Author Topic: a couple of questions regarding the peltians and acutions in stars within reach.  (Read 5438 times)

Offline x4000

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I'm glad you're talking about Pablo Vega, I haven't seen many posts from him and in some ways he's Arcen's unsung hero.

Yeah, I think you're right about him being a bit unsung sometimes, but he's always there working away like crazy.  I just love the work he puts out.

So, How did you and Pablo Vega meet?

Well, I realized that I had a potentially-sellable game on my hands with AI War back in March of 2009 or so.  My sister is an opera singer and voice coach, and was at the time an undergraduate voice student at UNC.  I asked her if she knew any good composers, and she immediately and unhesitatingly said "you need to call Pablo."  He and I had met, but I didn't really remember him very well -- I met so many folks at UNC going to see my sister's stuff.

At any rate, he came over to my house for an hour or two and looked at AI War, and we talked about various types of game music and what I was looking for.  I had a range of things I was interested in, and had given him some mp3s of a lot of particular music I liked that I thought might be fitting.

What really surprised me during that meeting was that he saw my wife had an electronic piano (not a fancy thing, and not with the full set of keys even), and he asked if he could just sketch some ideas out really quick to show me some of what he was thinking.  He was getting really amped up.  I said of course, and he sat down and just started banging out some amazing stuff on several of the midi instruments on there.

My jaw basically hit the floor, and I was like "remember that melody!" and "remember that kind of instrument!"  Oh man!  I'm a huge lover of game music, and film scores as well, and the prospect of having someone making that sort of thing for something I created was just... mind blowing to me.  It's kind of like suddenly getting Patrick Stewart to narrate all your home videos or something, you know?

Anyway, so we agree to a deal for a fixed sum of money and then a small royalty, and both left that meeting with smiles on our faces.  He then went through a few tries really getting an  AI War theme that fully fit, and then he was off to the races.

What would you look/listen for when you're hiring a composer?

Someone who is passionate about game music, not just music in general.  And someone who actually PLAYS games.  Composing for games is not like composing for film.  Or the radio.  You can't score something that is too repetitious, because there aren't 40 other artists that will be between your song and the others on the radio.  You can't score to an exact visual sequence (most of the time) in a game, because usually the player goes at their own pace.  Voiced cutscenes aside, but there is a lot more to game composing than that.

Game music has to loop certain ways, and it's hard to get it to both feel like it's building as well as loop.  It's hard to break the habit of repeating certain elements of a track too much within the track, since the track will be played over and over.  It's hard to make a track that is varied enough that people won't be absolutely slamming their head through the monitor after hearing it for the 40th time in three weeks.

Figuring out that balance between melody and ambiance is hard.  And the ability to come up with multiple striking melodies for one game is super unusual.  Usually it's just one or two motifs that get riffed on repeatedly, and you're done.  The best soundtracks for games are not like that at all, and that's what I would look for in a composer.  I really lucked out meeting Pablo, I have to say.  Not many folks can do what he does there.

What made Pablo Vega a permanent member of the team?

He was working at a bank at the time in order to make ends meet, and I hated that.  I really could tell that there was a lot more potential in him than he had even been able to demonstrate so far at that time, and it killed me seeing that squandered.  I knew that if I could just give him time to really sink in his teeth to projects, he could come up with a density of awesome stuff to rival the best composers for games.  After all, that's what Uematsu and Kondo and so forth get to do, right?  They wouldn't have time for all the awesome they do if they didn't do it fulltime.  So I wanted him full time.

Several other indies (and folks coming off of AAA teams) have said to me "you have a fulltime composer?  Isn't that just a luxury?"  I don't know, I guess so.  I view it as pretty imperative to me, though, because the music is so important to me in games.  I had a fulltime composer years before having fulltime artists, is how important it is to me.

Musically, what matters most to you?

I value coherent variety, with a mix of both strong melodies and more laid back pieces.  By which I mean, a soundtrack that makes sense as a whole, but at the same time isn't one-note.  It's not like some eclectic mess of things that are unrelated, either, though.  If you look at some of Uematsu's best soundtracks (FF6, Chrono Trigger), you can see what I mean.  You can easily pick out which one of the two soundtracks a given track belongs to if you know the games at all.  They sound musically distinct.  Yet the range in each one is somehow huge at the same time.  Emotionally, stylistically, etc.  I love that.

