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Chris Metzen & Micky Neilson Pocket Star Books Lore Q&A Video Interview

On Saturday, February 7th—Chris Metzen and Micky Neilson attended the 2009 New York Comic Con for a book signing session at the Simon & Schuster booth (1402). Thanks to Jaime Costas from the Pocket Star Books publisher; Shon Damron and Rob Tokar from Blizzard Entertainment’s Public Relations Department an interview was scheduled at the event.

Chris Metzen and Micky Neilson answered lore questions based on the StarCraft and World of WarCraft pocket star books for a length of 24 minutes. I split the video into two parts. This interview is packed with a lot of fun, spoilery and informative answers to various concerns from scenes that happened in Starcraft: The Dark Templar Saga, Warcraft: The Last Guardian, World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal, the Warcraft RPG Books, and World of Warcraft: Night of the Dragon. And a massive influx of info about the upcoming books—World of Warcraft: Arthas, Rise of the Lich King (April 21), Starcraft: The Dark Templar, Twilight (June 30), World of Warcraft: Stormrage (2010) and Starcraft Ghost: Spectre (2010).

After watching this video interview, you are going to faint, and wake up with only one thought in mind: “you CAN’T MISS reading one of these pocket star books !!!”  Guaranteed. These books tie-in deeply into the events of the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and could we dare to say … future expansions?

I gathered lore questions from the following communities: WorldofWar.net, StarcraftWire.net, Scrollsoflore.com, Blizzplanet.com, WowInsider.com, WoW-ESP.com, Starcraft-ESP.com and WoW-Hungary

Video Part 2

Transcript

Medievaldragon: This is Medievaldragon from Blizzplanet and WorldOfWar.net. We are here to interview Chris Metzen, Senior Vice President of Creative Development for Blizzard Entertainment and Micky Neilson, Senior Writer and Voice Director of Blizzard Entertainment. I picked up some questions from the Community about Pocket Books lore. We’ll start with the Starcraft questions first.

Medievaldragon: Ulrezaj is composed of 7 dark templars according to Starcraft: The Dark Templar Saga, but only composed of 4 in the Enslavers 2 Episode 5B: Dark Vengeance. could you fill us in on how that happened?

Metzen: Essentially we just made a call. Originally, I think in the Enslavers campaign it was 4, but Enslavers has always been kind of quasi-canonical.  There was a lot of new fiction developed for Enslavers that we thought was really cool, but as we were developing this trilogy with Christie we knew we wanted to bring Ulrezaj back, which was kind of a cool idea, but we felt that going to 7 was better for the fiction in general. It kind of gave us more options to dig his origin out, who were all these arch-criminals that comprised him, so we felt that going with 7 just felt a little rounder. So… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Medievaldragon: Does the Umojan Protectorate and Kel-morian Combine have their own versions of the Ghost program, or is it exclusive to the Confederates and the Dominion?

Neilson: I like that question.

Metzen: Kill it!

Neilson: My answer would be that they do, and that it’s something a little bit different, something we haven’t seen yet, and something that we should definitely investigate in the future in the fiction, because it sounds like a really cool idea.

Metzen: That sounds like a dare right there.

Neilson: That’s right.

Medievaldragon: Will the Terrazine gas plot be explored in the upcoming Starcraft Ghost: Spectre book?

Metzen: Well the Terrazine and its significance to the “alleged” Ghost spectres is definitely handled in the upcoming novel Starcraft Ghost: Spectre by Decandidio. Decandido, pardon me. Sorry Keith! We definitely get into what Terrazine is, what it’s used for, and I would bet, wink wink, that we might see a bit of that play out in Starcraft 2 as well.

Neilson: Yes…

Metzen: Yes indeed.

Medievaldragon: Can we expect a sequel to Starcraft: Queen of Blades? We are missing the period between the Overmind’s invasion of Aiur and Tassadar’s sacrifice.

Neilson: Official announcement? I don’t know what’s official and what isn’t as far as…

Metzen: We’ve been working on an outline, we call it… well I’ll just say it. We call it Heir to Adun is the title of that possible novel. We’ve done a number of outline treatments on it to really dig out Tassadar’s story, and Tassadar’s nature as this kind of Twilight Messiah for the protoss people. What was really going on there at the fall of Aiur, and really digging out all the political things that were happening with the Conclave, and the Judicators, and the Templar. We definitely have a rocking story built for a novel, but we don’t have any plans yet on exactly when we would publish it or I don’t even know if we have a writer lined up yet, but we have an awesome outline for it.

Medievaldragon: Yeah, we have been expecting it for a while. (laughing) I know it takes time.

Metzen: If I had my way it would have been out already.

Neilson: It’s going to be a little while

Medievaldragon: Okay, we’re going to move to the Warcraft questions.

