Manifold Garden is a first player exploration game with reimagined physics. Nominated for the Digital Category of the Beazley Design Awards in the London Design Museum, Manifold Garden is a Christopher Nolan Inception-esque trip, a game without any spatial limitations. A game designed without any need for any obvious instructions.
Players enter an initial puzzle that requires them to take a leap into the game’s repeating geometries. Over time, it becomes clear that falling off leads you back to where you started. The virtual environment is enhanced by architecture that would be impossible in the physical world, and a painterly palette of purples, blues and white.
Laryssa Okada designed the music for the game with her soundtrack being BAFTA nominated and receiving the G.A.N.G. Breakout Talent award.
Writing the music for Manifold Garden was all about finding the balance between a very cerebral and emotional experience. The goal was to write music that was evocative both emotionally as well as narratively to provide context against what was already visually represented, and I found my solution by predominantly playing with textures of synths (instrumentation) and sound design.
Track 1. Manifold Garden
This was the first track I wrote for the game. I remember we started with this because, as the title track, we wanted to nail the vibe of the game. Based on Will (lead dev) and Martin's (sound designer) feedback from my demos, I knew the kind of sound they were looking for, and took inspiration from Brian Eno, William Basinski, and Pauline Oliveros. You can really hear the horn inspiration from Oliveros - I used that to ground the foundation of the track in combination with recordings of my breathing. This technique was meant to feel calming and meditative as if to determine the player’s heartbeat.
Track 6. House of Leaves
I once saw a very beautiful short animated film, “The House of Small Cubes” (“つみきのいえ”), where the world was flooding, and families had to build floors above their current one in order to stay afloat. I distinctly remember a beautiful time-lapse montage, and the family evolution through the passage of time hugely inspired the music for this level. I wanted it to feel generational.
In the game, each floor in the 'house' will trigger a different layer of music - all of which have different orchestration. I wanted to explore different types of music implementation based on the various level design and puzzles, and playing with architecturally responsive layers seemed like the right way to do just that. When you leave the building, the song reacts to feel more 'open', and as the player reaches the next area, it will then become smaller, and more distant. I encourage players to try playing with this in the level! Everyone will experience the music unique to their personal run through.
Track 12. Mise en Abyme
When studying M.C. Escher, I learned the term mise en abyme - a formal technique of placing a copy of an image within itself, often in a way that suggests an infinitely recurring sequence. Due to that definition, this term felt like the perfect track name for the music in this level in Manifold Garden. I love the architecture in this level and the visual tricks it plays upon the mind. Each room has a different layer of music so you can only hear particular orchestration based on where the player is standing - unless you properly direct the water and solve the puzzle as intended.
Track 25. Raymarching
Raymarching was one of the last tracks I wrote for Manifold Garden. By this point, I felt very free to experiment and go with my intuition - I wrote this track by playing around with some of the weirdest sounds and synths I’d designed throughout development.
This was the culmination of everything the player had experienced and I wanted it to be the strangest, most unfamiliar track in the entirety of the soundtrack. I remember sending it to our slack group before even seeing the visual, and coincidentally, our artist Sam Blye sent the first draft of the cinematic only a few hours later - the two worked perfectly together, and somehow seemed to breathe at the same pace. Much of the sound design and synth elements I created in this track were inspired by the aggressive yet organically alien sounds in the soundtracks of Annihilation and Arrival.