The Sound Architect had the privilege of attending the very first Game Music Connect at the Soutbank Centre in London on Monday. Game Music Connect was founded by renowned composers John Broomhall and James Hannigan to share the work and expertise of esteemed video-game composers and audio directors who have worked on some of the biggest recent AAA titles. Guest speakers of the event included the following:
John Broomhall, Composer & Co-founder: X-COM series, Transport Tycoon, A Christmas Carol
James Hannigan, Composer & Co-founder: Transformers: Universe, RuneScape 3, Dead Space 3, Harry Potter
Jesper Kyd, Composer: Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Borderlands 1&2, Hitman 1-4
Jason Graves, Composer: Dead Space, Dead Space 2, Dead Space 3, Tomb Raider, Resistance: Burning Skies
Joris De Man, Composer/Sound Designer: Killzone, Killzone 2, Killzone 3, N+
Steve Lord, Audio Director: Runescape, Transformers Universe
Martin O’DOnnell: Halo Series, Destiny (with Paul McCartney), Myth, Oni
Adele Cutting, Audio Director/Sound Designer SOUNDCUTS: Harry Potter series, Theme Park World, Dungeon Keeper 2
Professor Stephen Deutsch, Composer: Red Noses, Hard Times, Jubilee
Paul Lipson, Composer/Audio Director MICROSOFT: Halo: Spartan Assault, Galactic Reign, Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Richard Jacques, Composer: Mass Effect, 007:Blood Stone, Little Big Planet 2, Little Big Planet 2: The Muppets, Headhunter
Alastair Lindsay, Music Production Manger SONY: Wonderbook: Book of Spells, Wonderbook: Diggs Nightcrawler, The Getaway
Before the event even began there was an obvious buzz of excitement in the air. Although my speciality is sound design, I originally wanted to be a composer so I have always had a huge passion for music in games. To finally have an event to showcase these wonderfully talented individuals and give an insight to the game audio community is amazing. Even more amazing was the fact that these people were willing to teach us about what they do and help us understand the inner workings of what is required when working on a video-game as opposed to linear formats such as TV or film.
Immersion & Engagement
The event kicked off with a warm welcome from co-founder John Broomhall before swiftly proceeding into a lecture from Prof. Stephen Deutsch. Prof. Deutsch then began his interesting lecture on “What can we learn from Film?”. Amusing and insightful as well as slightly controversial, this was a great lecture. Immersion and engagement were his opening words. These words, in my opinion, should be what all of us in game audio are striving to achieve more of. Even outside of the audio realm, the idea is that the video-game world is one where we can get lost and immersed. The controversial side of his lecture included asking whether music was even needed in games to provide immersion and engagement. The gamer is already engaged because they are playing the game, why would the music add to this, is there even any need? I would say yes. All of the games I have played, all of the emotions I have experienced within games have been enhanced (or in rare cases ruined) by the music. That’s my opinion, I could be wrong, is musicality a redundant side of video-games? From the panels that followed, I believe that the guests as well as attendees would probably agree with me.
Soundcard to Symphony
With John Broomhall as chair, the guests were Jesper Kyd, Jason Graves, Joris De Man, Richard Jacques, James Hannigan and Martin O’Donnell.
The first thing that became apparent in this panel, was the positive dynamic between them all. They may have all been in the same competitive area but it was obvious how mutually respectful they were of each other’s craft. Listening to them discuss the past, present and future of their craft was incredible. What also intrigued me the most was their views on interactive game-play.
I had just recently been to a lecture where Dave Cage discussed his direction with QuanticDream and emotional story-telling. He had said he was fed up of the “story being told through cut scenes” and wanted the player to be more engaged in the story-telling. This was exactly what the panel had brought up. To me this signifies that the gaming community as a whole are beginning to feel the next level of gaming is introducing the player to have more control over the the storyline of the game and not just the action sequences.
One of the interesting things Martin O’Donnell raised, is how the emotions that the music are raising is telling you what the character is feeling, not what you are feeling. With interactive music that is based on our own decisions, does this go back to Stephen Deutsch’s point of immersion and engagement? Would this allow us to fully engage and immerse the player and even have musical and/or sound cues that reflect how they are feeling and what decisions they are making? I think this opens up an exciting new world in all areas of gaming, with the introduction of more games like “Heavy Rain” and “Beyond: Two Souls”
The Music Machine
Another exciting session as it gave more of an insight into the views of the audio directors. So for this one there was John Broomhall (Chair), Steve Lord-Audio Director of Jagex, Adele Cutting-Audio Director of SoundCuts, Paul Lipson-Music/Audio Director at Microsoft Studios, Martin O’Donnell-Audio Director/Composer at Bungie.
