In Legends of the Round Table, the music is used to tell a story, a medieval story for 2023! Our approach is inspired by the very same one used in these times: we've drawn on historical sources and reinterpreted them to create our own stories and tales! We wanted LotRT to make you feel like you're in a castle, a fine evening, listening to stories by the warm fire.
The narrator's voice guides the player through the game. She narrates the adventures using a mixture of declamation and singing, her voice switching seamlessly from one to the other, just as they did in the Middle Ages. Moreover, each of our adventures is introduced and concluded by a beautiful cinematic accompanied by song and music that tell the story. To make these songs, we've adapted existing melodies from or inspired by repertoires dating from 1000 to 1400!
The manuscripts that recorded the melodies of vernacular songs in the Middle Ages provide only a single line of melody (the main tune without background music or rhythm). Moreover, the parchments were often worn and torn over time. Fortunately however, the gaps caused by that damage allows room for improvisation, which is entirely in the spirit of the time! The selection of tunes was based on the emotion and ambiance that we wanted to convey at the moment the song would be played in the adventure. For instance, a moment of sadness calls for a slower and more plaintive music, while a tournament requires a faster and more epic piece. We then listened to contemporary interpretations by musicians who specialize in replaying these melodies as closely as possible to how they might have sounded.
In some cases, we used music that Anne Azéma, or the Boston Camerata, commissioned for their concerts from composers specializing in Middle Ages music. From there, we repurposed and adapted this material for the game. Among these pieces, for examples, are excerpts from the project created by Anne Azéma to illustrate the medieval poem "Le Tournoi de Chauvency."
Next came the songwriting phase. We replaced the original lyrics to convey the needed information to the player, or created them from scratch when a tune had no words. There's a lot of things to take in consideration when writing the lyrics of our songs, ranging from communicating essential information for players to evoking emotions. All this has to be done while respecting the rules of poetry: the number of syllables per line, the rhymes, the structure of the song divided into stanzas, each of which corresponds to a unit of meaning, and therefore to a single idea. You get the idea! On the purely musical side, accents required that certain syllables be placed on specific notes. Fortunately, we were able to adjust the music (change tempo, rhythm or even simplify the melody) to make it easier to integrate the lyrics. The English translation offered some extra challenges to deal with. Often, in order to retain the rhythm and accents, our translator had to move away from a literal translation and instead rewrite the lyrics entirely while retaining the main ideas and emotions. We also had to keep the rhymes, but often in a different pattern. What's more, English has more consonants than French which presented an additional layer of difficulty. Luckily, our translator found the exercise quite stimulating creatively, albeit a real challenge!
During our tests, we realized that the prelude of the first adventure might have been a bit too long to maintain the player's attention. Fortunately, Anne's interpretive approach, which blends sung and declaimed voices within the same song, effectively energized the overall experience. To achieve this, we had to determine the most suitable vocal range because the sung voice is often higher than the spoken voice, and we wanted the transition between them needed to be as natural as possible.
To synchronize the singing with the visuals, we implemented a system that allowed Anne to sing in front of a screen displaying the game with reference points, similar to how it is done for film scores.
Finally, to create interactive music, we had to break down the game's music into chunks, a common approach in game development, but a novelty for some musicians more accustomed to playing in concerts or classical recordings. Simultaneously, recording isolated musical passages facilitated transitions between different parts of the game's music through integration into the Wwise middleware.
The role of the singing narrator and her colleagues was to connect all these elements and turn them into a new musical narration of LoRT, a new performance. Despite these challenges, we succeeded in blending pre-existing medieval elements with contemporary texts and new musical components, all while preserving the original poetic and musical forms.
All this work leads to a truly beautiful and unique result, of which you can get a glimpse by clicking on the excerpt above. We hope that this brief overview of what fueled our passion shows just how special and unique LotRT is!
Clélia & the Artifice Studio team