Robin Finck's slow entry into the video game industry began, as he puts it, "a hundred years ago." Around that time, Finck -- best known as the guitarist for Nine Inch Nails -- ran into Devolver Digital co-founder Mike Wilson in a fairly unconventional place.
"Mike Wilson and I camped adjacent one another at Burning Man," Finck explains. "I think he was dressed in shades and a flag and not much more, save the dust."
The two kept in touch over the years, Finck touring and meeting up with Wilson whenever they were in the same city. Recently, their conversations turned to video game soundtracks. This was Wilson's wheelhouse -- Finck had never done music for a game and his personal connection to the industry ended with Atari's 1980 arcade game Missile Command.
"I told him I was up for the challenge," Finck says. "He came back to me the next day with a list of Skype meetings with different developers. Chris was one of them."
Chris Eskins is the co-developer of Noct, a tense, monochromatic, top-down horror game that feels like a mix of Hotline Miami and XCOM filmed in Outlast's night-vision mode. It launches on Steam on October 22nd, and it features massive monsters and multiplayer elements. Players can communicate with strangers and friends alike in a simplistic chat system that populates directly within the game's landscape, risking attack and permadeath with every keystroke.
"I think atmosphere is one of the key critical ingredients in any horror media," Eskins says. "You want players to feel uneasy while exploring the world you've created. We build this tension by constantly reminding the player that even though you are in control (which may not be for very long, by the way), you can't help but notice the lingering helplessness of having a suspended view of events from high above."
A soundtrack heavily influences atmosphere as well. Aural terror takes many forms, from the creeping, bass-driven ba-dum of Jaws or the shrieking knife blows of Psycho. For Noct, Finck and fellow musician Wordclock (Pedro Pimentel) aimed for melodic unease.
"The soundtrack is decidedly an emersion of drones and ambience to complement the game states," Finck says. "A real lights-out-lost-in-the-headphones sorta thing. My task was to bring a melodic quality of hope to the doomy beds, and in so doing, we created a bunch of new material as well. ... It all really culminates in a greater WTF when you get clamped upon. It is an infectious and thrilling haunt."
To Finck, Noct is the perfect introduction to the video game soundtrack world.
"I love the the monochrome aesthetic and the overall feel of the terrain," he says. "Chris is really talented and passionate about the game, clearly, and Pedro's original tracks made an alluring bed for me to lie in. They have been fabulous to work with. Together, we've retooled some of the original tracks, and created a batch of new music for the thing. It is a terrific outlet for me at this time."
Finck's experience with Noct has been so satisfying that he's diving into the gaming world full-force. He has more soundtracks planned, in "a variety of themes and styles."
Eskins, for his part, is happy to share something weird and unpredictable with new players and longtime gaming fans alike. "If our twisted little experimental game manages to creep players out, thank you for letting us mess with you," he says.