Jeff Broadbent is a Hollywood Music In Media Award-winning and Global Music Award-winning composer whose passion for music and sound has been heard around the world in numerous video games, television programs, trailers, and films. His newest soundtrack to the game Dawngate is just out and we got the chance to interview him!
First of all, thank you Jeff for doing this interview! Let's fire away shall we!
Did you get to play Dawngate during the time you composed the soundtrack?
Yes, I was able to receive a beta key and create an account to play the game. Because my schedule was tight I wasn’t able to play the game as much as I would have liked to, but I did watch several gameplay videos to get a good feel of the game before I began composing.
Did you get to go see the game in whole together with the music during the composing or did you do all the composition first and then send it to the developer?
I was able to watch some preliminary gameplay videos before composing, but the in-game music testing was done by the developers. Basically I composed one music track at a time and sent it to the developers, who would then test it out by implementing it into the game.
When do you typically get involved in a game? Is there anything to see and work from such as concept art, 3D-modelling etc. when you start composing? Or do you get “compose a great fantasy soundtrack for our new MOBA!” as the guideline?
It really depends on the game – with Dawngate I was brought in fairly early in the development process, but still far enough along that a playable build of the game existed and the creative direction was well-established.
I was able to visit the Electronic Arts Redwood Shores studio where Dawngate was made, see lots of concept art, meet the developers, and watch some gameplay sessions. This was all very helpful to me in understanding the creative vision for Dawngate. In addition, the audio director, Caleb Epps, was very helpful in guiding me as I created the score by providing feedback and direction.
Were you involved in the sound design and effects in Dawngate too?
For Dawngate I composed the music, but did not create any of the sound design and effects.
Where you able to compose whatever you wanted for the soundtrack, or did the studio set a “theme” for you?
I was generally given emotional guidelines – directions for what kinds of motivations each music cue needed to convey. I was also told specifically at what part in the game each music track would play. Caleb Epps and I decided upon the general musical palette/instrumentation to use. Other than these general guidelines I had lots of freedom to compose the music as I best saw fit.
How long typically does it take to compose a score like this?
Currently for Dawngate I’ve composed around forty minutes or so of music, including the various interactive music layers. A comfortable rate of composing for me is around ten minutes a week. However, for Dawngate the schedule was more relaxed, so I had additional time to focus on each music cue and compose at a slower pace.
Do you think MOBA is different to score for rather than any other game genre, and if so how?
Like other action genres the music for a MOBA game needs to be fast-paced and exciting. However, MOBA games often have the unique elements of a wide cast of characters and team-based battle. In the case of Dawngate, the rich cast of characters in the game allowed for a good amount of musical diversity and personality.
Do you think you got something special going for the score in Dawngate compared to the competition in the fantasy MOBA scene?
I do think that the score for Dawngate is a special contribution to the MOBA genre. The music is very eclectic, featuring a blend of orchestra, world music elements, and modern electronics. I wanted the instrumentation of the score to reflect the rich artwork in the game, and to capture the exotic and magical feel of the Dawngate universe.
The melodies and themes in Dawngate have a strong dramatic component. In addition to composing exciting and compelling action music, I like to weave in emotional themes in the music. I find this helps the game player get more engaged, and have a more in-depth experience overall.
Did you use a live orchestra, vocalists or any elements of it in the score?
The budget for Dawngate didn’t allow for a live orchestra, so it was composed using top-quality orchestral samples. There is a bit of live acoustic guitar in the score, but other than this the score is composed entirely using samples and synthesizers.
Do you also play other games, or do you have time at all?
I do play other games! I enjoy video games very much. Some of the titles I’m currently playing are Minecraft and Monster Hunter Tri.
Back in the day of 8-bit computers the soundtracks played a big part of a game. How big a part of a game these days does the soundtrack play?
I think the soundtracks continue to play a major part in the game. The music is the emotional support – it provides the motivation for combat, immersive feeling for exploration, and adventure and magic of the game through themes. I view music as storytelling with sound, and I always endeavor to take the listener on a dramatic journey through composition.
Who would you list as your own source of inspiration in your field? Which composers do you look up to the most, and who influenced you?
I really enjoy the music of Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi. His skill blending the orchestra with exotic instruments, interesting use of harmony (blending western tonality with eastern harmonies, quartal chords, and Debussy-like sonorities) and memorable melodic writing is an inspiration to me.
For Western composers, James Horner and John Williams are inspirations to me. James Horner has a subtlety to his composition that is very powerful and emotional. John Williams has excellent orchestration and is a master of developing motifs and themes.
Do you have any official composer training? Where did you study?
Yes, I studied composition at Brigham Young University (bachelor’s and master’s degrees), and also studied film and video game scoring at UCLA. In addition I had many years of private musical instructions prior to university.
When did you decide you wanted to be a composer full-time?
It was probably when I was around seventeen – I realized that I loved composition and improvisation, and also had a real passion for film and video game music.
Here’s a question for all aspiring composers out there. Do you make enough as a composer or do you have other sources of income too?
I make my living entirely from composing (and on occasion sound design as well).
For how long have you been composing music for games?
I’ve been composing for games for approximately five years.
You compose music for sci-fi, fantasy and other genres. Are the genres any different to compose for, if so how?
Yes, each genre requires a different musical approach. For sci-fi genres (such as the scores I did for PlanetSide 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon), often modern synthesizers and electronic instruments will be blended with the orchestra to give a high-tech feel. In the case of Dawngate, the fantasy and magical nature of the game lent itself to use of orchestra and world music instruments. Another game I scored, Ubisoft’s I Am Alive, was a realistic survival game, and the score was very ambient and desolate to represent the post-apocalyptic world.
You also make music for film and TV and not just games, is it any different to compose a game soundtrack rather than for a film?
In film and television the music is linear, so the composer is scoring directly to the scene and closely following the on-screen drama. In video games looping music tracks are composed, usually with different layers of intensity, that crossfade between one another depending on if the player is in combat, exploring, etc.
Which soundtrack has been the most challenging for you so far? And which one are you most proud of?
The most challenging soundtrack for me is actually one I’m currently working on (undisclosed game for release later this year). It’s the most challenging due to the schedule – a lot of music needs to be composed in a fairly short timeframe. It’s a good learning experience for me in terms of being efficient, organized, and pacing myself.
Is there anything exciting for you on the horizon for us to look out for in the future?
Yes, definitely! I’m composing for a couple of exciting games for release later this year, and in the summer will be starting another game score for an early 2015 release. While these games are currently undisclosed and I can’t talk about them yet, the latest news and updates can be found on my website www.jeffbroadbent.com.
Finally, if you could be a character in any fantasy or science fiction setting, what/who would you be, and why?
Han Solo - he’s an independent, “fire-from-the-hip” kind of guy, has a Wookie for a best friend, never wants to hear the odds, and is an overall spacefaring badass =)
Thanks again for your time Jeff, it's been a pleasure!
Dawngate official website: www.dawngate.com