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Exclusive Interview: Composer Matthew Carl Earl Discusses Honor of Kings Music Score

Exclusive Interview: Matthew Carl Earl Discusses Honor of Kings

TiMi Studio Group’s Honor of Kings has been on the market for almost eight years now, but new character designs, worldview narratives and gameplay optimization keeps sucking players back in, making it the world’s most played mobile MOBA. Another aspect of the new expansions that continues to garner attention is the game’s music. The new HaiYue theme by Hexany Audio composer, Matthew Carl Earl, for example, recently took home the G.A.N.G. Award for Best Main Theme, tying with Bear McCreary’s God of War Ragnarök main theme. Some of Matthew’s other credits include Critical Role, Moonlight Blade and Arena of Valor. We conducted the below Q&A with Matthew and learned about every aspect of the Honor of Kings score.

You have worked on games such as Honor of Kings and Star Trek: Dark Remnant. What initially helps influence the direction you are taking with the character themes?

The biggest influence is really the sound of the game or franchise itself. In the case of Honor of Kings, that would be big bombastic themes with epic orchestra and eastern traditional elements. With that palate as a basis, I factor in all the new art and story that is being developed for the new character, and then come up with ideas for a new tone with some interesting new ‘spices’ giving that character its own flavor of the same brand. The goal is to create something new and exciting for listeners, while still being true to the sonic brand.

There are a lot of already existing Honor of Kings themes. Did you take those into account when creating the HaiYue Theme?

Yes and no… Like I mentioned previously, I did have to make sure HaiYue’s music is appropriate for the Honor of Kings universe. So the games musical history had already decided the majority of my musical palate. However, HaiYue’s character was so unique and her release was for the most important patch of last year, so I also wanted to do something a bit bold and unique for the game and went with something that was more delicate instrumentally, but drastic emotionally.

Are there any sounds in the HaiYue theme that are reoccurring in the rest of the game?

The full orchestra is a big one. You’d be hard pressed to find any music from this game that doesn’t have chugging strings, heroic brass, and fluttering winds. Though, one of the most prominent features in HaiYue’s music was the solo cello. This was a conscious decision not only because of its emotionally tearing capabilities as an instrument, but also because the team at TiMi decided to use the cello to represent the characters from the region of Alsahraa.

Exclusive Interview: Composer Matthew Carl Earl Discusses Honor of Kings Music Score
GANG Awards

There is a behind the scenes video floating around of the orchestra that created the theme. Where was this recorded?

We recorded this at Funk Studios in Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ve recorded there for many years, and have built great relationships with their team and players. They’ve knocked it out of the park for us so many times and the majority of our Honor of Kings work was also recorded there, so it made sense to go back to them. I have to give a shout out to the featured soloists on this music; Aaron Ashton on violin, Nicole Pinnell on cello, and Jeannine Goeckeritz on flute. They all made this music what it is.

You recently took home a G.A.N.G. award for Best Main Theme, tying with Bear McCreary’s God of War Ragnarök. How does this influence your future music for the game?

Yes! That was a huge surprise and a great honor, especially since the God of War: Ragnarök score is truly magnificent. I think winning that award is going to push me to take more chances like I did with HaiYue. I stepped a little outside the bombastic convention and went a little bit more introspective. Additionally, while writing this music, I kinda turned off my brain as far as worrying what the listeners would like. I instead felt like I was just writing this music for myself and what I wanted to hear.

You have said that for HaiYue’s theme you wanted it to be beautiful and paranoid. How do you go about conveying paranoia through music?

Yes, exactly! The phrase I kept thinking about while writing was “‘beautiful anxiety”. I want to explain some nerdy music stuff real quick. There are certain chords in music that are called “extended chords” these are chords that have more than three notes in them such as 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th chords which naturally have a very ‘jazzy’ and beautiful emotion in them. If you then take these chords and flip the octaves of certain notes you will find some notes ‘rub’ against each other creating a lot of tension. You can further increase the tension by removing notes that are consonant in the chord, so you are only left with these beautiful yet tense harmonies that still imply the chord you started with. This was the golden ticket to HaiYue’s sound.

Exclusive Interview: Composer Matthew Carl Earl Discusses Honor of Kings Music Score

Do you think you will be scoring more music for Honor of Kings?

I sure hope so, haha! I’ve personally worked on Honor of Kings for 7 years now, and it’s become one of my all-time favorite franchises to work on. Our studio, Hexany Audio, is actually currently working on a couple yet to be released pieces for the game. So fans will have some new music soon!

In your opinion, what do you think is most important when making an effective game score?

Music, in my opinion, is the emotional guide. It unconsciously tells the listener how they should feel about what is happening on screen and, as a composer, our number one priority is to make sure the feelings are appropriate. Though, there is also a tightrope act we have to walk. We don’t want to stand out too much for fear of distracting the players, yet at the same time, we want the music to be bold and unique and something that the players will remember. If we can nail the emotion along with outstanding musical themes, the players will have such a strong relationship to the story that their experience playing the game will be something they will never forget. If you think back to any of the games you truly loved playing and can feel nostalgia just thinking about. I can promise you that the game had a fantastic score.

Learn more about Hexany Audio here:

Learn more about Matthew Carl Earl here:

Related: Interview: Composer Matthew Carl Earl on Scoring the New Star Trek: Dark Remnant

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I have always enjoyed playing video games and am a programming team lead for a video game company. I co-founded Gaming Cypher because I enjoy the gaming community and would like to provide the best news service around. Feel free to ask me any questions and I will make sure to get back to you quickly.