Risen Fansite

Interview with Kai Rosenkranz

Kai Rosenkranz

Released: 21.8.2008
Translated by: El Kamil, Sionix, Paulie
Source: http://worldofrisen.de/

Copyright 2007/2008 Piranha Bytes

The user "Khamir al-Sheid" from WoR.de board has got for his school presentation on the theme Soundtracks an interview with Kai Rosenkranz from Piranha Bytes.

Besite the general questions concerning movie and game soundtracks and the differences between them, you can also read about Gothic 3 soundtrack and Piranha Bytes' new game Risen soundtrack. The developing process of the game music and used techniques are also described.

1. Soundtracks - In general:
What is in your eyes a soundtrack? How would you define such thing?
KaiRo: The word "soundtrack" is originally the sound track (audio track) of a movie. However this meaning is today in the background, when people are talking aboud soundtrack or O.S.T. (original soundtrack), they actually talk about the music, not about other sounds or voices.

The word soundtrack, which is except the picture saved on a movie tape, is also a nice metaphor for what soundtrack really is. It's running concurrently with the picture and along with it it forms the whole piece, where the sound and the picture are playing the same role. The music and the sounds support the picture, the picture supports the sound, both can work only together.

The music is the emotions-bearer in the game. The music doesn't originate from the movie - in contrast to voice and ambient sounds. In other words: If a movie scene has been real, it would countain the picture, the voices and the sounds, but no music. So why does it exist? Because the people feel it as the emotions and they let it to bring them to a certain mood. Movies, as well as video games, want to send their spectators to an emotive travel, to excite fear and anxiety, thrill, joy, sorrow and a pure entertainment. First of all the music serves to support the emotional side or even to lead it.
Where do you get your inspiration from? How much time does it take to create so complex soundtrack as for Gothic 3, which includes all of northern, Mediterranean and southern music cultures?
KaiRo: Every composer is impressed with outer influences. In my case it doesn't mean, that I listen to another soundtracks directly, I more likely associate certain sound strings and instruments configuration from my samples. Example: If I whisteled now the beginning of a famous melody, let's say the Indiana Jones theme by John Williams, it would automatically save in my head on the basis of the association with this part. To forget these associations and to find something new it's very difficult for a composer. And almost the same for accords. I'm impressed with my personal soundtrack collection, though every composer is developing his own style.

I take the inspiration mainly from visual material, which is created during the development. In the beginning there are first concepts which I use to get closer to emotional side of the world or scene. The only purpose of these sketches is partly opportunity for the graphics to feel the "atmosphere" of certain place. It`s a matter of coloured surroundings, the criterias, the lighting, etc.! The "atmosphere" is emotional notion and that's why I can get a lot from these sketches or maybe better: to understand the emotional essence.
Where did you come to the idea, that you`ll become professional composer?
KaiRo: Actually I'm rather professional game developer than the composer. I got to Piranha Bytes when I was just a kid going to school. Because the sound position wasn't occupied yet, I took care of it. Well I had no idea in that time that it was foundation-stone of my composer career. I also could imagine that I would take a job in graphics, which I also did because of visual effects in Gothic series.
Do you think that soundtracks composed for computer games have the same quality and carry the same culture value like the film soundtracks? Are there any differences? Or are today game soundtracks even better than film music?
KaiRo: Game and film soundtracks fullfill the same purpose, which is emotional speech to consumer, but different way and different means. Of course during the time when you look for themes there are more similarities than differences, but film music has on technical level one dominant advantage: It is linear. It can swing just like that for a while before than it ends in tense climax. Such long Dramaturgy is not possible to develop in game music because it is not clear what happens in next few seconds or minutes. And that`s why the game music has to be developed step by step and it must offer the possibility to change the topic without the mentions.

About quality of production in sense "quality of sound", film and game musics are very close to each other. It doesn't always have to be the orchestra, but production has to be on the highest level.
What are the methods during the development the game soundtrack?
KaiRo: All, that are able to accompany the game scene. Favourite games are those in which you can aesthetically push the soundtrack to highs or yodelling. You can also make the differences between virtual sound sources and real music bodies like: an orchestra, a choir or the solo-instruments. You make the virtual sources, from electronical syntethic sound to half authentic orchestral instruments, on computer.
What is the work with virtual orchestra like? How does it work, what are the most often problems?
KaiRo: The virtual orchestra is in most of the cases found on the so called samples, which are the sound data that create one certain sound of some instrument. From piano, for example, is recorded one key in various volumes. In the second step these sound files are allocated on virtual keyboard by pushing the key. The procedure is the same for violas and flutes, also for guitar or percussion. With help of MIDI-keyboard, so easier hardware-keybord for electronical manipulation with music software, you can invoke separated samples by pushing the key.

I work with programme Cubase SX 2.0 from Steinberg. Also HALion sampler comes from him and it takes control of connection of MIDI-keyboard with single sound files and also allow faster access on the hard disk.
2. Gothic - Soundtracks
How did you get to Piranha Bytes and where is the origin of Gothic theme?
KaiRo: During my studies I decided to become a game developer. At that time I also worked on my own project. In fact I never have a completed game, but many work-tests from different departments. I wanted to prepare for the time after school, so I arranged a meeting by close game studios to make an image, how it is to be game developer. By Piranha Bytes I found out, that the sound and music job was available, so I competed with my previous projects.

