When we think about composers being hired to score a game, we think of AAA console games with music blasting from all eighty-seven speakers of a home theater. But that game you play on your cell phone while waiting for the bus needs music, too. Which is why, when it came to the mobile game based on the new movie After Earth, Behaviour Interactive hired composer Joshua Mosley, who’s previously done music for such games as ’Splosion Man and Comic Jumper, as well as the game-related animated movie Mass Effect: Paragon Lost. We spoke to Mr. Mosley about scoring this seemingly (but not really) smaller game.
EGM: To a layman such as myself, I would think that scoring a mobile game would be very different from scoring a console or PC game, in that you wouldn’t use an orchestra or multiple instruments. Am I wrong?
Joshua Mosley: There are definitely differences between the platforms, mostly having to do with having enough space to implement big or multiple audio assets. But mobile and handheld systems have advanced greatly in every way since the days of Game Boy and even the Nintendo DS. Many restrictions in audio development for mobile games have be lifted. So while the budgets for most mobile games aren’t big enough to record a full orchestra, you could most certainly do so. On After Earth, I tracked some live percussive elements, guitar, and some wind instruments.
EGM: A lot of times, people scoring games don’t get to play the game they’re scoring, or even see it in action. Since this was a mobile game, which typically have much shorter development cycles, was that the case with this game?
JM: I was fortunate to receive videos of gameplay from each level from Behaviour Interactive, which looked really great. Having this kind of access really helped in conveying the driving and running motion that needed to be to showcased in the music.
EGM: How did that impact your work?
JM: It impacted my writing in a very positive way. It gave me insight into how it should feel when the player is immersed in the different environments of each “world.”
EGM: What about the fact that cell phones typically have crappy little speakers? Did you feel like you had to simplify the music because of this?
JM: Even though the audio will most likely be played through very small speakers, the development team and I still wanted to approach the score like I would for a console or PC game. I don’t think for a moment about simplifying the music. After Earth is an epic game and film and the music needed to support that.
EGM: The game is what’s commonly called an “endless runner.” That had to impact how you scored it, right? Because I would think an endless-running game would demand a driving score.
JM: It absolutely had an impact on the direction of the score. There is always forward motion going on in every level—whether its running, sliding, jumping, or flying in a squirrel suit. Every cue had a driving undercurrent that ran through from beginning to end. This really helped support the feeling of the action and forward motion of the game.
EGM: Besides being a mobile game, you also had to contend with this being a movie-based game, which means having a lot more people looking over your shoulder. How did that impact what you did?
JM: There were a number of key stakeholders in this project, but the collaborative process was very smooth. Working with the incredible teams at both the movie studio and Behaviour Interactive really helped steer this score in the exact direction it needed to go in. I had an outstanding time working with everyone. After Earth is a huge summer movie and the After Earth mobile game needed to have an epic score, and I was focused on doing justice to both.