Medievaldragon: A fan asked:  The body of Sargeras that Aegwynn killed was said to be an avatar in Warcraft: The Last Guardian, does this mean that Sargeras’ real body is still out there somewhere? Or is Sargeras pulling a Lord Voldemort trick to ensure his return?

Neilson: Sargeras is still kicking around. You can’t put him down.

Metzen: He’s out there somewhere.

Neilson: He’s not going to stay down for long.

Metzen: Yeah totally. And I think the hooks we had for his physical body, wherever it may be are so visually stunning that I think we have to… it’s like low hanging fruit, we’re going to have to bring him back somewhere. I’d be very disappointed in us if we didn’t leverage him fully.

Medievaldragon: He would be like the ultimate encounter.

Neilson: Hmm… yes.

Medievaldragon: In The Last Guardian, Medivh attacks Garona with a spell, saying “let me show you my world Garona. Let me drive my own divisions and doubts into you. You will never know who you serve and why. You’ll never find your peace.” This is most commonly seen by fans as Sargeras cursing Garona into betraying everyone she works for… Is this true? Is that why she has been missing all these years?

Neilson: As to what’s going on with Garona, we’re launching into the second arc of the WoW comic. There are going to be a LOT of questions answered regarding Garona… why she did what she did, her whole backstory. It all ties into Med’an, this new character, who’s going to be really important to the lore. So for the community to learn a lot more about Garona, they should definitely check out the comic book.

Medievaldragon: Will there be a follow-up in the pocket books at some point?

Neilson: For Garona? Maybe.

Metzen: I didn’t hear… a cameo within a book?

Neilson: Not out of the question, I’m sure.

Metzen: Yeah, I think we’re still feeling it out. We just recently started leveraging the character again, so there’s a lot of interest in the character, so I can see us getting [cut off]

[Plays a scene from warcraft 3 of Arthas approaching the Revenants blocking the path to Frostmourne]

Guardian: Turn back mortals. Death and Darkness are all that await you in this forsaken vault.

Arthas: I doubt there’s anything down here more terrifying than what we’ve faced already.

Guardian: Believe what you will, boy. You shall not pass.

[after fight]

Guardian: Turn away… before it’s… too late.

Arthas: Still trying to protect the sword are you?

Guardian: No… trying to protect you… from it.

Medievaldragon: What were the Revenants’ motives to care for Arthas’ fate? Will it be explained in World of Warcraft: Arthas, Rise of the Lich King?

Metzen: It’s in the book.

Medievaldragon: In the book? Alright

Neilson: Buy the book.

Metzen: It’s really good. Really good… Christie just rocked this book.

Medievaldragon: In World of Warcraft: Night of the Dragon, we see a glimpse of Malygos proposing to the Wyrmrest Accord the purge of the mages prior to the Nexus War. Kalecgos departs to Outland at the end of the book. What’s Kalecgos’ stance with the Nexus War?

Metzen: Interesting. I think Kalecgos is loyal, he’s a blue dragon. Their function is to kind of police mortals’ use of magic, so to some degree he wants to do what Malygos wants him to do. He’s loyal, he’s a team player, but I also think that Kalecgos has a huge heart. I think he has a deep conscience, and I think he’s terrified of how these things have just spun out of control, and I think he regrets the loss of life and probably looks at it as a totally heavy handed solution to the problem, so I think he’s probably a little torn.

Neilson: And he’s spent a lot of time with mortals at this point too. He’s grown close to some mortals with the whole Anveena thing and everything else, so he would definitely be torn. His feelings would be torn.

Medievaldragon: He was a bit arrogant at the beginning, but his experience with Anveena kind of softened him.

Neilson: Absolutely.

Metzen: Right, kind of drew him closer to the experience of mortals. Totally.

Medievaldragon: Now that Malygos is dead, will there be a new Aspect of Magic (such as Kalecgos); or is that position gone forever? Could a dragon of another flight become the magic aspect… temporarily… for example: Krasus… who is an Archmage?

Metzen: I would say to question A: (slowly motions with his lips toward the poster of the World of Warcraft: Arthas book).

Neilson: (laughing)

Metzen: And to question B, I would say no.

Medievaldragon: Okay… I kind of gotcha…

(all laughing)

Medievaldragon: What can you tell us about the upcoming Worlf of Warcraft: Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak?

Neilson: Stormrage is gonna be fantastic. What’s really cool about Stormrage is that we will be able to actually live the Nightmare, through this book, that’s going on in the Emerald Dream turning into the Emerald Nightmare. One of the coolest elements, in my opinion, is that the nightmare is starting to spread into Azeroth, and we’re going to touch on that in the manga as well, so we’re going to have a story that touches on, for instance, what is King Magni’s worst nightmare? And because the Nightmare is spreading into the reality of Azeroth, we’ll be able to see that. The book’s going to be fantastic, answers all kinds of questions, what’s been happening to Malfurion, what’s going on, who’s behind it… al those questions are going to be answered.

