We go in-depth with the BAFTA-nominated composer and music designer Olivier Derivière, whose diverse projects also include A Plague Tale: Innocence and Streets of Rage 4.By Thomas Quillfeldt
The frontier can be a lonely place.
For years, Olivier Derivière has been a pioneering advocate for a tighter connection between gameplay and music in video games.
With his words — shared at conference sessions, on social media, and beyond — he’s encouraged and educated others about the possibilities of interactive music. He’s even coined a term: Hybrid Interactive Music (HIM) to refer to an approach that combines interactive live recording and real-time generated music.
With his work he’s always been at the forefront of music design, while being no slouch when it comes to composition and production. Classically trained but with a deep love of electronic music, he has enjoyed confounding expectations, even if it’s led to a certain amount of angoisse for the French musician from time to time.
We spoke to Derivière in late February 2022, with Dying Light 2 players having had the game at their fingertips for a few weeks. After a three-year development process, he was keen that the radically responsive music design of his first AAA project would inspire and resonate with industry peers, critics and, most importantly, players.
Fortunately, the evidence is in that millions have enjoyed the thrill of the impeccably interactive parkour music as they traverse the rooftops of Villedor.
Even before that, ours and many others’ imaginations had been fired by things like his fascinating Wwise presentations about Remember Me fight music; and been enraptured by the beautiful, daring, and above all responsive scores for Get Even, A Plague Tale: Innocence and more.
Derivière speaks about being possibly the most proactive composer a fanbase has ever interacted with; what makes continental European games feel the way they do; feeling syndrome de l'imposteur in the rage-filled streets; and why a track might be too ‘easy’ for inclusion on a vinyl soundtrack.
Dying for feedback
Open world parkour-action game Dying Light 2 is set in a post-apocalyptic world hit by a viral outbreak. A vision of the ‘Modern Dark Ages’, the story revolves around themes of devastation, loss and isolation as the remnants of humanity fight for survival and search for hope through unity.
For the score, Derivière collaborated with the London Contemporary Orchestra for more traditional recorded elements. He also turned to instrument-maker Nicolas Bras to construct an intentionally “broken-sounding” stringed instrument (the ‘Electric Psaltery’) out of junk materials, with which Derivière could steer layers of rhythmic electronic synth elements. Ultimately, he blended and manipulated everything as necessary to enhance player immersion and emotional response.
Multiple factors in the game affect how the soundtrack is expressed for each player: location, in-game factions, player choices, main quest activation, combat status, effectiveness at parkour traversal, and more.
As with Hello Games and No Man’s Sky, Techland built itself a rock solid reputation with 2015’s Dying Light as a generous-of-spirit developer that effectively listens to player feedback and services its (predominantly single-player) game accordingly.
In that vein, Derivière could regularly be found on Twitter around Dying Light 2’s release fervently engaging with the player base, enquiring about people’s experiences of the music and trying to unearth any feedback, positive or negative.
He remarks: “Working on a game like this is a totally different experience for me because it lives on after release. The game is so massive that, as a creator, you can't go through everything and know exactly how it's all working. I've been playing for more than 2,000 hours, but in such a way that it's not the same hours experienced by players right now [around launch.] I wanted to know where it was great and why, and what's less effective [music-wise] because I can fix that, I can improve, I can learn where I've missed a spot.
“It’s an amazing opportunity [for creators] to be able to extend and enhance — and only video games can do that. A director’s cut for a movie can do it, but that’s more about themselves. [This is] more about the gamers: if there is a frustration or something they really want to have, we can provide them that, so let’s do it!”
He’s clearly lapped up the response: “There are many things that I can improve right away and I will do. The first thing players were asking for was for me to add more tracks to the soundtrack album. Other things included: ‘I wish this piece of parkour music played more often’ or that ‘this combat music was a bit more varied’. I’m not taking everything being said as something to act on, but [there’s plenty of feedback] that I understand, that’s valid, where I think they’re right.”
