Last month the 20th Annual G.A.N.G. Awards nominees were announced with Call of Duty: Vanguard and League of Legends leading the nominations. Another game recognized was Hypergryph’s Arknights for “Best Original Song- Immutable”. One of the creatives involved in bringing that song to life is composer and multi-instrumentalist Robert Wolf. Robert is part of the team at Hexany Audio, a Los Angeles-based audio company specializing in original music and sound for games, VR and interactive media. Some of Robert’s other credits include Call of Duty: Mobile and Honor of Kings. We wanted to pull back the curtain on how a song like Immutable was made, so we spoke to Robert exclusively below.
What did preproduction look like for you on Immutable?
Before I started composing the song, I studied Hypergryph’s design document and talked to our lead composer Matthew Carl Earl about what his thoughts were on the direction of the track. At this stage we already agreed to hire Melissa Kaplan, as the vocalist and lyricist.
How did you decide on the vibe/sound of the song? What sort of direction did Hypergryph give you?
Conceptualizing the music for the character Kal’tsit was an exciting challenge. In their design document, the client was asking for an “ambient, hybrid-electronic” musical style with a mysterious, secretive tone. I was tasked to convey the character’s backstory through the music and lyrics of the song. Kal’tsit is thousands of years old and has lived many different lives; she is calm and rational but also strict and severe, so the song had to combine a sense of scale and wisdom with the intensity of her backstory and her readiness to embark on dangerous missions. From the start, I wanted to use soft ambient synth environments with a lot of reverb and pair these with an interesting but subtle beat.
If you had to describe the track in a few words, what would they be?
In short, ambient vastness and lyrical intimacy.
You have worked on Arknights before. Can you talk about your previous work on the game and how your experience with Immutable was different?
Working on Arknights is always a very fun challenge since you never know what musical style you will be asked to write in. I had written several tracks for Arknights before writing “Immutable.” I learned a lot of valuable techniques from writing “Reconnection,” an ambient synth track that allowed me to explore an interesting mix between acoustic elements and synthesizer soundscapes and improved my workflow with analogue synths. When I wrote the vocal line for “Immutable,” I tried to be flexible and leave room for Melissa to make the song her own, add her own touch to the melody. It was amazing to hear how she interpreted the melody and to see the song slowly develop into its final form throughout this collaboration process. This approach was different to how I normally work, since I normally produce every aspect of a piece myself.
The song is for a character that is a scientist and a healer. How exactly did you give those elements a musical voice?
I used a lot of soft synthesizer tones, giving them a lot of reverb in order to highlight her gentle, caring nature, and I also left some sections pretty open, atmospheric, without vocals, just to establish a mood. I paired that with mechanical sound effects that I worked into the beat, so you can hear small gears and air noises and such, which I thought could represent her focused, professional, and scientific side. I avoided making the song too intense—even the chorus stays soft and ambient overall, and the beat is relatively subdued, which I thought would allow the vocals to shine.
Congrats on your Game Audio Network Guild nomination for the song. Why do you think this song resonated so well with voters?
Thank you so much! Yes, I really enjoyed seeing how well this track was received by the Arknights community and how much it means to many fans. Having it recognized by the Game Audio Network Guild has been just amazing! I hope voters hear how much thought went into the writing and production of this song, but ultimately, I am just happy that this piece of music found an audience that appreciates it and keeps listening.
Melissa Kaplan did the vocals on the track. Why did you pick her for this song?
Melissa is a super talented vocalist who has so much experience working on huge games, like the Assassin’s Creed series and recently Horizon Forbidden West. I knew that she would have the perfect vocal range and style for this track. Apart from being an experienced vocalist, she is also able to write really beautiful lyrics, which made it obvious that she would be the right fit for telling Kal’tisit’s story. I had an amazing time working with Melissa, and I think she gave the track a very unique tone.
What would be your dream video game to make music for?
This is a difficult question. I play a lot of games, and there are many titles that I would love to contribute to. But, I think writing music for a game based one either The Witcher franchise or Star Wars would be an absolute dream.
What are you working on next?
At our studio Hexany Audio, we’re actually working on the music and sound design for a pretty wide variety of games. While I’m focused on music, Kellen Fenton runs our sound team and Richard Ludlow oversees both our music and sound teams. Some of our recent work includes audio for titles like League of Legends from Riot Games, PUBG Mobile from Tencent, New World from Amazon, and Splitgate from 1047 Games. Personally, I’m currently working on another upcoming Arknights track, but also write music for several other titles, some of which are still unreleased. You can also check out our site at https://hexanyaudio.com to keep an eye on all of our latest work.
The annual award show will take place digitally on May 25th via Twitch. You can listen to Immutable here:
You can learn more about Robert Wolf at http://wolf-music.com/