Hello there! It’s been a busy week. Briefly:
And that’s all very cool. But the big news I wanted to share today is something that’s been cooking over here at Final Form HQ for even longer than the DLC has:
Our virtuosic composer Francisco Cerda (who composed the bombastic, fully-orchestrated score for the original game) has been hard at work putting together this soundtrack.
It features extended and remastered versions of several favorite tracks (including the 9-minute long “Lost Temple of Croatoa Suite” which simply must be heard to be believed), in addition to a special bonus track – the game’s main theme revisited for solo piano, performed by Francisco himself.
For those of you who are curious about Francisco’s process and inspirations, he gave an extensive interview with www.3dgames.com.ar right after the game’s original release. It’s full of anecdotes and insights into how the Jamestown score came to life, and you can read it right after the jump:
INTERVIEW WITH FRANCISCO CERDA: COMPOSER OF THE SOUNDTRACK OF
JAMESTOWN: LEGEND OF THE LOST COLONY
Interviewer: ChamaLeona, for http://www.3dgames.com.ar/
As soon as Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony was installed, I clicked Play and fled to the kitchen to start cooking lunch. Then, it happened that an extraordinary music made the floor tremble. And, I was still in the kitchen, now fascinated. Sudden images invaded my brain such as scenes of Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, and probably Sean Connery’s King Arthur, with his Scottish accent. That day, lunch got burned.
My first exclamation was “It’s been ages since I don’t listen to something like this! And it’s new! And it’s original!” I was stunned. Then, I propelled myself into the adventure, what music proposed, and floated over the alien tides of Mars as I combated against the Spanish fleet.
The game is a whole success in the indie world: it was selected among the Top 10 Indie Games of PAX and will participate at “The PAX 10”, due by the end of August in Seattle. There, as Final Form Games site announced, the three men of Philadelphia who gave birth to Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony will meet their forth man: the composer of the game’s soundtrack, Francisco Cerda.
Francisco is 100% Chilean talent and, as many of us (or, may I say everyone?), got raised with the influence of arcade machines and videogames consoles. That influence would later define his career as a musician. In this interview, by chat, Francisco tells us about how videogames marked his life, the story that links him with Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, the musical composition process for an indie game, and his projects.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
Well, I am a musician. I studied piano, I am engaged in different projects like teaching and, eventually, composing and arranging music.
Is Jamestown your first composing project for a videogame?
What other videogames did you work with?
When I was 14, I programmed my first playable videogame. The funniest thing is that it was a vertical shoot’em up, like Jamestown, with a screen filled with bullets and all that. Bullet Hell. As I was working with the programming, I started creating the music for that videogame. Those were my first compositions. I used a program called Scream Tracker. At that time, I only played a little guitar, by ear. I did’t really understand what was happening, musically speaking. Eventually, I realized that the only reason I was programming a videogame was the music. So, that is how I quitted computing and started working in what I do now. Hehe.
So, you already had a story with videogames. Which videogames were the ones you first enjoyed?
The first ones… I think it was Digger. Then, my parents brought the NES home and there I met Mario Bros, Contra… But, the one that influenced me the most was Megaman.
In what way did it make an influence? I mean, why Megaman, specifically.
The music. It was Megaman 3. To me, the best videogame soundtrack ever. The level of emotion and energy is outstanding. I would spend all day singing the melody.
It’s funny when you come to think that someone can be singing Jamestown melodies right now. It’s amazing that you create such memorable music. After exiting the game, you still remember the melody.
Exactly. That was the main goal.
How did Final Form Games get in touch with you?
In 2008, I traveled to the USA and stayed at a friend’s house. And, there was a piano there…
What a coincidence…
I spent all day playing and it turned out that the owner of the piano, my friend’s roommate, was a videogame programmer: Tim Ambrogi. He would listen to me playing. I would improvise or play classical music that I was studying at that time. One day, I showed him a couple of adaptations of Contra and Robotech. They are on my YouTube’s channel.
I saw the videos. They’re amazing. Was Tim the creator of Jamestown?
