The Beauty of the Unhidden Meal

By Paul Drotos

February 15th, 2019

Throughout history, when one thinks of music, there are names timelessly remembered, immortalized in the halls of time we are all blessed and cursed to walk. Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Gwen Stefani, Tchaikovsky… and soon, very soon, SPY2K. This is a story of music, sound, and voice. It is the story of something unhidden, the story of something we all can see in its non-tangible raw form, the story of sound. This is the story of SPY2K’s sound team.

The non-tangible idea of culture screams for interpretation, for meaning, for desire. We play video games to feel, to belong, and to escape, and the experience of a game in this way can not be understated. It is easy to forgive ourselves for seeing things like visual arts or sound in a game to be a separate portion of the experience, yet we know that every part of a game culminates with a game as an essential part, not an add-on. For sound, the goal is to transport a player into the world of SPY2K, to allow a person to escape their own reality and delve into another. If a meal is being served to the ears, it seems only right to prepare a feast instead of a small snack.

My name is Paul Drotos, and I’m the head of the SPY2K team’s sound department. Our team of three, the proverbial maestros of this miniature orchestra, have seen SPY2K evolve rapidly over the last few months. With it, we’ve all had to keep up with such an evolution and in many ways lead it, with our sound design often paving the way for the tone of the game.

The journey of the game began with a much more serious tone. Alas, as the game opened the doors of the labyrinth and explored the levity of the game’s eventual overtones more thoroughly, we’ve had to be conscious of not only how we follow the tone, but how to guide it as well. Our current tone reflects that of a much more fun-loving style whereas the original tone had a very ‘no fooling around’ feel to it. As Thomas Hobbes noted in his famous work Leviathan, it wasn’t the will of divinity that influenced the monarch, the crown jewel of our auditory achievements - it was the will of the people. No doubt a revolutionary thought - the tone of our work has gone from a serious spy thriller to a tongue-in-cheek, and (as the unwashed masses call it) ‘cheesy,’ feeling.

With our music, sound effects, and eventual voicework, we want to allow a player to know exactly which world they will be entering, right from the get-go. A veritable soup of serious spywork mixed with the savory sensation of high-octane laugh-inducing gameplay has been the order of the day as we rush to complete our beta, and the cooks in the kitchen have been preparing some special surprises down the line, including different menu themes, different themes of a victory jingle depending on which player-character wins a game, and other exciting prospects that one will see when they play our game.

Creating music is not easy even as a solo project, and as a team, we need to be very conscious of the direction each person decides to take. If we all lead the boat in different directions, the Captain will never reach the island in time.

Using composer Aidan Crawley’s main menu theme as a base for inspiration, we have so far created an eight-track soundtrack which we hope to tickle the ears. The sound effects have been carefully selected to evoke a frantic feel for the game as well as keep the aforementioned levity intact, and the pièce de résistance, the voicework, will create that final bit of spark that really ties the game together, takes the player by the shoulders, and lets them know that this game is more than a static experience.

Of course, the evolution has never been a static experience either. When Aidan first made a piece to be used as the menu track, it lacked the spy pizzazz it has now. When we began, we took influence primarily from fringe ‘90s genres such as acidhouse. When compared to the gameplay, it just didn’t work to full satisfaction, so we opted to use the clichés of yesteryear in the form of spy music classics (marimbas to set the tone, a jazzy drum base, a deep raw bass, we spared no expense) with the ‘90s influence being the twist, the cherry on top, to try unify game and story, sound and art, ludology and narratology, until it became the cohesive product you will soon know.

It’s alive, it’s a world, and you are our guest. Enjoy your stay at SPY2K, we hope you savor it.