At the same time, there are some tracks that are really melody-driven and that you just remember for years after the game comes out.  Those are the ones people think of most, like for instance the (at this point I shudder I'm so sick of it) Gerudo Valley theme from Ocarina of Time.  People just love that track, and the melody is just such a powerful thing.  I'm only sick of it from hearing it probably 500+ times.  But at the same time, there were a lot of more subdued tracks in that soundtrack, and they make such emotional connections to the game as well.  For instance, the track that plays during the intro when you are first seeing Navi fly through the Kokiri village and then wake Link up.  It's not something you're humming the next hour or the next year.  But when you go back and play the game again, you suddenly almost have this flashback to when you first heard the music, and it's this powerful sensory connection to that first sense of wonder you felt when playing the game.

A lot of indie soundtracks are either all-ambient or just over-the-top-metal-craziness, and I think that's to their detriment.  A lot of AAA soundtracks, too.  SimCity 4 and Age of Empires II are other examples of really pulling off the range of emotions well, and in their cases it was just in a random playlist of tracks that had no connection to specific gameplay at hand.  In those cases it brings in a sense of relief or tension as you play that is unrelated to what is happening, and it's something that helps the player survive long gaming sessions with those titles, I think. ;)

Any advice for a (surprisingly tall) mini-Vega with a dream of getting his name on the credits of a game? (volunteering? Having samples of his work ready?)

Honestly I don't have much advice, I'm sorry to say.  I'm the wrong person to ask, because I met Pablo in an unusual way and I've only ever worked with him.  I suppose some up and coming indies might be interested in volunteers, sure.  And having a portfolio is always a help with any artist in this industry.  But there are a LOT of composers out there, and so unfortunately indies are able to really take them for a game and then dump them if they want, thus keeping the pay really low normally.  I don't work that way at all, but I also don't even look at the applications of other composers that submit.  I don't care who they are, I'm just not looking.

Most indies work with composers on a freelance basis, though, so being able to put together something compelling in a short amount of time is important.  Sometimes Pablo really gets hit with that even working fulltime for us, because one year we put out 6 products and needed like 5 hours of music from him in one year there.  And at the quality level he does, that was absolutely a tall order.  That included I think 4 vocal tracks, I think, too.

Being able to do that is important to being a successful freelancer or a successful member of any team that isn't doing multi-year projects with just a few tracks.

Oh and lastly. Steam has the music library section and the ability to buy soundtracks as DLC, is that something you've considered?

...I assume it's just a matter of them being mp3s rather than .ogg files. Whatever the case I can imagine a few people picking up a soundtrack if it was offered when you next release a game on steam (hopefully food for thought). Personally I like the voiced tracks best, like Bionic Dues Title Theme and TLF Voice files... but I do appreciate the voices would be quite distracting for the general background ambiance and transitions would be more jarring (with combat music interrupting a long song).

I'm not sure how much I can really say due to NDA, but my understanding is that Steam isn't too enthused about soundtracks in most cases.  Or at least they were not for a while.  Pablo sells all his soundtracks as mp3/FLAC files through a variety of sites, though.  Bandcamp, I believe iTunes, and so on.

Oh and I absolutely love the female voice in TLF (Bronnie?). Heart-warming and adorably cute... I was just looking at the voice folder. Overwhelmingly cute. I find sound and voice-overs is an under-appreciated element in 4x games. I imagine many devs work detached from the music in a busy office and forget how important sound will be to the player. I go back to Alpha Centauri and think of how *real* the game became upon hearing the faction leaders' quotes all memorable and in-character.

So, will we have a TLF-style advisor with little comments about the races? (I hope so)

That was actually Ally, and she was indeed awesome.  And yep, I'm keenly aware of a lot of the need for sound work in games.  Right now most of the sound work for TLF hasn't been done yet, but for the animated shorts I would say that Toby fills that general role of what Ally was doing in TLF.  He plays the computer in this one.  I think he'll probably be in the main game as well, but it depends somewhat on how budgets go.  I may also work with some other actors on that, and I'm planning on playing the planet voice in there.  Probably a bit differently from my first demo versions of that, but we'll see.

As always, I apologise for the number of questions. I know you take the time to read them even if you're a bit rushed at the moment so thank you for reading and good luck with the game.

