Design Interviews #1 - Leila "Woofle" Wilson
Leila, a.k.a. Woofle, is back for Round 2! With a style that defined the tone of the first game, we just couldn't leave her behind. She's at the forefront of Freedom Planet 2's killer soundtrack and today, we ask her a few questions!
Q: Tell us a little about the general direction and themes we can expect in Freedom Planet 2's soundtrack, is it more of the same or are we going to see any dramatic shifts in the style?
A: A little of both, really. We wanted to try some new things out that fit into the era of games that Freedom Planet is a loveletter to. Sort of mid-90s, right when games started being on CDs. There were a lot of different styles going on around that time, so I wanted to try and do more this time. That said, there's going to be a lot to love for fans of the first game, still. The music's going to be much more diverse this time, but there's still going to be that good old fashioned Freedom Planet-y sound in many tracks.
Q: The trailer gave us hints of greater fidelity in the new game, stronger use of instruments we didn't see before and a more "rock album" style. Are there going to be any more tracks like this?
A: Some tracks, definitely! That trailer track was a special case, performed by other artists, but if things work out right, some of that style might be peppered throughout the soundtrack. That's going to come down to timing, more than anything. We have an expert sound engineer and composer, Falk, helping us out this time, which is a huge help. He was the one behind the trailer sound, and he's doing the mixing on each track after Strife and I (or just me on some tracks,) have finished composing it. So the answer is a definite "maybe!"
Q: What would you say is your favorite track for Freedom Planet & Freedom Planet 2? Can we have a peek at the FP2 track?
A: Oof. That is a tough question. I'm really proud of a lot of the music that's finished so far. Probably "Record of Days Long Gone." I come from a JRPG background musically, and that's always been one of my main passions when it comes to composing. It was really cool to get to make a track like that for Freedom Planet! That said, if you ask me on a different day, I'll probably have a different favorite. Beta versions of most of these tracks are up on my Soundcloud! Some will be in the game, others won't make the cut.
I may be able to share more tracks in the future! That depends on a lot of things, though.
Q: Tell us more about your music design methodology. How do you come up with these tracks?
A: In the case of Freedom Planet, it's kind of a unique process. A lot of the music in this series is composed by both Strife and myself, so we're shooting a track back and forth and adding to it until we come up with something that works. For me, personally though, it's an odd process. Bits of songs will come to me while I'm driving, or walking the dog, or taking a shower. Other times, songs will come straight out of dreams -- which is pretty weird! In the case of music made for Freedom Planet though, even on the songs I work on by myself, there's certain sounds and ideas that I'll gravitate to in order to maintain the sound of the series in general. It's definitely unique from the sound of my work on other projects, although I'll admit, a lot of Freedom Planet 2 is more in-line with my normal style.
Q: Tell us more about yourself, how did you get into composing music?
A: It's actually a surprisingly boring story. When I was very young, I used to play anything vaguely piano-shaped that I could get my grubby mitts on. Eventually that ended up with my parents buying me a little reed organ (which I still miss!) Eventually, the bashing I was doing on the keys started to sound like music. I'm pretty much still doing the same thing, just slightly better now. I never really got any formal training or anything like that -- I can't even read music. I've picked up most of my knowledge from just composing, and from meeting and speaking with other composers.
Q: What artists are your inspirations? Any particular favorites or songs?
A: That would be a very, very long list, but my number one inspiration is Yasunori Mitsuda. When I first heard his music on his first project (Chrono Trigger) I realized that I wanted to make music for videogames. Wind Scene from Chrono Trigger, Leftovers from the Dreams of the Strong from Xenogears, Another World from Chrono Cross, and Old Smudged Map from Shadow Hearts 2 would probably be my favorites if I had to narrow it down.
A few other composers that have had quite an effect on me are David Wise, Noriyuki Iwadare, Michiko Naruke, and Grant Kirkhope. It would be a very long list if I kept going! I'm a bit of an JRPG nerd, if you can't tell.
Q: One from the fans: How do you work out music to fit levels in games?
A: That one's complicated! It really depends on the game's team. The things that I think may fit might not fit for them! That aside, one thing that helps me a lot is understanding the emotional state of the characters when they enter a level -- at least games that are story heavy. In games that aren't story heavy, though, it's more important what emotions the player is feeling at the time, and what you want to convey about the stage. You can't smell the air in a videogame stage, or feel the wind, or anything like that. It's a musician's job to do that part of the work and convey things that can't be conveyed visually. So a lot of the time, I'm looking at the artwork and trying to convey those things. Other times, all I have to go on are textual descriptions, which isn't as challenging as one might think. It's kind of the same thing at the end of the day.