Far Cry 6 is the most recent game in the prolific Far Cry series. It follows guerrilla Dani, as they seek to liberate their home islands of Yara from the tyrannical rule of Anton Castillo.
As with previous Far Cry games, the sixth instalment takes players on a bombastic adventure across dramatic and sweeping landscapes. However, Ubisoft has included several new components within the game that have allowed Far Cry 6’s Yara to flourish as its own character, offering an extra layer of immersion for players.
Following the launch of Far Cry 6, Screen Rant got the opportunity to chat with the game’s composer, Pedro Bromfman. Pedro is most famous for his work on the Netflix hit Narcos, for which he composed the show’s score for three seasons. Pedro also has an extensive catalogue of work that encapsulates many genres, including National Geographic’s The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman and MGM’s Robocob. Pedro sat down with Screen Rant to discuss the importance of music in games, how a theme can help develop a character, and where he gets his inspiration from.
Congratulations on the launch of Far Cry 6.
Pedro Bromfman: Thank you. Yeah, it’s very exciting.
How does it feel having it out in the world at last?
Pedro Bromfman: It’s very exciting. I was in Toronto last week. So, I finally got to see the team again after I had first been there when we started working in October 2019. I’ve been involved for almost two and a half years now. Two years, four months or so since I got involved for the first time.
Did the 2020 pandemic throw a spanner in the works for you, or were you on board with working remotely?
Pedro Bromfman: To be honest, things for me didn’t change much. I am usually here in my studio by myself working, so it’s the same. But for them, I think they had to rethink things quite a bit. Everyone was sent home. The headquarters in Toronto is for 800 people. And they had, I don’t know, 400 or 500 people working on the game. And, usually, all the designers and all of the developers are in the same building. But then everyone was sent home, so they had to rethink it a little bit. And I think that’s why the game ended up getting delayed a little. But my job basically didn’t change. It was just that we couldn’t get together when we were supposed to. I was going to go to the office a couple more times and be together with them. And it ended up not working out until now for the release. So, it’s exciting to see it out there and to see people respond to it.
It’s quite the finale to finally get to be together to release the game. Like a nice big bow on the package.
Pedro Bromfman: It was, and to see the response of the whole team. I met a lot of the designers – a lot of some people I hadn’t met before such as the narrative director, the main producer behind the game. And just to see them talking about the music, I said, “I almost don’t have to get on a plane to fly back to LA, I can just float there because my ego has been blown to, like gigantic proportions here,” because everyone seems to love the music so much.
It was also the first time I got to play the game. The very first time I was there, they had one mission we had worked on. So, I played a little bit of that mission, but it was so early on in the process that we didn’t have much to do. And then remotely, I just couldn’t play as I didn’t have access to their servers. I couldn’t do it from home, like some of their designers are able to do. So, I would get quick times and I would put music to them. But then I didn’t really know how one cutscene that I would score would flow into the next scene. And what would come after that, you know, I was scoring different parts and I had a picture of the whole story and how everything was, but I didn’t exactly know the order of things. So now it’s just the flow of the game coming together like a big jigsaw finally connecting.
You’ve got a very diverse range of genres that you’ve worked on. You’ve done Narcos, you’ve done Robocop, and then I saw that you have also done some Romcoms.
Pedro Bromfman: Yeah, funnily enough that’s how I started here. When I first moved to LA, first I got a job with another composer doing some additional music for him and then I connected with this company called Ant Farm. They used to do trailers for films, and they thought I was perfect for things like the little Latin flair and the acoustic guitar things. They were like “you’re perfect for romantic comedies” and I was scoring a lot of their romantic comedy trailers and doing library stuff for them to have in the background, so if anything came up, they could just add it to my music. So yeah, they thought I was the romantic comedy guy. After that I did a couple of big romantic comedies in Brazil which ended up being big blockbusters over there, and I’ve worked on a couple of things with my wife who is a director who also is into, not so much romantic comedies, but like indie comedies and interesting quirky films.
