Capricia Productions is doing something unique and a bit crazy: Producing music albums as video games. ‘The Birdcage’ is a music game album and a collaboration between artists from Guns N’ Roses, former Evanescence members, Within Temptation, Epica and others currently in production. During Casual Connect Tel Aviv, Arnold Nesis, CEO and Lead Composer of Capricia Productions, presented ‘The Birdcage’, discussed the logic behind such games, covered the challenges they faced, how they solved them and how you can (and should) make such games with them. He revealed, “We decided to compose and keep the music the same, instead we have tailored the game to it for maximum player experience.”
Arnold Nesis is the CEO and Lead Composer at Capricia Productions, a company that produces video albums as computer games. He describes, “Imagine an hour long video clip that you can fully interact with while the whole world is in sync with the music and the story is driven by the music.” He oversees the company’s operations from both the business and the original music production side.
Creating a New Gaming Genre
He is certain the future of the industry is music video games, but the industry he is referring to is the music industry. And he is actively involved in leading the trend and creating this gaming genre.
Arnold has been a full-time musician for more than ten years. During that time he has managed music centers, and produced events and bands. For the past five years he has been a professional composer, mainly for video games.
As a composer, he has learned he must deal with “no” more often in a day than the average CEO or entrepreneur does in a month. He considers this an important enemy to meet while young because musicians must overcome it more than almost anyone else; this is the most important experience he has gained.
Jack Sparrow’s words “The only rules that matter are these: What a man can do and what a man can’t do” inspired him to pursue his career. Arnold believed he could.
His work consumes his entire life, leaving no room for other interests. But for him, every moment is ‘free time’ and everything he does is his hobby. He just happens to get paid for doing it, and it takes up about eighteen hours a day.
He loves everything about his work; the first thing he does when he wakes up is to check his email to see what he might have missed. As he says, “It’s an awesome feeling waking up to do what you truly want to do.”
His interests during his childhood might be considered a map to his career. He was a gamer; he was a metal-head and he loved telling stories. So making metal music albums as video games was the logical progression – and it only took him ten years to figure that out.
In high school he decided he wanted to study guitar. His parents disagreed with the plan, thinking he was not serious, and refused to buy him an electric guitar. But he was determined to find a way. He went on eBay and asked people whose listings for guitars were about to end without a bid to send him the guitar for free. It worked, and he still has the guitar today.
Arnold reveals that his total commitment to his present work stems from a broken heart. Only two things could comfort him: music and stories in the form of books or games. He says, “I was not so much interested in it as I simply needed it. I needed to scream louder than I physically could and I think it brought me to the understanding that music should not only be ‘cool’, it should say what words alone simply cannot.”
Creating From Both Sides
Interestingly, he reveals two different starting points for his creative process. When making a game for music he first tries to understand what the music or album is really about. He looks at the music not just as music, but as an experience. Then he figures out how to support and enhance this experience. During the process, the team stops from time to time to consider if what they are doing is working for the experience and if it will be a significant experience for the user.
When making music for a game, he first tries to understand what the game is really about. After that, he looks at the game as not simply a game, but as an experience and tries to figure out how to support and enhance that experience. He stops at intervals and asks himself whether the music his is composing supports the experience and if it will be a significant experience for the user.
The most challenging aspect of game development is having dozens of people working on one thing with each of them wanting to contribute to it artistically, as they should. And no matter what you try to do, he insists, if you are doing it with the wrong people or in the wrong way, you will fail. On the other hand, he claims, “An amazing team can turn anything to gold!”
Arnold simply doesn’t accept creative blocks and points out that a composer for films or games just has to learn to live with crazy deadlines. He believes, “Waiting for muses has killed more art creations than anything else in history, and our team decided to simply break up with them. If we have a creative block, we break it and just do it anyway.”
The incident in Arnold’s career that he remembers with the most excitement occurred after they had shown the Birdcage demo to the musicians involved. He received a reply form ‘Bumblefoot’, the guitarist from Guns N’ Roses, saying, “God, this looks AMAZING!” Although more impressive things have probably happened in his career, he reveals, “The sixteen-year-old metal-head kid sitting inside me just blew up and started screaming.”
Doing What It Takes to Get Results
Arnold admits he is not the easiest person to work with. He says, “I’m not always nice, I’m too direct, a bit manipulative, and I sometimes do things that seem strange.” He also believes his team sees that the things he does bring results. When he decides something must happen, he does whatever it takes to turn it into reality, and doesn’t stop until that happens.
So it is completely logical that the attribute he values most in a team member is the inability to sleep until they have solved the problem or while other team members are working harder than he is. Anything else can be taught.
Making Story the Main Focus of the Music
His interest has always focused on thematic music. He is not interested so much in being a composer for films as in making compositions where the story is the main focus and the music is driven by it. He believes music exists to make the story richer and to support it or give it another interpretation or feeling while making the experience wider. When he became a composer for games, doing music-driven games was the next logical step.
Arnold points out that it is important to make sure the music fits the game by asking what you are trying to say and why. Rather than thinking about the music’s complexity, esthetics, or what the people hearing it will think, consider what they will feel and whether that is the feeling you are trying to create.
The inspirations for his projects come from life. He emphasizes, “Get more life experiences than what you need to create. Your life will end up influencing your creation. Your creativity is an individual sum of your interpretations to events you have been through. Love, hate, be at the bottom, be at the top, lose, win. Make mistakes and keep in mind that you are the best because you have decided to become who you are.” People are looking for the authentic interpretation from the composer, writer, designer or developer, not an imitation of what someone else is doing. He claims that all the rest are just technicalities.
When developers are working with composers or sound designers, he recommends being sure to choose the right people. Work with amazing people and make your vision very clear and then let them do what they can do best. If they are the right people, they will know what to do next better than the developer does.
Don’t Do It
To those who would like a career combining games and music composition, Arnold says, “Don’t do it. You can’t do it. It’s hard, it’s tiring, it will break you down and kick you in the ass and no, you are not the one out of hundreds who will make it.”
“If while reading this you thought, “Screw you! I WILL do it and I don’t give a @#$ what you think – I have to do this because I CAN’T do anything else” – go for it, prove me wrong, and kick the world’s ass.”
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.