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the art and soundtrack magazine. ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST Experience the story of a young orphan who grew up.

THE FOREST Survive the horror that’s ambushed the market.

TRANSISTOR Discover the secret of success hidden in Red’s sword.

BROKEN AGE Plus many more:

Issue #1 - £4.99

Journey // The Walking Dead // The Vanishing of Ethan Carter // Bloodborne // Monument Valley // Red Dead Redemption

Explore Schafer’s fresh yet old-school kickstarter project.


EDITORS’ NOTE What makes a game good? Is it simply how we, as players, become attached to the characters and stories? Is it the sounds and music that we like? Or is it just that we love the game as a whole – that we become so immersed we forget that it is simply just a game? Or perhaps there’s something more to it.

Our task is to explain to you why we think that

the visual graphics and audio soundtracks are what get us hooked on games, as well as the inspiration behind these ideas. Graphics and soundtracks, we think, are something that’s looked over a lot – there is never enough credit to give to the developers and composers of these games. Every game has a unique style, and it’s not purely down to the characters or the stories in most cases. It’s the way the game looks, how the game sounds; the sensual aspects of the game that encase us within the imaginary land that the developers want to take us to.

We want to take you on a journey to explore what we

believe are some of the best graphics and soundtracks for past, current and upcoming games. Graphics and soundtracks are rarely mentioned in reviews of games – they’re always touched upon briefly – spotlight will mostly, if not, always centre around how great the story and characters are. This magazine will show you the highlights of the best soundtracks, and the most original and unique graphics, and why these sensual elements mean that you immerse yourself in games.


PAST GAMES Games in the past are what set the standards for games in the future. There have been some amazing games that we have all played at some point or another, from the retro, classical games that we all know and love, or perhaps some hidden gems that are waiting for the spotlight. Games have been a favourite past time for people of all ages, and continue to be so as technology develops further and further. For past games, they begin to have that “old feel” to them – the graphics aren’t quite as good as they used to be, the gameplay is a bit glitchy, and some of the characters are very laughable. However we mustn’t forget that they were developed for a reason, as they too had their time on the gaming shelves.



The Banner Saga

A Viking inspired, turnbased strategy game, The Banner Saga quickly gained interest due to its unique art style, music composed by Journey ’s Austin Wintory, and non-linear storyline. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, the game reached

its goal of $100,000 in under two days, going on to gain over $700,000. The player follows the story of a nomadic, Viking-like tribe that travels across the continent as they fight and avoid a scourge of ‘Dredge’, an armour glad race that formed when one

of the gods took revenge on his peer’s creations. As the story progresses the player makes new allies and builds their army while simultaneously having to manage resources so that they can survive in a harsh, cold land that is suspended in a permanent twilight.


Art & Sound The Banner Saga’s artwork stands out simply for the fact that much of it is hand-painted. The traditional rotoscoped animation style was drawn frame-byframe in Photoshop before being imported into Flash and animated. Animations were based on home-made motion capture done in Stoic’s front garden, filmed with a camera on a ladder and distance markers to save on money, making things more personal. The style gives a calming, slow pace to the game, simplifying it so more focus can be brought to the narrative and gameplay. A large influence in the style was also time and ease. ‘With a small production team,’ Alex Thomas says, ‘2D allowed us to produce a lot more content in less time, and we’re all big fans of classical animation.’ The Banner Saga was inspired by artists such as Eyvind Earle, known for his work on Disney films but also his more classical works, which have featured prominently in galleries across the world. Thomas is a fan of all animation, coming from a 2D animation degree, and also cites Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth as sources of interest. The Banner Saga’s soundtrack was composed by well-known videogame composer Austin Wintory, who reached acclaim for his 2012 work on Journey. Wintory had the help of the Dallas Wind Symphony, as well as Malukah and Peter Hollens, namely known for their success on YouTube. The score itself is exactly what you would expect from Wintory, yet holds a very different theme to his previous work. The Banner Saga’s pace is slow, haunting, the brass rising to a crescendo before fading into woodwind instruments. In parts, heartbreaking violin shines through, building