You’re quite the talented couple then! That’s amazing.
Pedro Bromfman: I mean, it’s great. She’s the easiest director to work with, because she doesn’t micromanage, she’s like, “Okay, I trust you.” And she lets me do my thing. Every once in a while, it’s like, “Okay, I think this one doesn’t work. Let’s redo.” We’ve done a few things, many shorts and two features together. Now she’s doing a show for Xuxu, the Brazilian pop star. (Xuxu) used to have a show for kids. And she’s also a singer. And she dated Pelé. So, she’s like in the Zeitgeist of Brazilian culture. She’s one of the biggest celebrities in Brazil. I think she’s 65 now or something like that. But she was in the public eye from about 17 until nowadays. And my wife’s doing a biopic about her life which will be eight episodes. We’re working on that next year. So, it’s exciting.
How does working on a video game differ from your work in TV and film? Is there a different process for how you approach things?
Pedro Bromfman: For this one, I mean, I don’t know if it’s the same for every video game – the other ones I’ve been involved with, I wasn’t in this early – but this one I was in so early. I was getting story updates from the narrative team. And then we started developing themes earlier on saying like, “What’s the sound of Yara?” and that was a whole exploration here in the studio. We wanted to root it in Latin American music and Caribbean music, but not have Caribbean music. Within the game, there is other music that plays on the radio, like street musicians. Those bits of music are supposed to sound full-on Caribbean and Latin American. But this score, which is not something that people from Yara are listening to, rather it’s something that’s helping them tell the story, it’s something that only the players are listening to. We wanted the score to be more like the sound of the inside of the characters, and also of the drama that Yara itself is living with, with the whole revolution and the oppression, and oppression of this dictator, Anton Castillo.
We took a while developing that, but because I was brought in so early on, we could really develop these themes and things. This is a similar process as when I get a film, but I usually don’t have as much time because you usually get an edited film. And then you have a much smaller amount of time to create the score, and you don’t really get to just immerse yourself in the whole world and spend so much time thinking about it and talking with all the developers. But, like I said, I came in so early that we had plenty of time to really find the sound, which is the first difference probably. Usually, films and especially TV have a much shorter amount of time that I can spend on them.
I was talking to my friend who does music for TV shows and he said that one of the big differences is that for film music, you’re almost writing from left to right. But for a video game, you’ve got to have it looping, and you’ve got to make it immersive. It’s got to be present without being invasive to the player. How do you how do you find that balance?
Pedro Bromfman: So, in terms of the mechanics, the video game is so vast and so, for a video game like Far Cry at least it’s, I don’t know, over 70 hours of gameplay if you go into every nook and cranny of the game.
A lot more if you’re me!
Pedro Bromfman: Yeah! And so, and you have almost a full feature film inside of the game right with the story. So, I think you have an hour and 40 minutes of cinematics. You basically have a full feature film between all of the missions and the open world. When you’re scoring the cinematics, it’s basically like scoring a movie or a TV show – you get a scene edited that will always play that way. So, there we think what do we want to accomplish with the music? Where does it come in? Where does it crescendo? Where does it leave the scene? And it’s always going to play in the same way, it’s never going to change. It’s exactly like scoring a scene from a film or from a TV show.
But when you’re talking about gameplay and open world, then yeah, then the mechanics are completely different. Because you have to create these loopable two-to-three-minute pieces that can sometimes play for just the two minutes, or they can play for 10 to 15 minutes if the player is just sitting there or sneaking through the mission. And you have to be able to keep each loop interesting. So, there are new elements that keep being released. I mean, the AI in the game is programmed to drop out some elements, which we divide into stems. Some elements get dropped out, and then new elements get introduced, just so every time it loops, it sounds a little different, and it sounds interesting.
