Mass Effect 2's composers deserved a higher billing

Posted by GrantHeaslip (1651 posts) -

I recently finished Mass Effect 2, and was blown away by something as I watched the end credits. Top billing is given to the Project Director, Lead Designer, Lead Writers, Art Director, Lead Programmer, and Senior Project Manager. The main credit roll lists the entirety of over a dozen departments (including, with all due respect, QA testers, the IT department and EA corporate leadership) then finally, in the middle of a long “External Partners” list, Lead Composer Jack Wall and Composers Jimmy Hinson, Sam Hulick, and David Kates.

I may just not understand the politics of publisher and studio credits — maybe it’s standard practice at EA to not give prominent billing to independent composers — but listing those responsible for Mass Effect’s iconic and fantastic music at the end of the credits, in the same list as your recording and mocap studios, seems ridiculously disproportionate.

I checked the credits of Xenoblade Chronicles, another game with amazing music I finished recently, and its composers appear no less than 22 seconds into the credits role, being upstaged only by the cast, lead writers, and lead artist. To be fair, this could just have been an exception or difference in Japanese game production culture, so I checked the credits for Beyond Good & Evil, and sure enough, the composer is given top billing early in the credits.

So what’s going on with Mass Effect 2? Imagine the Normandy unveiling without the amazing music punctuating it; playing through Overlord without the great combat theme; the effectiveness the Mass Effect 1 main theme during this conversation with Liara; and how foreboding, creepy, and cohesive the Collector musical themes are. Music is too important of a part of the Mass Effect series for the composers to be left at the end of the credits — you’d think the ripped the soundtrack from a royalty-free music collection the way they credit Wall and his colleagues.

Am I overreacting? Probably, but I think this is a symptom of how immature the games industry still is. Do you think John Williams or (on a more related note) Vangelis would expect in a million years to be billed after production assistants, studio IT staff, and the HR department of the studio’s parent company? Do you think those who care a lot about movies would stand for it? As a fan of the Mass Effect soundtracks — and video game music in general — this struck me as insulting to these talented artists who have played such an important role in the series.

#1 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1651 posts) -

I recently finished Mass Effect 2, and was blown away by something as I watched the end credits. Top billing is given to the Project Director, Lead Designer, Lead Writers, Art Director, Lead Programmer, and Senior Project Manager. The main credit roll lists the entirety of over a dozen departments (including, with all due respect, QA testers, the IT department and EA corporate leadership) then finally, in the middle of a long “External Partners” list, Lead Composer Jack Wall and Composers Jimmy Hinson, Sam Hulick, and David Kates.

I may just not understand the politics of publisher and studio credits — maybe it’s standard practice at EA to not give prominent billing to independent composers — but listing those responsible for Mass Effect’s iconic and fantastic music at the end of the credits, in the same list as your recording and mocap studios, seems ridiculously disproportionate.

I checked the credits of Xenoblade Chronicles, another game with amazing music I finished recently, and its composers appear no less than 22 seconds into the credits role, being upstaged only by the cast, lead writers, and lead artist. To be fair, this could just have been an exception or difference in Japanese game production culture, so I checked the credits for Beyond Good & Evil, and sure enough, the composer is given top billing early in the credits.

So what’s going on with Mass Effect 2? Imagine the Normandy unveiling without the amazing music punctuating it; playing through Overlord without the great combat theme; the effectiveness the Mass Effect 1 main theme during this conversation with Liara; and how foreboding, creepy, and cohesive the Collector musical themes are. Music is too important of a part of the Mass Effect series for the composers to be left at the end of the credits — you’d think the ripped the soundtrack from a royalty-free music collection the way they credit Wall and his colleagues.

Am I overreacting? Probably, but I think this is a symptom of how immature the games industry still is. Do you think John Williams or (on a more related note) Vangelis would expect in a million years to be billed after production assistants, studio IT staff, and the HR department of the studio’s parent company? Do you think those who care a lot about movies would stand for it? As a fan of the Mass Effect soundtracks — and video game music in general — this struck me as insulting to these talented artists who have played such an important role in the series.

#2 Posted by granderojo (1792 posts) -

Even in movies composers don't get high billing...

#3 Posted by Animasta (14712 posts) -

Beyond good and evil is also french so...

and does it really matter? I don't think the composers really care where they are in the credits.

#4 Posted by mpgeist (638 posts) -

Met Jack Wall at video game concert and I got him to sign my Mass Effect shirt. He is a really nice guy.

#5 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1651 posts) -

@thabigred said:

Even in movies composers don't get high billing...

Maybe, but I'm pretty sure they're listed before the PAs.

@Animasta said:

Beyond good and evil is also french so...

and does it really matter? I don't think the composers really care where they are in the credits.

I think it matters, and I think not giving composers proper credit cheapens the huge importance of music in games. I'm sure the composers aren't losing sleep over this, but I suspect they're aware.

@mpgeist said:

Met Jack Wall at video game concert and I got him to sign my Mass Effect shirt. He is a really nice guy.

Video Games Live?

#6 Posted by laserbolts (5331 posts) -

To be honest I didn't find the music in Mass Effect 2 anything special or memorable. Even if it was who cares where they land in the credits? Seems like you're taking issue with something just for the sake of it.

#7 Posted by mpgeist (638 posts) -

@GrantHeaslip: I believe so, it's been a few years but that sounds right.

#8 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1651 posts) -

@laserbolts said:

To be honest I didn't find the music in Mass Effect 2 anything special or memorable. Even if it was who cares where they land in the credits? Seems like you're taking issue with something just for the sake of it.

Even if it weren't particularly noteworthy, it doesn't justify sticking the lead composer at the end of the credits. Plenty of games have bland graphics, but I doubt many put their lead artists at the end.

#9 Posted by Nottle (1917 posts) -

@laserbolts said:

To be honest I didn't find the music in Mass Effect 2 anything special or memorable. Even if it was who cares where they land in the credits? Seems like you're taking issue with something just for the sake of it.

I kind of agree with you. The only music i really remember is the map screen and that was in the first game. Didn't ME2 also have less synth than the first game?

#10 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1651 posts) -

@Nottle said:

@laserbolts said:

To be honest I didn't find the music in Mass Effect 2 anything special or memorable. Even if it was who cares where they land in the credits? Seems like you're taking issue with something just for the sake of it.

I kind of agree with you. The only music i really remember is the map screen and that was in the first game. Didn't ME2 also have less synth than the first game?

I liked the ME1 music more as well -- I thought it had a more distinctive sound -- but I still thought ME2's score was pretty good.

#11 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4690 posts) -

I'm backwards. I think the ME2 soundtrack is great and do not care for the ME1 soundtrack. ME3 is not bad either.

#12 Posted by HistoryInRust (6338 posts) -

The score when you see the rebuilt Normandy for the first time. Holy moley, I still get chills.

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