Friday, December 23, 2011

End of Year Madness!

Marvin's Mittens is really, honest-to-goodness, almost done. Finalizing all sorts of soundtrack bits, but it's very exciting to see it all come together. Also crazy that we're getting ready to put it out there... part of me feels like there are so many things to get done, so much polishing to do, almost like we're running out of time - even though we don't have a hard deadline, really.

Also, the Gunpoint music submission deadline is tomorrow, so I imagine we'll be getting some feedback soon. I'm hoping at least to be considered a contender, because I think what I did competes with a few other pieces the developer has highlighted as favourites. But music is so very subjective, and there are some very good entries. John Robert Matz really deserves to have his music in the game. I'm not sure it works best for in-mission, but it's AMAZING music, and it would be awesome for menus and maybe interacting with contacts. Everyone likes his main theme, but I think his Crosslink music is mindblowing. I can't remember if Hyperduck was the first (or only) submission to put in elevator music as basically a little audio gag, but it's totally brilliant (although overall I find it slightly darker than I would want the music for this game to be). Either way, so much cool stuff...

I was inspired to take a couple of little breaks from Marvin and elaborate on some of my own Gunpoint music:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The End of The Quest for Epic

I think this last track will mark the completion of the musical portion of The Quest for Epic. I'll still need to do some mixing and mastering, but I'm thrilled at how well this has gone, and hope to make the full album available for download very early in the new year!

It's Super Effective:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dragon Puncher

In honour of my buddy Andrew punching a dragon to death in Skyrim:

Doin' It for Free(ish)

So Minecraft music composer C418 has done some tentative music for Gunpoint (not seriously, he says), and is using this to draw attention to the problem of game composers being horrendously undervalued. I'm filled with a mix of somewhat conflicting emotions here.

I've heard this argument over and over, that creative types (and this goes beyond music, I'm talking about artists of all stripes), must NEVER do work for less than it's worth. And usually, "what it's worth" is valued as a lot more than the source of work in question is willing to pay.

I'm a professional game composer with very real bills to pay and as such I am very sympathetic to this cause. Here I am, looking into indie work, and a flood of other people willing to do it for FREE show up to compete. Now, I try to let my music speak for itself, because I've gotten to the point where I can spend a couple of days, submit something, and feel that it has a very good shot at being the best. But there are two issues which that immediately raises:

1. how can I convince the developer that I'm able to not only make some cool sounding music, but also work with them to refine ideas and provide a highly appropriate custom soundtrack tailored to their needs? Lots of people can pull off a great sounding demo, but will be unwilling or unable to modify anything to fit the team's vision. They don't all bring a decade of experience working on music for major publishers, etc. How do I even convince people that any of that matters? Does it?

and...

2. the fact that I probably should have waited to be paid about $2,000 to do as much work as I've already done.

Some would argue that I'm screwing myself out of dollars in the race to NOT MAKE MONEY.

One issue I have with this line of thinking is that it often comes from the established composers. Now these guys might already be commanding thousands of dollars per minute of music, they're well-connected and doing great work with good returns on that work. For them, it hurts them in negotiations when they're asking for big dollars and the developer/publisher/film studio can say "but we also have a quote to do the whole thing for $200 and a four week supply of skittles."

But what about the guys coming up from the bottom? The talented and hardworking musicians and producers (and graphic artists, modelers, level designers, writers and programmers) without the connections and resume of the superstars and industry veterans?

Maybe creative industries are experiencing something of a shrinking middle class. On one side, the enormous pool of increasingly professional-sounding amateurs, who dream of nothing more than getting their work into a real product; on the other the highly skilled veterans who support themselves with their efforts. But how to make that leap? Well, doing a smaller indie title for next to nothing (or nothing) is always going to look reasonable when you're on the first side of that divide.

I do get the argument that we should all demand to be paid better. But I also don't see a practical way to ever get the newbies to be charging what we all want to be making, short of someday organizing a real union or something like that. The simple math of the situation is that more people want these jobs than there are jobs. Sure, it hurts the overall quality of music going into games (and other media) if nobody can be supported to hone their craft full time, but I think this does happen. Raising awareness on this issue is a good idea, but I'm not sure it's a war that can't be won.