Unfortunately I can't tell you about the origin of Gothic theme. It often happens, that you have no ideas, but one day you've got suddenly the melody in head. Before that I had many different moments, when I thought, I found it. The Gothic theme was just an idea, which came from nothing and bang like the thunder. For example the "Vista Point" theme from Gothic 3 I was polishing long time. In general terms some strong melodies based only on few sounds can be more difficult to develop than big symphonies without the main theme. I've already got this bitter experience also from the development of Risen, I coudn't find the main topic for a long time, but then it gradually crystalized.
Many fans think, that your music was in the process of the Gothic series more spectacular, more dramatical and more various, however in Gothic 3 a bit overstated. For example when fighting a scavenger the player isn't so scared like when he stands against a shadowbeast, but the music was the same. I mean: The music transmited much more emotions than it could be seen on screen. Do you think, that you could your composing abilities (which are really breathtaking) moderate a bit?
KaiRo: There are more reasons for that. First - I was fascinated by pathos and I neglected some moments, which wasn't so in foreground. The vision that I would work with the real orchestra gave me a little bit bigger wings. Next reason is in technical implementation of the interactive music system. It was finished quite late and I had not much time to implement the music according to the concept. Other programming departments were in the final phase more emergent and more important, so that's why for a long time I could only imagine, how would the system work in the game. It's the "too little time for polishing" fault, that it plays always the same theme when fighting also against easier monsters (as well as many other errors or bugs).

I learned from that, so I already know the importance of "shallow" melodies for decent but still emotive background. The previous parts also had some pathos, which would chine them, if they would be recorded by real orchestra. By Gothic 3 exatly this happened. Thw whole "large potential" of my music was unchained by 70 musicians and 24 singers. With some distance less is sometimes the more.
Could you disclose how the soundtrack for Gothic 2 was developed?
KaiRo: Hmm, how it actully was? I based the interactive music system from Gothic 2 on Microsoft's DirectMusic. This system works like virtual tools I mentioned before. The music is represented by digital notes and few sound samples for each sound of an instrument. During the game the samples are mixed real-time. That means, that only a small count of samples was possible to play, because they were loaded into the computing memory. In general the Gothc 2 music needed about 20 MB of memory, whereas a very well created samples-tool, for example a viola, often needs even more than a gigabyte of memory. So we had to economize on sound quality, instruments count and ways in the game.

However there was an advantage, that it could be created more music variations, because only few kilobytes small score was needed for a new variation.

The composing process starts with searching the atmospere and ideas. Concepts and story documents are a base for setting the music limits. Next thing is instruments choise and music emotion. In the composition you just take the themes and work with them. During the orchestration the themes are distributed to the instruments and provided with the decoration. Analogous to paint, which is at first rough and then more and more detailed. In the end it remains the integration into the game, what is rather a technical thing. Then the music zones are created in the game world. To each zone are assigned themes, parameters for deactivation of fighting melodies and so on...
Is there any negative critique, which hasn't been caught by the community?
KaiRo: The main point of the critique I've already mentioned: Soundtrack is good as a music CD, but as a game soundtrack it stands to much in the foreground. The music in itself was rated positively by most of fans, even if the faults of the music system and increased occurrence of pathos corrupted the general impression.
3. Risen - Soundtrack
Since when have you been working on it? Can we find something similiar with Gothic or planned Gothic 3 addon or you've decided start from the beggining after you left JoWood?
KaiRo: I've started after we have first information about story and first of Ralf's drawings. I had some themes which I couldn't use in Gothic 3, because we could record only fixed period with orchestera. And these themes I add to Risen, because my opinion is, that the style of our games (not specific themes) should live on.

Yet, I wanted to find some Risen's own music style. So I added new elements mainly to instrumentation and arranging. Adding of faster drums or fairly western effect and galic niances. Together something absolutely new.
Do you record the soundtrack by orchestera or by old good virtual one?
KaiRo: When we were recording soundtrack for Gothic 3, we had strict rules and we couldn't use virtual instrument. We wanted to be absolutely authentic and so we brought all intruments to studio. In Risen, we decided to make more music with more themes for every location. Yet, we used real instruments, which can be only very hard simulatet with virtual ones.
Is the soundtrack for Risen finished or if you like, when we'll be able to hear some your new music?
KaiRo: No, soundtrack isn't finished yet. Locations and scenes are finished during the development, one after another, and I'm not making every music in one moment. I'm working all the time of development. Lately I had a lof of work in other ways, therfore now I'm working on music again.
Are you content with Risen soundtrack or you think there is some thing that “Cannot be in game at all cost?“
KaiRo: I'm very content and I'm glad, that we found new style, which sets in game well.
4. Last question...
What were you doing during working for Piranha Bytes? And what do you think of your own work?
KaiRo: There are many things which can be better or different. I live through my creative work like a big study process, so I don't want to let be any of my faults. I'm glad, because of possibilities given me by Piranha Bytes and because of personal progress which came together with it. In 19 I was working on my first big game soundtrack for Gothic 1 and just about five year later I could work with real orchestera. Through this time wasn't everything faultless, but who knows, which important experience I could miss today, if everything went good?
Všechna práva vyhrazena. Zákaz kopírování informací bez povolení autora!
© Kamil Krásný & Paulie 2007