We got to hear from the key decision makers in audio for games. It was an excellent insight into the audio side that most composers, and game audio people in general, don’t consider. For example how they have to work out the budget for how much music can be in the game, how much sound can be in the game in general, the cost of an orchestral recording.
Game Music React
One of the most fun talks of the day where we learned more of how the music stems are created to easily manoeuvre between different intensities in situations such as combat. Richard, Jason and Joris gave talks and demos on how they would utilise this technique. Richard showed how fades between music stems are used to go from low and high intensity. Joris showed how stingers are used to make the transition as seamless as possible. Jason showed an interesting piece on how the intensity is based on Lara’s choice of combat as opposed to just combat start and stop.
Alistair and Paul sat on this one, so we gained the inside view of Sony and Microsoft audio directors and their big picture and setting the standard in the future of next gen consoles.
The words “Be amazing” came from Paul, as he suggested listening to what’s out there and realising the quality of work you have to produce. Also get on his “radar”. You have to keep getting yourself out there, your face to the events, such as Game Music Connect. Keep meeting the right people, don’t just meet them once and tick the box, you have to build these relationships.
This I couldn’t agree more with. It even took me a while to realise that no matter how great technology is and you can speak to people all over the world, meeting them will open more doors than any of them.The main question that John asked that I think the audience most wanted the answer to was “What advice would you give to composers who want to get hired for games?”
Game Music USA
An interesting panel chaired by Paul Lipson where the US based guests, so Martin O’Donnell, Jesper Kyd, discussed how different they think the industry is and the different directions they’ve seen between Europe and the US. It was quite cool to hear how things differ in opinion from their perspective and Jason Graves did say that fans of game music are more “intense” over here, which he assured me is meant in a positive way.
Another brilliant part of the day. Although time constraints meant I couldn’t ask my question, it was still an enjoyable experience to listen to the audience interact with the guests.
It perfectly rounded of the day with some great quotes. Especially when they were asked about generative music, where a computer algorithm takes a basic music concept and composes the rest itself, and it’s future in games. Jesper Kyd’s response of there’s no emotion, “you can’t teach a computer to have a rough childhood”.
The rest was a networking hour in the foyer, which then turned into going for beers with Jesper, Richard, John and a few other attendees for an all round fantastic time!
We even spoke to Adele Cutting about her experience who said “To be on the panel with greats like Marty, I had so many questions for my own panel! The turn out is amazing, there’s just so many people here it’s great. It’s been absolutely fantastic”
I highly recommend going if you have any interest in game development at all, it was fantastic to learn from, engage with and talk to the guests who are humble, knowledgeable and fantastic to talk to.
See you next year at Game Music Connect!
We asked a couple of attendees what they thought to the event and how it compared to their expectations:
“Game Music Connect was like no event I have ever been to before. The talent both on and off the stage made the event so unique and worth every penny spent. I almost expected some sessions to be quite ‘nerdy’ but in actual fact it was quite the opposite, both informative and easy to understand. Needless to say Game Music Connect far surpassed my expectations. A great day, with great people, all enjoying what we all love best, the art of video game music.” – Doug Waters, Composer
“Game Music Connect was an amazing event that offers a unique insight into composing within the video games industry and the challenges it offers. I loved every minute of it and there was such a range of knowledge and advice on offer from different perspectives that was helpful in understanding the industry. I hope this is the first of many!” – Alex Jones, Composer
“Game Music Connect was much better than I anticipated in regard to interactivity with the guest speakers. It was more open and relaxed and overall a great vibe. It’s good to meet others in the same situation as yourself to know that you’re not alone when the long hours in the studio seem relentless and hard. James and John did a great job and I would recommend anyone interested in gaming music, or composition or even just video games in general to attend! Here’s to Game Music Connect2014!” – Andrew Overfield, Composer
“Game Music Connect was a breath of fresh air, I found the demeanour and passion of the panellists incredible engaging and refreshing. It’s perfectly evident that the Games industry – whilst a global business – has essentially evolved due to the passion and engagement of both its creative’s and end users. It’s completely different from the film and TV world – perhaps due to having developed from the computer business rather than the entertainment industry. I’ll definitely be returning next year….” – Nick Norton-Smith, Composer
To find out more info on Game Music Connect and it’s speakers please go to the official site: Game Music Connect to find out all you could need to know.
To hear more of my rants and opinions plus a more in-depth review, the Hardcore Version is for you.
As always leave a comment below if you wish as opinions from attendees and readers are all welcome!
Article by Sam Hughes