Could you describe your role in placing the music in Uncharted 2
My role on Uncharted 2 was as an assistant music supervisor but a large part of what I was in charge of doing was the music implementation which required traveling down to Naughty Dog on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. My day-to-day process greatly depended on what stage of the development cycle of the game but in broad terms I will usually temp score the game with either demos from Greg or with assets from Uncharted 1. When all of the recording is done we make hundred of assets (loops, endings, stingers) from what Greg has written and I will begin re-scoring the game, almost from scratch. I will then start doing longer play throughs to try and determine if there are any other assets that will need to be made.
I will also start paying greater attention to the overall flow of the score in the game, making sure the score breathes and hits all the important plot points. The last couple weeks of the development cycle are spent polishing each area and making sure all of the transitions between assets sound as natural as possible. All of this is a very collaborative process between myself, Jonathan Mayer (Uncharted’s Music Supervisor), Amy Hennig (Naughty Dog Creative Director), Evan Wells (Naughty Dog Co-President), Bruce Straley (Naughty Dog Gameplay Director), all of the Naughty Dog Level designers, Jonathan Lanier (Naughty Dog Audio Programmer), Bruce Swanson (Naughty Dog Audio Director) and the entire SCEA music department who are the most badass group of engineers, editors, supervisors and support staff you could possibly ask for.
On inFAMOUS, did you have a similar role to that of your role in Uncharted 2, or did it differ in any way? Or was the game so different, that the implementation process was extremely different?
On inFAMOUS I had basically the same job description and responsibilities with one exception, we had to design a Music System from scratch. Jonathan Mayer and I looked at a lot of the features that we had used on other project and adapted some of them and threw out a bunch of others. When starting on a completely blank slate it always helps to not think about the technology and to just focus on how, in a perfect world, you would score the game, then work backward from there. When we had come up with a plan we presented it to Bruce Oberg (Sucker Punch Programmer), Nate Fox (Sucker Punch Creative Director) and Andy Martin (Sucker Punch Audio Director). With input from all parties involved Bruce Oberg created the system and I tested everything once it was implemented.
I know that you went to Expressions, here in Emeryville, and a lot of the GANG members are also students in similar schools. Do you have any insight on how that education helped you in landing such a great job? Any classes or concepts that were instrumental in preparing you? Were there other factors involved in helping you get your job (networking? other game audio experience?)
There was really quite a bit of luck to it. The two careers I had wanted to pursue after graduation were live sound and game audio. I had graduated from Expressions in February of 2006 and was having a very hard time finding an internship, even with the help of Shiloh Hobel who helps with internship placements. I had contacts at several live production companies and was basically told that there were no opportunities because February isn’t concert season and 80% of the gigs they put on were between May and September. With that in mind I made the decision to try Game Audio, having been an avid gamer over the years and from enjoying my time in Game Audio class at Expressions. In the back of my mind I had thought that if I landed an internship and it didn’t work out, at least it would then be concert season.
Shiloh had a couple of contacts at Sony and had placed interns there before and one day she called me and said “How fast can you get me a resume.” Then I had an interview, which was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life because the entire music department, 7 of them at the time, all sat around a big conference table and grilled me for over an hour.
This is one of the areas where I think a lot of people go wrong, at least when applying for internships, I was very honest about the skills I possessed and the ones I wanted to improve at the internship. I remember having to fill out a questionnaire and giving myself a 7/10 on Pro Tools skills. I think my honesty is really what got me the gig, and the fact that I showed up for the interview looking like I was going to a high school dance.
The internship was fantastic though. The guys at Sony are really at the top of their game (no pun intended) and I was fortunate enough to work on SOCOM: Combined Assault (PS2) and SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 2 (PSP) doing mostly asset management, Pro Tools sessions setups and video capture for the composers.
And when you started at Sony, did you start out in your current position, or did you have other positions that you started in, and worked up?
I had finished my internship about two weeks before gold master on both of the SOCOM projects and they had asked me if I wanted to stay on, still as an unpaid intern to finish them. When I was asked this I was very encouraged by the fact that they wanted me to stick around and became very optimistic that it may eventually turn into a job. Then about two days before gold master Clint Bajakian called me into his office and sat me down and said that they would really like it if I would come and work as a full-time contractor on God of War II to do music implementation, asset tracking and music editing. I was then offered a full-time staff position as a Music Production Associate which I started on January 2nd 2007, and from there I became a Music Editor, which is my current position.
Did you start out as a musician/audio enthusiast who got into gaming, or a gamer who got into music/audio? Or did they both ride alongside each other?
When I started at Sony I was much more into music than videogames, probably about 70% to 30%. I had played video games, lots of them in fact, but I did not have the reverence for them that I do now. As a gamer it was always done with my friends, playing Halo, Mario Kart or MVP Baseball. My background was more of a musician, I had played the trumpet for a number of years, and had taken a few music theory classes along the way. There was a time when I had to make an audition tape for the Northern California High School Honor Band and I was quite fascinated with the little Mackie console that was then being output into Pro Tools.
Had I known what I do now about editing I probably could have made the best audition tape they had ever heard. When I graduated from high school I really wanted to get into music engineering and so I went to Los Medanos College for a year and was able to take a few recording classes as well as keep playing in the school’s Jazz Ensembles. It was around the end of my year at Los Medanos that I decided to put the trumpet playing on hold and enlist at Expressions.
Do you have a favorite ‘gaming’ moments or memories? Not necessarily for games you’ve worked on, but at any time in your life (because of the gaming experience due to people you were playing with,
the game you were playing, a twist that surprised you, a level you cracked etc…)
There are a lot of games that I love and have played a few times through. I really loved the flashback mission from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. That was certainly one game that melted my face off. When I finally quit playing I had logged about 4 days into the multiplayer and was on my third prestige lap. There was a night after I had begun playing it that I sprung up in the middle of the night because I had dreamt someone threw a grenade in my bed. I also really loved the title sequence at the beginning of Grand Theft Auto 4. All of Portal, which I have probably played through 4 times at least. Currently I am really digging Battlefield Bad Company 2, it sounds great and everything is destructible, nuff said.
Do you have further goals in your career, or projects/roles that you’d be excited about exploring next?
We have a few projects in the future that I am really psyched about but unfortunately are not announced yet, it is tough not being able to talk about some super cool things we’re working on. I would like to manage my own projects someday but to be completely honest I enjoy what I currently do so much I would not trade it for anything.
Interview written/edited by Dren McDonald