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Exclusive Interview Part Two: Kevin Riepl Talks Composing Video Games

If you haven’t already checked it out in the Music section of BD, the wonderous and magical Jonathan Barkan got a chance to interview one damn talented man Kevin Riepl. About what you ask? Well, the only 2 things that matter to most of you people, horror movies, and video games.


If you head past the break you can read the video games half of Jonathan’s interview. And if you head HERE you can read the 1st half. All about composing horror movies. It’s a worth while read, so READ IT! 7) You’ve also worked on some of the biggest video games in recent history: Gears Of War, Twisted Metal Black, Unreal Tournament, and more. You’re also working on two upcoming big releases: Hunted: The Demon’s Forge from Bethesda, and Aliens: Colonial Marines from Sega. What is the difference in recording for a video game rather than a movie?

K.R. With the games I’ve been on over the past few years, the schedules have been considerably relaxed compared to the films I’ve done. Sometimes with games you can have weeks and even months to complete a score. With film its usually days or weeks to get the music done. If in either case the score is to be recorded live with orchestra, the same preparation is needed for both, but with games as mentioned above there is considerably more time to handle these tasks. It’s usually scheduled in as a separate stage of the process of creating and delivering. With film, your given a certain amount of days/weeks and it’s a necessity to get everything, writing, preparation and live recording done in that amount of allotted time. I love both processes. After working on a film with such extreme deadlines, it’s a treat to go back to work on a game with such a relaxed schedule. Personally I think the extreme deadlines on film or tv, hones ones skills as a composer. So, whenever it comes along, I welcome it!

8) Do you play the games in order to put yourself in the right mindset as well as generate ideas?

K.R. I play games whenever I have the chance. Which seems to be few and far between these days. The only time I really sit down and play is when working on a project. If there are playable levels or sections of the game, I request to sit down and play or watch someone else go through the game. Doing this, I can get a feel of what type of music is needed and where it should be placed. Having someone else play the games and me watch, I also try to experience it cinematically to help conjure up ideas and how to place certain pieces or elements of the music. I think this approach definitely helps with the cinematic feel a lot of developers are aiming for.

9) The Aliens franchise is a much beloved series by the horror community as well as the sci-fi world. In approaching the soundtrack for Colonial Marines, did you look to the soundtracks for the films as well as previous games for any inspiration or did you decide to come at this with a fresh approach?

K.R. I most definitely looked to the films for inspiration. I know Gearbox and Sega want to maintain a certain continuity with the films, so drawing inspiration from Alien & Aliens is essential to that. The Alien and Aliens films have always been two of my favorite films ever, so creating this score is an honor. Both scores are also two of my favorite scores, so creating music that is heavily influenced by Goldsmith and Horner, plus getting to add my own voice to it as well, is just too much fun.

10) The Alien lairs are very “Cronenberg”, in that they mix organic with surrounding metal and machinery. How do you create music that reflects this dichotomy?

K.R. I do my best when approaching a scene, to score the human element, if there is one, rather than the environment. To assist in the emotional connection between the story and the viewer. If said scene is all visuals of environments like the lairs, I may at times score it with a mixture of organic orchestral instruments with touches of modern synthetic elements mixed in to really bring the viewer into the setting. In other instances I may score the scene to help connect the viewer to the cold, damp, and completely foreign vibe of the environment.

11) Hunted: The Demon’s Forge looks like a sprawling epic fantasy world. One of the things that I love about fantasy games is that the creatures often look like something out of a nightmare and can be quite horrific. Fantasy also tends to lend locations that are perfect for “creepy” music: dungeons, ruins, cemeteries, caves, etc… Do you get to flex your horror music muscle for Hunted?

K.R. I certainly do. …and that’s about all I can say about the game aside from what I mention below. Sorry.

12) Do you feel that Aliens, being a sci-fi game, can rely more on digital samples and patches rather than Hunted, which being a fantasy, should rely more on live instruments?

K.R. Strangely enough, It’s Aliens that is using all organic instrumentation and is going to be recorded live with an orchestra, just like the films’ scores. Hunted on the other hand has a nice mixture of everything, from world instruments, to epic orchestral, to hard edged synth samples and percussion, to choir. However, this is one of those times where myself as a composer and the developer/publisher need to rely heavily on the quality of the samples and production of the tracks to get the end result with out any live recorded instruments.

13) What aspect did you find most enjoyable about working on Hunted: The Demon’s Forge?

K.R. Without sounding like I’m trying to secure future gigs, but I’d have to say the team of people that I worked with at, the developer, InXile. For one thing, after being on a project for up to two years, you sort of get to know the guys past their gaming outer shell, and you’re able to relate to them more and more as development progresses and vice versa. Most of the time, this creates a more relaxed environment for everyone involved, which enables the development process of the music to move along at a much smoother pace. Other than that, I’d have to say writing this type of music was definitely a blast.

14) Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you are working on?

K.R. Well, Aliens: Colonial Marines is still an upcoming project. There is the feature film ‘THE NIGHTCREW’ being directed by Christian Sesma. I think principle photography starts in a couple of months on that one. A short film by director Joseph Albanese with whom I worked with on ‘CLEMENCY’. A short film, ‘MAMA’S BABY’ written & directed by, online horror genius Drew Daywalt, who’s most recently known for his hit web series ‘Camera Obscura’. And a few potential video game titles I can’t mention at this time.



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