DevDiary 8 - Music
Hello friends, and welcome to our 8th DevDiary for “Knights of Honor II: Sovereign”! This time we’re having our first deep dive into the music and audio of our game, a topic we’ve heard many of you are excited about.
The composers of “Knights of Honor II: Sovereign” bid thee welcome! Yannick and Robin are from Audinity and, after having worked on many strategy video game titles in the past, are having a blast working on the sequel to one of their favorite childhood video games. In fact, the hours Robin spent in the medieval world of “Knights of Honor” exceed the 1000-hour mark and both still have the game installed in their Steam library to this day.
So, with all this in mind, there has been a lot of discussion and eagerness on how to approach a game that is near and dear to both!
First, after playing the development build, it was clear that a game of this scope and style would need some brainstorming on how to approach the soundtrack. Everyone sat down and brainstormed, working collaboratively from both the composer and developer side to form a concept and approach that everyone could get behind. This wasn’t just about finding the right tone, but also figuring out how to technically approach how we’d leverage music in the game. It may seem like an easy thing, but we assure you, there’s a lot of little details that make it quite complex.
As you probably know from the previous DevDiaries, KoH2:S features various cultures. One of our primary goals is to write unique music for a variety of these cultures in the game. After all, playing as a Western European faction should feel and sound different than playing as an Arabian faction. We also wanted to find a tone that would feel very much like “Knights of Honor”, too, and spent lots of time listening to the old soundtrack and discussing with some of the original KoH team members how the music was developed back then.
This led us down the route of devising different playlists for the major, unique cultures. These playlists feature authentic short tracks – which we call “snippets” – for creating the appropriate cultural mood as well as big orchestral signature tracks as musical accents. We want the players to feel the impact of their decisions to medieval Europe through the music, but we do not just want a plain ambient underscore, we also want the music to give direct feedback to certain gameplay elements.
Just like the cultural direction of a region can change (think about the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula), the music can change as well in order to create a more adaptive music system that reflects some of these changes.
So, if for example the Iberian Peninsula is partly Muslim and partly Christian, you might be able to hear music from both the Christian/European and the Muslim/Arabian playlists when you are in that region for a longer time.
The musical changes will be quite subtle first and depending on how significant the cultural changes, the level of musical adaptation increases. If a European/Christian region gets conquered by Pagans, you might first hear one Pagan music track here and there. If the region remains Pagan for a while, more Pagan tracks can be added. This means that over time, the amount of “Christian/European” music in the playlist can decrease, just like the actual Christian/European influence in that region. We think this could be a cool way to have the music and culture work together and reflect how your decisions are impacting the world.
In addition, we’re also experimenting with short tracks that can trigger based on certain impactful gameplay events to add musical feedback and support the mood. For example, if the Pope calls for a crusade, there may be a specific musical flourish to help build the atmosphere.
Also, we want the music to react to the political situation and stability in your realm. If your people are rioting heavily or if several other nations declare war on you, you might be able to notice a change of music towards more tension tracks that indicate “woops, something is happening!”
As most of you know, the game’s setting reflects the real world during the medieval era, where you create an alternative path forward based on your actions and decisions. You are the Sovereign, the medieval leader, and we want the music to support that mood as well. That’s why we want to feature many authentic traditional instruments in our score. In European/Christian tracks you can often hear the lute, viola da gamba, recorders and many more. We also plan to record an old zither that Yannick inherited from his grandmother! Arabian/Muslim regions will feature traditional instruments as well, like the Ney flute or Darbuka.
To give the music a true historical vibe that fits the setting, we also plan to incorporate the famous “L’Homme Armé” (“The Armed Man”) melody, which is an actual authentic medieval tune fitting perfectly to the game’s theme.
All the music samples you’re hearing in these clips are both works-in-progress and digital versions made with our computers. We’re excited to use both orchestra and featured traditional instruments in our music, and we’re planning to record with live musicians for the game, including some authentic soloists, which should be a real treat. That said, we didn’t want to wait until our recording sessions to give our fans a taste of the music, so hope you enjoy this preview, and can keep in mind that the final tracks will sound much much better!
We will talk more on this topic in our DevStream on Thursday, July 9th, @ 3:00 PM GMT / 11:00 AM EST. The Twitch stream will be hosted on the THQ Nordic channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic. Not only will we be grabbing responses from this post, we’ll also be showing off more music, with some new footage, during the stream, so you won’t want to miss it!
Of course, we want to produce the best soundtrack possible, both as music composers and as die-hard fans of “Knights of Honor.” We hope you’ve enjoyed this first sample of what we’ve been cooking up and would love to hear your opinions on how things are starting. Do you like the idea of music reflecting the culture of an area, or do you prefer having more direct control of the tracks that play? What are your thoughts on the first tracks? Do you have a specific track or melody from the first Knights of Honor that is really memorable to you, and why?
We can’t wait to hear your feedback and write even more great music for you to enjoy. Until then, we bid thee farewell. Go forth and conquer!