Back to Gunpoint... I can't get angry at Tom Francis. Here's a guy who, until quite recently, according to his blog, wanted to give his game away for free. Of course he's not going to advertise this as a big payout for a game composer. It might not make any money! In fact, I've taken EXACTLY the same stance when recruiting artists and level designers for my game. "Please, join up, work hard, and do it because you love it. If we make money, you'll get some, but don't do it FOR THE MONEY."

If you're a passionate hobbyist or indie developer with no budget, I see absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. Either people will say no, or your vision will inspire others to join in. And along the way, speaking from personal experience, I've made some very good friends and seen several Marvin team members get industry jobs. It worked exactly the way it should have: we got stuff for our pet game project (ownership of which has really spread to the entire team, rather than just the instigators, I should note), and people getting meaningful experience and having a good time.

To be fair, C418 does acknowledge that a reasonable percentage can be a fair working arrangement, or even a percentage with some amount up front. And that's what I would hope for if I get to do the music for Gunpoint (or any other indie title). But I can also live with the "maybe nothing" that comes from the attitude that people playing the game are more important than dollars coming in.

So is it wrong if I agree to do some music for a game because it looks cool and I like the creator? Right or wrong, the offer still stands.

And I would humbly submit that my music is still among the best fits for the game from what I've heard. Though there have been some other amazing submissions.

By the way, I listened to some other C418 besides Minecraft for the first time today, and some of it is pretty fantastic. One would hope that people are just giving him money for that. But sadly, I'm one of the only people I know who actually buys a lot of the music they listen to. Another issue for another day...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Music Inspired By (And Maybe For?) Gunpoint



So this guy is making this indie game called Gunpoint and it looks really awesome. So much so that I was inspired to make some music.

I apologize if you're looking for fully developed tracks - these aren't even complete game loops. But there are some pretty cool musical ideas here. The overall style is a mixture of film score and electronic grooves (my favourite things), skewed towards a sort of quirky neo-noire.



The first two tracks here are for mission briefings and menus, then it gets increasingly dark and groovy, with the "Casing the Joint" set for patrolling exteriors, and "Infiltration" loops for dodging security guards and moving around within secure buildings. The exterior music is a little more moody and varied, while the infiltration tracks have an almost constant, oppressive bassline to amp up the tension (you're on their turf after all). "Combat Stingers" would be musical sound effects for the incredibly brief moments where you take out a guard or they take you down. "Crosslink" is the special mode where you can rewire the buidling's security (and other) features, and as the developer has noted, this is your happy place, so it's a little safer and has a "I'm solving puzzles and getting things done" feel, if I've done my job. "The Escape" would be the track that comes on whenever you've completed your objectives and are, well, escaping.

Here's a video simulating how this stuff could be triggered in game...



(You don't get to some of the better musical moments because it changes so often - I'm not sure if that's a fundamental flaw with the structure of my music and/or the implementation I'm suggesting, or if this is just the developer playing the game and moving faster than your average player would. Might not be possible to tell without playing the game with this in it.)

That was a couple of pretty extreme days of recording to get this done to show off to Gunpoint's creator! Time for sleep.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Spin Crisis

My very first game soundtrack from so long ago... *nostalgia*




If you have a Windows Phone 7, it's been ported over and you can download the whole game for free!

Friday, November 18, 2011

For Gus

I dedicate this track to Gus. He was in many ways a terrible little dog, and still a finer animal I have never met.



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Past and Present was probably my favourite Quest for Epic track, but the structure of the whole thing was a little unwieldy. The latter portion was a darker remix of some of the main material, but it was really good enough to stand as its own track. With this in mind, I've expanded it and chopped it into two separate tracks:

Rallying Anthem:


and Never Yielding (working title):


I've been doing a little of little tweaks to most of the Quest for Epic tracks and trying to finish Music for the Postmodern Ninja as well, they might actually both be done before 2012!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Music of King Voxel



My friend and honorary Breakfaller (participating with our team in Carleton University Global Game Jams), Phil, is making an awesome voxel game. And I've made some awesome music to match.

