Interview with Alone in the Dark Composer Olivier Deriviere


The sound of games

OCmodshop had a chance to sit down with Olivier Deriviere.  For those who aren’t avid game fanboys, Olivier is the composer behind the creepily beautiful music and atmospheric sounds on the new ‘Alone in the Dark’ video game.  Other critics call the Soundtrack to AITD “The best game soundtrack of the year to date hits a choir full of right notes”.  Oliver has also composed the soundtracks to other popular video games, including Obscure, Obscure 2: The Aftermath (reviewed here), Destination Treasure Island, Rally Championsheep, and others.

OCMS: How did you get into composing for video games?
Deriviere: Since my childhood I’ve always been fascinated by video games. At the age of 14 I started writing music on computer with software called sound trackers. It led me to “coding parties” where people would hang out for 3 days without sleeping and they would create PC, Amiga and Atari ST demos. The connections I made there helped me get into the video games industry.
OCMS: Where does the inspiration come from for your work?
Deriviere: The main inspiration for any project I do is mainly the director’s intentions. I like spending time talking with him to make sure I understand what he needs and discuss how I can translate his vision into music. For Alone In The Dark I talked a lot with David Nadal, the Director, to understand what instrumentation and style of music I could use.

OCMS: Alone In The Dark has been around for a while, what do you hope to bring to the table?
Deriviere: Alone In The Dark is a great franchise but this time they tried to get away from its roots. It’s now an action game with some horror in it. This is what I’ve tried to capture in my score. I think people who listen carefully to the music will discover how connected the instrumentation, the themes and the implementation are spread throughout the game. If you turn the music off while playing you will lose a lot of the experience.

OCMS: This is the first video game score published by Milan Records.  Why did they choose to make your work their first game-inspired release?
Deriviere: Actually we tried to work together on a previous game I made called Obscure 2. It features great musicians such as Boston Symphony members and National Opera of Paris Children’s choir. We were very excited to release this soundtrack but unfortunately the game took a long time to get finished and we had to let it go without a CD release. So when I got back to them proposing the new Alone In The Dark featuring the Grammy award winning choir Mystery of Bulgarian Voices they were even more excited!

OCMS: How long does it take to put together a track with the desired effect needed in a horror themed game?
Deriviere: I think it depends on a lot of things. Composing for video games is very different from other media such as film and TV because you have to deal with a lot of technical restrictions (music player, memory, loadings…). Then, you have to discuss with the director to get his intentions and also the level designer to make sure your music will match with the level. Once you’re aware of all of this, it is quite straightforward to compose (if you already have your themes). I’d say for a sequence like the section called “Hang on” (Beginning of Episode 7) it took me a day of composition and for a sequence like the kidnapping (middle of Episode 4) it took me a week or so.

OCMS: If there were to be an Alone in the Dark 6, would you consider doing the score?
Deriviere: Of course I will consider it! It was great to work on the 5th!

OCMS: From beginning to end, how long does it take to complete a musical score for a video game?
Deriviere: This is a question you don’t want to ask me. As far as I know there are few composers that work this much and this close to the team like I did for AITD. It took me about a year to compose the full score. It’s over 5 hours of original music. What surprises me is that people don’t know this while they’re playing. I mean, they say “Wow! Great Atmosphere!” And sometimes “Great Score!” so I think they feel it but don’t “see” it. So for today I don’t know what works best: do a beautiful score in 3 months and let the team deal with it or write a really in-depth videogame score production and take care of everything.

OCMS: The gaming world has really taken off in the last few years.  How has this effected the demand for your  skill?
Deriviere: I think it’s a great time! I’m part of a new era of composers. I’m not an old fashion 8 bit aficionado neither a famous film scoring composer. For my generation of composers videogames are a great medium. I think also that we’re still searching for our own kind of music, our own culture. It’s becoming more and more clear that we will explore new ways of composing for games and this is very exciting!