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'Homefront' to 'God of War': Using Music to Build Suspense

Winifred Phillips  (Composer, Generations Productions LLC)

Date: Thursday, March 18

Time: 3:15 pm - 3:45 pm

Track: Audio

Format: Discussion Session

Vault Recording: TBD

Audience Level: All

This GDC 2017 talk will feature real-time interaction with the speaker through online chat messaging during its scheduled broadcast. This talk presents ideas for creating a high-tension game score. Composer Winifred Phillips will share tips from her many projects. Phillips will discuss tension-enhancing audio techniques from the films of Martin Scorsese and David Lynch. Phillips will also discuss techniques that composers can adopt from the world of sound design, from startling bursts of noise to strategic moments of silence. Dissonances, drones, and unnerving sonic effects all contribute, and each technique will be examined via aural examples from Phillips' projects, including 'Homefront: The Revolution' and the original 'God of War'. The discussion will also include an examination of the uses of suspenseful music in virtual reality, and Phillips will share examples of her music from the recently released 'Dragon Front' VR game. Phillips' talk will offer techniques for composers and audio directors looking to enhance player suspense.


Through examples from several successful game titles, Phillips will provide an analysis of music composition strategies that effectively elevate tension. The talk will include concrete examples and practical advice that audience members can apply to their own games.

Intended Audience

This session will provide composers and audio directors with strategies for designing suspenseful game scores. Includes an overview of the role of music in elevating tension (useful general knowledge for designers). This talk will be approachable for all levels (advanced composers may better appreciate the specific composition techniques discussed).