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The music for the next Ghost Recon was born inside a cigar box

How musician and composer Alain Johannes was inspired by the Bolivian landscape

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Part of what makes Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon franchise so unique are its settings. For Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, Ubisoft is shipping the single largest open-world game they’ve ever made. In order to truly bring Bolivia to life, they enlisted musician and composer Alain Johannes.

Johannes is best known for his work with Queens of the Stone Age and the Arctic Monkeys. He was also born in Chile, which borders Bolivia on the west and shares some of its geography. During our interview at Ubisoft’s headquarters in November, Johannes talked about his inspiration in creating the game’s soundtrack.

He said that the foundation of his work was the unique cigar box guitar he’s played for many years. The instrument was hand-crafted by Matty Baratto of Baratto Guitars, an instrument maker in North Hollywood, California. Its unique, resonant sound can be heard in many live recordings and studio albums. Johannes chose it for this project because of its similarity to the Bolivian charango, a small guitar common throughout the Andes mountains traditionally made from the shell of an Armadillo.

Polygon also spoke with music supervisor Manu Bachet and audio director Ghislain Soufflet about some of the game’s sound design. The team at Ubisoft invested in the work of professional sound recordist Christian Holl, who has worked with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to capture the sound of endangered biomes throughout the world. All that and more is included in our video, posted above and on YouTube.

Polygon recently visited Ubisoft's headquarters in Paris, France for a deep dive into the making of the next Ghost Recon game. This story is the second in a series.