Exclusive: Music Director Koozer Zhang Discusses NExT Studios’ New Video Game, Biped

Exclusive: Music Director Koozer Zhang Discusses NExT Studios’ New Video Game, Biped

Earlier this year, gamers received an unexpected surprise when Tencent’s NExT Studios dropped a brand-new gameplay trailer for their latest co-op adventure title, Biped – along with an announcement that the game would be released March 27 on Steam and GOG and later this year on PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

(This article was generously contributed by writer Chris Miller. Thank you!)

Biped is a brain-twisting puzzle platformer designed to bond players in moment-to-moment collaboration. “The theme of Biped is ‘Together’,” said a developer from NExT Studios. “We wish to invite players to rediscover the heartwarming moments of being with friends and family, communicating and sharing an adventure together.” Accompanying those moments is an eclectic original score by composer Thomas Parsich.

To learn more about the overall music of the game, we spoke to Biped’s music director Koozer Zhang. Below, Koozer talks about everything from how he prepared for the game to incorporating jazz and electronic music in the score:

-How would you describe the music of Biped?

I would describe the music as quite special and unique. It’s a mixture of jazz, world music, electronic music and Nintendo style. It’s very challenging to fuse those different musical styles together, especially putting the world music elements together in those fun grooves with other elements.

I really like the music for the game. Thomas did a great job on the score. Experimenting with all the different possibilities and finding the right musical style we were going for was definitely a process. I think Thomas really enjoyed that process though. It was challenging, yet satisfying for him to compose this new style of music.

-As the music director of Biped, what exactly did you do on the game?

My duties as the music director included: making decisions on the musical art direction, creating the right interactive music structure for the game, finding the main music theme, then following the main theme, choosing what musical elements we could add for each level, making all music in game coherent, finding the right pacing for the whole game music rhythm and working closely with the composer to find out the right direction and discuss the music creation for the whole composing process including mixing and mastering.

-What did you do to prepare for your work on Biped?

I first wanted to get a really good understanding of the game. How the player controls the main character in Biped is very different from other games. Obviously, each game has its own gameplay, so I needed to lock down the musical structure I wanted to use for Biped. That influences how the game music will be played, when and where to play it and then what the transitions between different function music will be like.

After that structure is clear, I went through a lot of different music from movies, games and YouTube videos to get inspiration. I needed to figure out the musical art direction first, with the consideration of music genre and the instruments that were going to be involved. Then I figured out what I want from all these references and categorized them by theme and elements according to the game design. I did this so Thomas could easily understand the game logic.

The whole process is not step by step, it’s a mixture. When the game design changes, we have to adjust all this too. That’s a big part of my job.

-What other creatives on the game did you work most closely with?

When working on the main audio direction, I was always in contact with the producer of the game. Keeping him on the same page and letting him know as things are modified. I also worked with the audio team director. He provides advice on audio direction, technical and art direction. I am also in regular contact with the level designers to make sure everything is being played at the right place and moment. Lastly, I am also dealing a lot with the programmers confirming that all the audio functions are behaving and there aren’t any bugs.

Biped showcases 30 exotic stages. Did each of these stages have customized music? If so, do you have a favorite?

Biped has two main categories of games stages. One of them focuses on exploring the world and the other focuses on the hardcore challenges. The world exploring stages have their customized music for each landscape and different type of game challenges. The hardcore challenge maps share the same electronic music theme and have different rhythm music to match the different game play.

It’s very hard to choose a favorite from all the lovely musical babies we have born. Hah. If I must pick one, I think it’s the one that we used in the ice world where there are three big gears spinning in a huge cartoon ice valley. I like the happy feeling exploring the valley while big landscapes are being unveiled. It’s fresh and inspiring. You can feel the fresh breeze and happiness in the valley with the music on.

-Do you work with the game’s sound designer at all? In games like these, there seems to be a lot of overlap between the music and sound design?

I am actually the music director and sound designer at the same time. I like working on both because I can put them together on the same page to think over and arrange them logically.

-In the game’s trailer there looks to be multiple environments, such as the desert and then snowy terrain. Did these environments impact the music at all?

Yes. All of these environments have their tailor-made music to help players really feel the game world. We gave each map a special world musical element. For instance, the forest map has some Indian music elements. The relic map has some Aztec elements. The environment doesn’t have the strong characteristic of these real places, so when we were composing, we had to make a good balance of the world music element, because we didn’t want them to be too realistic.

The Biped score is now digitally available, courtesy of Unisonar!