Collaboration is king
There are a range of development roles — including creative director, audio director and audio programmers — that need to collaborate with a composer to get the best music results in a video game.
Since Derivière is a cutting-edge music designer that makes challenging, experimental music, he’s always on the hunt for — and being hunted by — developers willing to trust and embrace his approach. He says of collaborating on interactive music: “There’s no one way of doing it, which is what I like about it.
“When [Dying Light 2 developer] Techland approached me to do the music, I asked who was doing the music system. They replied: ‘Umm, we could do it?’ I offered to help — and they let me do it! The level of trust they gave me was so high that I couldn't [afford to] fail. I couldn't not take the opportunity to do something crazy and try something that nobody has done in an open world.
“When I'm working with directors and they make the music system, I'm there to help because I understand their problems and the limitations. For instance, with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Freedom Cry, one day the music supervisor called me with the game director: ‘Something's weird! We know the music system is not supposed to follow the action, but the music does!’ I replied: ‘because I know the music system and I know what [section the music supervisor is playing] and I know when it's playing. So I've made the music do stuff — such as fighting — [to make it] feel on cue.”“That's the sort of collaboration that is great, when the composer better understands the way games are being made.”
Pushing the player forward
From the club-inspired electronic dance music of Streets of Rage 4 to the pulse-pounding, four-to-the-floor parkour music of Dying Light 2, part of Derivière’s job on recent projects has been to propel the player forward.
But there are important differences between the encouragement of motion found within his scores. He explains: “The role of the music in Streets of Rage 4 is to push you.”
“In Dying Light 2, if you stop running, the music stops. Therefore the music is about you, not about pushing you.
“The biggest challenge for me is that in Dying Light 2, I wanted to give players the freedom of their actions without pushing for each specific one, but as long as they were doing one, I would help them. ‘I'm here for you, but if you stop, I'll stop, don't worry.’”
He jokes that he’s a “sneaky boy”, however. “If you're going to just run, I'm not going to do much — the music will stay in this atmospheric soundscape. But if you start jumping and doing special parkour moves, then the music will rise and rise. At some point, if you're doing it for long enough or well enough, then the music will really kick in and you will feel the adrenaline.
“I can tell — because players are sending me tons of emails — that this makes them not stop running, parkouring. Like ‘I don't want to stop! This is so good!’”
A core part of the Dying Light 2 design is that the ‘street level means death’ and, by extension, parkouring over the rooftops means escape, life, and freedom. “That's exactly what we want players to feel,” says Derivière. “Whether it’s in Dying Light 2 or Assassin’s Creed or all of these games with parkour, some players might travel at street level and never engage with the parkour, so rewarding parkour is [having such a huge effect] that players are going up to the rooftops.”
Player movement was far from the only variable influencing the music state. He admits: “The part that took me most of my time and really made me crazy… Everything changes musically if you are in the main quest, but the main quest is still part of the open world. Therefore, we had to know what you're doing, where you're doing it in the map, when you're doing that, and have the music respond.
“For example, we might kill the parkour music of the open world to make something more about the main quest moment-to-moment, because now we're back into a very scripted section of the game. Since Dying Light 2 is open world though, the player might choose to leave the quest… then later go back in the middle of the quest — and the music will follow everything!
“This is something I did and I'm not sure it was worth it — but I had to do it! Truly. The GameSpot review really made me think that I was right in doing it. That was my win. People don't realise but, in an open world, this is amazing.”
Mark Delaney, GameSpot: “No matter what you're doing… the soundtrack masterfully reacts to every step in a way I've not seen done in games before. The dynamic music… shifts from story to side mission to open-world exploration without missing a beat, even going so far as to let the air out of the soundtrack whenever you take a jump, helping to give you that rollercoaster-like sense of weightlessness. Strangely enough, the music ends up creating a much stronger sense of atmosphere and consequences within Dying Light 2 than its story.” - https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dying-light-2-review-look-before-you-leap/1900-6417819/
Pushing the industry forward through advocacy
There are certain composer talks and tutorials gamers and especially game music fans should take the time to check out so that they might better understand some of the tools, techniques and possibilities of the field.
