Developer Diaries

Composing the We Were Here Together Theme

Hi everyone!

My name is Leon van der Stel and I’ll be talking today about the creation of the main theme for We Were Here Together.
The first and second We Were Here games share the same main theme. For the third entry in the series, we wanted a new main theme – the classic We Were Here atmosphere in a new jacket. I would like to take you into the story behind the main theme and the choices that were made along the way. At different sections I’ll link to audio clips. These are interim versions and ideas for the main theme that show the development process well.

For the people who want to play the main theme themselves, I made sheet music, which you can find at the end of this dev diary. Finally, I want to thank Jos Platschorre for helping to compose the main theme with his grandiose guitar playing, and Tom Hartman for his support and feedback.

The author, making music.

The process

The most important thing with each piece of music is which feeling it must express. Since We Were Here Together is about two explorers alone in Antarctica, the terms cold, deserted and isolated occurred to me. Although these were good terms, there was still something missing in my opinion. In the story, the other two explorers become hopeful when their emergency signal is fired into the air. Therefore the word hope should also be included in the overall picture.

Now that the atmosphere has been determined, how do you implement this, and with which instruments? This is a question that you can only answer by getting started and carefully directing the result at every step. Having said that, I thought it would be cool to take the first steps with some guitar.

This idea was inspired by the OST of The Last of Us, and it was in line with the direction which the TMG team and I wanted to go. My goal was to raise the standard to produce a greater result and I felt that this could only be achieved by involving other musicians. Fortunately I knew a good guitarist, Jos Platschorre, whose playing style would fit well with what I had in mind. After a phone call he agreed to help me to make something beautiful.

Below are some of the first jams with Jos that had the most impact on the end result:

Jam 1A:
Jam 1B:
Jam 2:

When listening to the above jams, several parts immediately jumped out that fit well with the new main theme vibe. Keeping in mind the cold and isolated atmosphere, the start of jam 2 was very satisfying. This stayed into place since then. After jam 1A was recorded, I had the impression that a strum style could fit in boldly with this (jam 1B). Although the Total Mayhem Games team was delighted with the vibe of these early jams, a simple and recognizable melody was still missing. Based on these jams, I came up with the following melody, to be played on the piano. The chord changes, the guitar style and the melody were the starting point for the next step.

Jam 3 – Piano melody:

The following fragment contains the points above combined with the melody partially incorporated. In the second part I experimented with midi controller pads and vocals.

Jam 4:

At this point it was starting to become more viable and I was pleased with how the melody was incorporated with the guitar scrum. However, it still didn’t jive just yet; it sounded more like a loop. I was fortunate at this point to get some good advice from talented musician Tom Hartman on how it could potentially be turned into a good swinging melody that tells a story. Below is a take that he sent during a meeting. This recording inspired me during the composition of the end result.

Jam 5:

So with this new jam in mind, I went back to the drawing board. The following jam (which is divided into two audio clips) was created by editing the old jams to be closer to the feel of Tom’s recorded take (jam 5). Based on these new ideas, I selected a high pitched piano to incorporate into the theme – this piano with a lot of echo gave a hopeful feeling, which you’ll recall is one of the expressions I added to my list at the beginning.

Jam 6:
Jam 7:

This is NOT what the composition process looked like, for the record.

Fitting the pieces together

As you can see, every decision at each step has had a part in shaping the music into what it is today. Although many ideas were collected, a complete composition was still missing. Even though the individual parts sounded good, the overall composition is what makes or breaks it as a piece of music. From this point on, I didn’t want to create new content anymore, but instead wanted to use what I had.

During this stage, the guitarist and I tried various parts on the spot in different combinations and listened for what felt best. Afterwards the composition was recorded in six takes. The last addition that has been made to the main theme was done by not ending with the tonic. This gives a dissonant / out-of-place feeling that is also in line with some of our aforementioned expressions: cold, deserted and isolated.

And so, the final composition was:

Intro: Beginning of Jam 3
Section A: Main tune (Jam 6 + Jam 7)
Section B: Start Jam 2 with the main guitar style of the main tune
Section C: Section A, but layered with high pitched piano and pads

In summary, it has been a long journey. My secret ingredient is taking little steps, building upon things that feel right along the way, and to simply ask for help when necessary to get to the next stage. This is not just for music! The same strategy could be applied to all things and decisions in life.

If you are interested in playing the theme yourself, don’t forget to check the main theme sheet music below.
If you prefer just listening, you should visit our new Spotify channel! Peace out 😀

Main Theme sheet music links

Interactive online:

Cheers Leon