Recently I spoke with Composer Tim Wynn about his work on the new game XCOM 2: War of the Chosen as well as his past and future projects.
How did you get into composing and what are some of the past games and projects you have done?
I think I really decided to pursue a music career the year before high school. At first I wanted to try the rock star route but later was drawn to write music for film/tv and games. After high school I went to USC to get my degree in music composition. Upon graduation I immediately started writing music for Roger Corman’s company, Concorde/New Horizons and everything fell into place from there. Game wise, I have done The Punisher, The Simpsons Game, Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3, Warhawk, The Darkness 2, Red Faction Guerilla, XCOM 2 to name a few. Film and TV wise some of my highlights include: Supernatural for 12 seasons, 2 seasons of Disney’s Mech X4, To Save a Life, Descendant, The Starving Games. I also wrote some music for Horrible Bosses 2.
How does scoring a game compare and differ with that of a movie or television show and which do you prefer?
The actual writing of the music is pretty much the same. The main difference writing schedule. The time frame for writing for games is measured in months rather than weeks. Movies can be 6-8 weeks and a TV show around 1-2 weeks. Writing music for games also needs to be multi dimensional. For in game music, the score needs be written with a few different layers that can be stripped away and played in different situations. With film and tv, you just score the scene. I don’t really prefer one over the other honestly. Creatively it’s nice to switch back and forth.
What lead you to composing for video games?
It’s the unholy alliance of two of my favorite things; music and games. In 2004 when I started writing music for games, the publishers were looking to make the games sound like films. The stories were becoming massive and the music was emerging from the 8bit genre. Orchestral music for games was just starting to take hold and become more regular. By 2004 I had done around 10 films and is was just a natural fit.
Where do you find your inspiration when composing?
The first thing that inspires me comes from the visuals/artwork. It’s always exciting seeing the first frame or concept art from the film/game. I start coming up with the concepts and think about what direction the music will take.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced scoring X-Com and what have been your greatest triumphs?
The challenge and triumph is probably one in the same. The biggest challenge for War of the Chosen was developing themes for the new story and characters. You still had the overarching good (XCOM) vs evil (Advent) but then you also have the Chosen (Warlock, Assassin, Hunter) and new factions that needed themes. Some of the themes would play during the in game movies and some during combat. Trying to balance their use and making sure they all mesh together was tricky. The triumph was getting them to work as well as they did!
How many hours of music did you compose for the game and how much made it into the final build?
I wrote a little over an hour for the game. I was able to use everything that I wrote for War of the Chosen. There were a few revisions here and there but I had a very good idea what the game needed from day one.
When scoring the game, how much lead time did you have and were graphics and animation made available early in the process?
For War of the Chosen I had about 4 months to finish everything. The first thing I saw was the concept art and a few rough in game movies. They also sent me over a story outline to see how everything laid out.
How much leeway did you have with the creation of the score or did the games producers give you the framework that you had to work in or was it more of a collaboration?
Firaxis and 2k have been a dream to work with on this project. They have been open and receptive to my ideas. There always is a bit of a collaboration on game scores but thankfully they have never said just make it sound like “X” or “Y”.
What else do you have coming up that the readers can look forward to?
Season 2 of Mech X4 starting in September on the Disney channel and Warhammer 2 is being released at the end of the month. I also have an exciting film project coming up that is a little too early to talk about or jinx it.