For years, Derivière has been educating and expounding about the intricacies and virtues of interactive music at professional conferences or simply on social media. His dedication to the cause is so complete, he struggled through (what was at the time unbeknownst to him) appendicitis to share his wisdom about Remember Me’s score at GDC 2014, although he probably prefers people check out his own uploaded tutorial.
He says: “I've been advocating for interactive music for decades, and I’m happy to push in this direction… I've made as much substantial music for games [as I can] which is interactive music. I think it's very difficult for people to understand how important it is… and the audience don’t realise what a game-changer it is. As an advocate [of interactive music in game] it has felt very lonely for the last 20 years.”
One trouble for innovators is a lack of peers to compare notes with and see whether one is treading the right path. Derivière cites Mick Gordon as a fellow composer striving to make players feel at one with a game aided by reactive music (Laced With Wax recommends Gordon’s GDC talk “DOOM: Behind the Music” as especially inspiring.)
As well as seeking feedback around the release of Dying Light 2, Derivière could also be found posting examples exploring the possibilities of interactive music:
He’s adamant that people should remain focused on improving how music works within the game for players, preferring that people ask him about this than music-specific tools and inspiration. “The important thing is not about the music. It's about how [composers and developers] collaborate. It's about how you create systems.
DL2 music secret #28— Olivier Deriviere (@oderiviere) February 1, 2022
In stealth (they haven't spotted you, or are suspicious),
- The closer you get to an enemy, an additional sound
- The closer they get to your position, the bigger the tension
So you can close your eyes and just by listening you will know what is going on. pic.twitter.com/WIXE90xDIH
“It was a three year process on Dying Light 2. I wasn’t on the beach thinking about zombies and writing music on my laptop. I was playing 2,000 hours of the game.
“In games we have improved on everything: AI, lighting, physics, polygon counts, etc. And with music, we're still [stuck simply] adding or removing layers depending on what's going on, and if something happens, we switch to the next music. I’m like ‘man, it's been X years, come on!’”
“I want to encourage the notion that interactive game music is the ultimate language we need to create and learn — that we need to go on this road together. We need to tune and craft around that, because it's for the gamers.
“It’s no longer about writing the perfect theme, because theme writing is already amazing. Now it's about how it acts on the game and what you will do with that. This is more important to me than anything else.”
Not hard mode
One might forgive composers of all experience levels for feeling intimidated by the sheer amount of disciplines and technical tools to learn: music theory & orchestration, digital audio workstations (Logic, Pro Tools, etc.), production and mixing techniques, plug-ins and virtual instrument patches, MIDI controllers, and so on.
Interactive audio middleware programs (including Audiokinetic’s Wwise or Firelight Technologies’ FMOD) and how they practically fit into game development, make up an additional layer of things to learn. With them come additional opportunities and challenges.
Derivière is sanguine though: “People fear Wwise. They look at it and go ‘oh my gosh, it looks terrifying,’ which I understand. But, once you get it, it's very easy and now that's the next level.
“It's not because you know about harmony, counterpoint or technology that you can create great stuff. To me, technology has never been the limitation. The limitation for me is much more one’s own ‘creative mind.’ How do you use the technology?”
“Wwise is so easy to master, I don't understand why younger composers aren’t laughing at me, like ‘oh, you're doing this? This is so limited!’ and creating something that is completely out of the box.”
Pushing the industry forward through experimentation in the work
As you may have gathered, Derivière is experimental by nature and he explicitly rejects nostalgia as something that creatively motivates him.
