Daniel Licht “just nailed it”.
Coinciding with the recent announcement of Dishonored: The Soundtrack Collection – a quintuple-vinyl album comprising music from Dishonored, Dishonored 2, and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, Arkane Studios has offered some insights into how music played a role in setting the tone of the first-person action series and how its development teams decided on what instruments to use in order to achieve that mood and atmosphere.
“During the pre-production of Dishonored, we defined two main guidelines for our music,” said Thomas Mitton, senior sound designer at Arkane Lyon. “We knew we wanted to avoid brass instruments and instead favor stringed instruments – especially the cello and harpsichord – to support the nostalgia of a once-flourishing empire in decline.
“From there we established our second main guideline: our music had to be part of the city of Dunwall,” he said. “We need to make sure it was directly integrated into the game as living material, not as a simple aesthetic dressing. This is hugely important to every project we take on.”
The late Daniel Licht, long-time composer of the Dishonored series as well as a couple of the more recent Silent Hill games, was highly praised by the developers for his ability to envision the type of sound that they were after.
“We were so privileged to work with the late, great Daniel Licht,” said Harvey Smith, studio/creative director at Arkane Austin. “Our initial approach was to ask for period music through industrial instrumentation, and no one could have done it like he did… the alternation of high drama and creaky creepiness, perfect for a stealth game set during a totally corrupt, plague-ridden UK city in the 1800s.”
Licht had a knack for knowing what kind of instrument would provide the desired distinctions between different in-game locales, as demonstrated in a video conference during the making of Dishonored 2.
“There was a moment during the development of Dishonored 2 when we were in a video conference with Daniel, explaining to him how Dishonored 2 would differ from Dishonored 1 in terms of location and characters; the culture of Karnaca versus Dunwall,” Smith explained. “He stood up, walked to the back of his studio and grabbed a bouzouki [a Greek guitar] off the wall and returned to where he’d been sitting. Daniel started to play Dishonored music with this Romani flavor and we all got chills. It was exactly what we were looking for, and he just nailed it.”
Mitton added: “We had the chance to work with Dan again on Dishonored 2 and Death of the Outsider, just before he passed… He will be missed, and I know his work will be remembered. His music is inseparable from the universe we collaborated on for almost seven years, and we will be taking inspiration from his work for years to come.”