Nicolas Diteriks is the composer who created the music for Numantian Games 2017 game, They Are Billions. Nicolas had worked earlier with Numantian Games in 2013/2014 when they were developing Lords of Xulima. At the time, Numantian Games was doing an Indiegogo campaign; Nicolas noticed the project and sent them a demo-reel, asking if they needed a composer.
When asked about the proudest moment of his career, Nicolas says landing the job of composing for The Lords of Xulima is right at the top. (And, of course, so is the first time he went to record with a live orchestra.) The Lords of Xulima project went so well that Numantian Games invited Nicolas back to work on They Are Billions.
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Join the founder of Dreamcraft Music and Sound Mike Raznick at Casual Connect USA 2018 as he explains how music and sound can be leveraged towards user acquisition and monetization. He provided real world examples of effective and ineffective treatments in music and IP licensing. Mike said, “We as composers strive to create a juxtaposition in the music and sound so that it can remain fresh throughout the gaming experience. A successful audio treatment should not cause fatigue. It comes down to good audio design, highlighting another reason to bring your team in early during a project’s development cycle so that there is time to test and make changes as needed.” Hear the discussion of how to create a compelling, fun and exciting audio experience for casino games.
Arkadiusz Reikowski is the soundtrack composer of the recently released cyberpunk video game Observer. Originally a performer for several Polish bands, Arkadiusz is a self-taught musician; however, over the past eight years, he has composed the soundtracks for nearly thirty games, including Kholat, Layers of Fear, and Husk.
He said the process for creating a videogame soundtrack changes depending on the project. For Observer, Arkadiusz was brought on board early in the game development process. “There wasn’t really any gameplay yet, just a storyline and some art,” he said. “We obviously had a lot of talks about how and what we wanted to achieve through sound and music. It was a comfortable situation.”
“I always start with colors and overall tone of the game,” He said. “These are the elements that are most important when I decide in what scale the soundtrack should be and what instruments I’m going to use. With Observer it was really interesting because in the end, the music turned out to be a lot darker than at the very beginning. I thought I would use much more melody and lighter themes but they didn’t quite fit the tone of the game. So we stayed with these dirty, heavy, dark themes.”
The grungy themes fit with the aesthetic of Observer, which takes place in a future version of Krakow beset with violence, war, and poverty. The half-human half-machine Detective Daniel Lazarski hacks into the minds of people both alive and dead to uncover clues in his investigation. The dark and surreal scenes in people’s minds firmly set the game in the horror genre.
Arkadiusz said that he tries to create shapes in his music, and in this particular soundtrack he focused on shapes that can barely be seen, something caught by the corner of your eye, but you can’t be sure of what it is. This is particularly fitting for a horror game. “The emotions told through music are like shapes coming into existence. But also like colors that you can feel and almost be touched by them,” he said. “Weird, I know.”
The game is reminiscent of Blade Runner, and Rutger Hauer who even does the voice of Daniel Lazarski. Arkadiusz said his favorite part of the project was meeting Rutger. “We listened to the music from Observer together. So when he told me that it is really good I knew that we were in the right direction. Also, I just love cyberpunk. So doing a score like this was a real blast and a pleasure,” he said.
Arkadiusz watches Blade Runner at least once a year, but Ghost in the Shell and Akira also inspired his compositions. “I’m deeply in love with Ghost in the Shell and the Akira soundtrack and I wanted to create similar emotions while scoring Observer,” he said. “The game itself is heavily inspired by Ghost in the Shell, but you know…who doesn’t want to be inspired by such a masterpiece.”
With the exception of the singing, all the music in Observer is electronic. This was a departure from his previous work that often featured piano and voice arranged in simpler textures than the ones found in Observer. Arkadiusz said that it was challenging switching to mostly electronic music, but he really wanted to do it.
“Just before I started to work on Observer I bought a Moog Sub 37, and it was my first hardware synth ever,” he said. “I was really happy to put it to work. The love for synths still lasts and is stronger than ever. I like losing track of time and just improvising on my Moog and Dave Smith’s Prophet 6.”
