Florence was one of the most emotive mobile experiences that I’ve had the pleasure of playing, from beginning to end, the narrative in combination with the score pulled me into the story and grounded me in its reality. Last year saw the release of another award-winning tale, Made in Abyss, a thrilling animated adventure that won the hearts, and respect of myself, fans and critics alike. Both Florence and Made in Abyss have one simple connection, their composer Kevin Penkin.
Ahead of his Keynote appearance at High Score next month, we spoke with the composer of both scores Kevin Penkin about his role working on Florence, and the differences between creating music for traditional screen media like Made in Abyss, vs. the interactive nature of video games.
We’re also giving away a free ticket to High Score where Kevin Penkin is Keynote speaker, head here to learn more!
What were some of the similarities and differences between creating a score for a structured animated series like Made in Abyss, vs the more interactive and dynamic experiences to be found in Florence and other games you’ve worked on?
Personally, every project starts out the same regardless of whether it’s interactive or linear. I always first look at the story, aesthetics, the team, etc. After I feel I have a grasp of what sort of music I want to (or should) write, I then look into what the project requirements are. If the project is interactive, the question becomes “how” the music should be interactive. Anime has its own requirements that are unique to that medium. Even though anime is linear, it’s quite common to take what’s called a “menu” music approach. The menu approach is where you write music away from synchronised pictures and create “free” tracks which are then synchronised at a later date.
Florence released to global renown, celebrated for its unique storytelling mechanics, applauded for its incredible narrative, and loved for its reflective soundtrack. Are there any parts of Florence, a track maybe, or scene that you’re particularly proud of?
I’ve always thrived on how my friends and peers receive my work. Having good, honest friends give you a passionate response (critical or not) is always something I put a lot of value in. I had some friends and colleagues reach out about a few scenes that resonated with them on a personal level. The levels “Music” and “Argument” seem to be some of the most touching from what I have been told.
At what point we’re you brought in to work on the score for Florence, was this typical for working alongside a studio on release?
I was brought in quite early in the process actually. Since the music was quite integral to the story it was important to get some of the core ideas completed quite early. It’s always a great pleasure being brought on so early because you truly feel part of the team. I’ve been quite lucky with a lot of my work where I’m brought on quite early, but I say that acknowledging there’s also work that sees a musician being brought on incredibly late in the production phase.
Gaming has become the largest entertainment industry globally, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down, hundreds of talented artists and musicians begin their careers each year, what advice would you give to someone looking to get into the industry today?
I think students or young musicians sometimes forget how much time they have. There’s always an intense motivation and feeling of urgency to enter the industry as soon as possible. While being motivated is incredibly important, it doesn’t mean you should rush past the crucial step of first finding your own voice. People might be interested in you if you’re able to imitate an existing composer, people will remember you if you create something that’s unique. Don’t rush too much, you’ve got time. Enjoy the process, even if it’s painful at times.
Can we expect to see more of your work in future Australian games?
From what is announced, I’m able to say that I’m working with the Melbourne based indie game company “Route 59” on their game “Necrobarista”. I am in talks to do some more projects with other companies as well, but those are super-secret for now. Thank you so much for your time!
High Score: Composition and Sound Art for Gaming is a part of Melbourne International Games Week 2018. For more information on this event and a full schedule, you can check out the official site.