Retro rules in 8-bit remix and interactive experience for ‘Go!’ from French electro-pop band M83

Retro rules in 8-bit remix and interactive experience for ‘Go!’ from French electro-pop band M83

When the idea arose to remix a song by French electro-pop band M83 and create an interactive experience to go along with it, one approach quickly became the obvious choice.

M83’s frontman, Anthony Gonzalez, has been an avid gamer since he was a child, with an enduring fondness for retro video games. So Microsoft collaborated with Gonzalez to create an 8-bit remix of the band’s song “Go!,” then engaged a team of developers to build an accompanying web-based car chase game.

“As we were thinking about how to remix this track, we knew that Anthony was very much inspired by retro video games and thought that would be a fun way to go about it,” says Steve Milton, co-founder of New York City-based agency Listen and the creative lead on the project.

“Once we went the 8-bit route, it only made sense to develop a game to bring that to life.”

The result, titled “Meet Me at Go!” takes fans on a chase through a retro-futuristic cityscape as two cars dodge obstacles and collect objects in pursuit of a lost love. As the game starts, lyrics from the song move across the screen (“I loved, I fell, I ran away,”), then the cars are off on a chase through dark streets flanked with skyscrapers, into a tunnel strewn with hazards and along an open roadway lined with fuchsia palm trees and pyramids under a starry sky.

The game and remix draw from the 8-bit aesthetic popularized by early video games — characterized by simple images with straight lines and bold colors and an unadorned, unfiltered sound. The game was built with the Unity game-development platform, then exported to Universal Windows Platform. It’s optimized for touch-screen computers like Microsoft Surface and is available on the Windows Store and across desktop browsers, with a video and other bonus content available through Microsoft Edge.

The collaboration is part of Microsoft’s Music x Technology initiative, launched in 2015 with the goal of using the company’s technology to present music in new and innovative ways. Projects to date have involved a virtual reality experience of a live performance, interactive music installations and integrating an artist’s fitness-tracker data into real-time visuals. For the “Meet Me at Go!” project, Microsoft wanted to create an interactive experience available to fans worldwide, says Amy Sorokas, director of Brand Studios for Microsoft.

“We wanted to make this truly accessible for people,” Sorokas says. “M83’s fans are all around the world and will be accessing this song and this game through different kinds of technology, so we wanted to make sure we brought a web experience to life that would allow people to play the game in various ways.”

Game developers Connor Bell, left, Mason Palos and J.K. during a work session
Game developers Connor Bell, left, Mason Palos and J.K. during a work session

“Go!” is the third release from M83’s seventh studio album, “Junk,” and the 8-bit version is available on the “Go! Remixes” EP available through Mute. The remix was created by using software to emulate the pared-down sound of old-school video games like “Donkey Kong” and “Super Mario Bros.”

Each sound on the original track was recreated with an 8-bit representation, then effects were layered over to blend with the vocals. A team of developers then built the game to match the remix, with the cars traveling more slowly during verses and speeding up for the more energetic chorus.

“We wanted to marry the graphics to the sound of the remix but keep it a little more modern and 3-D,” says Kurt Feldman, a sound and audio designer for Listen who worked with Gonzalez to make the remix. “So it has that 8-bit feel, but it’s also a little more updated.”

Connor Bell, the lead developer on the project, says the game’s look and colors draw from seminal cyberpunk films of the ‘80s and ‘90s such as “Robocop” and “Total Recall.”

“We created the aesthetic with a color palette to match those defined in pioneering cyberpunk films,” he says. “The models and the environments, like cityspaces, purple palm trees and abstract tetrahedrons, all represent aspects of a cyberpunk environment, in my mind.”

As bands such as M83 seek to engage audiences in new ways, gaming offers a creative space to explore new approaches, Sorokas says.

“We are not the first to integrate a game with a song, but we’re trying to take that idea a little further and extend the story in the song into the game and have fans feel part of the experience as they’re playing and listening,” she says. “We’re always trying to push a bit further with technology.”