the emotion until you can almost feel the warriors’ pain. The result is something no less atmospheric than his other work, definitely capturing the lonely Viking atmosphere that Stoic had in mind. The soundtrack adapts to the player, becoming more triumphant if they are winning, and even more tense if they are struggling. This is used not just to make the game more reactive but also to make the player feel more involved in the story. ‘At its best,’ Wintory says, ‘game music turns the player into a co-storyteller.’ Stoic director Thomas says that his ability to do this is based on the amount of work he puts into understanding the concept. ‘He understands game design, programming and technical implementation, and he makes music that is part of the game instead of sitting on top… when Austin got involved, what had begun as a side note changed to an integral part of the storytelling.’ Wintory has run into difficulty, however, facing a possible fine of fifty thousand dollars by the American Foundation of Musicians for his work on the game. Knowing that a fine was a possibility when he started working on the game, Wintory chose to continue, having to breach the contract to be able to work. Despite the setbacks the soundtrack and game remains immensely popular, the opening song alone receiving almost forty thousand plays on Spotify, and the game itself becoming known for pushing the boundaries of modern videogame development in almost every aspect.



The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead’s success could not be without its soundtrack. Developed and published by Telltale Gaming, the range of tracks provokes certain feelings towards the game, each of which are suited to their individual scenes. From intense, tension-building, atmospheric drums, to heart-throbbing, emotional and passionate violins, there is only one word to cover it: amazing. In Season one, there were nineteen tracks to introduce us to TWD’s incredible journey, which will be later followed this year by Season two’s soundtrack. However an official OST has not been released for sale yet, although there has been talk of Season two’s soundtrack being sold later on this year. Fans can still listen to the tracks online that were featured in the credits of Season one and two’s episodes. Season one introduced players to Lee – a university teacher who murdered the senator for sleeping with his wife – with each step of his journey being accompanied with Clementine and an orchestra. Lee’s journey is certainly a powerful and emotional one; the connection between Lee and Clementine becomes closer and closer throughout the game, which reaches the ultimate conclusion. Based mostly on acoustic songs, with the drums interfering when necessary, the soundtrack builds tension and suspense throughout the entire game. It then leaves us with a song which toys with our heartstrings during the episodes’ credits. TWD is notorious for the ending credit songs. In true Telltale style, each of

TWD’s episodes are left on cliff-hangers, which are then followed with powerful, acoustic ballads to further provoke emotions, and leave players with their mouth hanging open. Each track comprises of soft, euphonic vocals, with guitars and other string accompaniments for support. These songs, composed by Telltale’s long-time composer Jared Emerson-Johnson, feature vocals from Janel Drewis, who is also an animator in Telltale’s development team. The song during Season two Episode two’s A House Divided credits, is a unique take on the traditional American folk song In the Pines. Originally from Southern Appalachian, this track dates back to the 1870s. Along with the other tracks in Season two (including Carver and In the Water), this track is a dramatic ballad to leave the player in the dark about their decisions. Fans are left a little disappointed at the end of episodes however, as there is usually at least a two month gap between each. Telltale has confirmed a season three of TWD, but with no official release date yet. With many rumours speculating in the Telltale community, there hasn’t been any official information released about Season three’s content. With the hope of more cliff hangers, more intense stories and characters, and more amazing tracks to come, fans are left waiting on the edge of their seats for more TWD, even if it is only one episode at a time.


Art & Sound

Broken Age

Broken Age, produced and distributed by Schafer’s Double Fine Productions, is a point and click adventure game. The game is broken down into 2 acts: Act 1, which has released in January 2014, and Act 2, which is to be released in Q2 2015. This is Tim Schafer’s first come back to the genre since Grim Fandango in 1998. The game was previously called Double Fine Adventure during its Kickstarter project in February 2012, which was promoted by Double Fine and 2 Player Productions. To this day Broken Age remains one of the highest backed projects, raising almost three and a half million from $87,000 in just one month. The idea of Broken Age came after an interview with Tim Schafer for 2 Player Productions’ upcoming Kickstarter-funded documentary Minecraft: The Story of Mojang. After considering the options and resources available, Schafer decided to create a new game alongside his documentary filming. After more video interviews prior to the Kickstarter, Schafer decided the game should use 2D graphics instead of 3D, as it would keep the “old school” feel to it, as well as allowing Double Fine’s in-house artist Nathan Stapley to use his painting talents. ‘It’s going to be fresh and feel modern,’ Schafer explains, ‘and feel like what the next game would have been if I’d made one straight after Grim Fandango.’ After exceeding its Kickstarter budget, Stapley, along with the help of Supergenius Studios in Oregon city, created a mock scenario to set an animation style. The sequence, in which a lumberjack and a cabin in the woods was created, has become a pinnacle scene in the game today with the help of actor Will Wheaton.

