Michael Bross, a veteran composer in the video game industry, is best known amongst Oddworld fans for being the musical mastermind behind Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath. More recently, he did the soundtrack for New ‘n’ Tasty and was involved at the beginning of Soulstorm‘s development. We want to thank him for taking time out to answer our questions.
Magog on the March: You were the musical mastermind behind Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath, and you also returned to compose the New ‘n’ Tasty soundtrack. Did you contribute to the Oddworld franchise in any other way, such as helping to develop characters, locations, ideas or concepts? I ask because you’ve stated previously that you write short stories.
Michael Bross: I also contributed to sound design along with vocalizations of the some of the characters. The vocalizations really helped shape the characters themselves and who they are, so this was really a fun part of development. We had a lot of laughs.
When recording voices, I sometimes would wrote some of the scripts for the game characters at some of the locations in Stranger’s Wrath, though the design team handled most of that work. Really, most of my contributions are on the music and sound side of those games.
Magog on the March: You have said that Oddworld Inhabitants picked you out of 150 applicants. What were Oddworld Inhabitants looking for in a composer? What made you the right candidate?
Michael Bross: Actually, I was picked out of approximately 500 applicants. They were looking for someone who could conjure the right emotions through the music while also creating something unique. For me, luckily, I had a lot of experience working on games already, so that made it easier for me to hit the ground running there.
Magog on the March: Apparently, you weren’t familiar with the first two Oddworld games during the production of Munch’s Oddysee. What was Lorne Lanning’s expectations for the Munch’s Oddysee soundtrack?
Michael Bross: I did have some familiarity with the earlier games but I didn’t necessarily always follow the musical formula that was chiseled out before. Munch and Stranger, both being in 3D worlds, allowed me to think about how to approach music differently for those games. I did get some inspiration from the earlier soundtracks but Lorne also encouraged me to do something that was my own.
Magog on the March: Were you ever in contact with Ellen Meijers or Josh Gabriel? Did they influence your direction with the Oddworld soundtracks at all?
Michael Bross: I met Josh when I initially interviewed at Oddworld. With Ellen, I did talk to her a few months later but we didn’t have any discussions related to the projects. Josh and I still keep in touch here and there. Really, both Ellen and Josh contributed so much to Oddworld in the early days.
Magog on the March: You have described Lorne Lanning as a “friend” and “brother”. What is it like to work with him?
Michael Bross: He is inspiring to work with, and I have also found he challenges how I think about the work I do. There’s so much I’ve learned from working with him. He can also be tough and demanding, but I am grateful for the time I’ve gotten to work with him.
Magog on the March: What is your favourite game in the Oddworld franchise?
Michael Bross: For me, it would be Stranger’s Wrath. Not sure I can really be objective here, though. In working on the games, I form a different relationship to them as compared to fans of the games.
Magog on the March: Who is your favourite Oddworld character? Why?
Michael Bross: Probably Stranger. I like how he transforms from being a loner to a hero. Also, I really enjoy the Clakkerz. There’s so much humor around them.
Magog on the March: What was your approach to re-creating the soundtrack for the Abe’s Oddysee remake?
Michael Bross: There was a balancing act between respecting the original material while also doing the new. Really, creating the new elements was partially driven by the fact that the original source assets didn’t exist anymore for parts of the game, so instead of trying to re-create, we decided to do something fresh.
Magog on the March: Providing it doesn’t go against your NDA, could you tell us anything about your involvement in the upcoming Soulstorm? How does your work compare to your previous Oddworld compositions?
Michael Bross: I worked on the first phase of the project and created what I hope will be some exciting material for Oddworld’s fans. From that point, though, I left the project to pursue some other endeavors I was interested in.
Magog on the March: What is next for Michael Bross?
Michael Bross: I’m doing a lot of work on VR experiences these days, all revolving around Oculus. Also, I recently produced some work on Tencent’s Honor of Kings, which from what I understand is the biggest game in China with over 200 million players per month. And there is some new work of my own I’ve been in the studio and working on. Not ready to talk about that yet but soon.