Studio Mojo Bones is currently working on a game called Impact Winter, due to release later this month, and in anticipation of that release, we talked to Mitch Murder, who did the music for the game, and designer Stuart Ryall, in order to discover more about the development process that has defined the game. First up was Mitch Murder, who has worked on games like Hotline Miami 2 in the past, but this partnership with Mojo Bones is something quite new...
Gamereactor: How did the collaboration with Mojo Bones come to be?
MM: Well, I've known Mark (of Mojo Bones) for years now, and while working on various projects separately, we always talked about how it would be cool to collaborate on something, and Impact Winter presented the perfect opportunity to do just that.
GR: What was your initial approach when putting down ideas for Impact Winter?
MM: Initially I was very much inspired by John Carpenter's "The Thing", and with that in mind I made some basic concepts for the first trailer. However, while still very much a synth score, eventually it sort of morphed into something slightly more melodic and piano heavy, and influences grew to include works like Blade Runner, The Fifth Element and also Dreamweb (one of my favourite '90s PC games).
GR: How does working on a video game soundtrack differ from your normal creative process?
MM: Working on soundtracks in general is different because there's usually some sort of guidelines and a set theme right from the start that you have to adhere to. It's something I really enjoy doing, though, interpreting other people's ideas and concepts and turning them into music, with the hopes that they recognise their original vision in the music upon hearing it.
GR: How much variety can we hear on the soundtrack - is the music perilous, or slow, or a mixture of both? And how do you manage the transitions between different in-game events?
MM: There's certainly a sense of dread or unease to some pieces, but pretty much all of it is slower and atmospheric rather than fast paced. I didn't want it to sound "too ambient" however, so while some of it is indeed just droning ambience, there's still a sense of composition and structure to each track. As for transitions, when you're out in "The Void" for example, the music changes as day turns to night, so I made two different tracks in the same key and style to make the transition as smooth as possible.
GR: How important do you think the music and audio is in enhancing the experience?
MM: To me, it's very important, but I'm sure it differs from person to person, what type of game it is and whether or not the music compliments what's happening on screen. Hopefully, I've done a decent job with the latter.
GR: How has the collaboration been with the developers? Has there been a back and forth or did they mostly leave you to it? What influences and common ground do you share with them?
MM: They didn't really interfere much at all with the actual process aside from giving me feedback here and there, so it's been really nice having that kind of freedom. Early on we had a Skype conversation where we pretty much decided on a moody, sort of piano-heavy synth-score, so I think we've been more or less on the same page throughout the entire development process. Also, I'm sure it helps that we're all giant nerds for most things '80s pop-culture.
GR: Have you played the game much? If so, what do you think of it and its themes?
MM: I think the last time I played the game it was in early alpha, so I'm really excited to see how it's progressed since then once it's out. I love the way it looks. The contrast between its fairly dark and dystopian theme against its sort of cartoony aesthetics is really appealing to me for some reason.
GR: Having worked on things like Hotline Miami 2 and Kung Fury previously, how different is it to work on something like Impact Winter?
MM: Well, the obvious difference would be that Kung Fury and Hotline Miami are both more upbeat and action-oriented both in terms of gameplay as well as the music. Aside from that though, Impact Winter is by far the longest OST I've worked on so far, clocking in at well over one hour. It's also one of the more thematically consistent soundtracks I've made. Some might even say too much so, but I aimed for a very similar feel throughout most of it, for better or worse.
GR: What is the main thing you want people to take away from listening to your work in Impact Winter?
MM: I just hope it compliments the experience rather than take away from it. Can't really hope for more than that. I mean, it would be cool if people enjoy it enough to listen to it outside of the game as well, but I'm keeping my expectations low for now. Mostly because it's fairly different from a lot of my previous work, so people who know me from Kung Fury or my earlier Mitch Murder stuff might be surprised at the slow pace and what not.
Head over to the next page, where we interview designer Stuart Ryall.