Players of the game have commented on the animation and graphics, focusing on its elegance and originality. With a rich atmosphere due to gorgeous hand paintings, the game is simply a beautiful 2D game. However it’s not only the graphics that make this a remarkable game: the soundtrack has a vital part to play. Often overlooked in reviews, it is authentic and true to the characters of the story. Composed by Peter McConnell, who has worked on other scores such as Hearthstone, Heroes of Warcraft and Plants vs Zombies, this soundtrack consists of twenty three tracks, each with a unique sound and mood. ‘The score to Broken Age began with some background art of Vella’s village and the spaceship,’ says Peter, ‘This idea grew into something none of us could have imagined: a live score featuring the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and a small ensemble of San Francisco musicians.’ The score fits the game perfectly, and makes a pleasant and enjoyable listen for the players. Various sounds of the orchestra together filled with sound effects to suit the game, the music follows the character and the story well enough for players to be immersed. It takes the two stories and ideas that Tim Schafel came up with, and laces them together into one, pitch perfect OST. Each track contains sounds of wonder, mystery and soul, provoking the right emotion at the right time of the game. Running alongside the immaculate graphics, it’s easy to see why players were so pleased. While critics haven’t scored this game too highly, (4/5 on Metacritic and 7/10 on GameSpot), backers on Kickstarter surely knew what they were pledging for, as Broken Age was a beautiful end result.



The Forest

The Forest is a survival horror game that received much attention upon early alpha release by Endnight games. The open world game received particular praise for its stunning visuals, emphasis on complete freedom and intelligent AI. The player finds themselves stranded in a forest after a violent

plane crash that appears to have killed all other passengers, leaving them on their own to gather enough resources to survive and evade the cannibals that pursue them. Though the game is still a working progress, players are still able to lose hours in its sandbox environment, hunting, gathering

resources and doing all they can to survive. The release date for the full game is yet to be announced, but what is clear is that such a large-scale project could take even years to polish into a finished product.


Art & Sound As a survival horror game, with a director who has experience in movies as a lighting and look development artist on films such as Tron: Legacy and Sweeney Todd, it’s no surprise that the game takes influence from Hollywood. The visual style of Disney was a clear influence, says creative director Ben Falcone, as well as 70s horror films such as The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Surprisingly, current games on the market didn’t catch Falcones attention, ‘One of the things I don’t like in horror games is when they’re all one tone, when they’re always just dark and depressing.’ Enright have definitely moved away from that dark, depressing atmosphere, which is where the influence of Disney shines through. The Forest that you crash land on is often beautiful, with god rays shining through the trees as butterflies flutter through dense foliage. The design decision behind this is the contrast between peace and terror, to make the player all the more scared when they hear the soft patter of cannibals approaching their camp in a pack at night. Night-time visuals are something the game studio worked on at length, constantly adjusting levels and colour palettes to give the right feel, with the aim of ‘finding the right mix between filmic lighting, realism and gameplay.’ There’s certainly a mishmash of realism and surrealism in The Forest, with some crisp, realistic assets such as rocks, which were primarily scanned in from the real world, combined with bright, almost blinding sunlight that doesn’t quite match everyday life. The result is something that