And not only that, we have to also vary intensity, especially in missions and fights, gunfights, and combat. If the player is sneaky and just shooting one or two enemy enemies, it has to play at a much lower scale than if you have 30 enemies coming at you and a helicopter and a tank… but it still has to be the same piece of music. So, you start from the biggest possible size for that for that mission. And then you start trimming it down like, okay, what’s the element for the low combat? What’s the element for the little more intense? What’s the full blown? You have about five different stems that get released on top of one another just to create the full intensity, or they just get taken back by the game if the mission goes down a notch.
I find the music within the game quite amazing. Quite often I’ll be playing, and I won’t necessarily realize the music is there until it changes then I’m like, oh my gosh, something’s about to go down! It’s unbelievable, that psychological impact that the music can have, even without you necessarily realizing. And I think that is such an incredible thing to achieve. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that.
Pedro Bromfman: And I think that gamers have spent so many hours just playing the game, and just listening to that music on repeat, you know. They either play the same mission over and over or are enjoying just being immersed in the world in a way that you’re not in a movie. Maybe you watch it twice if you love a movie, and then you go away and maybe 10 years later, you watch it again. But with a game, I really feel the passion and the response from gamers and how much more into this they are. They seem to be into every aspect of whatever gets released. Like we started putting some tracks out there. And then you see Discord, Reddit, and everything, blowing up about every aspect of the game.
Even just listening to the score for Far Cry 6 without the gameplay, there’s a real journey from start to finish. There were times where I was feeling empowered, like with the Libertad theme. But then there were times where I really felt the weight of the oppression.
Pedro Bromfman: That’s what I tried to do with the album. You know, I did over three hours of music for Far Cry 6 and the album is only 45 minutes long so it’s a really condensed version of all of the music that I did. I chose some of the highlights and I tried to create this trip through Yara where you would really feel the sounds of the revolution, as well as the romantic aspect of Yara. The melancholy of this simple island that’s now going through this revolution with guns and things. I really tried to shape the album that way and include the main themes and make it an interesting trip or journey that the listener would go through, even without playing the game.
But, in the game, there is over three hours of music so there’s a lot more, and there will be a few more releases. I know we’re putting out another album soon and then we’re putting out a double vinyl later on. Each one has different music and it’s more so the players can really see what we did. Even though they’re playing the game and listening to the music in the background, like you said, it’s very different just listening to the music by itself. That was the whole idea. We tried to understand who the characters were. A lot of the characters have got their own special themes depicting what they represent and how we wanted to represent them.
And also, there’re different regions for Yara. There’s the eastern region, the central, and western region. Each one got a different treatment musically. Like the western region is more of the traditional acoustic instruments, as it is where the farmers and the old time Yara is, so we stayed more with Cuban sounds and Latin American sounds. The eastern region is the industrial area where the Viviro medicine is produced, and so we used more industrial processing with a lot of the sounds. We used more metallic sounds for the pipes and things like that. Then the central region is where Anton and the military is, but it’s also where Máximas Matanzas, the hip hop band within the game, are. So, we decided to infuse the score with more urban elements and hip-hop elements, while trying to keep the cohesion.
When you listen to the album, it’s going to make sense as one score, it doesn’t sound like three different things. But each area got its own treatment, as we really wanted to differentiate it musically, with a few elements that only belong to certain regions. I think that’s what you see and when you talk about a journey, you really feel that it takes you somewhere. That is me shaping the album specifically for that and giving you all the flavors that I that I created over this two and a half years and three and a half hours of music.
But also, the game is so vast, and it required so many different elements, with some more inspirational music for a character like Clara. There’s a track called Viva Clara, which is probably my favorite to this day. Then of course the Libertad theme, which was the theme for the revolution. It needed to build and grow and start with a simple melody but then swell. And then El Presidente, the theme for Anton, which is played in low cellos, it’s very broody and moody and oppressive. It’s like the inspiration for him and what his regime represents in Yara. It’s been an enormous and a fantastic journey for me.
How do you know when you when you’re done with a piece? When do you think “Yep, that’s that track finished?”