Metzen: I would just say too, I mean Malfurion’s always been, personally, my favorite Warcraft hero. He’s my favorite to write, so I’ve waited a long time to get this guy back into the mix, and have him play a significant role in the shaping of Azeroth. He’s a mega player, and he’s been off the scene.

Neilson: For a long time.

Metzen: I’m really stoked on this book. We really designed the essential backbone of the book to be just hyper Druid overload. If you’re a WoW Druid, this book’s for you. It features all the major druid characters, and players. I love it. Love it, love it.

(Video Part 2 Transcript)

Medievaldragon: Will there be a cameo of Jarod Shadowsong in World of Warcraft: Stormrage? The official website’s encyclopedia says he departed the druids and was never seen again.

Metzen: I don’t remember. For some reason, I don’t think so. But we would be lovingly surprised if he did. He doesn’t play a significant role in it.

Medievaldragon: Aaron Rosenberg’s World of Warcraft: Tides of Darkness helps modernize a lot of the lore revolving around Warcraft II.  One aspect of the lore that fans have been wondering about, is Gilneas.  Was Gilneas scheduled to make an appearance in that book, but had to be trimmed out, or will Gilneas be revisited in future books?

(Neilson grins at Metzen)

Metzen: Ah, ah, I would say we have some very, very, Very interesting plans for Gilneas. (Metzen docks slightly looking toward the ceiling) But there are snipers up in the roof that would shoot me if you know … (everyone laughs). We are doing some awesome stuff for Gilneas.

Neilson: … stay tuned!

Metzen: Stay tuned.

Medievaldragon: World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal reveals Cho’gall was killed. Or was he?  How did the Twilight’s Hammer survive the Broken Isles’ massacre?

Neilson: Cho’gall is gonna make a come back. He’s not dead. You are going to see he will play a large role in the second arc of the World of Warcraft comic book. So, exactly how he survived … he’s just too tough. Two axes to the chest weren’t enough to take him down. He just appeared dead. (Laughs)

Metzen: Mostly.

Medievaldragon: If he is not decapitated, he is not dead.

Neilson: That’s right.

Metzen: That’s right.

Medievaldragon: (jokingly) … and that doesn’t mean he can’t return. Somebody plugs the head back to his body and …

Metzen: Necromancers.

Neilsen: Necromancers.

(Everyone laughs)

Medievaldragon: What’s happening to Blood Elf culture (especially Rommath’s role in it) now that the Sunwell was restored with M’uru?

Metzen: What we showed at the end of Burning Crusade, like during the whole Sunwell event, was that the warped naaru M’uru was kinda transformed back into his purest self, purest light that Velen used to reignite the Sunwell, as a fountain of Holy power, as much as it is arcane. So the suggestion was that over time the Blood Elves will start to actually use real Light power, in a healthy way, instead of dominating it. So what will likely happen over time is a slow transition, but what Velen did was give them a chance to redeem their civilization, a chance to get back to their roots, a chance to upset their magical addiction. So that kinda thing will probably gonna play out very slowly.  We didn’t talk much about it in Wrath of the Lich King, but it is a theme I love a lot, but it has to be played out very slow.

Medievaldragon: I like that aspect of redeeming them … Does that mean that at some point they are going to get back to their roots and restore the Council of Tirisfal?

Metzen: ha-ha! … no … comment.

Medievaldragon: Are we ever seeing the Scythe of Elune questline and how it all tied into Karazhan and the Dark Riders explored in a future pocket book?

Metzen: I will say there are elements of the Scythe of Elune questline that are not … over … (long silence).

Neilson: (laughs)

Metzen: … (longer silence) Alright, that’s all I’m saying. (laughs)

Woah, WOAH! (Metzen jokingly makes a motion with his hands and legs as if tight-rope walking).

(Everyone laughs)

Medievaldragon: Quick sand! Quick sand!

(laughs)

Medievaldragon: Is the existence of Finnal Goldensword canon?  She’s Admiral Proudmoore’s half-elf daughter.  If so, are there plans to introduce her in the pocket books?

Metzen: I’m sure this will be controversial, but I don’t necessarily consider her canonical. And based on that, we don’t really have any plans to use her in the future. I think she appeared in one of the Warcraft RPG books. It’s not a character I have thought out about, so at this point I’m not sure if we are gonna do much with her.

Medievaldragon: World of Warcraft: Arthas, Rise of the Lich King will devote a portion of its time to the love triangle between Arthas, Jaina and Kael’thas.  Now, many of us have played Warcraft III and have also run Gnomeregan, so, we’ve got to ask … Where does Thrall factor in?