is sometimes more foreboding; an almost dream world that turns into a nightmare with the setting sun. The Forest was developed in the Unity 4 engine, a perfect environment to experiment with Falcone’s background in lighting. Endnight have introduced a number of advanced visual effects, with physical shading for everything in the game to allow it to respond naturally in almost every instance. This is combined with a complex light scattering system which utilises volumetric fog to help create atmosphere and build the idea of a changing, volatile environment. The overall visual effect is a survival horror game that is, if nothing else, different. The game’s soundtrack mirrors the beautiful yet sinister effect that was intended for the visuals. The main menu music starts with peaceful, melodic piano that only slightly hints at a sinister undertone through repeated high notes. Later tracks go deep into feelings of panic and distress, while others take on a rocky, metal tone designed for fight scenes. The soundtrack is diverse, expanding to include tapes that can be found and played in-game which cover a variety of instruments and genres. Despite this, The Forests’ soundtrack leaves little to be desired. Its tone doesn’t quite build the tension as effectively as other games in the genre, and doesn’t seem to have the attention to detail that some indie productions have managed. For a game that is still in alpha, however, it shows a lot of potential.


The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

INTRODUCTION Produced by indie game developers The Astronauts, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a visually stunning first person mystery game focused on exploration and non-linear storytelling. Following detective Paul Prospero, the player explores the valley of Red Creek as he

searches for local boy Ethan Carter in the wake of a series of brutal murders. The developer’s aim was to create an innovative way of storytelling, focusing on ‘atmosphere, mood, and the essential humanity of our characters.’ It launched to success

and high ratings, selling 60,000 copies in the first month and winning the 2015 BAFTA Games Award for Innovation.


Art & Sound Much of the innovation behind The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was the detail and immersion of the environments themselves. The assets in the game are not purely imitations of real life – they are real life. The models in the game were created using photogrammetry, wherein many pictures are taken of a real object from different angles before being calculated and processed to make a virtual object on a computer. The result is a model than is

surreal atmosphere. TVOEC’s soundtrack is slow, melanolic and eerie, and builds in intensity with the game. Mikolai Stroinski, the composer behind upcoming game The Witcher 3, makes a conscious effort to list emotions, instruments, harmony types and anything he can think of while writing the notation. ‘More and more, that analysis predominates over my compositional process,’ he says, ‘Sometimes it consumes

indistinguishable from real life. more time than putting down the actual However, notes.’ a real challenge is One difficulty ‘We’re making a weird fiction getting the models to in videogame game, a dark tale, and not a soundtracks is making a point that they can documentary — and this needs be used in real time, to be supported by a certain them loop without in a video game. With visual style that goes beyond there being a clear cut millions of polygons off point. For TVOEC, photorealism’. for each model, The Stroinski made sure to Astronauts had little be consciously aware of choice but to decrease harmonic and melodic the amount of polygons on each model by resolutions. Avoiding them or bringing creating their own polygon assets and then them in subtly has created a soundtrack that applying textures, lighting and bump maps flows across the game no matter how long is to them. The result is a game that looks spent exploring certain areas. almost photorealistic, but also stylised. And The melodies in each track are based this is not a bad thing. As “art sorcerer” on the original Ethan’s Theme written for Andrzej Poznanski says, ‘We’re making the menu screen, with different variations a weird fiction game, a dark tale, and not based on the rhythms or melodic shape and a documentary — and this needs to be intervals. The result is a beautiful, haunting supported by a certain visual style that goes soundtrack that follows the story as it falls beyond photorealism’. into darker territory. The mixtrue of the two styles crosses into many parts of the game, from the contrast of the detectives supernatural powers with a very real problem of a missing boy, to its soundtrack, which uses a variety of orchestral instruments to create a




Transistor, a sci-fi RPG developed and published by Supergiant Games, was released on 20th May 2014. It was created for Microsoft Windows and PS4, then for OS X and Linux on 30th October 2014. The game follows a character called Red, a singer in Cloudbank city, who comes

in possession of a Transistor – a sword-like weapon which the robotic force, Process, were supposed to kill her with. We find out that the attacker has sealed her voice in this sword. After a long battle to save Cloudbank, restoring it once more, Red ends up in the Transistor world with

her lover, and is reunited with her voice again. Transistor was very well received by critics, scoring 8/10 on GameSpot, and 9/10 on IGN. The game was nominated for The Game Award 2014 for Nest Score/ Soundtrack, but lost to Bungie.


