Wired has a great mini-documentary on the score for the videogame Infamous. It’s chock full of sound design ear candy, not only served by the chops of composer Amon Tobin but the team at Sony Music and Sony’s entertainment division, as well. Curiously, Jonathan Mayer, Music Manager at SCEA, says explicitly that he doesn’t want composers writing interactive music. He’d prefer to have them write a conventional score and then adapt it to the interactive engine. Now, of course, around these parts we like the idea of composers finding ways to write genuinely generative and interactive scores. But in this case, Mayer is acting as a kind of remix artist for the game realm, sampling Tobin’s compositions and reconceiving them in the game world. That kind of collaboration could be powerful.

Chuck Doug, SCEA music director, overstates things a bit by claiming this game has a unique aesthetic. The visuals are a burnt-out, post apocalyptic city – yeah, been there quite a few times. The music involves lots of ethnic percussion-y instruments and bowed metal and deep booming sounds. (Let me get this straight: we’ll hear a plucky stringy thing, then a bowedy metally thing, then there will be a big boom!) So, generally, not some radical new departure from game and motion soundtracks. But regardless of its novelty, I’d be an utter killjoy to complain: it sounds utterly gorgeous.


I got to listen in on a lot of gems regarding sound design from composer Troels Folmann. He doesn’t just bow metal instruments – he boils them.

GDC: Boiling Waterphones and Other Sonic Inspirations from Composer Troels Folmann

And on the subject of getting composers to write interactively, Matt Ganucheau has been teaching that way:

Teaching Adaptive Music with Games: Unity + Max/MSP, Meet Space Invaders!

  • I would say that Infamous' aesthetic, while dystopian, is indeed actually unique. It's set in a city immediately after a large-scale terrorist attack, so it's like IMMEDIATELY post-apocalypse. The music is totally notable even if you didn't know the process that went into it… the game is just amazing and I think Sony's hyperbole is largely justified.

  • I do think the game is unique and special, absolutely. I just think it's funny to describe what's unique about a game is saying it's post-apocalyptic. And there are certain riffs in game music, too, even the top-flight stuff — you could call it a zeitgeist. 😉 I don't think it's necessarily bad, but it would be a stretch to say that no one is doing this stuff.

    Maybe instead of talking about novelty in black and white terms, though, we should be talking about what the appeal of these aesthetics now is, and how it might evolve gradually.

  • SiUnit

    I think the score was the best part of the game, everything else felt too stereotypical. Plus it is possibly the brownest game ever, even more than 'Gears of Brown'. I like their approach to creating innovative game music. SCEA are doing some really awesome things!

    Keep up the game related posts! I think they are becoming more relevant as they move away from traditional linear scores. Some of the underlying technology is mind blowing.

    Typo in your post, 'Chuck Doug' should be 'Doud'


  • Just finished this game yesterday. Quite enjoyable, and the atmosphere is definitely unique. I've never seen anything quite like it in a game, but I agree with Peter that calling it post-apocalyptic hardly captures the game's novelty 🙂 Amon Tobin and friends did a great job with the score, and my one complaint is that it rarely shows up in the game! It's used TOO subtely.

  • Martin

    Amon Tobin did also a great job on the score of splinter cell – chaos theory. good enough that they released it as a regualr album too.

  • nice creative effects. like that.

  • overall for me this is great news because what one studio does always influences another, and i think a lot of action games have been super-orchestral productions for a while now.

    it helps a lot of people out if companies search for new talent in any genre, not just a boost for electronic musicians.

    the reality though, is that any style can be well emulated or licensed out to, so it's largely a case where musicians need to be business-savvy so they can adapt and make any project work.

    it's not an easy biz, but amon tobin is on the right track to having a sustainable career outside of the crazy recording and touring industry, with two game scores under his belt now. big respect to the man!

  • MMI

    Super super cool. But I still won't be buying a PS3 anytime soon. That money and time is much better spent on gear and making my own brand of noise.

  • dajebus

    I just finished Infamous and Prototype and Infamous has a much better mood sound wise. The soundtrack in Prototype is just orchestral run if the mill stuff. A little boring.
    Amon really did an amazing job in pulling you into the feel of the game and getting the right mood across.

  • Absolutely — well, Braid did wonderful stuff with folk musicians. Amon Tobin's compositions are sonically genius regardless of genre – yeah, huge fan of Chaos Theory and Foley Room, the latter another sound design excursion.

    I will definitely keep covering game music. While there is a lot of run of the mill stuff, there are more than enough exceptions to keep you busy.

    Now I just need a *friend* with a PS3… hmmm…

  • Ken

    this game is pure awesome