He said the approach to composing for electronic instruments was not very different from composing pieces for real instruments. “I think they all serve a similar purpose – to create emotions and underline what is happening on the screen. But when you write for real instruments you need to be more focused. When it comes to real instruments, I often use a piano. I record pieces on piano and then do mock up and then orchestrate them (although I rarely orchestrate my tracks myself),” he said.
The major difference was how much he improvised while writing electronic music. “Playing on a synth is sometimes like child’s play. Lots of experiments and generally having fun with creating the sound from scratch. When you write a melody for a cello or a piano, you know exactly what kind of melody you’d like to achieve. Experimenting on a synth is interesting because often one sound can create others, which are different but at the same time they fit your vision of the music. Or they don’t and you have to turn the knobs a little more.”
Even the pieces in the Observer soundtrack that appear to have required complex planning were the result of improvising. One of the first tracks features a choir reminiscent of early church music. A set of voices introduces a short theme that is soon taken up by other voices and weaves together in complex patterns. Arkadiusz said that it was all improvisation though.
“The recording session with the band was such a creative and unique experience that I will remember for a long time,” he said. “We sat in the studio and listened to track and thought about what we could do with vocals there. I was prepared before the session, but it turned out that we created something much more interesting by just going with the flow. Those tracks refer mainly to Adam and his mind and they appear only during the ‘dream-eater’ sequences.”
In it, the choir sings in what almost sounds like a real language. “The language was made specifically for this occasion,” he said. “We thought that it would be really interesting, especially for Western audiences. The themes are based on Slavic mythology and chants. They created this unique, dream-like but also dark and ritualistic atmosphere. The only guidance was my background track with drones and such. Then we just sat in the studio and started to improvise. At one time I hade to play an additional rhythm, but in general the voices came into existence really naturally and without notes.”
In parts of the soundtrack, Arkadiusz created a background layer of what sound like real instruments, such as strings, and slides the pitches and distorts the sound to match it with another layer of electronic sounds. It creates a trippy, unbalanced feeling, and it is easy to imagine it being used during a mind-hack sequence.
“It was the result of playing around in post-production,” he said. “There are times when you record something and even put something else in by accident. Just before removing the part of it you realize – hey! That sounded nice, let’s just leave this as it is. I like those kinds of nice surprises.”
Improvising on electronics allowed Arkadiusz to compose complex pieces containing layers of juxtaposing textures, rhythms, and sounds, but he had already set the groundwork for it in some of his previous work. “As far as I remember I created something like this in Kholat,” he said.
Every project brings new skills and experiences that he can use on his next project, even if he doesn’t realize it. “You know, it’s just like in Skyrim,” he said. “You keep using this hammer and suddenly pop! And your skill is better.”
Chase Bethea is a composer who has been writing music for games since 2011. The first game he ended up working on Electron Flux, a top down mobile puzzle game where players create pathways to direct energy particles.
“When I made music in the years before, I was always told ‘it sounds like it should be in a video game’,” said Chase. “I figured out how to pitch for video game projects and I realized that my sound fits that medium very well. Since I was a child, I have always been a passionate gamer. So, it made sense that I follow the path of game audio.”
Since 2007, Sacramento’s active game developer community has fostered growth of game development throughout the region. In 2014, the Sacramento Indie Arcade, a community driven event, was created to help promote local game developers and show the world what is being developed in California’s capital city. Arclight Worlds recently won at this event with their game Venture Forth. As winners, Arclight Worlds has the opportunity to go and compete at Indie Prize Seattle at Casual Connect USA. The following article is a postmortem highlighting Jeremiah Ingham’s vision and search for talent.
It all started down under, deep underground in Australia. In 2012, I had the amazing opportunity to tour one of the largest cave systems in the world: Jenolan Caves. As we traveled through these colorfully lit caverns, an idea sparked within me, growing, and ultimately evolving into what we now know as Venture Forth. That feeling of mystery and wonder, mixed with eerie suspense, never knowing what you will find down these dark tunnels was profound. I just had to try to capture this in a game. That night, still in the mountains of Australia, I started writing the first lines of code that would become the caves of Venture Forth. At the time, I was still in college, just starting to learn to program, but already addicted to using my new programming talents to create games. After returning to the US, I got one of my college friends excited about the project, and he took on the artistic direction for the game.