He posits: “While it’s not easy to produce great music, it is relatively easy to reference a style that people like from a game they enjoyed [in the past]: like arcade music, old Japanese game music, or fantasy themes,” alluding to the nostalgia that seems to drive a lot of aesthetic choices across the industry. “This is fair, this is good. I've been through the same sort of pattern [of taste forming] with games and movies and everything.
“But now I'm an older guy, and with the games I'm scoring I’m trying to make the music singular or weird in some way — music that’s difficult most of the time. Even for Streets of Rage 4 [as a game harking back to the ’90s] if you listen to my tracks, they’re crazy in a way that you wouldn’t expect.
“I don't speak much about the [musical content] because music speaks for itself. Everybody will feel the music differently. The music is here to serve the game, and the best way to do that is not by talking about the composition but the music implementation. That's why I advocate [for better interactive music.]”
While he’s worked on all sizes of video game, Derivière has generally plied his trade in the so-called ‘double-A’ or mid-budget space, where that experimentalism has been nurtured by trusting developers. But Dying Light 2 is a bona fide AAA title despite not having a ‘major’ publisher behind it, representing perhaps the best opportunity he’s yet had to reach a large audience. The game sold 5 million copies during its launch month alone, on top of the first Dying Light selling 20 million copies as of April 2022 (Game Developer).
“I'm the type of composer who likes to say ‘can we go and experiment?’ and when you can do that on a AAA game it says a lot about how this industry can somehow be on the verge of creating new worlds, universes, inventions.
“I've been using words [through talks and advocacy] forever, and I've been doing [interactive audio] on all the games I've been working on. [At the moment] the best way for me to advocate is to show, and this is what I did for the parkour music, the fight music, and for the narrative music in Dying Light 2. Everything is there. There are so many moments that players are talking about… and the music is always following their actions. That's the best argument I can make. So I’m looking forward to seeing if this will make any difference for the industry to realise that ‘oh my God — players were receptive to those things.’
“I was watching theRadBrad play through the whole game, and he kept saying ‘the soundtrack is making this, the soundtrack is making this game’. I was very happy not because of my music. It's more about the feeling that players are having when they're playing [enabled by] the fact that the music is connected to what they're doing. And they know it.”
A maturing industry
While the Paris-based Derivière has worked with a few US- and Canada-based teams, perhaps his best known work to date has been with developers based in mainland Europe: in France, Asobo Studio (A Plague Tale), Don’t Nod (formerly Dontnod, responsible for Vampyr) and Spiders (GreedFall); and in Poland, Techland (Dying Light 2) and The Farm 51 (Get Even.)
Those recent credits also share a seriousness of tone and topic. Polish cultural works, including video games of course, are known for their shades of grey (literal and figurative), exploring moral complexities and tackling the most weighty of subject matter; Get Even and Dying Light 2 are no exceptions. French-developed titles A Plague Tale: Innocence & sequel Requiem, GreedFall and Vampyr aren’t exactly about rainbows and fluffy bunnies either (although an earlier Derivière credit, 2006’s My Little Flufties aka AniMates, is on the fluffier side of things 🐰)
The composer is happiest when collaborating with developers that think deeply about the aesthetic and emotional content of a game, but he feels that the industry as a whole has a way to go when it comes to the maturity of the medium: “We're not there yet. We may have touched some masterpieces here and there, but we're not at the level of what the movies or literature went through, for instance. A masterpiece is something that will last through the ages, so history will tell.”
That’s not to say that gritty, dour theming or choosing grim historical periods as backdrops automatically confer artistic maturity. It’s just that, in the course of the interview, we touched on the sophistication and breadth of expression of the medium, and also the maturity of the themes tackled in the work itself.
In terms of what his aim is with his own work, he says: “My music tends to be about more complex stuff within the games. There’s a lot going on in my music that people don't really realise, but I don't care. This is the maturity that I think the medium will achieve as we're getting older, because I'm not here to just entertain.
