It’s fun to play games, but it’s also interesting to see how they are made. Outside the Box examines how your  favorite indie games came together by telling the developers side of the story. Today we spotlight game music composer Sam Marshall, the man who wrote much of the music for Entwined.

Entwined hit the Playstation Store to great fanfare — an announcement on the E3 stage that guaranteed instant buzz for a game that was unknown just moments before. The spectacle that heralded its release didn’t quite fit a game built on subtlety and evoking emotion.

If gameplay is the body of Entwined then the task of giving the game a heartbeat fell  to Sam Marshall who composed all of the game music. Marshall graduated from Berklee College of Music before taking an internship with Sony in 2011. He worked on the music for big budget titles like Uncharted 3, Starhawk and Uncharted Golden Abyss before ending up with PixelOpus, the small development team responsible for Entwined. PixelOpus afforded Marshall the type of creative freedom that is difficult to find on AAA titles.

“It was amazing,” Marshall said. “ You need a really big team to make really big games with so much that needs to be done. Working on a small team, you develop more of a relationship with the team.”

The relationship between game composer and developer differs depending on the project. Sometimes music can be a secondary part of the project, but it was front-and-center with Entwined. Without dialogue, the soundtrack did the heavy lifting as far as conveying story.

Marshall joined the team last November and spent the better part of eight months working closely with the developers to craft a score that fit the visuals. Gameplay and music went hand-in-hand, with players maneuvering the souls of two mythical creatures through colored gates in time with music. Marshall said he worked closely with lead sound designer Greg DeBeer to sync up the level sounds with its score.

“They would pass out concept art and I would try and create music that would fit the mood,” Marshall said. “They gave me a lot of freedom and really gave me the power to dictate emotional atmosphere in this game.”

Entwined also presented a lofty challenge for Marshall because the game is intentionally abstract and needed a strong soundtrack to have an impact. The game tells the story of two souls trying to find their way back together with every level representing an aspect of their lives.

“Approaching Entwined, I tried to find sounds that represented the game,” Marshall said. “The task of presenting an emotional love story between two animals through music required a hybrid of organic and electronic sounds. Music from games like Unfinished Swan and Journey proved influential to the game”

In story mode, music had to represent the characters and help advance the narrative. The souls themselves had their own short musical theme represented by a short three-note run and that theme would be interspersed throughout the score for each level. Marshall used a mix of melodic and deep-toned instruments to create the sounds.

Challenge mode in Entwined became more of a playground for Marshall to experiment. Each track doesn’t tell a story as much as it is meant to convey specific themes. What started out as sounding like something out of Tron evolved to become more organic and fit more closely with the main theme.

The E3 moment represented months of hard work for Marshall and PixelOpus. At an event jam packed with big budget titles, Entwined was one the indie games that ended up taking center stage.

“Some of the bigger producers really believed in our game,” Marshall said. “E3 was an event filled with very violent games and Playstation felt like emotionally evocative games like ours were underrepresented.”

Marshall views the game industry from the perspective of one that has worked on music for both AAA and the indie scene. Since many indie games have such small development teams, often programmers are the ones producing music. He saw merits to both and admired the scrappy approach indie developers take and the music they produce.

“Indie games can be a little more experimental because decision making power is in the creator’s hands.”

If you want to know more about Entwined check out our review of the game here or purchase the game music on iTunes here . You can find more music by Sam Marshall at his Soundcloud page here   

About The Author

Editor In Chief

Jose is a straight shooter who always goes the paragon route. He joined the team at Indie Haven to spread the word about indie games all across the galaxy. When not aboard the Normandy, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area playing video games and plotting ways to rid the world of games like Colonial Marines.

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