Yes, he was one of the programmers. The other one was Halsted Larsson. And, Mike Ambrogi was in charge of the art.
The game is unbelievable. I imagine that you played it before us.
Hahaha. Yes. My name is among the Beta Testers list. There were moments in which I spent more time playing the game than composing.
How was the composing process, creating the music for Jamestown? Did they send the material without any music? Was it online? Or else, did you fly to the USA?
I did it all in Chile. When I met Tim, back in 2008, he asked me if I was interested in composing the soundtrack for a videogame they were considering creating. Two years later, I got an email where he basically said “Let’s do it.” They told me about the game, the concept, the story: Red Coats in Mars on steam engines. They told me they wanted an orchestral soundtrack, epic, something that enhanced the Steampunk aesthetic.
Then, you composed the music without having an idea of… for example, the art of the game? Not even a sample?
Nothing. They sent prototypes all the time and I created the music as the different levels appeared.
So, it all happened at the same time: the composition kept up with the game making.
Exactly. Sometimes, levels were ready and I only had to create something over that. Or, they wanted music to have some specific moments, as in the case of Dark Sector’s break. Other times, I composed the music and they later created the level, as in the case of Croatoa.
So, now, when we get to Croatoa, we know that your music inspired that imminently lethal bombing.
That is just like saying that, in some way or another, you created Croatoa.
Hahaha. No. They created the concept.
What inspired you to compose the music for Jamestown?
Well, I was influenced in lots of ways. I tried to create a soundtrack that had variety, as if it was an album, the album of a band, in which every song has an identity. The guys at Final Form Games definitely wanted an orchestral soundtrack.
And, what came to your mind when they said ‘orchestral’?
Soundtracks from relatively old sci-fi movies like the Alien trilogy and videogames such as Final Fantasy VII and StarCraft. On the other hand, I always had Bach in my head and other more contemporary musicians as Stravinsky. I also tried a crossover with other genres.
We hear different sounds throughout the game and there is an evident break when we enter New Madrid, for example. The same when we enter, as we mentioned before, Croatoa.
That’s right. For example, East Frontier, the first track I created, is more electronic. It’s an attempt to combine both the orchestral style Final Form wanted and the Megaman chiptuned sound. There is also a great influence of anime throughout the tracks.
Which anime did you think of?
Good question. The truth is I don’t know. Maybe, it was the aesthetic, the melody, the harmony of the world of anime, of J-Pop and J-Rock. Evangelion could be part of that influence.
It’s true. I keep listening, and I can find all that you’re saying.
In the end, there is also some influence of metal rock in the soundtrack. Dream Theater and Symphony X, especially.
We can say there is recipe here: Bach + anime + Metal + Movie Soundtracks.
Well, you had fun.
Yes. There were also stressful times. Some tracks were finished and recorded in a day. Some others left me sleepless for a week.
Which ones left you sleepless?
Dark Sector and the last track: Conquistador, song of the last Boss.
So, he became some kind of a ghost for you, too.
Something like that. The truth is that, when I created the track, the boss was still unfinished. It was just a sprite floating in the middle of nothingness. There’s a little homage to Sephirot and Bach’s Mass in B Minor.
We should have a listen to them.
Hehe. The Mass is long. But, there is clear influence of the first sections, Kyrie Eleison and Crusifixus. I wanted to create something similar to that. The interesting thing about all this is the process. I would create the music after some instructions and references Final Form gave. Then, I would send some music and they gave me their feedback, with indications about what they thought suitable or not. Then, I tried to apply their suggestions. Some times, it was hard to assume some of their instructions. For New Madrid, we created four different versions.
What did they want for New Madrid?
First, I proposed a song that was absolutely Megaman-like (now, the credits track), I though the music needed a radical change at that point of the game. They wanted something that matched the art of that level, not a track that evoked a sensation of satisfaction, but one that caused tension. At first, I found it hard to give in, and I tried to convince them by all means possible. I even called a friend to play the electric guitar and create a more attractive sound. But, in the end, I realized we were a team, and we had to work for the game’s sake.
Are you satisfied with the results?
