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Interview with Mark Morgan at PC Gamer

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Interview with Mark Morgan at PC Gamer

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 24 January 2014, 23:28:34

Tags: Fallout; Fallout 2; Mark Morgan; Planescape: Torment; STASIS; Torment: Tides of Numenera; Wasteland 2

The folks at PC Gamer have done a small interview with RPG music man Mark Morgan. It's a decent overview of his career, covering his work on the Black Isle RPGs of the 90s, his departure from the gaming industry for most of the 2000s, and his return in 2009.

Mark Morgan may not be as "instantly recognizable" as composers like Jeremy Soule, Jack Wall or Jesper Kyd, to name just a few, but to a certain subset of gamer nerd-dom he's easily the equal of any of them. He has more than a dozen titles to his credit in a career that began in 1995 with Dark Seed II, but there are three in particular--Fallout, Fallout 2 and Planescape: Torment--that established him as one of the most unique and memorable talents in the business.

And yet Morgan's work in videogames represents only a slice of what has been a remarkably varied and successful career in television, film and even as a member of the band Starship. "In the mid-nineties, I was working mainly in television when an agent friend, Bob Rice, heard the score I was doing for a network show called Prey," Morgan recently told me. "He thought that vibe might translate to videogames and introduced me to a few developers. After doing a couple of games, I discovered that the medium offered a great opportunity for me to explore my goal of writing a score that was minimal, immersive and put the player emotionally inside the game."

His soundtracks for Fallout and Planescape are particularly distinctive because the developers specifically wanted to avoid a conventional orchestral score. "Although Planescape: Torment had some orchestral elements, it still came from an ambient place in order to tell the story, whereas Fallout was simply a very dark ambient game," Morgan said. "The developers knew they liked the ambient vibe, so based on some of my prior work they approached me to explore the possibilities for these games. With Planescape: Torment it was a conscious decision to be more thematic but keep it ambient."

Yet after 1999, the year in which his work appeared in both Planescape and Civilization: Call to Power, Morgan effectively fell off the face of the Earth, at least as far as gamers are concerned. He provided some music for the Giants: Citizen Kabuto soundtrack but otherwise appeared to have moved on to other things. It would be ten years before he returned to games with EA's 2009 release Need for Speed: Shift.

"During that decade, I found myself writing music for television again. Then out of the blue, Charles Deenan, who I had worked with at Interplay and was now at Electronic Arts, asked me to contribute some tracks for Need for Speed: Shift. I had always wanted to do that genre of game, so I jumped at his offer. Soon after, I was offered Prey 2, which I co-wrote with a fellow composer, Jason Graves," Morgan said. "The experience rekindled my love of writing for games. And luckily, soon thereafter I got a call from Brian Fargo, for whom I had worked when he was CEO of Interplay. He was now running inXile, and asked if I wanted to work on Wasteland 2, followed by Torment: Tides of Numenera. Since I had worked on what were essentially the prequels to both of those games, I was thrilled to revisit them."

[...] He also allowed that his rather sudden re-entry into the field is driven in part by the emergence of a strengthened indie sector, which has rekindled his interest in gaming. "With the advent of crowd-funding, smaller independent developers can make the style of games that avid gamers want to play. Without the constraints of 'corporate-think,' this freedom translates to the music as well," he said. That gamer sensibility is reflected in his participation in a third game, Stasis, a far more modest Kickstarter project he asked to take part in simply because he thought it looked cool.

"When I first saw the visuals I was hooked. The creators of Stasis, Chris Bischoff and his brother Nic, have such a passion for their game it was infectious," he said. "After seeing their teaser on Kickstarter, I emailed Chris to see if they had a composer. He emailed me back that they didn’t, so I talked him into letting me do it."

[...] As for the future, Morgan said he's never really sure what it holds, but he sounds happy about his recent resurgence in games. "A lot of the music I’m asked to do style-wise is a departure from what I do in TV, so it’s really satisfying from a creative point of view," he said. "I also love the fact that, at least with the games I’m working on at present, I'm asked, 'Can you make it even darker?' That always works for me."
Read the full interview to learn a bit about Mark's influences and about his work on Bethesda's ill-fated we-swear-it's-not-cancelled Prey 2.

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