Art & Sound Transistor, a sci-fi RPG developed and published by Supergiant Games, was released on 20th May 2014. It was created for Microsoft Windows and PS4, then for OS X and Linux on 30th October 2014. The game follows a character called Red, a singer in Cloudbank city who comes in possession of a Transistor – a sword-like weapon which the robotic force, Process, were supposed to kill her with. After a long battle to save Cloudbank, restoring it once more, Red ends up in the Transistor world with her lover, and is reunited with her voice again. Transistor was very well received by critics, scoring 8/10 on GameSpot, and 9/10 on IGN. The game was nominated for The Game Award 2014 for Nest Score/Soundtrack, but lost to Bungie. A combination of strategic planning, quickpaced action sequences and responsive gameplay allows Transistor to set a rich ambience and a mesmerising story, as the player works out the Transistor’s tale from its owners before. From the creators of Bastion, a whole new world has been created for players to learn and explore. The graphics are based on hand-painted artwork – vibrant and lively, this artwork is viewed in 1080p resolution, allowing players to see every detail the developer’s team have put together. The game can however be run in 720p resolution for those with less powerful systems. With thousands of possible functions and combinations, Transistor is fully customisable, tailored towards controls for PC.

Transistor’s soundtrack was released on its launch date. Both available digitally and on a compact disc, the OST has over an hour of music created by Darren Korb, Supergiant’s composer. With vocals by Ashley Barrett, the OST comes with a bonus track, Signals, specifically created for release. The soundtrack is also available on Steam, as a stand-alone product, or bundled with the game. A bonus album was also released, featuring more than eighty minutes of music, with some of the tracks being instrumentals versions of the originals. The OST can also be streamed online. As you play the game, players can unlock most songs through the Sandbox, which can be replayed on the game’s record player. The player can listen to other songs from throughout the game, but these tracks are mostly unlocked through completing the game’s tests. Many of the songs feature the character Red humming, with two other versions of the songs being available too: the full orchestral version, and the filtered, pause mode version. While Supergiant advised players not to listen to the soundtrack before playing the game (since the music is deeply connected to the storyline), fans have appreciated the music much more during the game by listening to it standalone, as the sound design that could be found in Bastion is once more featured in this remarkable OST.


Art & Sound

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is a best-selling mobile app that was praised for pushing the boundaries of mobile gaming – this was through high production values, a wellpolished visual style and exceptional sound design. The game revolves around a young girl, Princess Iva, through a series of optical illusions. The levels get progressively harder as different puzzle elements are introduced – mazes, and impossible objects start to implicate the players’ strategy. The game won multiple awards, including Apple iPad Game of the Year, Best British BAFTA, and multiple art direction and innovation honours. Indie studio Ustwo made $145,530 revenue just in their first day of sales, going on to make close to 6 million from April 2014 to January 2015 based on over two million sales. It was well received by critics, scoring a 4.5 on Metacritic, and even 5/5 on PC Magazine and Touch Arcade. Fans were fascinated by the game and its artwork, although the lack of levels meant that players completed the game quickly, while the puzzles themselves weren’t always so difficult. The art style of monument had many inspirations; art director Ken Wong cited Japanese prints, minimalist sculpture, and other indie games such as Fez. The game has been likened to the style of artist M.C. Escher, who Wong stated as a clear inspiration for the initial concepts behind MV. Wong imagines his game as a natural extension of Escher’s work; something that he feels he would create today. The colourful landscapes and geometry are

breath-taking in both their simplicity and complexity, creating a game where every second is a work of art that could be printed out and hung on a wall, but simultaneously works on an architectural and interactive level. Wong says that every monument is bespoke, some taking weeks to build, others months of diligent work. A real challenge was to find elegant ways of expressing different elements, to refine each level until the visuals achieved nothing other than they were supposed to, yet still allowed the player freedom to find their own path within the puzzle. The bespoke aspect also extends to sound design. Stafford Brawler talks about the challenges of creating an individual feel for each level which was separate from the real world. In many cases, ambience from real life objects and places were distracting the player; it reminded them of particular memories and emotions specific to them. Likewise, Brawler was advised against using any particular tempo or beat, as rhythm and melody made players feel like they were pushed forward rather than following a dream-like journey. The result is a soundtrack that is peaceful and calming – blocks moving to a musical twang that gives the otherworldly feeling that Ustwo were trying to accomplish, while simultaneously neutral, calming tunes underlay it. It creates the effect of a calming yet puzzling game, one which fans can play over and over again without losing the entertainment value.



Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption, the second of the Red Dead games, is an open world western action-adventure game. Developed by Rockstar San Diego, it was released for PS3 and Xbox 360 on May 18 2010. A spiritual successor to Red Dead Revolver, RDR was a hit with the series’ fans, and was welcomed by critics with open arms. While the storyline and animation were highly commended by fans and critics, the soundtrack played a key role in the game, and has become a huge hit. Composed by Bill Elm and Woody Jackson, the soundtrack was released on the same day as the game. It comprises of nineteen tracks, totalling up to over fourteen hours of music. Once more critics were pleased with the soundtrack, stating that the music was suited for the setting and gameplay of RDR. More importantly however, RDR’s soundtrack was one of Rockstar’s first games to use an original score. The scale of the game, according to music supervisor Ivan Pavlovich, was one of the main difficulties during development. From the start of development, achieving authenticity in the game’s sounds was the main goal for the sound development team. After receiving artwork from the art department, the sound team were inspired to achieve the realism the game also carried too. Once the soundtrack had been recorded and mixed at Jackson’s personal recording studio in LA, as well as being mastered at Capitol Studios, Irish producer and composer David Holmes took the original score, and spent three weeks recreating fifteen of the game’s tracks into instrumental tracks to be used standalone. The goal of this, according to Holmes,

was to make the soundtrack a little more representative of the atmosphere and mood of the game. These instrumental tracks also included four vocal performances. The majority of RDR’s OST was inspired by the music of Ennio Morricone, an Italian director, who did soundtracks to all of Sergio Leone’s western films. Many of his great films include: Once Upon a Time in the West; A Fistful of Dollars; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Morricone also provided scores for many other westerns, such as The Big Gundown, Companeros, and The Ringo movies – these seem to have inspired RDR’s soundtrack. Ideas presented to the team during development were easily achieved through audio programmers – these ideas were broken into three main areas of the RDR world. Each area had unique ambiences and atmospheres to them, which were then sectioned into smaller sounds, such as animals and weather in order to reflect the correct mood and time. Specific instructions were given to the sound team. Certain songs, for example, Thieves’ Landing had to feel “creepy” and “off-putting” in order to fit the gameplay. RDR is undeniably a great game, with a great soundtrack to accompany it. Though this game may be older than a lot of the other games we’ve explored, it certainly doesn’t lose its western charm, in particular, through its stunning and atmospheric music.


FUTURE GAMES Technology is the pinnacle point in our lives today – more and more we see people, in particular, children, staring down on their phones, absorbed in a collection of pixels. In one way, it’s sad to see so many people glued to the screens, and relying on technology to run their lives. But on the other hand, the products that today’s technology can make is remarkable. Gaming has come a long way since the beginning, and has come to a point where it is hard to distinguish a gaming trailer to a film trailer. Even the plots in games start to reflect on our technological advances, and the effects it has in wars around the world. However, it isn’t something we should be scared about – if this is what gaming is now, imagine what developers can do with another ten years under their belt.


Ori and the Blind Forest

INTRODUCTION Ori and the Blind Forest, an adventure game designed by Moon Studios, was released on 11th March 2015. Published by Microsoft Studios, the game is currently available on Windows and Xbox One, with an Xbox 360 version set to be released later on this year. Directed by Thomas Mahler and composed by Gareth

Coker, the game received praise from critics particularly for its plot, graphics, soundtrack and environmental design; lead artists Max Degen and Johannes Figlhuber aimed to bring a world that did not yet exist to life. Moon Studios, an independent developer consisting of designers and programmers

from all around the world, have spent four years working on Ori and the Blind Forest, which Microsoft acquired after approximately a year of development. With no one set location, Moon Studios members can be found in America, Australia, Israel, Austria and more. Ori and the Blind Forest was


