Horror games are by far some of the most difficult to score genres, in my opinion. There are so many different emotions to consider it can be hard to sometimes pin down the perfect descriptive word. Not only that, but then you have action, ambient, safe-house, plot-progressing, and thematic music to consider. Then the scenery plays a huge role in how your music should sound. Music from a pipe organ sounds great in a church, but probably not the best fit when wandering around outside.
Sure, all these varied types of music queues all exist in every game, but none of them need to produce the perfect mix of setting-based instrumentation coupled with the insanely specific emotion being portrayed on-screen. This type of game has a very immediate immersion for the gamer as soon as they load their saved game: they’ve already consciously chosen to face fear head on…
That is what makes it so hard to compose for this genre. Sometimes fear is in the forefront and tensions run high and the song has to match. Other times, fear hasn’t been discovered yet or music indicates that something is lurking in the shadows watching you. Every level of the game, the music needs to adapt to the surroundings.
That is what I hoped to accomplish in my attempt to create ambient music to this opening gameplay scene of Resident Evil on Nintendo Gamecube. The scene changes rapidly as doors open and close into different areas of the mansion. Each area deserves its own unique sound, and creating overtures was not the way to go, here.
I chose to create my own unique drone for the two separate scenes. A zombie is waiting in the second room, so a clear jump up from ambient to apparent music was necessary and the immediacy changes with it. Then the player runs out of the room and back into the main hall with the realization that they are alone and there are monsters lurking the corridors. The mood goes back to ambient and the scene closes with the discovery of a gun.
If I were going to take this to the next level and add additional audio, I might add some lightning strike sounds, echoing footsteps, and howling winds along with character voices to finalize this sample, but this sample is about the music not the sound effects!