“Also the maturity of the discourse [is lacking] at least on the surface in the game industry, in the way that we pre-suppose that games are for kids, for instance, or just about Call of Duty and FIFA. The mass audience outside of the [games bubble] don't think that video games can be as profound as they are already capable of being. There are many, many games about… aspects of our own lives as human beings, because games are increasingly a way of expressing yourself.”
Speaking about how continental European games may differ, Derivière says: “Europeans have a certain sensitivity, and European culture is [distinct in many aspects.] I’m [currently] working with an American publisher, and the game they're making is unique in some ways. They approached me because of that. [Having said that] video games development is very international. It’s a blend of so many inspirations.
“If you look at A Plague Tale, the developer [Asobo] and the publisher [Focus Entertainment] are French and the game takes place in 14th Century France. These are the types of games that I was waiting for when I was doing, for instance, Alone in the Dark [a 2008 reboot developed by Eden Studios in Lyon, France]. At the time I was like, ‘why are we setting the game in New York? It's gonna feel off for a lot of people.’ It's the same when Americans used to set video game scenes in Paris — it doesn't feel right. So, yes, the sensitivity is good.
“A lot of games are set in fantasy worlds and this invites us to get away from reality, but there’s also more of a blend and a mix now among developers. You see Ghost of Tsushima set in Japan but made by Sucker Punch Productions [based in the US]; or Sifu [set in modern-day China, developed by French studio Sloclap.] It’s more multicultural — I know that there could be some controversies — but I like the fact that we’re artists, and being influenced by everything in the world right now. It’s very global. I don't see any harm in being influenced — and being true to these influences.”
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Freedom Cry features a story interwoven with the Caribbean Sea slave trade. Derivière recalls: “I went and recorded Haitian musicians performing their own music. I was influenced by this, respectfully, and everything was tailored around this respect. I didn’t know anything about that music beforehand. That’s video games to me.”
“For some games, like A Plague Tale, if it takes place in France then you may want the developers to be [based in France] to do it right, but even with Ghost of Tsushima — some of the developers were appointed ambassadors of the actual island of Tsushima. The people there cheered on the game, which is amazing.”
With notable exceptions, Derivière’s soundtracks have generally been oriented around orchestral instruments and the choir, with significant electronic elements introduced as necessary and the bold manipulation of sound using production techniques and effects.
He recalls that, at the start of his career, he was known as the “vocal guy” because of his use of choirs. “Then, as my career progressed, I could hire real orchestras.” He bristles at the idea of ‘electro-orchestral’ being a useful descriptor of his approach. “You can label me if you want to as somebody that likes to use computers with live musicians, but not in a hybrid sense where there’s ‘electro’ on one side and ‘orchestral’ on the other side.“Everything is an instrument for me. It's the blend of the two. If you listen carefully to “Father” from A Plague Tale: Innocence, at the end of the cue [from ~1:55] there is melody going on with the nyckelharpa, which is a Swedish medieval instrument. People don't realise there is a synth playing the same notes at the same pitch. They don't hear it, but if you pay attention…”
“That's what I'm doing all the time. I'm using synth and electronics to blend with the live musicians. Sometimes not to be heard, but to give a sense of texture and colour. Sometimes, of course, just to screw up everything!
“I've never felt limited by any creative directors or audio directors in terms of the choice of colours and instruments. And I've been trying things out that, when we were initially talking about them, I had no idea how to do them!
“Video games are exactly what the creative like me would dream of, which is freedom of experimentation…with budget backing it up. For example, ‘we need to go and record the London Contemporary Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios to get this weird orchestral sound that will be completely different from other orchestras.’ ‘Ok, let's do it!’”
Derivière also gives the example of Remember Me, where he was able to record a world-class orchestra only to then “screw up everything” by introducing filtering and glitching effects over the final mixes to add a layer of futurism to an otherwise old-world sound.
