Terra Invicta Dev Diary #15: Music

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Terra Invicta Dev Diary #15: Music

Post by johnnylump » Tue Oct 27, 2020 6:53 pm

We're going to take a bit of an interlude from our mechanics-oriented dev diaries for a Q&A with our music team about their work. Dennis and Patrick, the two composers behind Breakdown Epiphanies, have been making music for almost 20 years in various formats. Since 2014, they have been producing soundtracks from their studio in Hamburg, Germany, and today they released their first track for Terra Invicta, which you can listen to here!

You can also check out some of their previous work on YouTube and Spotify.

What initially drew your interest to composing for Terra Invicta?

Dennis: We have always been big fans of strategy games since we played franchises like Civilization, Jagged Alliance or XCOM back in the days when we were kids. After Firaxis came out with their relaunch of the XCOM series in 2012, we both spent a lot of time in Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2. So we were already familiar with the Long War mod and admired it for its love for detail and intricate balancing.

Patrick: Xwynns, a streamer and YouTuber who is legendary among the Long War crowd, was the one that introduced us to Pavonis Interactive. We got to know him through his let's plays of a game that we scored, the turn-based strategy RPG Battle Brothers. We are very happy that he set us up with Pavonis because Terra Invicta has the makings of a game we would enjoy playing ourselves. That's always a main criteria for us when we decide to work on a game.

Battle Brothers has been praised for its soundtrack. Are there challenges in switching from the fantasy genre to composing for a science fiction game?

Patrick: The fantasy genre was actually a huge challenge for us when we started out composing for Battle Brothers. We had no experience in orchestration or orchestral arrangements so we took master classes, dug into forums and started studying sheet music from scores that we admired like for example Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings. What we did have was an existing deep connection to the genre from the books we read growing up and a long history of playing pen & paper rpgs. I think that's an essential requirement for nailing the right atmosphere. We have that connection with science fiction too and I'm particularly intrigued by Terra Invicta's blend of hard science fiction and geopolitics. While our music for Terra Invicta is going to feature electronic elements like beats and synth sounds, we'll even be able to leverage what we learned during our work on Battle Brothers since the orchestra is going to play a role too.

Dennis: At the very beginning, our demo portfolio consisted solely of electronic music. Patrick and I used to be in a band together where we played mostly progressive metal and rock music, and Breakdown Epiphanies started out as a side project where we wanted to experiment with different sounds and new production techniques. Bands like Nine Inch Nails were a big influence back then so we definitely feel at home with dystopian science fiction vibes. The blend of topics in Terra Invicta is also going to allow us to expand the palette a bit further. We are currently experimenting with different styles and textures for the gameplay happening on earth and the space exploration part. Something else we are always mindful of is that game music must not get too intrusive and distracting. This is especially true for the strategy game genre. At the same time we want to create memorable moments so that's where we aim to strike a balance.

How is that going to look in the game?

Dennis: We are still experimenting and we will have to see if our ideas end up working in the flow of the game, but currently we are exploring a direction where the gameplay on earth is accompanied by music that invokes the atmosphere of geopolitical end espionage thrillers. We want that part to be distinguishable in terms of instrumentation too where we are going to use more “analog” instruments and smaller ensemble sizes on earth. In space things are going to be more lush and vast, with a larger orchestra and probably more cold and synthetic synth sounds. The way we are trying to set this is up is that the engine is going to blend from an Earth-style track to its space counterpart when the player is zooming out from Earth with the mouse wheel and vise versa. There will be a lot of testing and tweaking to be done until we know if we can make it happen but we think this could have a very immersive effect.

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Can you describe the first track you have produced for Terra Invicta?

Patrick: One of the tracks we have started working on is a first idea for the main menu theme. We are not sure yet if that's where it will actually end up playing but we think that it's a good early step in developing Terra Invicta's sound. The piece falls more into the “space” category in terms of sound palette and aims to build tension over the course of the first bars. The memorable motif hopefully gets you in the mood for an epic struggle over hegemony on earth and control over the Solar System.

Terra Invicta's full original soundtrack is available as a backer reward at the Premium Pre-Order and higher tiers in the Kickstarter, which ends in two days!

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