Hosted at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama an immersive evening of live computer game play with music. The evening started with a promising opening with an introduction to the collaborative process through interactive experiences on both virtual reality and handheld game play. Designed by students from the University of South Wales and scored by students from the RWCMD, the engaging technology showed professionalism from young artists. As the evening progressed the focus shifted to a different venture from Cardiff Metropolitan and RWCMD. The “Circle Line” project involved a group of students from both universities travelling to the surrounding areas of Pontypridd, where both visual and sound recordings were taken to be developed into a creative film. Projected onto the walls of RWCMD the final edit proved to be a great success. With bold starting material, the film and music led us into an abstract noir setting coming in and out of focus with interjections of harsh sound. As the sound became the forefront, the sequence led us into the clearer images of Pontypridd’s landscape. The ever-moving motion of the film was highlighted through the forward flowing abstract music. The creative use of rewind, lighting and filters created a dark feeling to this setting, a lost and cold wasteland perhaps? The bold silence and single shot left us in suspense with a feeling of hollow desolation.
The evening progressed with a talk from award winning freelance game composer: Stafford Bawler. With 20 years’ experience with both in-house and freelance he spoke with an insightful knowledge in sound effects and voice integration in the game. Talking about the development of not only games but the hardware designed for them, we were shown a true perception on the links between sound design and the limitations of software. As mentioned, retro consoles such as the “ZX Spectrum” were not able to host sound, however now, consoles such as the “PS4” and “Xbox One” are able to host diverse music, which becomes almost as important as the games themselves. However, with the ever-growing need for a full sounding score in the games, the problem of hardware space becomes more apparent. Sound designers often can overload the memory on the disk meaning there can be a struggle for space when the actual visual game is encoded into the CD itself.
The night’s main event “Dear Esther” hosted in the “Dora Stoutsker Hall” opened with an ominous seascape. Being projected onto a screen the visual didn’t lose clarity with all graphics presented clearly. Performers entered on stage with a string quartet, piano, two vocalists and live sound designer for the electro-acoustic soundscape presented with the live music. The open and empty music lent itself to the desolate game play. With the game play itself being focused on a metaphorical journey around an island, it was clear the audience were anticipating change in mood. The storyline began on a deserted harbour with a male narrator propelling us into the puzzling story line. The graphics presented in this opening passage proved to be realistic with lifelike environment around us. The music reflected the light with a more open sense of orchestration and dynamic in lighter scenes and thicker textures presented in closer harmony in the darker sections.
The story line moved to a scene of an abandoned house with the music moving to a modal sense of tonality highlighted through C and Ab Major chords, leaving us to question whether a different harmonic line would have heightened the nature of the game. The use of an electroacoustic soundscape became the forefront of the underscore. With abstracted sound highlighting not only the surrounding area but the atmosphere of the game itself. A meticulous choice of effects showed that Jessica Curry has a depth of understanding when it comes to creating an immersive electronic soundscape. The use of parts from Bach’s choral mass never unfold with a purpose leaving us to question what the purpose of these fragments are. With the storyline never expanding it was clear to see that the composer took the same path with the music never reaching its full potential, an inherent decision by the composer or a limitation on their behalf?
Overall the evening proved to be a well-structured and professionally hosted by RWCMD. Whilst the evenings main event may have fallen flat the whole evening presented a true insight for any aspiring game composer or designer.