Designing music and sound to a spiritual, abstrack dream… Outland was a fresh breeze for creative mind, also a bit of clusterfrack at first. From the start of the project there was this interesting vision of outlandish and apocalyptic spirit world shattered by two powerful entities. The entire world is connected by a spirit energy – all audio linked to each other somehow. This was so different a concept that at first it seemed to be a quite hard and painful task – it needed something really unique and fresh, “out of the box” design for audio. (And no, I’m not talking about drugs.)
Music for your own personal spirit journey
As for Outland original soundtrack, it combines strong melodies, diverse orchestral and ethnic styles and tense atmospheres. If you look at Outland and listen to the audio, you might even have a really deep psychedelic experience! At first (when the game was at design phase) we had one really long track for each (six) chapter, but in the middle of the development there grew a clear need for much more different tracks, including ambient styles. Also, there are moments of silence in-game, keeping to the minimalistic approach from time to time, obeying the phrase “less is more”. However, at the end of this insanely busy project, I ended up making two tracks per day, basically with just one try (no iterations) and kept telling myself that I’m doing the right choices.
Some inspiration for Outland soundtrack was taken from original Fallout games, Passion of the Christ (the movie) and Apocalypto (the movie). Original Fallout games (1&2) by Mark Morgan were an enlightment for me back in the days – the ambient work Morgan did for Fallouts totally hooked and immersed me into the world. This idea was also the bottom line for Outland soundtrack.
Spirit energy, Gaia and the complex world of dreams
I’ll let you know that I have never done anything so abstract art-shit than Outland sound design (except Alan Wake light game-play and shadow-shield sounds). Outland sound design is deeply tied to the spiritual, dream-like atmosphere (or what I like to call spirit energy stuff), making the world an alluring and unique place to visit and hear. Lots of different sounds were made to enhance the characters, energy bullets and action – the corner stones of the audio design. There are also many interesting details in Outland: Hero’s sword reflects Star Wars light-saber sound design, enemies do not sound anything organic or “real”, spirit energy variates thematically from small energy bullets to huge streams – and what I call a huge accomplishment, this same spirit energy is linked almost to any sound in the game. Yes, really. This “little” detail is the main cause of Outland being so damn hypnotic. The same detail is linked even to the boss fights, where instead of basic epic Hollywood style roaring and screaming there is only spirit boogeyman stuff going on, making the bosses also part of the twisted world that I cannot even now understand.
Also, the original sound asset list for Outland (about 100 sounds and variations) grew over four times bigger in the end. I was crunching (aka. working my ass off on a tight schedule) so hard in the end of the project that many of the sounds I hear in the game now, seem to be unfamiliar to me. I was in an audio monkey-robot mode. (edit: also, I want to thank Outland lead designer Aki Raula for his uncredited contribution for audio design! He apparently ninja’ed a few sounds in-game without telling me;))
Outland is available on Xbox360 live arcade and (hopefully soon) on PlayStation 3 network. It has been a huge success and gotten very good reviews around the world; on metacritic, it is currently rated 85/100 , which is one of the best scores this year for a downloadable game.
ps. Outland Original Soundtrack is not yet available. I will inform you on the availability as soon as I know it myself.