Title Screen & Overworld


Some dungeon music


More dungeon music


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Climbing Mountains in Marvin's Mittens

We're finally almost done Marvin's Mittens, hoping to release this holiday season! I've been trying to get the soundtrack finished (while also ensuring it's the best soundtrack *ever*), and I thought I'd post a favourite track from near the end of the game.



More info on this track and all things Marvin can be found at the Breakfall blog.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Out but not down...

It's been an insanely busy couple of months, but I've still been keeping pretty close to my music making schedule. I just haven't been posting it here... but that's easy enough to fix, so let's start clearing the backlog with some Music for the Postmodern Ninja tracks:

Improvised Tactics needs only a few more tweaks, but has solidly shaken it's work-in-progress label...



As has the new and greatly improved Razor Sharp Calm...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Weekend at the Cottage

This is a theme I wrote nearly two decades ago on a tiny Casio keyboard at the cottage. It's had a few arrangements over the years, but nothing ever seemed to quite do it justice.

Back at the family cottage this past weekend, it got some love and now has new life as this week's epic track.

First Act Surrender:


The original melody is heard most prominently at 1:20, but it's hiding in harmonies throughout.

The bridge features the same melody as Glass Dreams, because Glass Dreams was supposed to be the music for the same game my friends and I were making at one point. That project didn't end up happening, but I'm working with a bunch of the same people on Marvin's Mittens.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Calculated Optimism

We appear to have resumed weekly music creation. Proceed with Calculated Optimism.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Glass Dreams

No new music posted... so many weeks... blog slowing... must... post...



There, that wasn't so hard.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Past and Present

Melting together the new skills and studio technologies I have at my fingertips with a tune from long ago (and also fusing the two past versions from the last month with the new layers), I've renamed Unfinished Legend after doing a lot more work on it. Here's to the Past and Present:



No completely new epic track in the last couple of weeks because I've been busy with Marvin's Mittens and some music for a friend's animated short. But more are in the works!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bonus Track

Not quite done, but in pretty good shape for just a couple of hours on a Thursday night.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Quest for Epic

With Music for the Postmodern Ninja almost complete, I've been giving a lot of thought to what the next big music project should be. If you've been checking this site at all, you'll notice that I've been posting a new track just about every week, with a skew towards very epic and classical sounds. What these represent is a collection of new and old songs that are the things I sit down and play at the piano when I play just for the sake of playing. These themes are the hopes and dreams I've held onto that propel me to write better music, come up with ideas for games, or lend my talents to the works of others. Rather than trying to come up with new ideas or sounds, I'm digging back into the styles and arrangements I used to produce (or used to want to produce) all the way back from as early as I've been making my own music (since early high school, for some of these).

So in order to continue honing the skills I've developed in the last decade of full time music production, I'm going take a deeply personal and very nostalgic journey through some of my favourite musical ideas (or at least those the most fun to hammer out on the keyboard, because they're the ones I kept playing). I want to produce this much, much faster than Music for the Postmodern Ninja, so hopefully I'll keep up this pace of a new track every week or two. And I'll be posting them all up here for anyone who's interesting in listening. The playlist will grow. I hope you enjoy it.

Yellow Mellow

Another cool film I did some sound for... just don't ask me what it means.



Check out more of Lettie Lo's work here.

El Cacto

I did the sound and music for this a while back, and I still think it's fantastic.


El Cacto from Garrett Hanna on Vimeo.



Garrett's a freakin' hero and I love his work. Go check out more of it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Explosive Gas and another track...

Explosive Gas is out on Xbox Live Indie Games, and you should go play it! Check out some buzz over here and here on Destructoid.



Jimmy, who designed and coded it up, and I (the lovable voice of the hobos, and provider of all music and SFX), plan to play it regularly on Thursday nights, 8:30pm-ish EST! Get online and throw down some bombs!

Not at all related, on the weekend I made this:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More work on Music for the Postmodern Ninja...

A lot of work done this weekend on Music for the Postmodern Ninja, with massive remixing and some recording of new tracks. I haven't even uploaded everything, but the end is in sight, and these three tracks are the biggest highlights from this week.

