Do We look At Video Game Soundtracks As A Whole Or As Background Noise? Part 1 Featuring Sam Hulick, Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco From The Mass Effect Franchise

Exclusive roundtable discusion with the composers behind the Mass Effect series.

Early this year, Bioware’s Mass Effect saga came to five year run. Rest aside the ending; the series is one of the most complete trilogies in video game history. There are two aspects that Mass Effect nails perfectly. The series was first to interweave choices all the way through the third and final installment captivating fans from start to finish. However, you can’t tell a great story if you forget to create the atmosphere for your game to breath in. The music in the game really doses shape Commander Shepard with it having one of the best scores in gaming, but do people notice? Do people look at soundtracks as a whole or as background noise?

It’s often in movies and television that soundtracks are ignored and not given credit for their role in a project. In our five part series, I got a chance to talk with composers and had them recall their pervious work and asked them how they think fans look at soundtracks. Our first roundtable discussion is with the minds behind the Mass Effect score: Sascha Dikiciyan, Cris Velasco and Sam Hulick. Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco wrote music for Mass Effect 2 Kasumi’s Stolen Memory and Arrival and scored many of the key scenes like Rannoch and Sanctuary. Sam Hulick has been with the series since the very beginning and his suddle work with ambient sounds helped form the Mass Effect galaxy. 

 

 

 

GamerLive.TV: Just to start us off, what else have you worked on besides Mass Effect?

Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco: Some of the titles we’ve scored include the God of War series, Clive Barker’s Jericho, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Borderlands, TRON: Evolution and many more.

Sam Hulick: I got my start working on Maximo vs. Army of Zin, followed by a few indie titles. I also composed the orchestral score for Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. I was immediately drawn to the project as soon as the developer told me they were looking for a very intense and somber score, influenced by Russian and German classical music. It was a chance to veer in a very different direction from Mass Effect. Currently I’m very excited to be working on Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. I saw the mysterious baldursgate.com website earlier this year and I figured Trent Oster had to be behind it, so I sent him an email about it. He was rather mysterious in his response, but we wound up having a meeting at the Game Developer’s Conference about a week later, after which I was officially invited on board their project as composer.

GamerLive.TV: Growing up, what composers did you listen to and now influence your professional work?

Cris Velasco:  I’ve always listened to (and been inspired by) John Williams.  It wasn’t until my 20’s when I really started listening to orchestral composers though.  Some of the most influential composers for me are Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Beethoven, and Mozart.  I’m also a big fan of John Powell, James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, and Edward Shearmur.

Sascha Dikiciyan: Growing up in a classical house, the likes of Beethoven and Mozart have left their mark, however when I was 14 I really got into electronic music. After that the works of Vangelis, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Devo, New Order and many others have influenced me. While I still enjoy these artists today, I also love some of the more modern electronic composers out there, Trent Reznor’s work on The Social Network, The Chemical Brothers’ work on Hanna and Massive Attack.

Sam Hulick: Early on, mostly John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Ray Lynch influenced me. At this point, I don't think I can pinpoint specific musical influences that have an active role in my work. I feel like I've reached the stage where I've discovered my own personal signature, or it could simply be that my various influences have been merged into my own style.