No worries, and thanks!
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Offline Cinth

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  As a fan, what makes Pablo's music great is that most of it is great outside the game.  It might help that I'm a fan of instrumental music, but I can listen to his music while doing just about anything.
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Opened your save. My computer wept. Switched to the ST planet and ship icons filled my screen, so I zoomed out. Game told me that it _was_ totally zoomed out. You could seriously walk from one end of the inner grav well to the other without getting your feet cold.

Offline x4000

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Yep, me too.  I have a huge library of music, and many of his tracks are highly-starred in there.  So I wind up listening to them a ton, too.
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Offline Coppermantis

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  As a fan, what makes Pablo's music great is that most of it is great outside the game.  It might help that I'm a fan of instrumental music, but I can listen to his music while doing just about anything.

Ditto, I remember for a while I used to listen to AI War music while doing homework. AVWW and SC too.
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Offline crazyroosterman

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my favourite pices from tlf are lay down your arms (I wasn't expecting some that beautiful when I beat my first game I've got to be honest) the battle music with the symbols(cant remember what its called sorry) and that one in the galaxy that sort of sounds like lay down yours arms without any lyrics(sorry again I cant remember what its called) haven't played any other arcen games apart from tlf which is why I've been nerding over it here.(I didn't even know that ai war had sub  races in it in till I read the post about what races are going to be in swr)
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Offline x4000

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Yeah, we thought we'd hide the awesome vocal track at the end of the game on that one, rather than having it up front. :)
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Offline Endymion

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Oh and lastly. Steam has the music library section and the ability to buy soundtracks as DLC, is that something you've considered?

...I assume it's just a matter of them being mp3s rather than .ogg files. Whatever the case I can imagine a few people picking up a soundtrack if it was offered when you next release a game on steam (hopefully food for thought). Personally I like the voiced tracks best, like Bionic Dues Title Theme and TLF Voice files... but I do appreciate the voices would be quite distracting for the general background ambiance and transitions would be more jarring (with combat music interrupting a long song).

I'm not sure how much I can really say due to NDA, but my understanding is that Steam isn't too enthused about soundtracks in most cases.  Or at least they were not for a while.  Pablo sells all his soundtracks as mp3/FLAC files through a variety of sites, though.  Bandcamp, I believe iTunes, and so on.
For music to show up in steam's music player I believe that other than them being mp3s they just need to be in a folder with soundtrack or OST in it's name(making a bit of a mess for games that have music in multiple folders or sound effects as mp3s)
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Offline x4000

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Interesting.  I doubt that would put it up for sale, though.  Pablo independently sells them through bandcamp, etc.
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Offline crazyroosterman

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okay super random question that has nothing to do with the game/game mechanics I was reading your post about the zenuliths(I probably spelt that wrong) and it got me It got thinking so those guys are machines technically but since there organic I assume they started becoming like what they are now many thousands of years in the past which got me thinking who originally created the Andors and the acutions their machines which typically isn't something which  comes about naturally id love to find out about their history maybe even in game?.
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Offline x4000

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The histories of at least some of the races is something I hope to explore in the game, but I'm not 100% sure how much of that will make it in.  The histories of the leaders, and how they short-term handled the past of their racial leadership, is definitely something I plan to put in.  As to the deeper history of the race itself, going back much further in time, I'm not sure.  Maybe!
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Offline wwwhhattt

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While you're on leaders - does the leadership change in this game for some races like it does in TLF? And if so does that change the race's leaders?
I suppose being in a very different situation (with the huge passage of time) could have lead to hugely different forms of government though. I should stop now before I ask too many questions.

Offline x4000

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You are fine on the questions. :)

In this particular game, the leaders are constant throughout the entire game.  Figuring out who each leader is for the enemy factions is one of your first intel jobs, and then that has a big impact on how the race acts.  Different leaders actually give some different bonuses to their factions, but also affect what political deals are open, what the goals of the faction are, etc.  So it is almost like variants of the same faction, basically.
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Offline crazyroosterman

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alright then I hope ill get to find out who originally created the acutions/andors but regardless this game sounds like its going to be pretty awesome sauce.
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Offline crazyroosterman

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2 more random question (this one is much less random than my last one) do the thoraxians mood swing mechanics come over into swr(stars within reach) so basically in the game will their ai behaviour change massively at random ish times for no apparent reason?.

 and will the boarines rage mechanic come over as well for example I'm playing as a race and I start a war with them and their military gets continually stronger as we do battle because they have that rage mechanic?.
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