Home Tech ‘I Was Trying to Create the Sound of a Really Warm Hug’: The Heartwarming Story Behind the Music of Monument Valley 2

‘I Was Trying to Create the Sound of a Really Warm Hug’: The Heartwarming Story Behind the Music of Monument Valley 2

0 comment
'I Was Trying to Create the Sound of a Really Warm Hug': The Heartwarming Story Behind the Music of Monument Valley 2

‘Tapart from where the mother and child are separated on a red mountain, in a fairly early level in the game where you have to go back to the mother and find her… I was completing the sound design and music for that in a hospital, Right next to my mother while she was sleeping, recovering from open heart surgery.”

Todd Baker pauses for a second. Recall the development process of 2017’s Monument Valley 2, a standalone puzzler, the highly anticipated sequel to greatest success stories in the history of mobile games. The second game is more experimental than the first; It has more history, which in turn changed its feel. While the first title is all optical illusions and impossible objects, the sequel moves away from MC Escher-inspired towers and spiers and toward non-Euclidean geometry and brutalism.

In the background are a mother and daughter, silently weaving in and out of each other’s paths, desperately trying to stay together as the world ripples and ripples and does everything it can to separate them. It’s about legacy and female relationships, and for Todd, there was a parallel between fiction and reality. “The fact that this game is about a mother and her son, and towards the end of the year I was making the game, I lost her… it’s very touching.”

‘I wanted to let the music speak and tell the story’…Monument Valley 2. Photography: ustwo

Monument Valley 2’s soundtrack is the kind of music you want to listen to when you’re not playing it; Even divorced from its original game, it’s still so immersive, so rich and textured, that it provides a comforting backdrop to whatever you’re doing. Its warm, organic tones and ambient, welcoming sounds envelop you like a wave. This was always Baker’s intention. Even before the unfortunate combination of fictional and real losses, Monument Valley 2’s soundtrack was designed to be relaxing, accessible, and beautiful.

“Basically, what I was trying to do was create the sound of a really warm hug,” Baker smiles as he explains one of the game’s first moments: when the child first approaches the mother and is caught in her arms in a hug. . “At that moment, the boy comes in and they hug and there are all these bass notes… it’s so hot and he needed to feel fuzzy, like he’s saying this is exactly where I want to be right now.”

This moment in the game is crucial: it is about establishing what is at stake. Yes, the story is abstract and minimal, but there is a lot of power in this moment. Baker – layering three tracks of improvised acoustic guitar melody, playing with an EBow to give that slightly otherworldly sound, and underpinning it all with those intoxicating, supportive bass notes – does as important a job as the images here, all presented in that “Brilliant on white”, compatible with Apple/iOS, to establish everything that is at risk. If you don’t finish the game, you’ll never get to see these two reunite.

That resonated with the audience, Baker says. “What surprises me is that now I get messages from people saying ‘this was the soundtrack of my childhood,’” Baker laughs. “Talking to me like the adults they are now, having played this game when they were 11 or 12, telling me that this is something nostalgic, a safe space for them. “It has touched people’s hearts and now they feel great pangs of nostalgia for it.”

‘It’s touched people’s hearts’… Todd Baker plays music from Monument Valley 2 at London’s V&A. Photography: ustwo

Baker was not only in charge of the music in Monument Valley 2, but also the overall sound design: how certain interactive elements jingle and squeak when you swipe or tap them, how little musical notes sound when you investigate the curious geometric world they’re being absorbed. It was a chance for him to emulate the approach Martin Stig Andersen took with Limbo and Inside, both games that largely inspired Monument Valley 2’s audio, although they couldn’t be more different in tone.

“From the beginning I had the confidence to say I could do this; I was able to do the entire project holistically. There was talk of licensing music for the trailer, or using other artists, but for this one… I had to have it for myself. “I wanted to let the music do the talking and tell the story, and get the rest of the development team really excited about it.”

As Baker says this, he simulates a hug, pulling him around him, recreating the hug he tried to invoke in the players’ minds and ears in that early moment of the game. Ten years after the release of the original game, Apple still promotes Monument Valley and the sequel on the App Store, and the latter has been installed on at least 30 million devices. There is no doubt that millions of people have heard that hug and the echo of Baker’s relationship with her mother. If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing this game with sound on, grab your headphones, head over to the App Store, and give it a try. I promise, it’s worth the effort.

You may also like