In creating a truly immersive horror game experience, music plays a key role. The score to Whispering Willows uses a lot of thematic material based on the characters in the story, with the two main themes assigned to the antagonist and the main character, Elena. Stylistically, the music is very ambient and minimalist, with very few different instrumental timbres and tons of heavily processed sound design elements – reversed guitar into weird delays and reverbs, choir ahhs mangled to sound like voices from beyond the grave, and even some drum sounds time-stretched to oblivion. On top of all these creepy sounds swirling all over the place, the main character themes are heard on piano.
Listen to Elena’s Theme here:
Elena’s theme has two distinct parts, both of which are used in different places throughout several cues: a vocal melody, and a piano countermelody responding to it. The vocal melody is sung by Casey Williams, who sings on the music for Red Vs. Blue and other Rooster Teeth productions. I am very excited to be working with her on this project.
The theme for the antagonist is also divided in two parts which are used in various ways. There is a constant rhythmic pulse between two notes in the background, signifying the antagonist’s presence everywhere in the mansion, and an eerie melody that longs for resolution.
The tricky part is finding the right degree of scariness. With a puzzle game, it is not necessarily appropriate to use loud, fast-paced music to get the player’s adrenaline pumping, which is why I opted for a more ambient and minimalist approach, to give a sense of constant unease. You are never safe, but you’re not in immediate danger either…you are scared, but you don’t know why….and that’s even scarier….