Pedro Bromfman: Well, I guess you abandon it at some point. You could keep tweaking it forever! That’s a good question. I usually have a number of minutes or scenes or missions that I want to do in one day. I mean, we have a whole schedule and a deadline for deliveries. So, it’s not just an open-ended thing where I’m waiting for inspiration. I know, through my craft and my years of experience, that I sit here every day, and I do three minutes of music and sometimes the next day I love it and sometimes the next day I just throw it off and say “no, I need to start again.” But at the end of each day, I need to have a number of minutes of music.
As far as what it is, it’s never just on my own. I’m not doing that music for myself. It’s based on my conversations with the audio director and the narrative director. If it’s a movie, it’s usually the director. If it’s a TV show, it’s usually the showrunner. So, we’re always bouncing ideas as to what we need what do, and what we need the music to do. We think, what should the music in the beginning be? Should the music be instrumentation – orchestra or no orchestra? What are the influences? We know what exactly it is, and then from there it’s a matter of delivering and getting feedback and moving on. The Far Cry 6 team were very good about telling me “Okay, we need to do these missions, we need a stealth cue, we need three different combats of different intensities, and they have to be two minutes each and need to loop.” And then they would send me the quick times and I would deliver and then they’re like “Okay, now the intensity needs to be more punchy, can we add more drums?”
So, it was always a conversation like that, but in general I’ve never been in a job this big that has flowed so smoothly. It was just almost everything I delivered they loved. I think we were just really connected, and it was the right fit. It’s an enormous amount of music, but almost everything I did, even the first mission – they brought me in then right away they a seven minute or 10-minute mission that they needed to me to score and to send it to Paris. We didn’t have time to find the sound, we talked a little bit, but they needed it right away and they’re like “, Don’t worry we may revisit the music later on if it’s not exactly what it ultimately ends up being, but we need these seven minutes for Paris to get approvals and to keep moving on with the game.” So, they knew after that we would have a hiatus and be able to really develop the sound and decide what the music should be.
But in the beginning we had to hit the ground running and almost everything I did from then became a part of the main game. One of the pieces is one of the main menus, and then the other one ended up being a big cinematic. So almost everything from the beginning is in, even before we had had that much time to talk and to experiment, or for me to send different ideas. We got the ball running and almost everything ended up in the game ultimately.
Did you do the trailers as well?
Pedro Bromfman: Most of them, but not the latest ones that are getting released. There’s one with a string quartet and it’s a little more comedic. There is one with Anton talking directly to fans and things like that, and it’s a music that’s very different from what’s in the game. But most of the main trailers [I was involved in], such as the first teaser, and what ended up ended up being the credit sequence with the Libertad. There was a teaser early on also that that I scored. They were telling me how, usually, the marketing guys will cut these teasers and will hire other people while the composer is working on the main game. They won’t hire the same composer to do the trailers. But in this game, they were like, “No, no, we need to have Pedro” as they were connecting so much with the music.
That must be so heartening for you, hearing them say “We need this guy back.” What a testament to your music.
Pedro Bromfman: Yeah, it definitely is. It can be hard in the process because you’re trying to finish missions and accomplish things and then all of a sudden, “Oh, we have this marketing piece. Can you do this?” And sometimes it just takes you out of the flow. But now, looking back, it’s so great that people have been seeing whatever they saw for Far Cry 6 from the very beginning with my music attached to it, you know.
And the same thing with the team. The same way I was getting the very initial storylines and conversations and photos and some quick times with what the game was looking like very early on. I was writing music for Anton and for the revolution and for oppression and sending it to them. And Navid was playing it to all the writers, and then they were playing it to all the designers and that was somehow inspiring them also to keep writing one way or to keep designing. This is the sound of the West. This is the sound of the East. This is the sound of the central region. And the people who were designing this island were listening to that music and have told me how it also inspired them to do their work.
