Sony videogame music boss Chuck Doud: 'There's a lot of opportunity for any composer'

18 September 2015, 16:18 | Updated: 11 January 2017, 13:37

By Tim Edwards

Chuck Doud is the director of music for Sony Computer Entertainment America, which means he is one of the most influential people in videogame music. He spoke to us after this week's Game Music Connect conference.

In a video shown at Game Music Connect, some prominent Japanese composers said that videogame music is stuck in a rut with too many John Williams-style orchestral scores. Do you agree?

Chuck Doud: I was surprised by that. I think there’s more diversity in our industry than ever before. If you look at the entire spectrum of games being made, there’s a lot of different styles of music, there’s a lot of innovation in the way music is experienced.

I don’t agree. There’s just a beautiful myriad of music being created out there.

Debate: is videogame music in a rut? >

How important is the orchestra in videogame music?

CD: It’s very relevant. There’s a reason why it works. You can get a lot of power and a lot of emotion out of a big orchestra. You can also get a lot of power and emotion out of a smaller orchestra or solo instrument. When it’s done right, you’ll see it’s driven and informed by what’s going on in the game.

Regarding the people in the audience today who were railing against the use of orchestra, If it works in the game and it’s an orchestral score, you can’t reasonably level criticism against it just because you have an issue with using an orchestra.

How do you choose composers for your videogames?

CD: It’s all driven by finding people that are the best creative fit, their talent and the passion and the commitment they have to the project. Which means there’s a lot of opportunity for anyone.

When we get to the stage when we’re looking for talent, we’re not looking at ‘names’. We’re in a good position where we can consider the entire spectrum of composers out there. If it’s a younger composer who’s just starting out then we can step in and make sure that the music gets produced to a level and a calibre of someone who’s an Oscar nominee.

Can film and game composers learn anything from each other?

CD: Maybe you can take one step back from that and ask whether the game makers, can learn anything from film makers. Because if we accept the fact that music is informed by the game, you’ve got to have all of the supporting elements that movies have to help tell the story, to create space for the music.

[The videogame] The Last Of Us is… kind of like a movie. In order for The Last Of Us to succeed you need everything that a movie needs to succeed. You need a great director, a great story, great acting, great cinematography.

But with games there is the technology component that's going to be the delivery vehicle for the experience, including the music, so ultimately it comes down to successfully leveraging the technology at your disposal and successfully marrying it to everything that is creating the experience ( dialog, graphics, motion capture, music, etc...).

As this relates to music, we need to do everything you would do to score a feature film, but that's only about half the effort for a AAA character- and story-driven game. The other half is taking all of this amazing music and integrating it into the game along with everything else.

Hollywood composer Henry Jackman is composing the music for the next Uncharted game. Why the change from Greg Edmonson, who composed for the first three in the series?

CD: Greg did a phenomenal job for us with the first three Uncharted games. The score for Uncharted 2 really resonated with the fans and the public and it was one of those scores we could point to and say, ‘Wow what a great example of what videogame music can be’.

With Uncharted 4 we had a change in tenor and director so there were a lot of elements that didn’t carry forward. We needed a different voice for the game so the decision was to go with Henry. He’s doing a phenomenal job. We were over here [in London] last week recording the score.

What do you think of the trend towards vinyl releases for videogame soundtracks?

CD: We love the fact that we’re starting to release our soundtracks on vinyl. For us it’s typically a limited run where collectors will jump in and buy them up in an hour or two. They not only sound great, but you get a lot of beautiful art… I guess I think it’s awesome. In our offices we have a massive vinyl collection and there’s always music playing on the turntable!

Is there a videogame soundtrack that will become as iconic as Star Wars?

CD: Right now I don’t know if you can compare a videogame to a movie like Star Wars; it’s such an icon, the music is iconic. We’re getting there, but it’s part of the evolution of our industry and remember we’re still a relatively nascent industry.

Is there a technological trend that will change the way we experience game music?

CD: It’s going to be driven by the game design because we’ve plenty of tech already to do pretty much anything we need to do. Really it’s going to be a maturation of our industry and folks designing games where the music can come in and have even more of an impact. I think it’s more of an issue of people really understanding what it takes to integrate a successful videogame score. The tech is there - it’s been there for a while.

What videogame music would you recommend to a Classic FM listener?

CD: Journey and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Both are beautiful scores and they’re really good examples of it being done right. For Journey the music was at least half of the experience. Lyrical, beautiful; you can sing it. I got weepy when I was playing Journey. It really moves you emotionally.