The music in Black Desert Online was created to fit the dark and somber atmosphere of the game. The music adds a more serious tone to the game, but the some of the colorless music of the soundtrack might have sounded dreary and boring.
Following the audio remaster however, the music in Black Desert Online is now lively, colorful, and dynamic. The ambient sounds make the game’s world feel more real, and the new voice lines of the NPCs make the stories more engaging.
Below is the interview with the staff at the audio department in Pearl Abyss, the ones who developed the new music for the remastered version of the game.
Q. Could you please introduce yourselves to us?
Park: Hello. My name is Jong-chan Park and I work at the Audio Department as a sound designer.
Ryu: My name is Hui-man Ryu and I’m the audio director.
Kim: My name is Ji-yoon Kim and I’m the junior composer.
Q. What was the inspiration behind the audio remaster?
Ryu: It all started when Mr. Kim, the chairman, asked for the orchestra version of the game music. He asked if the orchestration would change the music a lot. Just orchestrating the title music would not change the game at all, so we orchestrated other music as well. That’s when the audio remaster began.
Q. Is there any music or song that you remember the most?
Kim: The Velia music that plays during early game. The music used to be dark and dull. Orchestrating the music made it a lot more colorful and dynamic. But it wasn’t an easy job as the music was not meant for orchestration. I had to go through a lot of trial and error. It took me almost a year to complete the piece. I think it is the music that went through the biggest change.
It was good that the project did not have a deadline. I had enough time to research and experiment, so the music came out great.
Ryu: All of the music that I worked on was memorable because the whole orchestration process was new to me. Also, I had to write two or three new pieces for action and battles.
Q. What is the most significant change or the music that you want the players to hear the most?
Ryu: When you wander around the game world, you will hear music that sounds similar but different. For example, the different rendition of Balenos’ music plays in a farm area or a forest path area. Each region has its own theme, which becomes the base music. Finding the renditions could be like finding easter eggs. But town songs are separate.
Q. You worked with different orchestras like the Philharmonic. What was your favorite song from each orchestra?
Ryu: We recorded the battle music from Balenos to Serendia region in Prague. One of my favorites is Battle of Apocalypse, the music that plays during the world boss or field boss battles. We recorded the music up to Calpheon Overture in Germany and the title song, Balenos Overture, is a great piece so you should check it out. We also recorded some battle music in Calpheon and the tracks up to Kamasylvia Overture. Unfortunately you cannot hear them in the game yet because the audio remaster is only applied up to Calpheon at the moment. When the audio remaster for Mediah gets released you will be able to hear them. All of the orchestras that we worked with were magnificent.
Q. Any inspiration for the rock music?
Ryu: We wanted to try something heavy and tense, like rock music. I’m not used to composing rock music but I wanted to try. Some people were worried that rock music would ruin the distinct atmosphere of the Black Desert Universe, so I had to be extra careful. Rock music will play in Cron Castle and Serendia Castle Ruins. It feels like you are playing games like Dynasty Warriors when you hear the music.
I wouldn’t say there was an inspiration. I studied and experimented a lot to complete the piece, and in my opinion what you need more than inspiration is knowledge and learning. I’d say I started composing the rock music out of a motivation, rather than inspiration.
Q. What is the theme or the overarching atmosphere of the music that plays in each region?
Ryu: For Calpheon, we wanted the atmosphere of a grand city and also something emotional.
Kim: Velia music was for a small town and those who begin their adventure in that town.
Q. In movies or story-based games music is sometimes used as a dramatic device. However, this is not the case for Black Desert Online as it is an online game. Is there anything you did to use music as a device in BDO?
Ryu: Open World games that have great stories also have music that enhances the drama. However, sometimes when you hear the music itself, it isn’t very emotional. But the music doesn’t feel like it’s boring when you hear it while playing the game. This is because the music is not just some background piece.
That’s why we focused on making the music blend in to the game, but at the same time the music itself should be pleasing to hear. The melody should be good but it should not ruin the atmosphere of the game.
Q. If you make a cinematic for Black Desert Online, which music would you like to use in the cinematic?
Ryu: We have a lot of new orchestra music pieces that can be used in different scenes. For example, Battle of Warrior is a song that suits large-scale warfare like siege war. The music would fit any scene that involves an intense battle and grand war. Battle of Domain was meant for Node Wars, and this track would fit smaller battles. Battle of Shadow will be a good song for a chase scene. The music makes boss battles more dynamic and tense. For epic battles and overwhelming power, Battle of Apocalypse would be a great choice. The song was meant for the final boss, and the tension that builds up while facing the strongest enemy.
Q. The ambient sounds in the remastered version are great. Did you actually record the sounds from nature? Also, how did you produce the sounds that don’t exist in the real world, like the skill sounds?
Ryu: Some of them were made with computer programs, but a lot of them were actually recorded from nature. We went to an island, mountains, and a quiet forest path with our recording devices for the ambient noise.
Park: Finding the right spot was the hardest part. The mic captures far-off noise too; like cars passing by, dogs barking, and other unnecessary sounds. We had to move from place to place for the best ambient sound.
Kim: We went to the mountain not very far away from our company a lot.
Ryu: The biggest advantage of an online game is that it can be updated anytime. I want to visit more places for ambient noise, if we get the chance. Maybe we can go to the actual desert someday. [laughs]
Q. Did the boss roar sounds change in the audio remaster? Also, how did you record the boss roar?
Park: The developers specifically asked for the boss roar. The roar would draw attention when world bosses appear and more people would engage in world boss battles. We wanted an intense and powerful sound that would leave a lasting impression on the players.
Ryu: A voice distortion program was used to make the monster sounds. As the sounds don’t exist in the real world, a lot of different devices are used to make the sounds.
Q. NPC lines during cutscenes also changed. How satisfied are you with the new voice lines? Which NPC had the most impressive voice acting?
Park: Jordine’s voice is one of my favorites. We changed the voice actor for Jordine, and the new Jordine voice captures his greed and ambition really well. Jordine is a character with a strong longing for power. His voice should imply that and the new voice actor did a wonderful job in that. The voice acting is very dramatic and definitely will make the story more engaging. And in case you want to see the cut-in scenes again, we are developing a function to play the scenes again.
Ryu: The Goblin NPCs are my favorite. I really like the Korean voice actor for Squidward in Spongebob Squarepants, so I insisted on hiring the same voice actor for the Goblin NPCs.
Kim: Lara’s voice was hard to change because her characteristics are very distinctive. But I’m satisfied with the changed version.
Ryu: It’s not that all of the former voice actors were bad at acting. I think the directing was not right. This time we did not give them any directions so the voicelines came out very natural. For some NPCs we could hire the same voice actors but some of them could not meet the schedule so we had to change the voice actors.
Park: In the original version the NPC voicelines were so dreary and lifeless because we thought the voices should match the gloomy atmosphere of the gameworld. Now the NPCs sound more lively and natural.
Ryu: For example, Alustin’s voice used to be so depressing and sounds like he just lost the meaning of his life. Now it sounds like he got the meaning of his life back.
Q. Anything you would like to say to the players?
Ryu: I think some online game players are different from console game players and think that music is not important in online games. But music can be part of the gameworld. It will make you engage more into the game, so we want you to turn on the music and enjoy the remastered sounds.
Park: There are a lot of things to enjoy in the audio remaster, like the ambient sounds that play when the background music is not playing. Everything works together to create a harmony in the gameworld. Hope you can enjoy them. Thank you!