Archive:Dev Diary: The Music Producer/Composer With Your Dream Job

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  • Published: 06 March 2014
  • Host:
  • Author: Alf
  • Game: Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty
  • Format: Publised Online

The Designer Diary

Magog on the March news flash: you don't have to work in tech to work in the game industry!

Hiiiiiidey ho, Inhabitants! Do we have a tasty treat for you guys.

This week’s Dev Diary is an informative and hilarious interview Michael Bross, the composer for New ‘n’ Tasty‘s soundtrack. If you’ve already played our Odd games before, you’ll already be familiar with his work—he was also the musical mastermind behind Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath (and a few of the voices too!). He’s also worked on some other games you’ve might have played… but he’ll get to that in a bit.

Anyway, I’m going to let Michael take it away.

Hi Michael! Thanks so much for answering some Dev Diary questions for us! We really appreciate it. Mind telling us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in the middle of a forest in a very small town. I know how to make toast along with macaroni and cheese from a box with the best of them. When I was the bright age of 10, I destroyed a friend’s snowmobile by non-decisively driving it into a tree. I’ve been shot through the ear with a BB gun (and survived). Power naps are a favorite, though I only do those on weekends. All true, but a little more seriously…

You may wonder how I am connected to this current OWI project. I worked at Oddworld for 4+ years as audio director when the company’s studio was on the central coast of California. Over the years I’ve kept in touch with Lorne and he’s called on me to work on his projects. You may also know me as the composer who has worked on recent Ratchet & Clank games.

I’m currently living in the San Francisco area and am executive director at SomaTone where I oversee audio and music production across all the games we work on. For certain special projects, where I have a connection to it and deep love for it like Oddworld, I have a direct hand in writing the music.

How long have you been in the game-music biz? What were you doing before and what was the road to here? Was this job always the dream?

I’ve been working on games for quite sometime now. 20 years, actually! The game industry was much smaller then. It’s so much bigger and globally visible now.

Before working in games? I was just out of college and was partially working as a composer and musician but having to do other things, too, in order to pay the rent. This was the “starving artist” phase of my career. At the time, my living space was an old house in a sketchy part of the city. I was living in a house with crazy roommates who would set off fireworks right in the living room! It wasn’t all bad, though. It was quite the adventure!

It took me about 3 years of going through that phase before I landed a position as an in-house composer at a game studio. I’m really happy with my career path and have gotten to do unique work and meet interesting people along the way.

How do you get yourself into “the zone” for composing?

I don’t really do anything special. I just do it. But in that, I need to be in a space where I’m not distracted and can concentrate. Let’s call it my “creation cocoon”.

What’s the process for composing music for New ‘n’ Tasty been like? Are you influenced off of the old sounds or do you think creating a new sound for RuptureFarms, or a bit of both?

Sure, it’s a balancing act of creating something that’s new while being mindful of the music from the original game. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the original material and understanding it.

The process begins with that and then the next step, of course, is writing. It’s really a lot of that and then getting feedback from Lorne and then iterating. He only lives 10 minutes from the studio, so it’s pretty easy to get together with him to discuss. I’m also checking in with Michael Taylor over at JAW to see what he is doing on the sound design and VO editing side. He sends me his work-in-progress mixes and I’m listening to those so I can to see how music can meld with the sound design and voice.

Has it been different than composing for Munch’s Oddysee or Stranger’s Wrath? What kind of software and technology are you working with?

I’ve taken a different approach with this game mainly because it’s a sort of reboot of the original Abe’s Oddysee game but with today’s tech. The core game is still there in “New N Tasty” and along with that, much of the original music from that game. For the gameplay music itself, I did contribute to that, but it was mostly to create transitions for the original soundtrack.

My primary focus has been on cutscene work since new movies have been created along with re-timings and adds to the old movies.

The one issue that came up on this production is that most of the original music for the original Abe’s Oddysee cutscenes no longer exists in source form. The place it exists is in the mix with the [sound effects] and voice. There’s no way to separate this material once it’s been mixed together. This becomes a problem once movies are re-timed and new scenes are added. So, what I’ve been doing is creating new music and then, in scenes where I’m able, fusing it with the original soundtrack when it is salvageable.

If you got stuck on Mudos with only one Earth-Human instrument and one CD, what would you take with you?

This is an impossible question for me. I could not take only one CD. I just couldn’t!

One instrument? Hmmm, maybe guitar.

So if you could describe the new New ‘n’ Tasty soundtrack as a snack, what would it be?

It would be a new kind of snack where it tasted of something fresh but also quite familiar. Some weird kind of peanut butter and jelly fusion! Mmmm, maybe I’m just thinking that because I had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch an hour ago…

And that’s a wrap! Thanks Michael, for both this awesome interview and all the killer work you’re doing for New ‘n’ Tasty. I know I can’t wait to hear this peanut butter and jelly-fusion of a soundtrack. Mmmm… tasty.