Definitely. Sometimes, I found it hard to understand that I had to compose a track from the very beginning.
The twist in the music when you get to New Madrid is definitely amazing.
Right. When you are engaged in a creative process, you must remain open. Final Form Games consists of three people and, in general, they discuss all their decisions before reaching a conclusion. They experiment, improvise and rehearse everything until they find the answer that satisfies everybody. It was hard to keep up with that dynamism. I was used to work alone. I think this was one of the most valuable lessons I learned during the whole process.
So, now, you will have more consideration to whatever anyone proposes.
That’s right. We have to move forward, all together. To think as one. This orderliness and dedication made Jamestown a cult game.
The last two questions: the first one is related to Jamestown being an indie game. How do you think indie games are evolving as compared with mainstream ones?
Honestly, I am not 100% familiar with this because I don’t play much now. In general, I am the kind of person that enjoys watching others playing instead of holding a joystick. But, considering what I’ve been reading in forums and other sites, I think that making indie games involves risk, originality and an amount of work and devotion that is not always seen in mainstream games; in which case, you generally got two hundred people developing a game as if it was office work. There is no paraphernalia and sensationalism in indie games. Instead, they make use of simplicity and beauty. That is, to me, what makes it more appealing, and, at the same time, addictive.
The last question: what projects are you in at present? Will there be a new videogame soundtrack in the near future?
Now, we are working with the final touches of Jamestown OST, that will include never- heard material (the tracks that were not included in the game). On the other hand, Jamestown was selected for the PAX10.
I read you’re flying to Seattle in August, is that right?
Yes. I’m making a mini-concert and performing the soundtrack of Jamestown and other videogames.
It sounds fantastic. And, do you play alone? I mean, all alone?
That’s right. Some songs will only be piano adaptations. And, there are some arrangements I am still defining.
By the way, I haven’t asked before, did you compose and record all the music on your own?
Yes. It was all performed with VSTs (virtual instruments), but I made the most so that they sound more realistic.
It really sounds realistic. When you listen, you imagine the whole orchestra.
It was all played on a keyboard, save for the electric guitar on the credits track. There was no programming on the sequencer. I mean, there was lots of editing, but human interpretation is there, in some way.
Then, next thing will be releasing the Original Soundtrack of Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony and the PAX10, which I believe it’ll be awesome. The guys at the Steam forums were amazed by the music in Jamestown.
Yes. I’m surprised. The shmup is a dead genre. Only a few understand it, but it seems that everyone liked Jamestown. I would love to have more chances to compose the soundtrack for other videogames. Working with Jamestown was like a dream come true. It was fun and educational. One thing: I want the next project to be totally different, I mean, musically speaking. I want to create a whole new thing. I don’t want to be stuck in a ‘formula’.
I read you participate in many bands: one is a progressive metal project, another one is a cha-cha-cha orchestra. Is this right?
Yes. I’ve worked with an improvisational theater company called Colectivo Mamut for six years. At present, we work in a TV show called ‘Los improvisadores’, the Chilean version of ‘Who’s Line Is It, Anyway?’ There, I have to provide live music for the stories they improvise, at the audience’s suggestions.
That must be hard! After six years, are you still surprised with what can come out?
Yes, I still laugh a lot. Sometimes, I can’t perform because I’m laughing.
On what channel is the show airing?
Via X, channel 24. It’s a Chilean cable channel. There is a video on my blog where you can see an excellent improvisation, and you can hear the music. I am not in the video because I did not appear at that time.
Do you, now?
Yes, everyday. I also play with a Chilean balada singer, Andrés De León. And, I play in a progressive metal band called Versus, and a salsa, mambo and cha-cha-cha orchestra, Mambocha. Eventually, I teach, very intensively. And I expect to finish programming my game, some day.
You really keep busy. Well, Francisco. Is there anything else you want to say? Something for the readers?
Yes, thanks to all who played Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony and supported the project. And, thanks to all who listened to my music while playing.
I believe the answer would be: Thank you!
Follow Francisco Cerda at his Oficial Blog: http://fcocerda.blogspot.com