This summer has been busy for California based composer sillythewilly who released not only the 60 track OST to Phoenotopia Awakening but also a short EP entitled Slightly Uplifting.
Phoenotopia Awakening, from developers Cape Cosmic, is an exploration heavy sidescrolling action RPG with a heartwarming aesthetic, emotionally impactful soundtrack, and an interesting development history beginning in 2014 as a browser game. Having been a part of the project since its inception — and with the game now available on Nintendo Switch and a Steam version on the horizon — I thought I would reach out for an interview. Here's what they had to say!
Q1. You have been creating music for Phoenotopia Awakening since 2014.
What is it like working on a project over such a long period of time?
Thankfully it was pretty chill for me! I work full-time in a non-musical field and only have time to write music on free weeknights or weekends, so it was great not having to worry much about upcoming deadlines. Though I didn't think it'd take over five years for the game to release! Usually I'd be waiting for new song requests to trickle in from Quells because he, as the sole game developer, had the biggest workload by far. Still, it was always exciting to hear how development was progressing and to see the visuals that my music would be accompanying.
The long development period did result in some unusual challenges. One example: my project backups were put to the test when I had to revisit some old songs from the old Phoenotopia game after migrating to a new computer. I thought I had archived my projects properly, but a certain audio plugin's state did not get saved, causing some sounds to not load. Luckily I was able to recreate most of those sounds. But if you noticed that a few of the old returning songs sound very similar to as they did on the old soundtrack (-cough- Overworld Castella), this might be why.
Anyways, I'm glad it's finally done and released, both the game and the soundtrack!
Q2. Are there any game soundtracks that you look to for inspiration when composing?
Definitely! Part of my motivation for music-making is to make music that can be even slightly comparable to the songs I enjoy listening to, and game music is a big part of my listening library. It's probably no surprise that most of the soundtracks I enjoy listening to are from games I've enjoyed playing, given how much a well-crafted soundtrack can elevate the overall experience. Highlights from my childhood include Yoshi's Island, Donkey Kong Country 2, Tales of Phantasia and Chrono Trigger. Beyond that there's so much variety out there - Ori and the Blind Forest, Jet Set Radio, Nier Automata, Undertale, Bastion, Celeste, CrossCode, A Hat in Time, A Short Hike, .... I could go on and on. And each one is inspiring in their own way.
Of course most of those soundtracks are very different from what I was going for in the Phoenotopia Awakening soundtrack. One thing I like to do is pick out specific elements I like and try to incorporate them into my own songs. For example, the warm acoustic feel from Chrono Chross, the brooding synthscapes from Katana ZERO, the rocking battle music energy from Yakuza and S.S.H., the rock organ from Tales of Phantasia, the lighthearted piano from Kirby's Epic Yarn, and so on.
In addition, when Quells sent me song requests he'd also include links to music from other games that had the particular feel or atmosphere he wanted. Thanks to that I was introduced to more great soundtracks from games like Wild Arms, Tower of Heaven and Paper Mario.
Q3. The original Pheonotopia was created in Flash. What impact (if any) do you think Adobe's decision to end support for flash this year will have on the indie dev scene?
Flash had so many security vulnerabilities, but also fostered so much creativity. I have fond childhood memories of sneaking onto school computers and playing goofy Flash games like Slime Volleyball and watching stick fight animations. Those days may be long gone, but thankfully there are sites like Flashpoint working to archive and emulate thousands of Flash games. I think the old Phoenotopia is in that archive! That said, I'm not a game dev so I'm not sure what the Flash game dev scene is like nowadays. I'd imagine most devs would have long moved on to more modern tools by now?
Favourite Tracks: Moonlight Revine
FFO: Radiant Historia
, Yggdra Union
and Cave Story
and the Tales Series
Find more of their music below!