Capturing the sound of Rain
Emotions run wild in developer SCE Studios Japan's upcoming adventure title, Rain. The game takes players to a mysterious world filled with invisible creatures, dreary sights, and torrential downpours. Rain stars a young, invisible, lost boy that must confront the dangers of unseen beasts and mind bending puzzles. But the developers aren't just building the typical adventure game, they seem to be putting significant effort into creating an emotional experience portraying loneliness, excitement, and sadness--accomplished in no small part by the soundtrack.
Much of the emotion is conveyed through Rain's musical score, so we jumped at the chance to interview the man behind the music, Composer Yugo Kanno, as well as Britain's Got Talent star, Connie Talbot--vocalist on the Rain's main musical theme. Check out the following slides for a behind the scenes look at the creation of Rain's soundtrack.
GamesRadar: What were your first impressions of Rain, and how did you come to determine the tone the music should take?
Yugo Kanno: The first thing I paid attention to in regards to tonal quality was rain. My focus was to pick a melody that matched well with rain, so I actually listened to different sounds of rain falling while I was writing the songs. Other than that, the exotic feel was a theme I pursued as well. So I tried to build sounds that would make people feel like they are somewhere foreign that is unlike any country in our world.
GR: In Rain, players will be uncovering the mysteries of an unknown world. How do you bring that sense of mystery and discovery across in the music.
YK: I tried to not be too conscious about the game play itself and instead develop music like I would compose a score for a movie. But I did pay close attention to not disrupt the worldview of rain. I expressed the excitement of solving mysteries and the emotional changes caused by discoveries in the music not through external items (in gameplay), but rather through internal changes in the little boy-and-girl. The changes themself were not easily noticeable, but we were able to express these differences at full effect even with the minimal differences. This was made possible with the shared awareness between the game director and the entire production team, so it was very smooth and straightforward.
GR: There's also a sense of innocence that comes from the protagonist being a child. What considerations did you take in making sure that players feel the weight of being a lost, innocent child?
YK: What I tried to do with the music wasnt to express the young boys serious situation, but to express the feelings that just fit well in the world of rain. I definitely didnt want the player to play the game with sad/heavy feelings, so I made sure to leave a feeling of hope in the music. My top priority was to make the players believe they exist in the world of rain and that they are the main character and thus expressed the emotional differences in the music based on that.
GR: What is the range of emotions you've had to convey through the music? From what we've seen so far, the game has been very somber. Is that sad tone one that lingers throughout the game?
YK: I developed the music to hit the emotional peak with the last song, so please look forward to that while playing the game.
GR: What instruments do you use to convey the different emotions?
YK: Selecting which instrument to use is very important but I dont select a certain type of instrument to express a specific emotion. I select instruments based on what type of world view and tone Id like to create.
For rain, I didnt want to create any sense of digital-ness, so I decided to stick with live instruments. For one of the sounds for percussion, I was actually beating things that were around me to add natural sounds that we create in the real world.
I also put my efforts in using minimal number of instruments and the majority of songs are composed using 3 instruments: the piano, strings and bandoneon. I have removed all computer-generated sounds and limited the number of instruments, to be able to approach peoples heart and emotions more directly.
I am currently working on projects that have two completely different directions. One is composing music for a Japanese traditional TV drama called [Taiga Drama]. And the one is for a brand new Sci-Fi TV drama for a younger audience. For the sci-fi one, Im mainly using synthesizers to build the sounds for the sci-fi world, but Im selecting more earthy and raw sounds for the traditional drama.
What Im trying say is that, the sound and tone can become a strong icon of a content. So when considering what instruments to use, I focus on what type of world view and time period I am trying to portray in order to make the content look at its best.
GR: How did you come to the decision to have Connie do the vocals for the main theme?
*Ken Suzuta (the producer from SCEJ) was the one who chose Connie, Ken will answer this question.
Ken Suzuta: We focused our efforts on creating a theme song that reflects the world of rain and a song that sticks with our audience.
We ventured out to find a girl that resembled the girl from rain - a vocalist who is around 10 years old, from Europe, someone who could express loneliness and had a strong but unique voice. We were fortunate to find Connie as she was exactly who we were looking for. When we approached her, she readily accepted our offer and her performance was beyond our expectations. We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her on this project.
GR: Are you a gamer? If so, what are some of your favorite titles or genres?
Connie Talbot: Im not much of a gamer but I have played Nintendogs on my Nintendo DS, but I'm really excited to play rain.
GR: What was the most exciting part about being involved in Rain?
CT: The most exciting part was going to the studios and recording the track for rain and learning a lot more about the game.
GR: How was working on video game music (rain's soundtrack) different from what you've done before?
CT: It is quite similar to how I've recorded other songs but rain was a different style of music, so it was fun to do something different for a change.