Bloodhunt features an orchestrated score by the acclaimed Polish-Bulgarian film composer Atanas Valkov.
With this article we would like to take you behind the scenes of its creation, as well as tell Atanas’ personal story about his experience working on his first video game soundtrack.
For the next 7 days we will be posting snippets of our original score on our Twitter account twitter.com/Bloodhunt. Remember to follow us and come back once a day for the next 7 days for a new piece of music!
Hello everyone, my name is Atanas Valkov and I’m the composer of the original score of Bloodhunt.
I’ve been composing for movies and TV shows for a long time, but Bloodhunt is the first video game that I’ve had a chance to compose for.
This project came to me by chance when a director who I had worked with previously here in Poland encouraged me to make a demo for a new Vampire game that was in early production.
After a while, to my surprise and delight, Sharkmob reached out to me, asking if I would be interested in coming on board to score the soundtrack for what would become Bloodhunt.
I was excited to accept this opportunity. This was going to be a completely new experience for me, allowing me to continue to evolve my music, as creating an original score for a game is very different from writing music for a movie or TV show.
Next, I visited Sharkmob in Malmö, Sweden, where I got to meet the team and truly understand what the game was about. I was able to deep dive into the feelings and atmosphere that the game developers wanted to convey through the game.
Finding the Sound of Bloodhunt
It can take a bit of time until all the pieces fit together when it comes to composing music that is based on an interactive experience. For Bloodhunt, I explored several themes before settling on a more classical orchestrated sound with choirs and a layer of dark electronics.
The cool thing about classical orchestration is that it gives music a timeless sound and it is a genre that continues to be enjoyed – regardless of the latest musical trends.
The inspiration for Bloodhunt is the city of Prague itself, which is a spectacular and breathtaking city. It has a very long and rich history with classical music, yet at the same time it has a somewhat romantic tone and a European feel. But with the music, we also wanted to represent the modern side of Prague, and we accomplished this by weaving in darker electronica segments which are layered into the sound. This also represents the darker side of Prague which hints at the Vampires’ presence in the game.
This combination of almost contrasting opposites gives the music a very cinematic and brutal sound. We hope that when the player listens to it, in their mind, they can transport themselves into the fantasy of being a Vampire in a tense Vampire war.
Challenges, Favourites and Main Theme Musings
My main challenge was trying to find the right sound for the project. All the compositions are based upon specific harmonies and moods, but my favourite pieces are those that blend orchestral and choir sounds.
One favourite of mine is the main theme which has all these elements plus a few darker organic electrical tones. It was also the most complicated one to compose as we strived to encompass 3 different themes in one song.
The main theme started with a simple melody that I played on the piano. Once I was happy with it, I started to experiment to see how its harmony progression would fit with other new melodies. I played around with dissonances that resonate nicely between the root harmony keys, which gave harmonic dark tension but still kept the melody simple. We also needed a final coda of the main theme. For that, I came up with the idea of transforming the main theme’s guitar arpeggios and splitting them into string sections with triplet ostinato structures as an accompaniment. This gave a simple uplifting unison punch line melody for choirs and brass sections that are revealed at the end of the track. You can also hear this 3rd part of the main theme in the opening game title theme.
Giving the clans a unique sound
I felt that it was important to give each clan in the game a unique sound and feel, so for the Toreador we went with a bit of a romantic vibe. This was accomplished by adding some soft guitars. At the same time, you can hear the aggressive nature of the Toreador represented by the choirs. For the Nosferatu, I looked at bringing out a much darker sound to represent their hidden nature: a sinister force in the shadows. You will find a lot of irregular rhythmic structures, which fits the nature of the Nosferatu. Lastly, the Brujah has a very energetic and almost hardcore style in the game, so I wanted to capture this vibe by layering in a lot of basic guitar riffs into the music. I think this worked well and I hope that you will be able to hear the distinctive differences of the clans represented with the music.
Recording the music
After writing the cues for the music, we recorded the orchestral parts in Sofia in Bulgaria. We wanted the music to have a large cinematic feel, and for that we felt it was important to record it with real musicians to capture the musical resonance and energy that this brings. Once all these recordings had been done, I continued the work in my studio to add the electronica elements. Sharkmob continuously provided me with game material so that we could best match the tune with the tone emerging from the game.
I use all kinds of software for my compositions and for Bloodhunt, but mainly use Cubase. I really enjoy the creative process of creating my own unique template of sounds that I want to use for a project. I often use both organic recordings and software synths, and then mix it together to create my own sound patches instead of using pre-existing presets. For that same reason, I also enjoy the Fab filter plug-in and Kontakt 6.
Finding Inspiration as a Musician
It can be difficult to always be inspired when working simultaneously on multiple projects with many looming deadlines. For Bloodhunt, I organised my time so that I could solely focus on writing music for the game.
When I need to find inspiration, I like to take a walk with my dogs in the forest. It can be quite stimulating to simply be alone in the woods… Before going into work mode, I often just sit down in front of the piano for an hour or two and play it until the music finds me. When you are constantly connected to technology 24/7, it’s a very liberating feeling to unplug and spend a bit of time with a piano.
When it comes to other artists, I was always fascinated by the music of Jean-Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield and Michael Jackson. This was a bit of a contrast for me studying classical music at a young age. Techno and electronic music, as well as the Japanese anime movies that were rapidly gaining popularity, were also very interesting to me. I admire many classical film composers like Alan Silvestri and John Williams, and modern composers like Max Richter, who was my mentor during the Berlinale Score competition that I won.
When I am busy with various projects, I try to keep my head clear of others’ music, so that I can fully focus on the soundtracks that I am working on, without having other melodies interfere in my creative process.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time of time playing Nintendo 8-bit games. This was my first real love for games as a kid. Of course, I also played games on other platforms like the Commodore 64 and PC, but Nintendo was what I played and enjoyed most. There was just something about the visual quality, gameplay and audio that connected with me. I am now genuinely excited for Bloodhunt and really looking forward to playing it when it comes out.
When it comes to video game soundtracks, I think there’s been a lot of unique and amazing music written to date. It is distinctive in the way that it can be interactive and adaptive, so it’s interesting and challenging for composing in its own unique ways. One of my favourites is The Witcher soundtrack, which was composed by two of my composer buddies. I think they successfully connected the music with the setting of the game, while maintaining some of the Polish music roots.
Do you have a favourite clan in Bloodhunt?
I found each clan very intriguing when I was composing. As this was the first time I was exposed to the Vampire: The Masquerade universe, I had a lot of fun getting into each clan and understanding what drives them. I cannot really choose a specific clan as my favourite because my personality is a mixture of Toreador, Nosferatu and Brujah.
Working with Sharkmob
I had a lot of fun working with Sharkmob. Even though the game is quite a large production, it always felt laid back with a lot of positive energy from the team. When you have a lot of passionate people involved, it can sometimes be difficult to let go of some of your own ideas that you personally really like. But Sharkmob allowed me a lot of freedom. And the fact that we had a lot of fun working together made it a really nice experience to compose what we, as a group, felt what was ultimately the best sound for the game.
Working on Bloodhunt was a great experience and I really hope that you will not only enjoy playing it, but also enjoy the music that was created.
If you’re interested in more music from me, you can check out my social channels:
Thank you for reading and see you at dusk!
Atanas Valkov, Composer of the original score for Bloodhunt interviewed by Jaqub Ajmal – Global Community Manager