The first thing players will likely notice about the acclaimed video game Lies of P is its difficulty. The second thing, however, is the game’s mesmerizing score, courtesy of Yeakun Yoo, one of the most exciting young composers working today.

Yoo’s incredible compositions inject this gothic take on the Pinnochio fairytale with a unique dose of humanity, a successful extension of Yoo’s own ambitions in crafting music for the game.

“Thinking from Pinocchio’s perspective, I sensed an intense and poignant desire for becoming human,” says Yoo. “Therefore, I endeavored to express his emotions through heartfelt melodies. I diversified several thematic melodies to depict the range of emotions Pinocchio might have experienced.”

Yoo was drawn to Lies of P since first playing the game during G-Star 2022. He connected with developers Neowiz Games at the Korean gaming expo, and received an email a few weeks later with a test: create the menu music for Lies of P. Yoo’s initial submission went on to become the official menu theme for Lies of P.

In fact, every piece of music Yoo submitted to the Neowiz team was implemented into the game without alteration. Yoo and the Neowiz team were entirely aligned in their vision for the musical ambiance of the game. Grateful for the collaboration and camaraderie that emerged from his work on Lies of P, Yoo even decided to start his own production company, YK Music Productions.

The Korea-born composer spoke with Awards Focus about his work on Lies of P, as well as his insights on how scoring for video games differs from scoring for film and TV.

Awards Focus: You worked on Lies of P which recently earned several awards at the Korean Game Awards – congrats! How did it feel to receive this recognition?

Yeakun Yoo: Thank you so much! I consider myself incredibly lucky, but I also believe that much of my success is due to the advice and help I’ve received from many people. As a game music composer, I want to express my deepest gratitude to my mentor, Garry Schyman, for guiding me towards success. Garry has at times been a friend, a father, and a teacher to me. I don’t think I could have grown to this point without him. I still feel that I have a lot to learn as a game music composer compared to Garry, but I believe that with hard work, I might become a successful game music composer like him someday.

One of the things I’m thinking about a lot lately is that to become a successful composer, I can’t do it alone. Being a game and film music composer isn’t just about making music; it’s about communicating and collaborating with clients. I believe I need people around me to assist because I can’t handle all these aspects alone. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with many wonderful people around me, and I think that’s why I’ve had a good journey so far. I’m excited about the journey ahead in my future.

AF: Can you tell us more about how you got involved initially with this project?

Yoo: I experienced the game Lies of P for the first time during G-star 2022, the premier Game Expo event in Korea. While marveling at the game’s exceptional artistic quality and wishing to collaborate with the Lies of P team, an unexpected email arrived from Neowiz. The audio director expressed the necessity for external composers despite having an in-house team, citing the substantial musical needs of Lies of P. Impressed by my portfolio, they proposed collaboration, starting with a test task: creating Menu Music for Lies of P. They provided detailed descriptions, along with Menu Screen images showcasing a ticking clock against a tranquil rainy night backdrop. To capture this ambiance, I crafted a composition using delicate piano and violin solos. Astonishingly, my initial submission was embraced without alterations and remains the Menu Music for Lies of P. It’s truly gratifying to know that the Menu Music continues to resonate with gamers, and I’m immensely thankful for their appreciation.

AF: Lies of P is an alternative take on the Pinocchio fairytale. How did this original fairytale inspire your composing approach?

Yoo: I always try to immerse myself as the protagonist of any project when creating music. When composing for Lies of P, I constantly thought, ‘What emotions would I feel if I were Pinocchio?’ Thinking from Pinocchio’s perspective, I sensed an intense and poignant desire for becoming human. Therefore, I endeavored to express his emotions through heartfelt melodies. I diversified several thematic melodies to depict the range of emotions Pinocchio might have experienced.

AF: Do you have any favorite or memorable themes from this game?

Yoo: To be honest, I genuinely love all the thematic melodies I’ve used. One of the reasons why Lies of P stands out as the most memorable project in my life is that every piece of music I created was approved on the first delivery without any revisions. This means that the melodies and experimental sounds I used aligned perfectly with the game development team’s vision.

Still, if I were to pick one melody that resonates with me the most, I’d choose the melody from Arche Abbey. It’s a standout location in the journey where Pinocchio seeks Geppetto, facing various boss monsters and enduring significant trials. In the initial part of the music used in Arche Abbey, I aimed to express a desolate and gloomy atmosphere alongside a simple melody. However, in the latter part of the piece, using the same melody, I created an effective climax through frequent chord progressions and the use of multiple instruments. Melodically, I believe the main theme melody of Arche Abbey best encapsulates Pinocchio’s emotions.

AF: You started your own company, YK Music Productions. What is your collaborative approach and how do you deliver work that fans and awards pundits alike will enjoy?

Yoo: When creating music, I listen to various reference tracks and seek advice from those around me. Once I’ve completed a certain level of research, I finish the music in my own way. Then, during recording, I strive to express finer details. Throughout this process, as I’m not a professional performer, I often consult instrumentalists to inquire if there might be better musical techniques or alternative methods to convey the emotions I aim for in my music. Sometimes, they provide excellent insights, and other times, not so much. However, through this ongoing communication and exchange of opinions with others, I often find myself creating music that surpasses what I initially envisioned. At times, my assistants help with tasks like creating sheet music for recording sessions, assisting with orchestrations, coordinating recording schedules, and more. Through these processes, I can fully dedicate myself to composing, and I handle projects much more efficiently.

Especially in the case of video game music, I strive to capture preferences and evoke empathy for the emotional core of the game’s story through stirring melodies, rich harmonies, and dynamic rhythms. My approach revolves around creating music that elevates the gaming experience while maintaining a distinct identity that stimulates emotions and immerses players in the game world.

AF: You also have experience with television and film. How does the composing process differ for these mediums compared to video games?

Yoo: Film and game music exhibit several differences, with the most notable distinction residing in the liberty that game music typically enjoys compared to film scores. In films, dialogue takes precedence, and music shouldn’t disrupt the overall narrative or conversation. Consequently, many film scores tend to maintain an ambient, repetitive nature and can occasionally feel monotonous. Conversely, game music is structured to loop continuously during gameplay. Given its alignment with the overall ambiance and mood, game music frequently allows for greater creative freedom in its composition.

AF: What is your dream project moving forward?

Yoo: I have been playing Riot Games’ League of Legends for 8 years, since 2015. If the opportunity arises, I would love to have the experience of creating music for the cinematic videos or composing champion theme music for League of Legends. As a big fan of League of Legends, I believe I can effectively express the perfect music for each character through various musical ideas.

AF: What is next for you? Where can we find you on social media?

Yoo: I am working on a few AAA games next year. I can’t share more details due to NDAs, but you can check out my works more on my Soundcloud.

You can also find me on Instagram, @yeakunyoo