Art & Sound guided and inspired by many great previous works. Designers say that The Lion King and The Iron Giant were their guidance, due to their ‘coming-of-age story’. The team were exploring ways of presenting the stories within the 2D game industry, and as well as these two 90s animated films, Moon Studios were heavily influenced by Ghibli/Miyazaki too. One animation that stood out for them was Princess Mononoke, a classic Studio Ghibli film. ‘I just love the world they created, and this depth,’ said Figlhuber. ‘The prince is an outsider in this world, and he’s not really wanted there – we kinda wanted to get this feeling for Ori. We want you to feel like a visitor in our strange and beautiful world.’ The art style of the game appears handdrawn on purpose – the game uses the Unity engine, while older games such as Rayman, which the team have stated they were inspired by, utilized Ubisoft’s ‘UniArt’ graphics engine. While the team were inspired by old Nintendo games, the game doesn’t actually feel retro itself. Ori and the Blind Forest’s modern feel isn’t dependent on its next-gen graphics, nor is it entirely down to Gareth Coker’s sombre scores. The game clings to an attentive and detailed ambiance that places the player in the instance of the story, forgetting for a moment that Ori and the Blind Forest is just a game. The team have also stated that they’ve been taking lessons from games such as A Link to the Past and Super Metroid – they really wanted to bring back the sensation players would have had when playing old Nintendo games that were built in the early 90s. They felt that the standards set by these games, and the clean execution and design was outstanding, and so have taken these

values and standards and applied them to Ori. The game’s success isn’t just down to the amazing graphics and art style however – the soundtrack adds a note of sincerity to Ori’s story, without a single word being said. The soundtrack was released just hours before the game and features artists such as Aeralie Brighton, Rachel Mellis, and Tom Boyd. Performed by the Nashville Music Scoring Orchestra, a vastly growing company that performs country, jazz, orchestral music and more, the soundtrack consists of wistful strings and sparse orchestration, making it the perfect accompaniment for this game. These downtrodden tones mix well with a loveable protagonist, allowing for an enjoyable game no matter how many times a player may accidentally kill him. When a fearsome violin plays as Ori jumps off of cliff walls, avoiding gruesome monsters and clambering out of the forest mist, we get the sense that Ori’s quest is very important. And it’s not just a feeling of accomplishment we get either – it’s the understanding of Ori’s story that comes across through this soundtrack, the young orphan who grew up. One of the first great games of 2015, Ori and the Blind Forest has created a believable yet non existent world that players can get lost in with Ori, which has set the bar high for the other games of 2015 to follow. The unique ambiance Ori and the Blind Forest creates keeps us hooked and wanting more, especially now that we’ve been introduced to Moon Studios and their creative talents.




2015 marks the beginning of a new era for Journey, with its PS4 release, featuring significant visual upgrades including a resolution of 1080p and an upgraded framerate of sixty per second. This is set to bring a new host of players to the game that missed it on its 2002 PS3 release.

Journey quickly received critical acclaim across the world, becoming the first videogame to have a GRAMMY nominated soundtrack, and winning over thirty awards, as well as being featured in several museums. The game follows an asexual robed and masked

character on an adventure to a distant mountain. On the way one player meets another as they pass various obstacles and work together to collect glowing white symbols,which grows their scarves and allows them to fly farther as they complete an emotional hero’s journey.


Art & Sound The classification of Journey as a game has been questioned simply because some believe it more closely resembles a work of art. Journey is meticulously crafted down to every detail – small environments that are almost perfect in their beauty. There is no clear cultural influence behind the art of Journey, Art Director Matt Nava says, but rather it was inspired by his own travels across Europe, India, Japan and Mexico, and the sense of awe created by the ancient art and ruins of fallen cultures. Journey certainly portrays that awe – the exploration of the remnants of an unnamed civilisation plays a core part in the player’s story. Nava’s passion for ancient ruins shines through in the jutting columns, which are made both beautiful and sinister. The founding concept behind Journey is to create an emotional response, and from Nava’s concept art, it is clear that it was something he held important above all else. Colour palettes match the atmosphere that is created, with dark blues and greys in sinister, melancholic areas, and whites and golds in happier ones. The character itself is also geared towards connection between players. An androgynous, anonymous figure with little features other than a red robe and white eyes, which leads to a lack of defining labels, meaning that it is relatable to all genders and races. The human aspect has even been removed, pointing legs and a strangely shaped figure meaning that it is thought of as something detached from our world.

