The Abe’s Oddysee opening scene establishes the tone for the rest of the game. The opening depicts the theme of slaves and slavery; this theme runs through the storyline of Abe’s initial escape, out into the wilderness. The score dramatically follows the tension of the visuals and is complementary to the emotional content.
Approaching Abe’s Oddysee, as it was a game intended for tweens and teens, was a process of finding the appropriate balance. The heavy theme of slavery, and the dark visuals, are contrasted with the cartoonish designs and exaggerated peril. The developers found a balance between dark and light, and that was something that needed to be echoed in the accompanying music.
To achieve this, I aimed for a slightly bass-heavy tone, in order to parallel the darkness of the story and underline the dread. The rolling bass drum was designed to mimic the roll of a drum like you might find on a ship being rowed by slaves, as an acoustic clue to the theme of slavery that permeates Abe’s Oddysee. The slight dissonance of the chords layered in the beginning by the brass instruments (moving up and down by semi-tones and minor thirds) increases the feeling of dread.
However, because the tone couldn’t be too dark, there needed to be some balance. The cartoonish style of the visual graphics, serving to appeal to the young audience and to temper the darkness of the story’s themes and environment, could be easily mimicked subtly in the music.
Synching up some of Abe’s movement to the movement of the music ‘Mickey Moused’ what he was doing. This technique was popular in the thirties and forties (particularly used by Max Steiner), but has been discredited in serious filmmaking recently because of its overuse. It’s seen as ‘cartoony’ – which is perfect for Abe’s Oddysee. Without it, the peril of Abe’s storyline would seem too real, and would affect the game’s rating and its consequent sales (if the rating was increased, the potential audience to sell it to would decrease.)
At the big reveal of the trailer (Abe discovering his race is about to be put on the menu), I used the sound of a gong to punctuate the revelation and signal the start of the chase scene. Whereas it might be out of place in a dark composition, the exaggerated sound is perfect to signify the balance between drama and comedy. The chase scene becomes the rhythmic part of the composition, incorporating movement as the character moves, to increase the tension. The ‘alarm’ sound that I put throughout the chase at the end is a very obvious sound and it’s symbolic; it increases the tension because even a tween and teen audience can recognise the sound of an alarm, and they’ll respond subconsciously to it as they would to any alarm. It also gives the audience a familiar sound to latch onto, which is important when an environment is as steeped in fantasy as Abe’s Oddysee is.
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