AudioExclusive Interviews

Jeff Broadbent: Championing Epic Game Music

September 29, 2016 — by David Radd

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AudioExclusive Interviews

Jeff Broadbent: Championing Epic Game Music

September 29, 2016 — by David Radd

Jeff Broadbent is a composer who has worked on multiple game soundtracks, including Planetside 2, Monster Hunter Online and the very recent Champions of Anteria. Growing up, he was encouraged to study music by his parents, and loving the music of games like Final Fantasy, Street Fighter II, Myst, and Panzer Dragoon pushed him towards composition in the interactive entertainment sphere.

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“I’ve had a love of music my whole life, starting piano lessons at an early age, soon thereafter learning to play alto saxophone and later studying composition at BYU and UCLA,” Jeff detailed. “I became specifically interested in composing when I was in high school, taking jazz piano and improvisation lessons. The theory of jazz music and creativity of improvising are what really sparked my interest in composing, as improvising and composing are closely related.

“While studying at UCLA I took a video game composing class that cemented my desire to compose for video games. While in university I composed several solo, chamber orchestra and full orchestra pieces as well as some choral pieces. After graduating, I began composing for a variety of video games as well as film, television, and trailers,” he detailed. “Transitioning to video games was not difficult because I’ve always loved game music. Perhaps the biggest challenge was learning to compose for the various interactive layers of video game music, and developing the production skills to make great-sounding mixes.”

Learning the Craft

Jeff learned to play a variety of instruments while young, studied jazz improvisation, musical theory and started doing composing while still a teenager. This was further honed in college and developed later into an appreciation for musical sound design.




“Some of my favorite music to compose is modern, sound-design inspired scores – for example, the score I composed for Ubisoft’s I Am Alive was very textural and sound-design inspired,” Jeff detailed. “I also compose a lot of trailer music which has a very modern sound and has been used in various movie trailers (X-Men, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, The Lazarus Effect as well as video game trailers like Call of Duty: Black Ops III Awakening).”

To anyone looking to be a composer themselves, Jeff suggests studying traditional musical composition, along with modern music technology. While specific college courses on music for film and games are handy, he noted that the fundamentals of music are the most important parts.

To anyone looking to be a composer themselves, Jeff suggests studying traditional musical composition, along with modern music technology.

“Learning to use the technology and gradually building up your own studio equipment/software is very important. As a freelance composer the equipment and skills to produce great sounding music is also essential. Depending on the game there may or may not be a live music budget, so the quality of the samples/software and mixing is critical,” he noted. “Finally, I would suggest learning about running a freelance business. Topics such as marketing, pricing of work and networking are vital. I’ve found this is such an important area that is often not taught enough at universities.”

From TV, Movies and Trailers to Games

While Jeff has primarily been a composer for video games, though he’s done his share of music for TV, movies and promotional materials. He says the difference between composing for linear, non-interactive media and video games is that music for interactive experiences should be adaptive.

“A good example of this is as follows: if the player is in a peaceful area exploring, the music needs to be more ambient, smooth and background-oriented,” Jeff said. “Then if the player encounters an enemy, the music will gradually and seamlessly transition into action-oriented music that supports the combat. This is done through music layers – these music layers will be composed with the same tempo, structure, and similar instruments so that they can smoothly transition between each other. This helps the player be less aware of the music transitions because they happen very smoothly and without drawing attention to themselves.”

Trailer music is unique in that the music needs to make a very immediate and direct impact on the audience in a short amount of time. Trailer music also generally follows the form of ramping-up dramatically towards the end, to give an exciting climax to the trailer.

“In a film and television show, the music is scored directly to the scene. As such, composing for film or television will often involve more dramatic ups and downs in the music to closely match the scene whereas in video games, the composer is usually composing music layers (ambient exploration music, combat music, tension music etc.) that will transition between one another,” he noted, adding, “Trailer music is unique in that the music needs to make a very immediate and direct impact on the audience in a short amount of time. Trailer music also generally follows the form of ramping-up dramatically towards the end, to give an exciting climax to the trailer.”




How Music for Online Titles are Different

Most, though not all, of Jeff’s work has been for online games. He said that the main difference between composing a score for an online multiplayer focused game compared to a single-player game is simply the differences in gameplay.

“One of the online game genres I’ve composed for is MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games,” he detailed. “An example of a MOBA game I scored was Dawngate (EA/Waystone Games). In Dawngate, we composed different music layers that would play depending on if the player was winning, losing, or neutral in the match. There were also a variety of stingers (short music segments) that would play to indicate victory or loss of the match.”

“Another example is the online first-person shooter game PlanetSide 2 (Sony Online/Daybreak). In this game, the player can select to play as three different factions, so for each faction, I composed a different musical score that was unique to that faction,” he continued. “Single-player games generally have more of a story/narrative component to them, and gameplay elements such as cut scenes to further the story as well as boss fights. These are gameplay elements that are not as common in online games.”

Music for Champions

One of Jeff’s most recent projects was Champions of Anteria, which was distinct in that each hero had different instruments assigned to it. This makes the soundtrack somewhat unique (though Jeff did confirm that the way the music layers in Super Mario World when you ride Yoshi did NOT inspire his Champions of Anteria soundtrack).

David Radd

David Radd

David Radd is a staff writer for GameSauce.biz. David loves playing video games about as much as he enjoys writing about them, martial arts and composing his own novels.

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