Block Breaker (formerly Smoke Bombs) was rearranged a bit, with a lot of work done getting the drum patterns just right, bringing out certain melodies, and maximizing the bass without having it explode speakers.


Unbridled Restraint was one of the work-in-progress tracks that I was sure had some good ideas, which are now more obvious in the the fresh, more symphonic treatment.


All new is Playing to Win. This started as an attempt to finish Improvised Tactics (which still does need a lot of work), but it didn't quite work there, so I made it something else entirely. Also got to use some new string samples that are so good, you might have otherwise wondered if I learned to play cello this weekend, too.


I feel like this whole project is finally coming together. There's still a substantial list of things I want to change, but with most tracks final and some of the weakest tracks now some of my favourites, I think this spring is going to see it all done!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goooood morning!

From wikipedia:

The Jägerbomb is a cocktail that is mixed by dropping a shot of Jägermeister into a glass of Red Bull.

In German-speaking countries, it is called a "Turbojäger" or a "Flying Hirsch" (Flying Stag) — where "Flying" is derived from the slogan "Red Bull gives you wings" and "Hirsch" means "stag" in German (inspired by the Jägermeister logo).

In Mexico, it is called a "Perla Negra" (Black Pearl) due to its color when mixed.

In Finland, it is called an "Akkuhappo" (Battery Acid).

The terms "depth charge" and "bomb shot" refer to cocktails that are made by dropping a shot glass filled with liquor into another drink.

This track is for something at work and has hank drum in it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Raze's Hell

When I first got a job in game audio, it was to work on Raze's Hell. Not only was I was working on games, which I love, but I was contributing to a dark, satirical third person shooter with a really off the wall sense of humour and violently bizarre aesthetic. Talk about starting with a bang (among other explosive noises)!


Punching adorable right in the face.

I hadn't done a lot of sound design at this point. I had played a lot of games, and studied Sonic Design at Carleton, but my audio production experience was mostly centred on making music. But there were some great people at Artech who were really into the sound thing, and they had some sounds in already, and had a very solid vision for how the game should sound. This is where I started to see how interesting and creative sound design could be.


The Kewlett rainbow teleporter was an interesting mixture of electronic sounds and flanged giggles, if I recall...

I desperately begged my bosses to let me do some music, making demos and writing up a (ridiculously formal) proposal (keep in mind I already worked there). Eventually, I was allowed to write all the music, and I'm very proud of it. But what this game will be remembered for is the Kewlett in-game dialogue.


These little buggers were FUN to voice.

The Kewletts are obnoxiously cute and highly militarized, and sound like chipmunks with guns, riding an aggressive cocaine high. The horrible, self-absorbed little monsters were a great pre-established character, and they needed voices. After a lot of testing to figure out the best way to pitch them up and still have them intelligible, I got to work with the AI and sound programmers to figure out how to trigger very contextual lines about what was on the minds of your vicious and cute little opponents. We played other games, read about how Halo did it, and got ambitious.

A lot of fans and critics seemed to really appreciate the Kewlett banter, but I doubt very many people know just how much of it there is in there. I wrote up a list of states, and a script to work from. Then I got a bunch of high school improv buddies into the studio, told them about the characters, and told them to read the lines, and add anything else they could think of.

We wound up with around 6,000 lines of dialogue on that disc. And just over half those lines were read by me personally! People have commented in several forums that they just keep hearing new stuff, and they love it. That's immensely satisfying as the writer, director and actor for that pool of dialogue. I was given a great concept to work with, but I'm very proud that it became a central feature of the game in every almost every review and forum discussion. I haven't got the chance to anything of similar scope since, but I do try to voice strange or adorable creatures whenever I get the chance.



The soundtrack was interesting too. I used some soft synths, samples from hardware and software, electric guitar, some didgeridoo played by a playtester, and singing performed by my lovely wife (at the time girlfriend). It was epic, it was manic, it was a mixture of everything I'd ever wanted to put into a game soundtrack. For educational purposes only, here are some mixes made from game tracks (copyright is owned by the publisher, Majesco).





