Composer Inon Zur has worked on some of the most iconic franchises in gaming, including “Dragon Age,” “Prince of Persia” and “Fallout” and has won numerous awards for his work. In two of his most recent games, “Outriders” and “Fallout 76,” Zur has once again showed his versatility.
Zur’s body of work has mixed genres and “Outriders,” an action RPG, required him to mix styles to find the right tone.
“’Outriders’ definitely has a very strong idea, a message and a story,” Zur said. “It’s not just a looter shooter. In many ways, it’s like an action RPG with a very strong narrative. We tried to create with the music, an ambiance that tells you first and foremost that you are not on Earth. You’re on a strange and an alien planet. It’s a very realistic game, but the reality is not the same as here on Earth. How can we portray that?”
Zur needed music that communicated to players that this isn’t the reality they are used to. The process took a month, but he found the key, resulting in a memorable score.
“We put our heads together and we got to this combination of synthetic elements and orchestral elements but we twisted them and affected them in weird ways,” Zur said. “I treated them differently and mixed them in a nontraditional way and eventually it all came together and created the soundscape for the score that ‘Outriders’ stands on.”
While he had to come up with something new for “Outriders,” Zur also has worked on the Fallout series, composing entries since “Fallout 3.”
“It’s a balance between the continuity and the familiarity of the themes of the series and the new material that describes the new story,” Zur said. “You create the balance you think will work the best between materials that you’re taking from previous projects and games and bring them in and give them a whole new treatment.”
Finding that perfect balance will mean gamers who are new to the series and Fallout veterans should feel right at home listening to the music.
“If a player has never played any of the games, they can just land into ‘Fallout 76’ and just play it and the music should still be solid and should be something the gamer will get to know and get hooked on,” Zur said. “The same situation should happen for gamers who played ‘Fallout 3,’ ‘Fallout 4’ and ‘Fallout: New Vegas.’ It’s going to be very different for them because they know the world, but the effect of the music should do the same thing. It should communicate that we know you came from a different home, but we are telling a whole new story, so get ready.
Both games saw critics highlight the music. But, Zur said the key to a great soundtrack isn’t about grabbing attention. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“I think the secret is the music shouldn’t be drawing attention to itself,” Zur said. “In musical terms, it’s when you start to become aware of the music. We want the player to love the music and to appreciate the power behind the music, but we don’t want to take their attention from the game. We want to connect them better in the actual game.”