“Only in games [could I be allowed to try this.] And the people I'm working with are always world-class people. For A Plague Tale it’s the Ensemble intercontemporain — the orchestra of leading avant garde composer Pierre Boulez. The techniques they can perform…
“If you look at any games using cello, it's going to be 99.9% [playing something] lush and melodic. But listen to A Plague Tale: Innocence and it’s like ‘what the f***??’”
In particular, the last part of “The Killing” is remarkable for what Derivière fondly terms “screaming cello”:
The games Derivière tends to work on afford plenty of dramatic musical opportunities to deploy soloists and pure solos in the score, drawing the listener close.
“For me it's all about colours, scale and purpose. Take Vampyr, for instance. The creative director was talking about the world of post-World War 1 London, and wanted something very industrial — and I was thinking of something echoing into the streets. The main character is this doctor who turns into a vampire, and it was just this one guy. So you already hear it [using a solo instrument to represent the main character.] I thought it would be good to use the cello because it’s very close to the human voice, in terms of tenors and baritones.”
Cellist Eric Maria Couturier performed on A Plague Tale: Innocence, Vampyr and Dying Light 2 soundtracks for Derivière, summoning a ferocity or forlornness appropriate to the respective tones of the games. “The way he is doing sound is very interesting for me,” says Derivière. “It’s unbelievable what I’m [able to do] with the quality of the people performing, recording, and mixing — to have that nowadays.”
“Also, what type of performer [is important]. You always want to look at any group of instruments or soloist as a voice — as the sound that you want to translate into the experience. With the big orchestra, you can have a very big emotional impact on the player, as much as one soloist can. It just depends on how you want to translate this. That's why the substance of the game is key for me in deciding why to use a soloist or an orchestra or synth, or whatever else.”
Various of the Dying Light 2 cues feature solo instruments. He explains: “For “Aiden”, the character is lonely and he’s broken.”
“For “Mia” it’s actually the same music but it’s performed by fragmented shadows…”
“Any music I'm writing has a meaningful purpose. It's not like ‘oh, we need background music or we need to accompany…’ no, I've never done that. Never. So soloists are important, but as much as they are key for one purpose, anything in music is key for the purpose you're serving.
“The idea of having an orchestra was not there at the beginning of Dying Light 2 development. But the more we were going through, the more I thought that it's about humans, and we want to have this emotional journey. You can take as many synths as you want — and I know people like Vangelis could do magical stuff with melodies on synths — but man, when strings are playing those things… This is our culture, this is the Western culture. It speaks to the heart. It's like voices. Voices speak to the soul. It's very important to identify what colours you want for your game.”
Synths of Rage
It might have come as a surprise to some to see Olivier Derivière’s name attached to Streets of Rage 4 as a primary composer alongside original trilogy heroes Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima, and others including Harumi Fujita (Final Fight, Mega Man 3.) As Cyrille Imbert, Executive Producer on the game puts it though, Derivière was hired because he understands “the perfect fusion between music and gameplay.”
On the original soundtrack album, he delivers a meaty 17 of the 33 tracks, completely departing from his recent work to that point genre-wise. Indeed, he jokes that he wishes he could have worked on the game under a pseudonym.
He got the gig via a games conference long before the game had been announced as ‘in development’. “It was late at night and [I was having a theoretical discussion] with a friend about what a fourth Streets of Rage game might look like. 15 minutes later, this guy that I don't know comes to me and he's like ‘I want you to work on my next game.’ I replied: ‘Riiiight… Who are you?’ He shows me an unreleased trailer that was coming out in two days’ time — and it’s Streets of Rage 4! I'm like ‘is this a prank?’”
As it turned out, the composer-botherer was Cyrille Imbert. “He got back to me with the full details and confirmed they wanted me to do the music. I really didn't get it — it didn’t make sense after Get Even. For the first time in years I pitched, but this time I asked to pitch to see if it fitted for them. I told myself: ‘Do something crazy-ass!’ “They listened at my studio and said ‘that's amazing’, and then I felt ‘oh, they're crazy… So we may find a good collaboration!’
