We Talk FORZA Motorsport 6 With Composers Kaveh Cohen And Michael Nielsen

Recently we spoke with composers Kaveh Cohen and Michael Nielsen about their work on FORZA Motorsport 6 as well as their career and future projects.

How does scoring a game compare and differ with that of a movie or television show and which do you prefer?

The actual process of scoring is very similar, although video game scoring seldom takes the linear approach you might take when scoring a film. A video game can be an entirely different experience for a player every time they sit down to play and the score will therefore function differently each time. When we were scoring Forza for example, we weren’t scoring specific scenes as you would in a film. Instead, we were scoring various areas of the game – menus, races etc. Like a film, we were able to introduce a thematic approach that we could reprise throughout the score. We’re fortunate to be able to switch gears from games to tv or movie advertising which keeps things interesting!

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced scoring FORZA
MOTORSPORT 6 and what have been your greatest triumphs?

Forza was a daunting score to produce overall as it required a breadth of styles, approaches and instrumentation. The greatest challenge throughout was maintaining a strong sense of cohesion while writing in different styles. None of the other game scores we’ve written have been this involved.

How many hours of music did you compose for the game and how much made it into the final build?

We wrote approximately 2 hours of music and we’re very happy all of it was used in the game!

When scoring the game, how much lead time did you have and were graphics and animation made available early in the process?

We spent about a month in a discovery period, working with our team at Turn 10 Studios to find the musical aesthetic and language of the score. Once we started the actual scoring process, which lasted about 10 months, animations and graphical references weren’t available as the game was still being built. Although Forza 6 is graphically superior to Forza 5, we did reference Forza 5 just to have a guide while we were writing.

As a follow up, how much did the score change if any as I am guessing the look and feel of the game continued to change and evolve during production.

We would receive notes on each cue that was delivered to Turn 10. Once a cue went through it’s revisions and was approved, it was used as is in the score. A large portion of the score was recorded with a live orchestra so it was important to have the music approved before the recordings took place.

What can you tell us about the game and where you drew your inspirations
when scoring the game?

Forza 6 is an absolutely beautiful and sophisticated racing game. Hundreds of gorgeously rendered cars and tracks from all around the world. You can collect and customize cars and compete in 24 player races. It’s a lot of fun!

As car lovers, we found a lot of inspiration in the cars themselves. We wanted the score to feel modern and cutting edge, much like the cars you see in the game. There’s also a very modern, “engineered” feel to motorsport so we were inspired by the culture of motorsport.

How much leeway did you have with the creation of the score or did the game producers give you the framework that you had to work in or was it more of a collaboration?

Once we had established a musical language for the score, we had quite a lot of creative freedom. There were some definite parameters we were working within, especially given the technical requirements that each area of the game had, however we had a lot musical leeway. It was definitely a collaboration between us and Turn 10.

How does scoring a racing game compare/contrast with an more action oriented title like a FPS?

There are a lot of similarities. They both provide opportunities to bring drama and intensity to the score. They both can involve different styles and instrumentation and both can be thematic. Technically, the scoring process is also similar. Where they contrast is how the music is used in game. In an FPS, you will always hear the same music in the same areas of the game. This is not true with Forza. A player can hear a different piece of music in every area of the game every time they play. Also, there are usually cinematic cut scenes in an FPS that would allow you to take a more traditional scoring to picture approach.

What do you have coming up that the readers can look forward to?

We’re currently hard at work on new projects for Microsoft, although we can’t talk about it! We’re also working on a new album of live music for our motion picture advertising clients.