All images borrowed from awesome artist Kris Eggleston's website.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Project @?#*!

I'm super pumped! It's not 100% a sure thing, but an epic team-up is in the works to create a new game that's turned up all the way to 11. It shall remain shrouded in mystery and intrigue for the time being, but I will post some attempts at music for Project @?#*!, in the hopes that you get super pumped too.



Pro tip: play 'em loud.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Track Featuring Hank Drum

Today I created a "hank drum" sample set for Propellerhead's Reason, and made this to try it out.



The first thing heard is a hank drum with a lot of delay, and processed so it's missing the slap of the attack. Then I add some basic drums with another hank drum, this one much cleaner, so you're basically just hearing the hank drum played on a keyboard. Flanged drums, bass and piano round it out, but it's really all about the hank.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New MFTPMN Track

It's been quite a while since I did any serious work on my Music for the Postmodern Ninja project, so I'm very happy to report I sat down and produced an entire track this past weekend! I suppose I can't say I made the whole thing... I recycled the intro from one of my Diploma in Sonic Design portfolio pieces. Though the whole thing sounds pretty different now.



It took quite a bit of work to wrangle the bass/synth/choir thing that dominates the second half of the track (coming in just before two minutes). I had this thing that sounded great on one set of studio monitors, but almost exploded the sound system in my car. And on a pair of earbuds, you just couldn't hear the bass at all. You might just think it was too heavy on the super low sub bass frequencies - but at least half the problem was all the crazy resonant filters and distortion together. That combo can make strange noise that different speakers will simply not like. It's way to easy to make something sound great on one set of monitors, and gradually ruin it for most other sound systems. That's why it's important to try your music and sound effects on different speakers, and always start at low volumes.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Game Jam 2011 - Eats, Shoots & Leaves

In just a few hours, I've managed to add some nifty SFX and music to Breakfall's Eats, Shoots & Leaves. With this year's theme of "extinction", this Robotron-inspired action game has a panda picking up a shotgun to save his species from extinction by exterminating the bambo-forest destroying human beings. Here's the music I cranked out in about 2 hours. I had sort of been messing with the main theme at home in the last week, but the whole arrangement was done in the Carleton computer lab on my laptop. Game Jam rocks.

My music:



The Breakfall and friends team took away Carleton Game Jam's "participant favourite" award, and an honourable mention from the judges for "most mature execution". Woohoo!

I especially love the awesome artwork by Andrew Jobin for the menu screens, as well as the voxelated goodness of Phil Meyer's amazing engine. Such great work.






Saturday, January 29, 2011

Game Jam 2011!

It has been one year since the Breakfall team (and friends) participated in their first Global Game Jam. Last year, with the theme being "deception", we created a two player hotseat XNA game called Flim Flam Fernandez. It was the tale of a philandering king, sneaking past the weary queen to get back to the royal bed after a night out on the village. It also won top honours at the Carleton University 2010 Game Jam.



Though many of the Breakfall group can't attend for various reasons this year, we do have a few people already toiling away to craft something to do with the theme of "extinction". A scheduling conflict sadly leaves me out of the early stages of development, but I'll be heading to Carleton on the final day to add sound. So far I know it involves a giant, enraged panda, and that I can't wait to see what's brewing over there!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It Is Done

And it's totally, totally sweet.



Check out older posts if you're interested in what this is or how I made it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

All the best in 2011! Remember, the Mayan calendar runs out at the end of 2012, and many believe this marks the end of the world. So make the most of the next two years!

I, for one, will be using some of the time we have left to finish my hank drum. Though my lovely photographer and wife was not present for the last cutting session, progress is being made. I bought a new dremel tool (I broke my non-name brand tool while trying to cut metal too agressively, sadly), and now I've removed the second horrible, jagged metal weld from the future playing surface of my drum-to-be. Only one weld left. The dremel with a fiberglass metal-cutting wheel seems to work way better, progress is good!

My other New Year's resolution is to put more hours into various personal projects and get some things FINISHED. Marvin's Mittens is at the top of that list, because it's time to get 'er done! This week I'm making snow fort visual assets! Yay for sound guy art!