“The condition was that I would only do it if Yuzo Koshiro was going to collaborate and provide, for instance, the main title. For me, it would have been a career mistake to take over without that. I have to respect — he is a legend. For a long time I was wondering: should I change my name on the credits? It was a long conversation with them.
“That’s how we ended up with this idea of having me doing all the levels and having guests for each boss. Also, of having Koshiro’s music starting the game, and then when a car crashes during the first level, BOOM! — this is me.”
When Derivière talks about getting ‘crazy’, he means to follow one’s gut: “Not thinking. I was sort of frozen at some point before I really started [on Streets of Rage 4.] I was like, ‘I don't know what to do.’ And the fans were asking and pushing for Yuzo, and Dotemu had made a video announcing Yuzo was there.
“Yuzo was talking about even he didn’t really know what Streets of Rage music was, and about taking inspiration from club music — and then it clicked. I drew on my huge love of electronic music over the last 25 years. I’ve listened to everything by Aphex Twin. Everything is part of my background, and this is why I think I can merge electronic music with orchestral so easily. So I went through all of these club genres — and I just did it.”
Derivière pays tribute to the mighty Richard David James with the track “Aphex Train”.
Figuring out the substance of the soundtrack album
Black Screen Records put together the double LP for Dying Light 2.
For composers, creating the final track mixes for soundtrack albums is just another stage of the work of video games music (although not all are involved with every part of the process, e.g. sequencing, mastering, etc.) Around the time of the interview, Derivière was still furiously busy working on the game: “It was very difficult for me to find time to make the soundtrack. Also, the music was not [neatly arranged into] cue 1, cue 2, etc. — it was fragments all over the place. It's hours and hours of separate [pieces] of everything because, in the game, everything is separated and you can randomly trigger so many things.
“I'm always happy to build a soundtrack, though. To me, the first vinyl release is the one, the substance. That's the soundtrack. Then it's like, ‘yeah... there’s more material that could be part of the soundtrack.’Everything is there without any [redundant] atmospheric music,
“When I did the first level in Dying Light 2, there is this synth-based atmospheric music called “New Beginnings”. It's not on the vinyl, because I didn't think it was worth it at the time.”
“Later, I was playing the game and thought ‘oh my god, 100% of the people who bought the game will hear this.’ It’s melancholic, and I know people will like this music because it's easy to make music like this. I felt bad putting this onto the vinyl even more because I felt I was cheating — like it's too easy! What I did was put it at the end of the Spotify album as the last cue because I added it at the very last moment, like ‘ah, okay, let's do it.’
“Doing soundtracks for me is interesting because I can sort of create the story arc, but most of the music I don't think people listen to that. I don't think they're interested.
“Dying Light 2 is the longest soundtrack album that I've put out there [1 hour, 28 mins] out of four or five hours of music in the game. It’s difficult because I think a soundtrack album should be consistent on its own outside of the game, but fans were asking ‘where’s this track or that track’ so I started to add some to the album in various places.”
The album’s healthy streaming numbers on Spotify and YouTube alone belie the fact that there are plenty of listeners outside of the game happy to put on what Derivière is putting out. That’s despite, or possibly because the composer has been so consistent in challenging audiences and veering away from what’s “easy.”
“With 11-11 Memories Retold, everything is in the soundtrack. All the themes and the way they evolve — it's a real story. If you listen until the end of the soundtrack, everything makes sense.”
Derivière is classically trained in the “very particular” French school of music. “11-11 Memories Retold was a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something using my very classical French background. I was like ‘OK, let's put everything in there!’ I was very happy with the quality of the recording and the orchestra and everything.
“That’s the incredible thing about video games — can you imagine the same guy doing that as Streets of Rage 4?”
For more information about the how music of Dying Light 2 was constructed, check out this featurette: