Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hello, it's me from the past.

I had forgotten all about this... I'd been scanning some documents in for a friend and found this little gem of me waxing lyrical about getting in to the games industry as a spritely 30 year old.

I haven't read it, but I'd imagine it's mostly embarrassingly ambiguous .

Grab it here

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How do I write music ?








A Common question that ends up in my inbox from time to time.

How do I write music...


I have a question about game music composition. I would like to be a wannabe composer. What equipment is required to do such a thing?

I have the following:

1. A competent computer + Xonar Sound Card

2. M-Audio Oxygen 88 -  88-Key Graded Hammer-Action USB/MIDI Controller

3.
Digital Audio Workstation Software

4. Some VST Libraries and Samples

Is this all that is needed, or is there more? This seems to work, but I have seen some studios with all a sorts of equipment. Much of it I have no idea what it does.  



When I started writing music I had a piece of manuscript paper and a piano. I didn't have any of the above, but I was able to scribble notes down which eventually were turned into music using an Amiga 500 and soundtracker.

Not relevant today, we have it much easier than that.

Think of it this way. If I want to make a sandwich and have bread, a knife, a cutting board and a fridge full of delicious fillings and toppings and yet, don't know whether that's enough to make a sandwich... then maybe it's time to think about reading a book on sandwich making :)

If you have a keyboard and can make it make a noise and have a recording device (sequencer,tape machine, iphone, whatever it might be)  then go and make some noises and record them.

The more you do it, the better those noises will be and once your friends stop having to say nice things about them and say them geuinely, then worry about what bits of gear and software you can buy.






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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Twist Pilot is out now.



"In molten spirals
Spinning"

Deus Ex Machina - Mel Croucher 1984


It's out, it's less than a packet of crisps (or chips if you so prefer), you can play it on an Apple, an Android and even Sony Vita.

Itunes Link

Android Link


PlayStation Network


It's jolly good fun.


Monday, September 24, 2012

How do you get into the Video Games Industry as a composer ?



It's about time I wrote this out once and for all so when I get emails like this one

Dear Graeme,

How do you get into the industry...here's a link to my portfolio, tell me what you think.


It's a question I get an awful lot. I did the same thing when I was 17. I wrote to Mel Croucher of Automata. It was before I had my Amiga, and didn't have a clue how to record music. I picked Mel, wrote to him, and he very kindly replied back.

Innocent days, but if people take the time to write to me, isn't it rude not to reply ?

Well, sometimes, the emails themselves are rude...but we'll  just skirt over the issue of curtness, cold calling and direct questions or direct requests for my copyrighted material..... Such is life now that we live in the instant gratification age of having Google at our fingertips.

But going back a paragraph.... How do you get into the video games industry ?

Good question, I wish I had an answer for you.

I've been in the industry for 20 years.... the one thing you can be sure that's happened, is that it's changed dramatically since then.

So if I told you to answer an advert in a magazine with a demo tape, you'd just think me as strange.

But, in summary, that's what I did.

Before the days of MCV, Develop etc, we had the Edge in the UK. This magazine was the number one go to for job adverts.

I didn't buy it though because I was on the dole and had no disposable income to speak of.

My flat mates did though, because they were working and had cash to flash.

Late 1993 I saw an advert or was pointed to one for a musician at Rare.

Who were Rare?
Ultimate...you know from the 8bit Spectrum days.

Oh yeah.

So I sent them my demo tape/DAT.

Not the first company I'd applied to, there had been many others... but this time, I was given an interview.

A snowy day in February, I went armed with 2 pieces of music a minute in length written to their specification for the purposes of the job.

I'd hear in a week if I was successful.

It was 2 months, but who's counting.

So, I had 3 weeks to leave my friends and family behind, move from London to Warwickshire and that was about it.


If I answered that in an email, you probably wouldn't find it very helpful...and that's my point. There are several layers of chaos that make things happen.

One of my colleagues, Grant Kirkhope, used brute force. He would keep sending us demo tapes to Rare with new songs on each time.

We weren't looking for anyone, but then, one day, he sent a tape, we did need another pair of hands and he got the job.

There are no hard and fast rules. There's no magic, it's a bit of hard work, a bit of talent and luck.



There's a few agencies out there, a few mags to look for adverts in, but to be honest video game composer jobs are pretty rare .

I would suggest that getting together a damn good demo cd, half a dozen tracks, no more than a minute each, different styles, orchestral is a safe bet as video games are sounding more like films these days.

Get a website together too.. I'd probably be more inclined to listen to mp3 demos on a website than playing a cd... lazy I know, but it's personal preference really.

Cold calling might be ok if you  want to be freelance.. if I got a really good cd, I'd make a note of their name and bear them in mind if I was looking for freelance composers.
In house jobs though, be prepared for a lot of "thanks but not at the moment" letters, and some won't even bother replying..... not out of rudeness, but if an audio team are working to a harsh deadline... they won't have the time to listen to tunes or audio design and write a reply, especially if they are not looking for more staff at the time.

Some links that might be helpful and contain links to job sites or adverts.


http://www.gamesindustry.biz/
http://www.music4games.net/
http://www.gamasutra.com/
http://www.mcvuk.com/

I haven't got any hard and fast tips... remember that I saw an advert in "Edge" magazine, sent off a tape and months later got an interview at Rare
From an employer point of view, if I'm not looking for anyone and cds come in I'm unlikely to give them much time, but it's not something that should be taken personally, and always a risk if cold calling.

just keep writing writing writing, stick to different styles, think about the market that he's aiming for.. i.e. write demo tracks for
racing games, first person shooters, rpgs that kind of thing.


==========================================================


My advice to you regarding getting a job in the games industry would be to go with what you love doing.

Are you an artist, musician, programmer, designer, what excites you ?

Follow that path...

there are no hard and fast rules to getting a job in games, there's no "direct route"

there's luck, a lot of hard work and endless passion.

With regards music, again, I didn't read a book on how to write music for games, It was something I'd always wanted to do since I was your age. It took 10 years of self teaching, playing games, studying them, studying music, seeing how music worked with the games I was playing at the time.

Then finally, after sucky jobs (that paid for music equipment) I got lucky.

I answered an advert in a games magazine and got a job in-house composer at Rare ltd.

They just happened to like my demos, so I got lucky.

With other parts of the games industry, there are many college courses aimed at games programming, designer, modelling.

It's all down to what you love doing, because if you don't, then you won't want to make the games great, it'll just be a job.

hope that helps someway into your decision.

Good luck for the future.


I intend to add to this in the future... as the other top question I get it what equipment I use... not that this really should matter in how you write music. I used to write it at a piano with a pencil and manuscript paper. A lifetime ago... but I still managed to get the notes written down.

These days, it's a lot simpler and a joy to switch on a PC and have all that technology at your fingertips.


Buying a particular synth or vst instrument will not make the music for you... that's got to come from your brain!



Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nobody Likes me, everybody hates me.






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Only joking....  Hardly anyone reads this blog, and not  surprising, it's hardly updating daily, which was my original idea.... apparently, I'm too busy making games rather than writing about them...shit on it!

Anyway... like the proverbial bad penny... the talk of TS4 is up again because my boss mentioned it in an interview...

So, if you think it would be a good idea to play a new version of Timesplitters... I imagine this time, it'd be free to play with episodic updates and 100s of characters... then you should at the very least go here and press the left mouse button over the icon that says "Like"

The goal is 100,000.

https://www.facebook.com/grey242#!/Timesplitters4PLZ


To be brutally honest... I'd set it at 2,000,000.

If you can get that many people who are willing to press a button for a free game, then it looks like a going concern.

if it's a few thousand people, then what kind of message do you think that conveys to potential publishers and the current developer who owns the IP ?

Working on the three Timesplitters games was pure joy. I'm flattered that people consider it a great game, and take the time to tell me that in emails, but.... it didn't follow the popular crowd. it was different, it was very British in it's humour, you got to shoot Elvis impersonators against ducks and a goldfish in a bowl... COD and Battlefield didn't have any clowns or cowboys to my knowledge.

It was very important to break all the windows in a French church, or a curling challenge using a monkey as a puck and not forgetting a racing challenge using a cat as a car.

When you are a publisher making annual updates of your po faced shooters... you can see how TS was seen as a bad smell in the office.. regardless of the fans who wanted to play something that was a step away from the crowd, they couldn't market it... too many characters, too many locations, nobody is going to be able to market a game that can't be pigeon holed narrowly described publisher friendly few words.

That link again ?

Why it's...

https://www.facebook.com/grey242#!/Timesplitters4PLZ


If I sound jaded...then it's because I've wanted to make a new Timesplitters since 2005... that was 7 years ago.... excuse my previous experiences of disappointment.


Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Timesplitters 2 music available again












No idea why it's taken so long to get this back up online again, but time flies when you have a gun.

 45 tracks for you to download and stuff into your ears.

 Have fun!


http://graemenorgate.bandcamp.com/


 

Friday, May 4, 2012

The interview in full.

Today on Eurogamer there's an interview with a bunch of the old Free Rad people on it's demise... it's been another sad day for me reading it and having to remember annus horribilis of 2008.

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-05-04-free-radical-vs-the-monsters


As I'm such a massive big head...a massive head?  I've decided to put the whole blurb I answered for the article here.. and try and move on with nicer things.

There are many positive things in this industry, and although as with everything in the media, no news is good news, sometimes our opinion can be skewed by reporting.

For the most part, Free Radical was an incredibly happy and creative period of my life.

The following outlines some of the less good times.



Interview questions by Rich Stanton




  • 1. You were one of five folk to leave Rare in early 1999 to make up the new Free Radical Design. Why?
            Why did I leave Rare or why did I set up Free Radical Design ?
            Why did I leave Rare... it wasn't an easy decision to make... and I was yes and no to the whole idea for a long long time..  I went back to work on 1st Jan 1999 with the
            firm decision to stay and make a go of it and fate dealt an impressive hand that day and completely switched my decision.

            Also, it was the perfect window of opportunity. Rare were at the top of their game in the 90s, Goldeneye was the game that the man on the street knew about and
            Perfect Dark was highly anticipated. We (as in the five folks) had the bargaining power to open doors and cheque books.            


  • 2. Did you get to build your dream studio as part of the deal?
            Hehe... no.
            Unless my idea of a dream studio was sharing a cramped room with 9 other guys in the blistering heat without A/C... then yes, it was all I ever wanted and more.
            We moved offices 6 months later, and things slightly improved some what.           
            Also spending wise... in the early years at least, we were quite frugal with our money. We didn't want to be the company that crashed and burnt after spending the publishing
            advance on ridiculous cars and gold offices.

  • 3. I visited Free Radical when they were in Sandiacre – I remember it being pretty high tech, and noting the presence of fresh fruit (still not very common in developers' offices). What was it like as a working environment?
            The fruit was an odd one... The government makes it expensive to keep the workforce healthy... they wanted to tax the fruit as a benefit in kind. We could however feed our staff
            pizza without any such taxes....

            Work wise, things improved the more we progressed. In the early years when we went from 20-30 people to over 200... it took a while to adjust to such a change, losing the small
            family environment to such a huge outfit but it was a joy to work at. So many creative and talented people under one (or four) roof.
           
  • 4. From April '99 to the release of the first Timesplitters was a year and a half – what can you remember about that time? Was it all about hitting the PS2 launch from the start?
            Not in April. At first we were working on Second Sight, that was the game that we set up Free Radical to make. However, a few months down the line, Dave had an idea that
            pretty soon, we'd have a very playable multiplayer element. How about going for broke...making a fun, fast and arcadey multiplayer game for launch... Eidos thought this was
            a fine idea indeed.

  • 5. Timesplitters 2 – the character R-107. Clearly a Kraftwerk tribute, anything to do with you?
           
            Not guilty. That would be from the mind of Ben Newman. Although for TS:FP I did translate the first line from Kraftwerk's Robots for his pick animation.
            Ja tvoi sluga (I'm your slave), Ja tvoi Rabotnik (I'm your worker)

  • 6. The years of Timesplitters and Second Sight saw FR scoring commercially and critically with every release, and the studio steadily increasing in size. You were being nominated for BAFTAs, lauded as one of Britain's big upcoming tech companies, and making great stuff. What was it like to be a part of something like that?
            As you can imagine.. amazing. You don't realise what you had until the time has past of course. After every game, I would angrily make lists of all the stuff that had gone wrong,
            but if you don't do that, you'll never improve and there is no time for resting on laurels in the video games industry, you've got to be constantly moving and improving.
            Looking back though from a purely selfish point of view, I am incredibly proud to have been nominated for Bafta's for TS2... even though I didn't win haha.

  • 7. The feel of Second Sight was something new for FR, and I adore the eerie score you came up with. Everything about it is different – was this a consequence of the material, or was it more about seeing what freaky distortions you could tease out of synths?
            What can I say, I like the dark stuff! Second Sight was perfect for me from a scoring point of view. I wanted to make playing the game feel like watching the Shining.    

  • 8. Haze is missing lots of stuff that was intended to be in it. From the outside, with the switch from cross-platform to PS3 exclusive and the development delay, it looks like a pretty chaotic development. What was it like on the inside?
            Slow.
            Trying to get anything into that game was a battle of wills. Another audio guy said that trying to get sounds into the game was like wallpapering a wall whilst the rest of the house was
            burning down.
            New consoles, a completely new engine written from the ground up, written by too many people and not under enough control made it a bit of a wild ride that was no fun and everyone
            wanted to get off.
            Haze had high ambitions and potential but the engine killed it.
            We should have kept the TS engine... which was resurrected for Timesplitters 4 (as it was back then) and was looking fantastic. Running at a constant 60fps and with more lighting
            effects than we could even dream of in Haze.... too little too late unfortunately.
           

  • 9. Everyone's seen the footage of an incredible looking Battlefront 3 that FR were working on. I've been told that Lucasarts dropped it because Rebellion gave them a cheaper quote (which they couldn't deliver on). What do you remember of this time? Is that something you'd ever experienced before in the industry?
            You're have to ask those fine gentlemen the Kingsleys about that. I only know what I heard from inside Rebellion but it would be cheap and nasty to tell tales,
           

  • 10. It is generally thought that the poor reception of Haze did for Free Radical. Would it be more accurate to say that it was losing the Battlefront 3 contract?
            Absolutely.
            There are so many things that could have happened that may have changed the course of Free Radical, if Haze had been better or sold better, Ubisoft would have wanted a sequel
            (there had been some planning for a second), if a publisher had picked up Timesplitters 4 or Wii Self Defence. If Activision had given the Goldeneye remake to us instead of Eurocom,
            and who knows what else I've forgotten. Ultimately though... with a company of 250 staff... you need a lot of money per month to keep it going. Lucas Arts hadn't paid us for
            6 months refusing to pass a milestone by changing the deliverable content so we would limp along until the money finally ran out. They knew what they were doing, and 6 months
            free work to pass on to Rebellion wasn't to be sniffed at. Lucas Arts had gone through some restructuring and we were told that, they had suffered, now it was our turn.

  • 11. The news of administration came as a surprise, and I recall on the morning of it FR staff turned up to a locked office – clearly the company knew it was in a tough spot, but was the decision to enter administration its own or forced?
            We took legal advice and wanted to do the right thing. We could have carried on regardless, not paid people and hope that people would carry on working for free until the money came
            in... illegal but not uncommon according to our administrators who then have to pick up the pieces.

            We did it by the book and everyone involved had one of the shitest Christmases ever.

  • 12. What words would you like to see in FR's obituary? (apart from 'loads of us are still here under a different name!')

                They made some nice games then it all got a bit hazy.