Favourite Track: Safety Dreaming Place
Aka released today on Steam and the Nintendo eShop. Kevin Colombin took the time to answer a few questions we had about their work on the Aka soundtrack. Here's what they had to say!
Q1: What was your process for creating the "Day" and "Night" versions of tracks?
A1: "Day" and "Night" musics are played at exactly the same locations but at different times, so we decided to keep the same melodies. Main themes were first thought for the daytime, so they are quite cheerful, catchy and try to motivate us to take care of our garden and the inhabitants of the island.
On the contrary for the night, I tried to make them much softer, warmer, and more soothing. After a hard day's work, the music invites us to take time for ourselves and to rest. That's why the rhythm is slower, and the instruments less intense. The strings are often exchanged for a piano, the flutes by a cello or a soprano saxophone, in order to have a warmer and calming sound.
Q2: Are there any classic farming sim soundtracks you looked to for inspiration?
A2: That's a good question, to be honest I've hardly ever played farming games except Stardew valley, it's a style I like though and it's relaxing.
It's not really a farming sim game but one of my inspiration is the Spiritfarer OST by Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis because it manages to combine moments of joy and moments of melancholy with brilliance. It is a bit the case of Aka, while searching for inner peace, Aka will be confronted to the ghosts of his past while facing painful moments.
Joe Hisaishi are also one very big source of inspiration for me.
Q3: Why do you think there is currently such a high demand for cozy/cute life sims like Aka?
A3: It's true, that the demand has exploded in the last few years, and even more so since the arrival of Animal crossing new Horizon on switch. I think that with the anxious times we've been going through, players need to take a breather and be in a nice and soothing environment. On the other hand, the offer has also exploded in this field. Just look at the wholesome game presented this summer during the summer gaming festival. So it's extremely difficult to make a name for yourself in this field without bringing something new. I think that Aka is a good can do it because in addition to this farming/cozy life and serene side, you have to face the heavy past of the character who lived the war, and it is this duality which makes the charm of Aka (in addition to its magnificent universe of course).
Q4: Several of the forthcoming games you have worked on like Mona and Minds Beneath Us are tonally very different. Is it ever difficult for you to switch between different moods when composing?
A4: Well yes, it's not always easy, especially with “Mind Beneath Us” which has a very futuristic universe, so the music is more of an electronic genre. It can sometimes be complicated to go from one to the other because you have to get back into the atmosphere of the game, to re-imbibe the universe.
Once I've started a project, I try to stay on that project during my whole composition session even though I'm having trouble making progress on the project so that I don't get scattered. And if I can, I try to stay several days on that project before coming back to another one, in order to be more efficient.
After that it's sometimes beneficial to alternate, I still have a bit of trouble mastering electronic music and synths so changing projects and coming back to more traditional music like with Aka, or mysterious music like Mona, also allows me to take a break, to breathe and to have a bit more distance on the music.
Q5: How important is it for you to demo the games you are scoring while they are being developed? Is the general tone and aesthetic sometimes enough to work with?
A5: Each developer has his own way of working and I often adapt. Having access to a prototype/demo is always nice but it's not necessarily mandatory, I can very well do without it.
For example for Aka I only played the public demo when it was released and now I'm waiting for the game to be released like everyone else, so I don't spoil the experience. It's great to do this, because even though I have a different view on the game than a new player, I'll be able to experience a lot of it.
However, this is not always possible, it depends on how involved I am in the project, the function of the music, its integration in the game, etc. Sometimes there is no way to make the music.
Sometimes there is no choice, I have to have access to the prototype to try things out and see what works or not, especially when working with audio engines like Fmod But most of the time I can make do with visuals and description.
I think the thing that I really need to know, and the question that I need to have answered in order to compose is: What should the player feel at that moment, or at that place? Once I have that answer and the general atmosphere is described, I can start composing music, the rest is a bonus.
Q6: What have you been gaming lately?
A6: I'm currently catching up on God of War (the 2018 one). I also did A Plague Tale: Requiem and was blown away once again by Olivier Derivière's music. I advise you to go and see the concert A Plague Tale Requiem Sympohny, available on youtube (Click Here).
Finally on the side of the independents I had the opportunity to play FlatEye that I loved, Foretales which is also super nice and Somerville which is also very nice but which did not entirely convince me. These 3 games have very different OST but I love them, don't hesitate to listen to them!