There’s nothing like a good song to set the right mood. Discover how audio director Tony Gronick, music supervisor Bénédicte Ouimet and audio designer Julien Renoux collaborated with composer Dan Romer to create a soundtrack for Far Cry 5 that is memorable and enriches the player experience.
“We decided we wanted to give Eden’s Gate, the cult, its music,” Tony says, about the process that led to writing the songs.
The team discovered composer Dan Romer through Netflix’s Beasts of the Southern Wild and Beasts of No Nation. “He was hitting all the emotions we were looking for. We did a little research and discovered Romer was also a songwriter and producer,” Tony says. They gave the composer a manifesto about the cult’s values and beliefs written by creative director Dan Hay and the Far Cry 5 scriptwriters. Based on this document and on discussions with the team, Romer wrote the music and subversive lyrics to the game’s songs.
To give the songs that all-American feel, the team called upon an ensemble of professional singers from Nashville. “Early in production, these hymns, which developers casually sang around the office, were supposed to be bothersome to the player, and part of the gameplay would be to try and shut off the speakers,” Tony says. “But when the Nashville choir interpreted these songs, they took on a whole new flavour and started telling a story.”
“On the surface, these are religious songs, but they subtly talk about death, or firearms,” Bénédicte says.
Bénédicte Ouimet takes part in recording sessions, in Nashville.
A land of music
In the Far Cry tradition, you can hear many of these songs in cult cars, but they are also blasted on church speakers as propaganda. In addition, the melodies show up in gameplay; and don’t be surprised to run into NPCs humming them. “The songs are more present than we originally planned, because they turned out great and are fun to sing,” Bénédicte says.
The music in Far Cry 5 is ample, and represented geographically. The Nashville choir versions can be heard in John’s region. Bluegrass-country versions of the songs, produced by Dan Romer himself, are the soundtrack to John’s brother Jacob’s region. Finally, in John’s sister Faith’s psychedelic region, the post-rock band Hammock interprets the songs.
Overall, the official Far Cry 5 soundtrack includes three records of songs and an extra record with score excerpts.
Hope County also features street musicians singing classic American songs. The audio team had to choose from more than 100 songs for the radio stations. “There is a whole lot of variety in Far Cry 5,” Bénédicte says. “It’s definitely, by far, one of the most ambitious projects I’ve worked on so far.”
The challenge of an open world
Meanwhile, Julien had the complex task of organizing all this music and anticipating the probable and improbable situations that can occur in an open world. “There was a lot of back and forth between us, sharing ideas and trying to come up with something that is cool to listen to but also works in our game. Players experience such a variety of situations, so we have to come up with ‘smart rules’ to make sure the flow of music feels natural and not just contrived by gameplay rules.”
Julien and the audio team played the game as much as they could in the final weeks before ship. “The music acts as a very important sign and feedback system for the player,” he says. “It needs to feel good to the player. Coming up with the right recipe and the right balance is essential.”