As a game developer, you know the sounds in your game are crucial in so many ways. You may be using sound effects to underscore and add excitement to the action. Perhaps you have music to create moods and underscore the game world. It is no wonder music and sound effects are now commonplace in mobile games. But are you aware of what voice work can add to your game?
Sharon Kho, Co-Founder of IMBA Interactive, has the experience to guide you in exploring this underutilized area of sound for games. IMBA Interactive, a Singapore-based studio, provides audio and music solutions for video games and apps. Sharon is a music composer and sound designer whose most recent work on Mr. Catt received the Best Music and Sound Effect Award at the Bahamut ACG Awards in 2016.
At Casual Connect Asia, Sharon and another of IMBA’s founders, Jeremy Goh, gave a session aimed particularly at developers taking those first steps in working with voice talents, including casting and creating a script. In this session they described how to using voices to bring the characters and story of your game to life. When it comes to hiring an actor, Sharon advised, “You have to respect the actor who is going to put more things on the table than what is expected, because he has the talent you hired them for in the first place. So when you talk to the talent, make sure you get on the same page with them and make them comfortable, because at the end of the day… who knows, maybe your character development may come from the actor. Be open-minded to suggestions in order to get the best results.” To learn more, watch this video of the full session from Casual Connect.
“Each time I’ve experienced an amazing game, film or TV show, I felt a desire to illustrate it with my music and therefore be a part of it,” said Mikolai. “However, in case of The Witcher it was more than that. When I read the Sapkowski’s books in the mid ‘90s I loved them, but was aware that one needed to know Polish language to appreciate it and therefore felt bad about those who didn’t. Now not only am I able to share the world of Geralt but also my music attached to it. What a joy!!!”
Poland has itself grown into a hub for gamedev in Europe over the past decade. He’s also at the forefront of a growing Polish game music composer scene, including Kamil Orman-Janowski and Arkadiusz Reikowski. Mikolai attributes this rise to the use of personal computers from Spectrum, Atari and Commodore in Polish apartments in the ’80s.
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Arkadiusz Reikowski is a composer who’s made music for horror games such as Kholat and Layers of Fear, in addition to their own unique material like Inner Silence. They cite Akira Yamaoka, the famous Japanese composer of the Silent Hill series, as a major inspiration along with other Japanese composers.
Mike Hines is a developer analyst at Amazon in Seattle, Washington. Before working for Amazon, Mike had four startups in financial services and software, two of which are still operating, and worked for thirteen years at Microsoft. At Amazon, Mike helped launch the Kindle app development project, has written mobile app test criteria, judged at hackathons and is a blogger for Amazon App Store.
At Casual Connect Europe, Mike discussed a new technology that is here to stay: Voice interfaces. Audio interfaces are already common in vehicles, cell phones and other consumer electronics. It will become essential for game developers to design audio interfaces, and Mike insists, do it sooner rather than later. In this session Mike offered the insights gained while working with the lead developer on Capital One Voice Skill for Amazon Alexa and showed some of the most common (and amusing) traps that ensnare developers who are designing audio interfaces. Leverage the lessons learned from developers like Capital One and learn the industry best practices of designing apps and games for Voice by watching this video of Mike’s session.
Throughout history, the role of music has changed from slave to master and back again, from the Greek chorus to opera and from films to musicals, as it combines with different forms of art. Arnold Nesis, an Israeli composer known for their work in video games and media, maintains that music is about to make that switch again in gaming. At Casual Connect Europe 2016, Arnold discussed why you will want to join that revolution and take part in this new gaming genre. Arnold asks, “How is your story told? Through the music? Through the gameplay? It’s not one or the other. A strong story is told through the music, the images, and the gameplay.” Blending these together gives you the look, sound and feel of a feature film; this is the wave of the future!
Arnold has worked with companies in the United States, Europe, Russia, and the Ukraine and is the CEO of Capricia, making interactive music videogame albums. To learn more about this new gaming genre watch this video of the presentation.