FFO: South of the Circle, Weapon Shop de Omasse, Impact Winter and Papers, Please
Favourite Track: Digital Shores
Corentin Brasart took the time to answer a few questions we had about their work on the Flat Eye soundtrack. Here is what they had to say!
Q1: How do you create songs that are ambient but still carry a sense of urgency?
First thing is that I needed my soundtrack to match the game's pacing both in terms of gameplay and narrative; Flat Eye is a light management game where you have to constantly expand your station and fulfill your clients' needs, and Flat Eye's narration always feels like it's going towards something big and inevitable.
So in both instances there's a sense of pressure, of somewhat distant urgency, but also it's diluted by the fact that the game takes place through several days, weeks... and it numbs you to the day-to-day repetition of mundane and exhausting labor in an isolated but serene location — a gas station in Iceland surrounded by snow, freezing waters and the gentle flow of cars passing by in the background.
In my mind this instantly made for what you called "ambient but with a sense of urgency", so the way I went about creating those tracks is pretty much by always starting to lay down the ambient part of the cue: writing slow moving textures, getting the right atmosphere down of what would make for a nice relaxing background track. And then often taking inspiration from the "minimalism" musical genre, I would move on to create different repeating musical patterns that could be superposed, or gently flow in and out of each other, in a very counterpoint-like approach to composition.
The hard part was being careful not to go too much in one direction or the other, feeling too urgent would quickly annoy players trying to focus on micro-managing their station - while being a mismatch for the game's relaxed tone -, and being too ambient could mean really boring players and make them feel like nothing is at stake during gameplay or dialogue phases. I did throw out a lot of cues that were just not capturing this precise balance!
Q2: What is your process for creating pads?
For Flat Eye I started by selecting synths that I feel would match the mix of digital and analog tones I wanted for the game (synths like Repro, Massive X, Razor, Absynth, my Minilogue XD... and so on).
Then I made a pool - or a template - of every preset that I felt was capturing a bit of the essence of what I had in mind for the game, and from that, it was a lot of mix & match, tweaking presets, superposing different textures. Some tracks have a background pad that is simply an extremely slowed audio of rich chords I've recorded and then composed anew onto it, others are arpeggiated sounds going through a lot of reverb & post-process, some are from textural orchestral libraries mixed with synths, and some are simply regular "pads".
Q3: Flat Eye has a clear statement to make about capitalism and automation. Is that something you kept in mind when composing the soundtracks?
Yes it was! With Monkey Moon games (Night Call, Flat Eye), because the story and characters are always a big part of these games, I try to work very closely with our narrative designer Anthony Jauneaud to make sure that his narrative pillars are well represented in the music too.
Here I wanted to work parallel to the overarching themes of capitalism and technology; I wanted my music to convey the feeling of repetition, a sense of losing track of time - of life - by going through the motions day in and day out... But also the way I wanted to represent the overbearing presence of technology is by trying to convey the feeling of "there's a constant flux of data passing by" into the music itself, by choosing small electronic sounds that are always "active" in a sense, little sounds that are always passing by, going in and out of each others in multiple ways.
Whenever I can, I try not to compose music that is literally following what is happening on screen (be it narrative design or game design), but to write music that can add another layer of feeling or narration to what's already happening — I try to avoid feeling that my music is simply a duplicate of something that is already being told through other means.
I also tried to avoid the classic tropes of "cyberpunk" scores by having a more diverse and organic instrumentation, going for tonal percussion (marimbas, xylophones, glockenspiel, vibraphones, pianos...), but also adding orchestral tones with some woodwinds & strings.
Q4:What was your process for creating the "Calm" and "Hectic" versions of tracks?
At the start of production, we used to have a more ambitious (but undoable) scope where there would be different seasons in the game, and weather would be more present and have a bigger visual impact on the game. And at that point, my idea for the dynamic music system in the game was that every track would have its arrangement change in real time depending on the season, time of day, weather and the number of clients that were in the station.
When we scaled back the scope, I felt that this music system was no longer working and that we would need something way simpler for the day-to-day gameplay, so the only dynamic aspect of the music we kept is the "intensity" of clients coming in your station, based on how much you've expanded your station, so "Calm" and "Hectic" versions are different arrangements that play depending on that "intensity" parameter.
As to how I've composed them, I would almost always start with writing a "Calm" version of a track, and then think on how to keep the same baseline but make it more intense. "Hectic" versions also sound more "electronic" as they reflect a state of the game where you have unlocked more advanced and invasive technologies in your station.
Q5: Do you have any upcoming projects that you are allowed to talk about?
As we just released Flat Eye, I'm in between projects with Monkey Moon (here's hoping we get to make a new one in the coming years!).
Otherwise, I'm starting to work on a little horror game called "Decarnation", and I've almost finished working on a cool indie tactical game called "No Plan B" currently in early access on Steam, with the 1.0 coming out pretty soon!
Q6: What have you been gaming lately?
Just before sitting down to answer your questions I just received the latest Pokemon game, which I find are perfect to just relax and turn your brain off!
And recently I quite enjoyed Triangle Strategy on the Switch, but I also had a blast playing through both Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West, two games with fantastic art & audio direction.
Find more of their music below.www.corentinbrasart.comcorentinbrasart.bandcamp.com