Journey’s soundtrack, winner of countless awards, is no less revolutionary. Composed by Austin Wintory, it quickly becomes a core part of the game, overpowering sound effects and ambient sounds. The music follows the heroes’ journey narrative that is the core of the games story, almost a story itself when listened to alone. The soundtrack fits perfectly not just with the environments, but also with player’s actions, heightening as they take a fall, becoming more upbeat when they are raised up again, and slowing as the player becomes more tired. This is primarily due to how closely Wintory worked with the designers and programmers, making the soundtrack highly versatile so that certain actions could be programmed to set off certain melodies. The goal, he says was ‘to make it completely seamless, so that it feels like the music is unfolding in real time, as if being written by an unseen (and very fast!) composer.’ The game features haunting cello melodies that represent the player themselves on a self-reflective journey. Much like the character itself, the soundtrack has been refined and refined to make it as culture-less and open as possible to promote a more unique emotional reaction. Wintory avoided typical “desert”music in order to emphasise a spiritual and physical journey rather than an emotional one. The result is a soundtrack so compelling that listening to it allows you to picture the individual scenes of the game with clarity. Its score, as well as the game itself, is simply unlike any other.


Soundtrack Bloodborne, one of the spiritual successors of Demon’s Souls, was released in March this year. An RPG directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, developed by From Software and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Bloodborne is currently only available on PS4. With both single player and multiplayer available, this game scored high with the critics, including a rating of 9.1/10 on IGN, and 4.5/5 on Metacritic. But part of what makes Bloodborne so good is its magnificent soundtrack. While it’s not yet released for public sale, players who indulged on the Collector’s Edition received a copy of the OST, but from 21st April, Bloodborne’s soundtrack is available for everyone in Europe and North America to immerse themselves into, on CD or digitally via publisher Sumthing Else Music Works. Consisting of twenty one tracks, Sony Computer Entertainment America World Wide Studios worked with Air Lindherst Studios in London to create this stunning collection of music. Performed by a sixty five piece orchestra, a thirty two piece choir, as well as several vocal and instrumental soloists, over ninety minutes of the music was mixed at Playstation HQ in San Mateo. According to Chuck Doud, the music director at SCEA WWS, the secret to the score’s success is due to the reflection of the authenticity of the character and mood of the game. This authenticity started with

the composers, whose music provoked the outstanding performances from the orchestra and choir. ‘This was our first time working with From Software and the game director Miyazaki-san,’ Chuck says, ‘and we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to help bring this music to life.’ After an intricate yet remarkable process, Bloodborne’s OST is simply breath -taking. It conveys a sense of overwhelming dread, beauty and despair to its players and listeners, creating that otherworld effect that Bloodborne revolves around. Every beat of every note remains true to the creative vision of Bloodborne’s creator. Hunt You Down, one of the tracks featured on the OST, starring Ruby Friedman, was used to promote Bloodborne for a trailer and TV spot of the game. Written by Scott Miller and William Hunt, the song proved the promote the game well. Bloodborne became one of the most anticipated games in January 2015, and fans were not disappointed, even after some heavy criticism. But Bloodborne’s success could not be without its rich and gloomy tunes – its glorious soundtrack keeps players on the edge of their seats, ready for whatever unexpected plot twist is thrown at them. Bloodborne is an outstanding game, with more prequels to follow in the future.

‘The score’s success is due to the authenticity of the character and mood.’


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Or subscribe online at! by Ryan Maskell and Yasmin Brookes

Immerse | Art and Soundtrack Magazine Issue #1  

Immerse explores the inspirations behind art and soundtracks in gaming.