Behind the Score with “AWAY” Composer Mike Raznick

Composer Mike Raznick has lent his musical expertise to titles such as Ratchet & Clank, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, Spate and Lego Bionicle: The Journey to One to name a few. His most recent video game project is the survival adventure VR game, AWAY, by Breaking Walls.  We decided to speak with Raznick about the process for scoring AWAY and as an extra bonus he shared this behind the scenes video.

-How did you get involved with AWAY?

I met the team at a conference in Montreal in late 2016. They had a beautiful poster showing off the concept with a bird flying through an epic landscape. It immediately caught my eye and interest. Below is a picture of our first conversation. They didn’t have a composer on board yet so the timing was perfect. They explained to me how they were looking for a musical landscape similar to that of Planet Earth 2 that had just aired on BBC. I had worked on that show as well as other nature documentary television shows. It sounded like a perfect fit and we scheduled a meeting at their office to discuss a working collaboration and for me to play their current VR build before I headed back to Los Angeles.

-How much creative freedom were you given with the AWAY score?

Since the nature-based documentary theme is so established, the challenge was how to best capture the beauty of the animals in their natural habitat through music. I was basically given 100% creative freedom, as long as it sounded like it could work in the nature doc format. A lot of what was required was to look at the movement, velocity, and choreography of the animals showcased in the game. This provided me with raw information such as the appropriate musical tempo, instrumental palette and density of sound that would be required to create an emotionally enhancing musical backdrop.

AWAY Still

-How is scoring a VR game different than scoring a regular, non VR,game?

In this case, the musical aspect of this VR experience was quite similar to that of a non-VR game. The function of the music is to immerse the player and create a more believable experience. In this case, we did not want the music to call special attention to itself with special mixing or specialization techniques. Instead, we left that to the sound effects and natural ambiances.

-From when you first got started in the business, how has the video game composing world changed?

I started composing music in the game industry back in 2007. I was mostly working on downloadable games, Nintendo DS games and a few very early mobile titles. The biggest changes that I’ve continued to see are the obvious and extensive strides we’ve made in technology as well as the sheer number of people playing games. In fact, I’ve recently read that the term “gamer” is outdated since it seems that everyone plays games from time to time. The more appropriate terminology would be “game enthusiast”.

-What upcoming projects are you working on?

Lots of exciting stuff. I’m scoring some epic Hollywood trailers; I also have an ongoing collaboration with the Clash of Clans game; I am starting on an exciting new indie title called KnightOut that will be released for the Nintendo Switch; and more from the fantastic team at Breaking Walls!

Mike Raznick Initially Meeting AWAY Team

J. Randolph is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s in Film & Video Studies. His favorite genre in film, books and video games is horror with some of his favorites being the string of 90’s slasher films Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer & Urban Legend. He currently resides in San Diego, CA, where he can be found on the beach or waiting in line to buy tickets for Comic-Con!

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