Adventure-Treff: "Hi, could you first introduce yourself? How did you become a professional composer?"
Inon Zur: "My name is Inon Zur, and I’m a composer of music for games, movies and TV. Since my early childhood I fell in love with music. I listened to a lot of different music styles, and became interested in playing piano and keyboard. As a teenager through my high school years I studied composition in my homeland, Israel. I arrived in the US in 1990, and concentrated on more in-depth studies with composition and arrangement for about 3 years. Afterwards, I started composing music for independent films, and subsequently started to work as a staff composer at the Fox Family Channel."
A-T: "Could you briefly describe some of your most interesting projects?"
I.Z.: "During the last 12 months in particular I’ve been involved in many varied, provocative projects. Shadow Ops: Red Mercury is a present-day action/adventure/shooter, Men Of Valor is an historical-based FPS, Syberia 2 is a fictional adventure game and Champions Of Norrath: Realms Of EverQuest is an action RPG set in the fantasy world of EverQuest. Each one of these titles enabled me to stretch my composing ability to a new dimension.
One of the projects I would say stands out in a lot of ways is the tactical RPG, Fallout Tactics, which I composed a few years ago. For this game the music was very unique, almost soundscapes more than musical ideas. I used an eclectic range of instruments in a very unusual way and manipulated the human voice in an unconventional manner. It was very artistic and not popular-driven. I think, though, that nearly every project has it’s own unique angle and you just have to seek it out and find it.
Overall, most of the projects I’ve worked on were appealing. It really starts with the level of challenge that you give yourself and then going through the collaborative process with the developer and the main composing phase. That is always very inspirational."
A-T: "Which computer game you haven’t been working on do you like most in terms of music?"
I.Z.: "I think that the Myst series has a very noteworthy musical concept. The Splinter Cell series also puts music to good use."
A-T: "Let’s talk about Syberia 2. You have not been involved in the first part of the game, but have been asked to work on the second installment. How did it come to this decision, and was it difficult to keep the musical style coherent?"
I.Z.: "Syberia 2 is a different story than the first game and the developers consciously sought for a change in the musical score. The decision to hire me was based on the recognition that my composing style would complement this game. I did listen to the score of the previous game, and thought that it was good and solid. I tried to adapt some of the moods from the first game, but added my own flavor and signature."
A-T: "Did you get a lot of input and feedback from Benoit Sokal and the other developers, or were you left complete freedom to do what you thought fitting?"
I.Z.: "I had a lot of freedom composing for the game, as well as receiving lots of artistic support and inspiration from the crew at Wave Generation in Montreal. Mike Elman, the music supervisor, successfully guided me throughout the process, and helped me tune myself to this game. The amazing cinematics also provided me with great inspiration to compose music that would best enhance the visuals. The development team allowed us to go about our business, and supported us all the way."
A-T: "How much have you seen of the game before writing the music? Have you also played the finished game with your music once?"
I.Z.: "I did not have the actual game when I composed the music, which is not unusual when composing music for games, however, much of my music was scored to video picture, so I could be as specific as needed to make this score work. I think that the overall outcome was very good, and I’m happy with the way the music found it’s way in the game."
A-T: "The music of Syberia 2 sounds very authentic and atmospheric. Have there been any live recordings with instrumentalists?"
I.Z.: "This score leaned mainly on samplers and synthesizers, but I used some very rare sound libraries in order to deliver a living and breathing, emotional score. It was a tough assignment, but sometimes these challenges are about bringing the best out of you. The most important mission for me as the composer on Syberia 2 was to come up with the right mood, to generate the excitement and to evoke the emotions of the player, and I hope I succeeded."
A-T: "Syberia 2 had fantastic music during cut-scenes and on some special spots, but was “quiet” for long moments. Why did it come to this choice?"
I.Z.: "In my opinion, choosing the silent moments in Syberia 2 were some of the most wonderfully, artistic decisions during the game’s development process. Often in a game, when you are playing/hearing wall-to-wall music, even if it is great, you eventually get tired from it. The mature and experienced artistic director is the one that knows how to wait patiently until just the right moment, and when to unleash the music. The tension that is created by the building expectation for the music will magnify the effect of the score.
You do need quite a lot of artistic courage to do this, and there’s no doubt that the Microids team possesses this kind of courage!?"
A-T: "Does composing for an adventure game like Syberia 2 differ much from working on other game genres (action, strategy...)?"
I.Z.: "Every type of game has a different attitude toward the music and its role in the game. In first person shooters, for example, the music has to pump the energy and fuel the player to keep on charging. In many RPG type games the music has to support the emotional scenes and storyline rather than try to accompany each and every move. Also, music can describe time periods, so it could be used to portray a historical context. Ultimately, music is the 4th dimension of the game experience, the emotional one."
A-T: "Any interesting behind the scenes stories?"
I.Z.: "Well, it’s now ok to mention that the music for Shadow Ops: Red Mercury, as well as the actual locations and storyline were changed several times during the course of the game’s development. At one point, it was planned to take the heroes to the Philippines for a mission, so I researched their culture and musical heritage and created an original Philippine-based musical score. About 2 months later it was decided to take this mission to the Congo instead, so naturally the Philippine score never made it into the game. These kinds of changes happen often in games, but it’s all part of the fun and excitement being involved from an early stage. Furthermore, it pushes you as a composer and keeps your work fresh."
A-T: "We wish you a lot of luck for your future projects... we will hear you again soon! And who knows, maybe even in another adventure game?"
I.Z.: "Thanks for the opportunity. I’m looking forward to sharing new musical scores with you soon!"