John Broomhall talks to composer Olivier Deriviere about creating a new type of sound for Capcom's new sci-fi IP
You’ve said Remember Me is a unique production for you. Why is that?
To work on a sci-fi game that takes place in Paris in 2084 was already a pretty unique experience but capturing the core idea – the digitisation, storage, exchange and hacking of memories – pushed me to a level of creativity that was quite insane. What I arrived at was a live orchestra that is electronically manipulated by digital effects to create a new layer within the musical palette.
How did you come to be involved?
People might think it is because I’m French but it actually happened after an anonymous pitching process. I was so excited by Dontnod’s vision that I did something completely crazy, thinking that it deviated much too far from the norm, but I felt I had to take the chance. I can’t express how surprised I was to have been the one chosen.
How was your working relationship with the Philharmonia and mixing engineer John Kurlander through the orchestral recording? What were you trying to achieve and how did you go about it?
To support the idea of digitising an organic form, we needed to start with live musicians. And to ensure it would match the pre-programmed electronic effects, we needed excellent musicians who could handle the sharp tempo without sacrificing the musicality. The Philharmonia Orchestra is one of the best in the world and I am really amazed by their performance. At the same time, legendary recording and mixing engineer John Kurlander (who worked on Lord of the Rings and World War Z) captured the most genuine and beautiful sound the orchestra could produce. The combination of the two gave the game this extra dimension we needed to express the beauty of Neo-Paris and the story.
How much were you involved in the integration of your music to the game?
For more than ten years, I’ve been working very closely with developers. I work to understand their requirements and how I can help. When Dontnod told me they were working with Wwise, I was very excited because I knew how crazy we could go with the music implementation.
I am always attached to how the music can factor into the player’s experience. Of course there is the narration, but a game is based on gameplay mechanics and as a hardcore gamer, I always try to understand how I can support those mechanics. After consulting with creative director Jean-Maxime Morris and audio director Nicolas Teplitzky, we decided to support the fight system with a score that would follow every move of the player, giving them feedback, support and a sense of reward if and when they did well. The level of detail and complexity of the game’s fight system made the music quite complex to produce, and I felt the composer would be the best person to adapt the vision as musically as possible.
With over three hours of music cues, how long did this project take and how do you approach a production of this magnitude?
The project took me about eight months, which was great because it gave us time to experiment. My process for every game I work on usually starts with the search for ‘colour’ (what instrument or instruments we will use). Then I write the main themes.
Next, together with the creative and audio directors, we structure the music on top of the game structure. Following that I work on the implementation and start writing the generic music to finally compose the narrative cues that can be assimilated to a movie score. I think it is very important to end with the scoring because your palette is ready and then you just have to pick what you need and do some variations. That’s how you end up with a lot of music that makes sense from beginning to end.
I worked very closely with the team. This is very important to me – it helps me understand the game better and provide a better fit for it. I confer mostly with the audio director and creative director but I like exchanging with the game and level designers, too. It helps me understand their vision and I try to support that with music. Usually, those conversations generate great ideas.
Where does the music for Remember Me rank in your extensive career?
For every game I score, I like to create a sound that has a unique identity, so this has, been an opportunity beyond my wildest dreams. I love electronic music and I’ve always thought it would be amazing to treat an orchestra with all the effects that artists like Aphex Twin and Clark to use. The problem was that I didn’t know how to produce it and initially I was really in the dark. But with a lot of hard work and the help of John Kurlander, the Philharmonia, the whole team at Dontnod and so many others, I can listen to the final soundtrack and think quietly: “It is done. What’s next?”
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