Harebrained Schemes asked me to write a dev diary to chat about my thought process for scoring Dragonfall. Check it out below!
This is the second of four Dev Diaries in which we discuss the new additions and improvements in Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut, a standalone release of our critically-acclaimed Dragonfall campaign which first premiered as a major expansion for Shadowrun Returns. (Note: Backers and existing Dragonfall owners will receive the Director’s Cut for free!) Stay tuned each Thursday for another Dev Diary, leading up to the game’s release on September 18, 2014.
Hi, I’m Jon Everist, Composer for Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut. Today, I’m going to talk a bit about the music of Shadowrun, and what to expect in the upcoming Director’s Cut. I’ll also give you a sneak preview into a few of these new tracks.
First off, let me say that the SNES Shadowrun was incredibly influential to me as a kid, so needless to say, I was thrilled when I was asked to work on this project. My first contribution to the Shadowrun world came from the launch trailer music I wrote for Shadowrun Returns. By the time I had joined, Marshall Parker and Sam Powell (who scored the original SNES game), had already filled the world with some amazing music that really set the tone for the score. For Dragonfall, I was first asked to do the trailer music and to write a few pieces that were scene specific, namely the final battle music “Dragonfall” and the Kreuzbasar music “The Haven,” with ten more pieces being added to the Director’s Cut. The team provided an advanced copy of the game and I was blown away by the writing and care that went into it. I hadn’t felt this invested in a group of characters in ages. It’s one of those rare games that quiets the world around you and takes control of your soul for a while.
I have a classical background and enjoy scoring full orchestral music, but I also have a deep love and history with electronic music and have been in electronic bands as a producer since I was a kid. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work within such a rich and diverse fiction. It’s one of those worlds where, as a composer, you start salivating at the possibilities and creative freedom you have. At one moment I could be writing for a 60 piece orchestra and the next moment I’m recording gypsy guitar with some grimey synth pulsating in the background over a distorted breakbeat. It really is a dream come true creatively. Cyberpunk, to me, is this dystopian absence of musical rules, like some near future when all genres of music have kind of coalesced into some savage construct that defies logic, and is totally rad.
So, as I said earlier, I’ve composed 10 more pieces of music for this Director’s Cut that I’m really excited about and I can’t wait for you all to hear. A big part of this new expanded score is the music for the companion missions, which will give players the chance to play character specific missions with some heavy story content. As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed getting to know each character in the game, so writing for them was a huge pleasure. My approach for each piece was to respect the game world and existing score while trying to introduce my own take on these characters’ complex lives and backgrounds. One of my all time favorite scores is the one Vangelis did for Blade Runner, which captured the smokey neo-noir dystopian future perfectly. I really wanted to mix live instruments and synthetic ones, which I think mirrors a lot of the story and universe of Shadowrun as a whole. Here we have complex characters (many of which are a synthesis of tech and organics) who are feeling real emotions and classic dilemmas against an extreme, synthetic and supernatural backdrop.
Glory, to me, is one of the most memorable RPG characters I had ever come across in a game. Her piece includes several motifs which represent her as a character. The clarinet has a falling melody that comes in every so often, representing her childhood memories. The piano strides on rather emotionless, almost keeping the clarinet from falling too far or Glory from feeling too much. But, there’s a moment in this track where tension starts to build and the clarinet falls and is repeated by the ‘cello, which allows the piano to open up and moves the piece into what I called Glory’s ‘feeling’ motif, where she finally allows herself to experience her emotions or open up to those people who care about her. Her combat track represents her taking control of her pain and channeling it into power and rage, using her past not to define her future but to power her rebellion against it. The instruments that once represented her pain now imbue her with unbelievable power.
The next track we are showing off is for Blitz’s mission. Not to spoil too much about the story, but lets just say that I was thinking a lot about espionage and sneaky tactics while I wrote it. It’s definitely a lighter track than Glory’s, but I think it fits Blitz well. One of my biggest inspirations for this piece came from what Amon Tobin did for Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. There’s a lot of syncopated live drums mixed with synths I created and a lot of found-sound glitches going on here. Blitz’s legwork track is really setup to build anticipation, it has a slick synth that pulses and drives the piece forward, while guitar and strings accent the ‘sneaky’ vibe. When you get caught or get yourself into a battle, the next section is setup to answer that anticipation with high energy. Frenetic drums and throbbing bass lines with plucked strings and heavily digitized electric guitar help keep the track moving while you struggle to survive.
So there’s my sneak peek into writing music for Shadowrun: Dragonfall and the Director’s Cut. I’m so honored to be able to write music for such a compelling franchise, it really is a dream come true. I hope you all enjoy it and get your hands on the Original Soundtrack as well! Follow me on twitter @JonEverist and ask me anything, or visit me at everistsound.com, I’d love to hear from you!
Check back next Thursday for a look at the new & improved combat systems in the Director’s Cut with Design Lead Trevor King-Yost.