When Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was revealed by Eidos-Montreal and Square Enix in June, the trailer made it clear that the development team was forging their own course with story, character design, and gameplay. However, there are some elements of the tone that many fans know and love from Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, including the action, humor and, perhaps more importantly, how licensed music from the past permeates it. ‘experience.
As players make their way through the cosmos, they can expect to hear a fully orchestrated soundtrack. The recording took place at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, England, inspired by scores by John Williams in the Star Wars films. The idea was to create an accompaniment similar to what you would hear in a popcorn-style action / adventure movie.
While every track we heard in our gameplay demo was tailored to the on-screen action, the licensed tracks simultaneously grab attention and complement the action perfectly. Senior Audio Director Steve Szczepkowski was largely responsible for the licensed tracks appearing in the game. Much like Peter Quill (AKA Star-Lord) creates his own mixtapes in the Marvel Universe, Szczepkowski was essentially able to do the same for Marvel’s. Guardians of the Galaxy – with a few caveats.
“Even though it was fun, it was actually quite difficult trying to limit myself to a set number of songs and say to myself, ‘What are the good songs? “He said.” Even then, just because I want the song doesn’t mean the artist will suit for some reason; they might not want to be involved in games or they might not want to license their stuff, so there were a lot of factors in that. ”
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Unlike the MCU movies, where Peter consistently appears on tapes featuring the greatest hits of the 1970s, in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, his musical taste leans more towards the big hits of the ’80s. we were asked by Marvel was to make it a unique standalone experience, ”Szczepkowski said. “What we did right away was, ‘What if Peter grew up in the 80s?’ Here’s a rich decade and a lot more familiar to our audiences than the 70s. It’s a little closer. The licensed music, and whatever you’re going to experience for that in the game is definitely wrapped up in the 80s. ”
The process Szczepkowski used to select the music to appear in the game, which ranges from Iron Maiden to Rick Astley, bounced off the ideas of senior creative director Jean-François Dugas. Dugas leans more towards the heavy metal bands of the 80s, while Szczepkowski was raised with a constant regime of hard rock and new wave. While Szczepkowski acknowledges that he could very easily have put together a playlist of his favorite ’80s rock bands in a matter of minutes, he understands the need for a mass appeal.
“Without giving too much away, I even went after one or two earworms – those songs that when you heard on the radio stuck in your head for three hours afterwards and you found yourself thinking and wanting to hit yourself in the head for some reason. You say to yourself, ‘Why am I singing this song?’ ”
While much of the musical implementation (both licensed and orchestrated) is done organically, Szczepkowski hinted at one scene in particular where they designed the scene around the song’s gain. Szczepkowski worked closely with the team to build properly at that time. so that when the trail begins, it is deserved and not shocking.
In some cases like this, the right licensed song can make or break a scene, and when Szczepkowski knows the song is the right one, he fights for its inclusion. “It’s an instinct,” he says. “I’ll sit down and try 20 different tracks, and all of a sudden one track rings true for me, and no matter what anyone else says, I know from my experience that it’s is the right lead at this point and I’m ready to fall on my sword somehow for it. ”
Szczepkowski has been proactive in implementing licensed tracks, often reaching out to other team members, like Dugas, and suggesting inserting particular licensed tracks into scenes. Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to work remotely, Szczepkowski’s office was next to that of animation director Darryl Purdy. The two were constantly exchanging ideas about which scenes should have licensed tracks, how they implemented them, and which track would work best.
“I can’t talk about it now, but there’s a point in our game where we triggered a licensed track for a while, and for me that’s my favorite part of the game,” Purdy said. “It was the first one we collaborated on and when we got it we were like ‘Oh, yeah, okay. We set the tone for what we want!’
Perhaps the most direct way to use the licensed music is in special reunion sequences during combat encounters. In one case of the gameplay shown during the game’s reveal, Star-Lord initiates a group during an uphill battle, which energizes his fellow Guardians as a popular song rings out during the fight. In the example shown in the revealed gameplay footage, Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” was Star-Lord’s track of choice. As the song that plays during these supercharged fight sequences changes, the concept is the same.
“It’s basically due to the fact that I saw artwork by one of the concept artists who had the Guardians almost like a soccer group in combat,” Szczepkowski said. “I was like ‘Wow, this is really interesting’ and he explained his concept to me. Then I came back and I was like ‘What if one of those things was a power up and if we try. to play licensed music during the fight, but not all the time, obviously, because anything cool you do too much, and it stops being cool really quickly. ”
The team decided that the caucus mechanism would be almost a reward and a kind of celebration for the players. The group concept overlaps with the main combat to create additional special sequences featuring massive hits that inject an extra punch into encounters. Moments like this exemplify exactly the kind of musical DNA that is tied to the founding of Guardians of the Galaxy at this point.
As those who have streamed or posted game playthroughs using licensed music can attest, recognizable tracks not created for the sole purpose of the video game they appear in can be a DMCA strike nightmare. Fortunately, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy includes a streaming mode, which turns off all licensed music and allows streamers to stream and archive their streams worry-free.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy launches for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch (via cloud), and PC on October 26. For more on this upcoming title from Eidos-Montreal and Square Enix, be sure to click the image below to head to our coverage hub!