Interview: "Mass Effect 3" Composers On Bringing The Music Back To Its Roots And More

Interview: "Mass Effect 3" Composers On Bringing The Music Back To Its Roots And MoreClockwise from top left: "Mass Effect 3" composers Sam Hulick, Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco

Say what you want about Mass Effect 3 (unless it's that you should be able to check a box and turn your gay crew mates straight, in which case screw you)—but we haven't heard anyone argue that the game's music is anything but fantastic.

We caught up with three of the game's composers to chat about their inspirations, their triumphs, and bringing the series' music back to its Mass Effect 1 roots. Sam Hulick's been creating tracks for the series since the beginning, while Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco started their Mass Effect work with the second's game's DLC, "Kasumi: Stolen Memory." All three contributed to making Mass Effect 3's score the wonderful electronic soundscape that it is. Here's what they had to say:

(And yes, we really did hear someone say that there should be an option to turn gay characters straight in Mass Effect 3. Idiots.)

Complex: Several composers worked on the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack. How did that work?

Sascha Dikiciyan & Cris Velasco: Well each composer (or team) were allocated specific areas to work on. Cinematics, gameplay and what not. Mass Effect 3 is a massive game that required more than one composer to get the job done on time. As for our part, we scored a large bulk of the game, clocking in at over 90 minutes. 

Sam Hulick: [Mass Effect 3 Producer] Casey Hudson and [Audio Lead] Rob Blake effectively served as music directors and defined the overall tone of the score, and assigned different sections of levels to each of us.

Hulick's been working on the series since the beginning. Dikiciyan and Velasco started with Mass Effect 2 DLC. What did you bring to Mass Effect 3 from those experiences?

Sascha & Cris: Our first experience was scoring ME2: Kasumi's Stolen Memory.  Musically, we strayed slightly away from the well known Mass Effect sound.  Kasumi’s Stolen Memory was a bit of an odd character and it felt like her music should be a bit "colder" than the other Mass Effect music.  However, when we worked on the ME2: Arrival DLC it became obvious that the music needed to harken back to something closer to the ME1 style. This carried over into ME3 as well.  Of course, we did put our own style and personalities into the score. Overall, a few people commented that the score sounds like ME1 but "newer".  That was our goal. 

Sam: There was a definite aim to return to the sound of ME1 to some extent. After the second game I noticed some of the Mass Effect fans were longing for the more classic and synth heavy sound of ME1. I was glad to find out when I was brought on board for Mass Effect 3 that BioWare was on the same page for reviving the ME1 sound. The ME3 score is a great balance of ME1 and ME2 and Cris & Sascha's work on the ME2 DLCs.

What else have you worked on besides Mass Effect? How have those experiences differed from this one?

Sascha: Well, before we jumped onto ME3, Cris and I had just wrapped up the Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine for Relic/THQ. It was a huge gig with over 2 hours of music that we were able to record live orchestra for.

Cris:  I also wrote a ton of music for a MMO called TERA this summer. It was a lot of fun to write a sweeping, fantasy styled score.  Also, I was asked to contribute a few tracks to Soulcalibur V. That was a really interesting project. I even got to write a mini piano concerto for it!

Sam: I had recently come off of Red Orchestra 2, which is pretty far off from the musical style of Mass Effect. Ninety minutes of both intense and somber music, in the flavor of classical German and Russian music.

Tags: mass-effect-3, video-game-music, cris-velasco, sam-hulick, sascha-dikiciyan
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