A week into Black Desert Online's western launch, more and more players have started talking about its soundtrack. Who is behind the merry tunes we get to enjoy in-game? Can the soundtrack be found anywhere? Will there be an official release for it? Few weeks ago I started doing my own research to these questions which yielded very little in terms of corroborated information. It may be easier to hunt down information regarding Black Desert Online's soundtrack for Korean speaking players; my personal investigation only led me to Daum's official website where they published a handful of "BGM tracks".
Naturally, this was an unacceptable situation which is why MMOGames sent the composing team at Pearl Abyss a request for a written interview. To my great delight our request was granted and within a fortnight, we received the translated reply by Ryu Hee Man, director of the audio team at Pearl Abyss as well as additional information provided by Ji Yun Kim, assistant composer for Black Desert Online. I am therefore very happy to present you with this exclusive Black Desert Online soundtrack interview!
As I knew very little going in, I tried keeping my questions in a general realm to find out as much as possible about the people behind the scenes, the process of composing for Black Desert Online and what we might expect in the future, including that most anticipated soundtrack release. Enjoy!
MMOGames: Please tell us a bit about the team who’s been working on the Black Desert Online soundtrack? Who is the lead composer for the game and for how long have you been working on the soundtrack?
Ryu Hee Man: Hello, my name is Ryu Hee Man, the director of the Audio Team at Pearl Abyss. Since 2012, I’ve been in charge of the composition and direction of the audio, but I had also worked on audio integration and sound design 2 years prior to the development phase. Assistant composer, Ji Yun Kim, had also collaborated on sound design in the beginning of the development phase, but now he is more heavily involved in composition.
When it comes to sound effects, Joong Lim Jo, sound designer, is currently in charge. The nature of his work consists of mixing and mastering samples. The sound designer, Jong Chan Park, also contributes.
Tell us a little about the process of composing for Black Desert Online: were you involved in the different development stages or were you given specific information on how the music should sound like? What were your directions?
Ryu Hee Man: Initially, when I started working on the music, Dai Il Kim, who is the producer and director of Black Desert Online, told me that the music of the game should be a: “Middle Age Noir” type genre. I’ve therefore been trying to produce audio, which mimics a heavy, eerie-like atmosphere when players enter the game.
Korean players appreciate sound emphasis on effective hits. In order to make the sounds seem as real as possible, we have gone through a series of thorough steps to ensure overall, realistic sound quality. As a result, we ended up with a very satisfying, hard-hitting sound. However, this specific sound may be too “exaggerated” for our Western audience. Statistically speaking, I don’t know if these sounds will receive a positive response. Should the NA and EU players feel uncomfortable with this sound, they will be able to choose between “exaggerated” and “non-exaggerated” sound versions, at a later stage.
Some of the environmental audio used was taken from the existing sound archives, but forest sounds and noises were actually recorded in the field. Also, in order to improve the overall surround sound system quality, we have purchased sound effects from Boom Library, which is one of the top class, sound effect companies. We plan to change and update these gradually.
Ryu Hee Man: Nowadays, Western and Japanese markets are currently the biggest for gaming and I personally believe the audio and music should reflect both cultures. The Black Desert Online music is created by Asians, who try to make it adequate for Western culture as well. Although, I am also certain that it conveys different meanings and messages to different users.
Our game music stems from various genres, composing techniques, and timbres. I would say this similar to “Bibimbab” in Korea.
What were your biggest challenges while creating the soundtrack?
Ji Yun Kim: The biggest challenge for me was creating a unique Black Desert Online sound, which differed from most MMORPG audio.
Ryu Hee Man: We didn’t mind reworking the audio from scratch. We tried our very best to create a one-of-a-kind sound for this game.
Some of the tracks that are currently published on the official Black Desert Online webpage are driven by strong percussion and acoustic guitar and flute sounds that add a rather folky flair to the music. Are there any specific outside influences or musical inspirations that went into the soundtrack?
Ryu Hee Man: I tried to not gather inspiration from elsewhere, in order to be as unique as possible. I spent a lot of time researching and learning about modern composition methods. This helped avoid typicality. We have although received some feedback from users, which stated that audio in the Balenos area was sleep-inducing. We strive to produce original audio content, no matter what it induces.
6. Many MMORPGs achieve great quality of sound and music with synthetic orchestras nowadays. Was there any live orchestra involved in producing the music for Black Desert Online or how did you achieve the level of quality?
Ryu Hee Man: I am afraid that there isn’t any orchestrated music for Black Desert. This is because there was a need to leave sufficient room to continue creating and making adjustments to the audio in general. I will definitely record orchestrated music in the future.
What are your personal favorites on the soundtrack and why?
Ryu Hee Man: In Heidel City, within Serendia, when it’s dark outside you get to hear a faint, piano music. I personally improvised this and added it without any editing. If possible, I would like to one day have world renowned jazz pianists to record something for the game.
Ji Yun Kim: There are several introduction compositions such as the village themes. I personally like the music that the clowns play on the streets in Belia.
Many fans of the Black Desert Online soundtrack would be happy to purchase the music for the game. Can we expect an official soundtrack release featuring a complete list of tracks any time soon?
Ryu Hee Man: As I mentioned earlier, I still think that the music is not 100% complete. Our goal is to complete the audio production of the game as soon as possible.
Have you been working on any new tracks specifically for the western release of Black Desert Online in Northern America and Europe? Are there any differences music-wise between the western and eastern releases of the game?
Ryu Hee Man: Currently, our team is working on music for the NA/EU servers.
What are your plans for the future? Is there going to be more music added together with new content releases and possibly expansions?
Ryu Hee Man**:** Of course, as new content for Black Desert Online will be developed and will be updated, more music will be added. The music is created according to each continent of Black Desert Online. Please count on more audio and music related updated coming your way soon.
Wrapping it up
I thank Ryu Hee Man and Ji Yun Kim at Pearl Abyss for generously taking the time answering all our questions in such great detail. I found it fascinating to hear the composers discuss differences between western and eastern tastes in MMO music and I am very interested to see what kind of tracks they will create specifically for their NA/EU audiences in the future! While we did not in fact receive a definite answer on the official soundtrack release, I have my hopes up that Daum will continue to publish tracks on their website until such a time as the composers feel the music for the game is more complete and ready to be released.