote for the two Add Ons presented us the whole playground for the style of the music suitable for the game. Now we have taken the quintessence of it all and cut out something that really radiates the world of SpellForce.
How much does the overall composing process differ when using a live orchestra as opposed to a sampled score?
Pierre: As long as the developer does not mind if you are delivering mock ups that do not sound as good as they would if you wrote for sampler only, you can work in a completely different way. No limits to the things you can write except those you have in your own head – no computer is getting in the way. Fortunately the guys at Phenomic Game Development were very open-minded to us when we were telling them “this one part that sounds crappy with sampler – this part will sound marvellous with live orchestra”. Of course this is a risk to take and you better make sure it does sound marvellous afterwards – but there are so many things you can not evoke with sampler instruments that it would be pity to waste all those possibilities a live orchestra gives you only because you are not putting enough energy into persuading the developers. As I said – we did not have any problems at all with the developers of SpellForce, they simply trusted us – and that is a great way to work.
Tilman: Like Pierre said, you can concentrate more on the creative process, because you don’t have to think all the time about what the sampler is able to do and what not. When working with an orchestra, there are much more different orchestral techniques, effects, dynamics and articulations that you can use to get a rich and colourful sound. This results in a larger spectrum of musical possibilities.
Are you planning to release the score commercially?
Pierre: Well we can not plan on such things, as this is a decision the publisher has to take. I know that they are thinking of it – but I can not say yes or nay – it is just a thing people will have to wait up on. We are surely giving our best to get a release of the soundtrack possible – let’s just see what happens.
What other projects are on the horizon?
Pierre: Currently we are working on quite a few huge German productions. Apart from the game Paraworld (SEK-Ost & Sunflowers) we can not even say the titles of the other projects except a few rough numbers: Apart from SpellForce we are working on four major titles in Germany at the moment. Three of them will have live orchestra as well (we are still hoping for the fourth one to take the right turn and get us this orchestra we’d like to have for the project ..). We have another handful of projects on our schedule that do not have orchestral music as such, plus one major deal for a far off future :) ... that one will have live orchestra also. Most of the titles we are doing right now are scheduled for release in late 2005 until summer 2006, so we are still very busy with those projects. However – the first titles for 2007 are coming in – and it looks as if we will be able to have live orchestra soundtrack as a key feature of big German game production in the future.