Original Branching Video Game Score – The Last Of Us
Composition • Recording • Mixing • Mastering • Interactive Structures
For practical application on how this branching score works and how it is constructed in context of the video game, I’ve provided a gameplay link with a detailed analysis of game state and branch changes within the game. More detailed analysis of the score below.
This is a fully branching concept score I did for The Last Of Us. Switching between game states such as “Explore”, “Suspense” and “Combat”. The piece features a more minimalist and organic musical approach.
The world of The Last Of Us is not overly high-tech or digital so I stuck to organic timbres and instrumentation only.
The minimalist approach (Especially for the explore and suspense game states) aims to evoke some tension and suspense in the players gaming experience. In the world of The last of Us the player is never really safe. And the music is meant to support the underlying tone of the cordyceps (zombies) that can jump out at any time.
Because The Last of Us is structured in such a way that game states change pretty slowly and consistently – I’ve made use of the advantages of a branching score where tempo , key and timbres can change to suit the gameplay changes.
For example the more intense the gameplay, the faster the tempo of the music. Also because the last of us is such a long game, it can be difficult to adhere to limitations as well as compose hours and hours of music.
Branching allows the score to be randomized so it never quite sounds the same and the player will have different experiences each time they play the game.
The concept score above provides examples of the different game states by moving from the
Explore state (00:00 – 01:30 – General player exploration music)
Suspense state (1:30 – 02:37 – near enemies but not yet detected, aims to support the tense stealth gameplay)
Combat state (02:37 – 03:37 – Dramatic pulsing music with unsettling textures)
Detailed breakdown of layers:
1 – Explore/Ambient – minimal + calm atmospheric and organic music/textures when no danger is around. I used a lo-fi piano here for the main melodic instrumentation. The melody is quite somber.
2 – Tension/Suspense – Near enemies but not been spotted or heard. Due to this game state being stealthy, I did not want to have too much going on to distract the player from trying to be quiet. So the sounds here are unsettling and suspenseful but not invasive. The tempo increases a bit to hop up the tension.
3 – Combat – Enemies have spotted the player and/or is actively attacking the player. A focus on odd rhythms and low frequency pulsing. Unsettling and urgent music to keep the player tensed up during The Last of Us’s famous intense battle moments. I also increased the tempo again for more urgency and immersion.
Also, see some STINGERS that I’ve composed for this score.
Disclaimer: I do NOT own the original image in the cover art.