Q&A: Creating Horizon: Zero Dawn’s neo-prehistoric soundtrack

The universe of Horizon Zero Dawn is one that blends a far-flung destiny with a ancient past. Set one thousand years from now, a chronicle of Earth a heroine Aloy inhabits is one where obsolete genealogical societies and modernized machines co-exist in (near-perfect) harmony. 

It’s a singular setting, and one that’s officious gorgeous. But Horizon’s expanded neo-prehistoric universe didn’t win a hearts on a visible bravery alone. The game’s emotive soundtrack and immersive sound pattern are also obliged for breathing life into any theatre and wealthy vista, pulling us deeper into Horizon’s universe and a poser that surrounds it. 

To find out how a score was created, we held adult with co-composers Joris de Man, who’s formerly worked with Guerilla on Killzone, and energetic twin Joe Henson and Alexis Smith (a.k.a. The Flight), who we competence remember for their work on Alien: Isolation

Joris de Man: Marrying those concepts was one of a singular hurdles of component for Horizon Zero Dawn and took a satisfactory bit of time to get right. What helped a lot is that Lucas outpost Tol (Senior Sound Designer and a song supervisor) gave us copiousness of diversion references, as good as a song pattern doc with descriptions of a several regions in a diversion and what a tribes would have in terms of materials and technology.

So, a Nora clan is a unequivocally maternal clan that does a lot with timber and leather yet not metal, so that is something we could afterwards incorporate in a song and use as a beam for a palette. But he also done a indicate that a song indispensable to unequivocally most be a possess thing, and try to not unequivocally sound like anything we’d listened before.

In terms of diversion attention reference, we unequivocally favourite what Jason Graves did for Tomb Raider, and a ‘found sound’ component was something that we also explored. Another personal favorite of cave is Mark Morgan’s scores for a bizarre Fallout 1 2. we generally like a some-more barren pieces in that, and yet a song itself wasn’t unequivocally a anxiety as such, we only unequivocally like his proceed to low-pitched sound design, that did offer as an inspiration.

“One thought we ran with was devising how someone would play contemporary instruments they had never seen before.”

Joris de Man: We had a lot of freedom, yet Lucas also done certain that tonality and palette-wise, we were in a right instruction for any region. However, he was happy with us experimenting divided and perplexing things out, and wouldn’t demur to poke us in a right instruction if it felt off.

The Flight: We worked unequivocally closely with Lucas and a audio department. Together we explored what a final sound of a measure would be. We talked during length about a altogether world, Aloy’s surroundings, her personal tour and a tribes she meets along a way. 

One thought we ran with was devising how someone would play contemporary instruments they had never seen before. So we experimented personification instruments in bizarre ways: bowing resonator guitars or layering adult marks of harmonicas into an orchestra.

Joris de Man: In a commencement we had only artwork, yet we shouldn’t contend ‘just.’ There was a vast library of fanciful designs and sketches that a artists during Guerrilla had combined that served as initial inspiration, and it was so abounding and minute that there was no necessity of ideas to pull upon.

“I consider it indeed helps when a diversion isn’t too discriminating during a early stage, as we can be led by your impressions and possess ideas.”

The diversion already had an early chronicle of Aloy using around, and it was transparent that one of a initial things they clever on was her movement. A lot of a environments were still grey boxes and untextured objects, as were a cutscenes, yet when a story is that strong, it doesn’t unequivocally matter. In fact, we consider it indeed helps when a diversion isn’t too discriminating during a early stage, as we can be led by your impressions and possess ideas, and we had Lucas on-hand as song administrator to keep us on a right track.

But we have to palm it to Guerrilla and Lucas, they gave us a lot of giveaway power — probably some-more than I’ve had on any other pretension — and a lot of room to experiment. we consider it was demonstrative of a whole artistic routine on this diversion that meant everybody was means to unequivocally let it slice creatively.

The Flight: We were propitious adequate to revisit Amsterdam utterly frequently to play a diversion with Joris and a song team. This gave us a event to hear a song in-game and plead what was operative or not. We were also sent unchanging diversion captures to have in a studios. We like to have these using on a loop in a credentials while we compose, it unequivocally helps with a mood, gait and a tinge of what we create.

Joris de Man: In my case, a Killzone franchise’s low-pitched proceed was very, unequivocally different. The Killzone array was an conflict on all senses — visually, gameplay-wise and sonically — and employed a vast live harmony band and chorus. The pacing was also unequivocally different, where rivalry encounters were around any corner, and a movement frequency let up.

Horizon was all about exploration, sport robots, and story and impression development. Guerrilla were looking for most smaller and insinuate sounds combined with only a few solo instruments. Something that wasn’t overproduced and had a rather drier sound. Music-wise, those titles couldn’t be offer apart. Horizon needed still moments. Music that could underscore a grand vistas, and a some-more romantic hold that could component Aloy’s tour with all a twists and turns.

The Flight: Every diversion is different, and a song contingency offer what it needs. We worked on Assassin’s Creed Black Flag’s multiplayer, primarily an action-based score, listened in brief sittings. Horizon Zero Dawn is a totally opposite beast: a outrageous diversion with a low romantic behind story and abounding world, designed to be played for hours during a time, so a low-pitched proceed had to be opposite too. This meant that there had to be a most wider operation of music, from scrutiny pieces that could be listened to for a prolonged time though removing repetitive, to fights that had to contrariety and lift a player’s heartbeat.

Joris de Man: The pacing is unequivocally different, and it compulsory me to rethink how my song worked in-game. After carrying worked on utterly a few games where a song had to be so heated and scene-filling, it was a good plea to take a ‘less is more’ proceed and unequivocally span it behind to a few elementary elements.  

I was also wakeful that a diversion compulsory a lot of traversing and traveling, and so a song shouldn’t be too commanding or present, yet during a same time it had to communicate that feeling of astonishment when a actor would declare a pleasing landscapes and vistas. Of course, we also had to keep in mind that a actor would be spending a lot of time in this world, and Lucas had asked us to supply all a song in stems so that he could get additional mileage out of it.

As we wrote song in identical keys, he also started mixing stems from opposite pieces and so we finished adult with sections that were utterly singular and distant over what we illusory a song could do.

Joris de Man: Personally, I’m large on themes. we consider once we can settle a noted thesis for a impression or story component that we can reuse in many opposite ways, you’re set. it helps glue all a opposite elements together, and as a composer can assistance we keep consistency, generally if there’s a lot of song to write.

For budding composers, recommendation is tricky. When we started in this attention it was unequivocally different, a pre-internet epoch where there were a lot reduction games and composers. we consider a categorical thing is to do something we love, in a character we love, while during a same time not being fearful to step a bit outward of your comfort zone. 

That was really a box on this project, where during times we felt impossibly worried since it was so opposite to what I’d stoical before. But during a finish of a day it was impossibly rewarding and we finished adult with song we didn’t know we could write.

The Flight: We have 3 golden rules. The initial is to get out and accommodate as many people in a attention as possible. You will get further, faster if people know who you. After that, we should find a sound that is unique. It’s fine to take impulse from what we love, yet try and find your possess voice. And finally, be a good person. You get employed for both your ability yet also for how veteran we are and if we can get along with people. It’s startling how many people don’t seem to comprehend this.

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