This usually never happens in film or TV. There, I get almost the finished product, and at that point they’ve shot, they’ve cast, they’ve written all of the story. I don’t really get to inspire the other key players in the film because I’m the last one in usually, and then the last one out. But in a game like this, I really got to feed that and each time they would listen to a piece then everyone would write how “This is great. Now we get who Anton is” or “Now we get what Libertad, and the revolution means.” So, it’s an extra layer of immersion.
As someone who works professionally in music, do you find that when you’re playing a video game or watching a film you pick up on the music more and struggle to immerse yourself in the game or film?
Pedro Bromfman: For my projects, it’s hard for me to immerse myself and forget about the music. I’m always listening and if it is something I’ve done a few years ago, I listen to it now and think I would have done that maybe a bit different, or maybe that piece should have been longer, or it shouldn’t have come out here. But it’s very rare that I revisit something that I did, I just like when other people watch it and enjoy it.
But as far as other people’s projects, I feel like if the movie is good or if the TV show is really good, maybe I pay attention to some key scenes, or maybe I’m like “Oh that’s interesting what they chose to do here with the score,” but I feel like I’m able to just get into it and watch it as a regular viewer if that if the show is really good and the acting is good. If it really gets me into it, I am not thinking about the practical aspects of it. However, if it’s something that I don’t like or that I don’t love then yeah, I’m paying attention to every detail and asking “Why did they do that with the music? Why is the scene scored like that?” I can be annoying to watch a movie next to if it’s something that I’m not loving.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Pedro Bromfman: I’ve been using this sentence that, to me, inspiration, it’s perspiration. It’s sitting here, it’s knowing what the job should be. I get the inspiration from the key players, from seeing how passionate Navid Khavari, the narrative director, was about these characters and he would talk to me for two hours about who Anton is and where he came from and where he’s going. And then after that I have to write a piece, so that really pumps you up. Also, seeing the images in pictures – seeing how the design team is designing this beautiful island, that inspires me.
But usually it’s like, once we’ve found the sound, it’s about just sitting down and trusting that I’ll do those two minutes. I’m very practical about it. I think that’s why I ended up in this field. It’s much harder for me if you give me a blank slate and I hear “Oh you can do anything any length – there’s no scene to attack, there is no mood that you have to fill. Just write a piece for orchestra from you.” That may take forever! I don’t even know what I need to create these conceptual ideas and these boundaries for myself to be able to write them. But if you give me five different scenes and say “Oh this is what the music should be… Remember the theme we did for Anton? Maybe we develop and stretch it in this scene,” and then I can give it to you the next day. It’s much easier for me to have a limited canvas and to know the colors I have to paint with. If I know more or less what they’re looking for, then I can crank it out through practice and craft and just experience. It’s much easier for me to do it that way.
So, the day to day is not really glamorous or inspirational when coming up with these things. It’s really a job; I come, I sit in the morning, by the end of the day I have two minutes. I listen to it the next day before I send it out. Then it will be “Yeah, I love it” or “Well I need to tweak this” or “No, it’s not right. Let’s do something else. Try another piece maybe.” And then everything that I don’t use gets saved, because I know down the line some project will come up and I will be like “Oh, that piece that I wrote for that would be perfect here if I just change this” and then everything gets reused at some point.
But my inspiration is the story, the movie, the TV show. If I get a TV show, like when I got Narcos, just reading the scripts. It was so rich, so I was like, “I need to start writing right away about these things for Escobar,” because I just felt inspired, and I felt I could write without even talking to the director. I wrote the first few things and again, they ended up being some of the main themes for Narcos, so I feel like my first instinct is usually the right one. It’s like just stick with it, trust it, and sit down and do it.
And then of course I get inspiration from other types of music and other artists and things like that, but when I’m in the middle of a project and it’s a big project, I’m with music so much and I’m sitting here all day long so when I’m done, I don’t really go and listen to music. I usually listen to audio books in the car or podcasts or things like that. But I don’t [listen to other music], when I’m really in the middle of something and working with music every day. I usually don’t listen to other stuff then because I also don’t want other stuff to filter in.
