Post Script

Yoan Fanise, con­tent and au­dio direc­tor

EDGE - - PLAY -

Yoan Fanise be­gan his time at Ubisoft as a sound de­signer on 2003’s Be­yond Good & Evil, grad­u­at­ing to au­dio direc­tor on Rab­bids Go Home and As­sas­sin’s Creed III, which he worked on at Ubisoft Sin­ga­pore. His lat­est project also has a his­tor­i­cal ground­ing, and here he tells us what in­spired Valiant Hearts’ emo­tive au­dio de­sign. A lot of re­search has gone into Valiant Hearts. How does this man­i­fest in the au­dio de­sign? We spent time read­ing many let­ters writ­ten dur­ing World War One, some from our fam­i­lies, and the emo­tion we got from that was a sub­tle. When you write a let­ter in a mo­ment like that, you don’t ex­plain ev­ery­thing – you don’t say, “OK, it’s hor­ri­ble. I’m go­ing to die to­mor­row.” No, you try to be op­ti­mistic and say, “It’s go­ing to be all right. Please don’t worry.” It was very emo­tional to have this feel­ing of them not want­ing to talk about the fact that they will prob­a­bly die. It was re­ally im­por­tant for me to find tracks with the right mood, that re­flect the subtlety of these emo­tions. There’s a play­ful­ness to the game that re­flects that stoic spirit, but was it hard to bal­ance the light­hearted el­e­ments with the darker mo­ments? When we started to put to­gether the mu­sic and the graph­ics, it was blend­ing very well. It was a per­fect match from the be­gin­ning: the con­trast was clear be­tween the pi­ano, and this dark back­ground with dead bod­ies, and it was re­ally pow­er­ful. That’s why we don’t have much dia­logue in the game. The lack of in-game dia­logue gives the game an in­trigu­ing at­mos­phere, cer­tainly. At the be­gin­ning we were a bit crazy, be­cause we said, “Let’s do a nar­ra­tive game with a deep story but let’s try to make it with­out any dia­logue!” It was chal­leng­ing, and in the end we still have some be­tween the [game­play] se­quences, but it was good for us to try to stick with that and just have gib­ber­ish in the game. It cre­ated some­thing in­ter­est­ing, be­cause the gib­ber­ish we cre­ated is uni­ver­sal; it’s a kind of French, a kind of Ger­man, a kind of English… It was funny to dis­cover that it cre­ates an­other emo­tion, just see­ing some­one talk­ing about some­thing. You pay more at­ten­tion to the tone, the flow and the mu­sic. In fact, the mu­sic tells the story. There are mo­ments when there’s no mu­sic at all, though. How did you de­cide where to pull back? I think it was a rhyth­mic thing. When you look at the flow of the game, and you start to re­alise that on this part of the game we have too much mu­sic, there’s a fa­tigue ef­fect. So let’s keep mu­sic only for when you

“There were joy­ful mo­ments be­tween bat­tles. We wanted to rep­re­sent those mo­ments too, not just the sad ones”

need it to tell the player some­thing. And some­times it’s bet­ter to have no mu­sic and then the sud­den scream of the wounded on the bat­tle­field. It cre­ates a feel­ing. The sound­scapes in the game are ex­tremely de­tailed and, like the nar­ra­tive, rarely put the player cen­tre stage. Was that a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to make the player feel a small part of the wider war ef­fort? You’re right: the con­trast be­tween the huge ma­chines that were cre­ated at the time and a lit­tle hu­man in the mid­dle of all of it. That re­ally was the in­ten­tion. What were your in­flu­ences for the com­po­si­tions? For me, the most im­por­tant thing was to stay sim­ple. I pre­fer a sim­ple track with just one in­stru­ment: one pi­ano, or one vi­o­lin, and that’s enough. For the driv­ing sec­tions, I was lis­ten­ing to lots of mu­sic – I dis­cov­ered many mu­sic tracks that I didn’t know from the time, but some of them were fa­mous. For ex­am­ple, when you play the first taxi drive, it’s [Brahms’] Hun­gar­ian Dance No 5. It’s a melody many peo­ple know, but they don’t nec­es­sar­ily know where it comes from. So it was im­por­tant to me to bring those his­tor­i­cal tracks that peo­ple were lis­ten­ing to at that time. What was the idea be­hind putting rhythm-ac­tion se­quences into the game? To have brighter mo­ments. But it was also sup­posed to re­flect a his­tor­i­cal fact – that, in fact, over the four years it wasn’t bat­tles all the time. There were bat­tles, but most of the time they were wait­ing for some­thing to hap­pen, mov­ing or trav­el­ling. There were a lot of joy­ful mo­ments in be­tween: sol­diers play­ing cards and other games. We wanted to rep­re­sent those mo­ments too, not just the sad ones. We had a tagline: “In the mid­dle of hor­ror, there is al­ways a glim­mer of light.” So we keep in mind all the time not to be just dark and sad. There were con­cerns that the game could be crass or of­fen­sive. Were you ever wor­ried about that? When we were mak­ing [the an­i­ma­tions for the Ger­mans], we checked with Ubisoft Düs­sel­dorf to make sure [they weren’t] per­ceived as of­fen­sive. We did the same thing for all na­tions. Why does Emile nar­rates his let­ters home with an English ac­cent, even though he’s French? [Laughs.] We recorded both the English ac­tor in his own ac­cent and with a French ac­cent. And hen we tried a French ac­tor in English, too. We tried ev­ery com­bi­na­tion, and when we were lis­ten­ing to the re­sults, the best take was still the English ac­tor with an English ac­cent, be­cause the act­ing was bet­ter!

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