People always ask me “Oh, you’re doing Far Cry 6, did you listen to the other ones?” No, I never played the other [Far Cry games], and I never listened to the other scores on purpose because I just didn’t want to. Far Cry 6 is something new. They want new themes, new sounds, new ideas.
A lot of times when I’m working on a movie or a TV show, I get the cut and it has temp music in there, as the editor has cut the scenes and used other people’s music in the background, just to keep the pacing. Sometimes it’s hard to watch a movie without any music and it’s hard for an editor to cut a scene without having the music pacing it somehow or giving a tone. That sometimes can be a problem, because I get the movie and then I do something else, something different. I try to come up with my own concept, but everyone is already in love with the temp music that was in the background for that scene. It can be hard sometimes to get over that hurdle.
But in a game like this, when every piece of music that was going into it was already mine and written for it specifically, it’s just so much easier because people get it. And it’s like, all of a sudden, the game or the scene changes, because it has this (hopefully) great music in the background, and it just changes their experience.
You mentioned that you didn’t play any of the previous Far Cry games. When you were approached about this job, were you aware of the Far Cry franchise and did you feel quite a responsibility to be taking on this project?
Pedro Bromfman: I was aware of the name Far Cry. I knew it was a first-person shooter game. I knew that but honestly, I’m not a gamer. I have consoles now because I’ve been working with games and I’m excited to sometimes be able to play the games or to show people the games I’ve worked on. Or if another game from a composer friend comes out, I want to see it and listen to it, but I was not a gamer growing up. I’ve never been. I’ve always been into music and being in the studio and not really playing video games.
So, I hadn’t experienced Far Cry myself, but I knew it was a huge franchise. I was very happy to be called in and to be involved from so early on. And, knowing that they wanted to do something new, I didn’t really feel that that pressure of “well it’s such a big franchise, it’s such a big responsibility.” Luckily, I’m at a point where most of my projects nowadays are, perhaps not as huge a scope as Far Cry, but are going to be out there and publicly seen. So, I feel the same responsibility that I feel every time I start something new, whether it’s an indie film or a big game. I just want to do the best I can for that project.
If you had to summarize the sound of the revolution, or the sound of Yara, in five words, what would you say?
Pedro Bromfman: Ooh, it’s hard. I mean there’s melancholy, you know missing the past. There is oppression. There is hope. There’s beauty because Yara is just so beautiful. And charisma. I think all the characters, whether the bad, the good, and the ugly, they are all very charismatic and very passionate characters. From Clara to Diego. Dani, the player’s character, and Anton. They are all very passionate.
I feel very drawn to Anton even though he is awful. Like you said, he’s very charismatic despite being despicable.
Pedro Bromfman: Yeah, but it’s interesting right, even with Narcos, how drawn were people in the first three seasons or two seasons to Escobar. And he killed thousands of people, he put bombs in Midian and in Cali, he took down a plane just to kill one of the politicians who was trying to vote against him. He has done horrible things, but at the same time he was a father, he was in love with his wife, he loves his kids. So, it’s not black and white. If you hear some of the themes for Escobar, they’re almost romantic. I think that’s something I’m humbly, if I may say, I’m good at. It’s finding the grey areas. Nothing is exclusively dark or exclusively very romantic. My music is always this like hybrid of if you have beauty and you have hope, but at the same time there’s always a darkness brooding. Maybe that’s why they don’t bring me in for romantic comedies anymore…
Is there anything else that you feel you’d like to add to our Far Cry 6 chat before we finish the interview?
Pedro Bromfman: I don’t think so – We covered a lot of ground! Hopefully it made sense with all of my rambling here!
It was perfect. Your rambling was very on point. Thank you so much.
Pedro Bromfman: It’s been my pleasure, thank you.
Far Cry 6 is currently available on the PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia, and Amazon Luna.
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