I’m not quite sure of what that questions means.

Neilson: Well, I think they are wondering: Is there a romantic interest between Thrall and Jaina? I think that’s what it’s implying.

Metzen: Ohh …

Medievaldragon: Not sure—why they are asking about Gnomeregan.

Metzen: Yea, it’s worded a little weird. Well, I would say the whole Kael’thas, Arthas, Jaina triangle thing is totally handled in the book. And it’s R-r-really good! But it explains the whole relationship, and how that all went down. Christie just handled it perfectly. So I’m excited to really see that.  But relative, the question was, is there a little you know … green fever going on with Thrall and Jaina?  umm … (takes deep breath) … I don’t know, I know people are kinda fascinated a little about that but …

Neilson: (laughs)

Medievaldragon: Ohh … I know now what they meant. In Gnomeregan, there was a punch card in binary code that when you decoded it, it reads: “Thrall and Jaina in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

Neilson: Ohhh!

Metzen: Right, right. I don’t know, I would say I try to be pretty conservative with all that stuff. I would like Thrall to settle down with a nice green girl…

Neilson: (laughs louder)

Metzen: …you know, and have little green babies. I’d like the dynasty of Orgrimmar to be pure blood, right. But you never know. I hope he keeps things together and doesn’t do something stupid before we can actually build this stuff in the game. So … you know Thrall.

Medievaldragon: Hormones …

Metzen: What’re we gonna do.

Medievaldragon: What should we expect in World of Warcraft: Arthas and how does it ties-in with the game?

Neilson: I think one of the things that are really, really amazing about ARTHAS the book is … you play Classic WoW, right, so the whole time you are running around. The Lich King is basically sitting there on his throne. So the question is: What’s going on? What’s going through his head? So this book actually gets you inside his head during that time. You will find out what was going on. Really be able to get inside the mind of evil. Getting inside the mind of Arthas. Find out what makes him tick. Even when he was saying things to Uther, when he disbanded the paladins, and things like that. Really gonna go indepth on that to find out what was going on inside his head. All the layers. Christie did a great job putting in all these different layers of what’s happening. So there’s the dialogue that we heard in the game, but there is much more deeper story that you won’t get unless you read the book.

Metzen: He effed up with himself.

Starcraft Ghost: Nova Pocket Book Sequel

Keith R.A. DeCandido gave me a heads up of some details of his upcoming Starcraft Ghost: Nova sequel which he posted in his blog.  The pocket book sequel will tie-in with the Starcraft II plot introducing a backstory of the Spectre ghosts unit. The novel will have elements from the postponed FPS console game, the way the canned Warcraft Adventures was novelized. The pocket book title is Starcraft Ghost: Spectres.

Keith: “It’s pretty much official at this point, since Pocket’s made an offer to my agent that I’ve accepted, and Blizzard likes 90% of the outline: barring a major disaster, I will be writing a sequel to my StarCraft: Ghost novel Nova. Tentatively pencilled in to be published in the summer of 2009 (though it isn’t formally scheduled yet, so that could very easily change), the novel will be called Spectres, and will pick up where Nova left off.

(I really hope it is published in summer 2009, as that’s when the Ghost Academy manga is scheduled to debut also….)

In some ways, this will be a novelization of StarCraft: Ghost, the game-that-never-was. Nova was written to be a prequel to the game, and the plot of Spectres will include many elements of what was to be in the game. Having said that, don’t read this novel expecting to see exactly what the game would’ve been like. The game plot is, at best, a loose basis for the novel. We went for what worked best for the overall storyline in general and for this novel in particular, rather than fidelity to a game that will probably never see the light of day.

It will also tie into both Ghost Academy (which will take place alongside Chapters 18-19 of Nova) and to the forthcoming StarCraft II game. Nova will be in both, obviously, and another character in both the manga and the novel is a major player in the upcoming game. Oh, and Agent Malcolm Kelerchian will be returning in Spectres as well.

Starcraft: Ghost Hint at 2008 D.I.C.E. ?

According to GameInformer Magazine Online Staff Jeff Cork, Blizzard showed a slide presentation at D.I.C.E. in Las Vegas talking about the games Blizzard has discarded such as Warcraft Adventures.  An elusive game all of us wanted released and that was thought dead was missing from the slide presentation … Starcraft: Ghost. GameInformer immediately approached Frank Pearce to squeeze out the reason Starcraft: Ghost wasn’t part of the list of cancelled games … find out what he replied here.

Starcraft: Ghost isn’t dead.

Kotaku also posted the list of games that Blizzard cancelled and no one ever knew were in development:

  • Games People Play

  • Crixa
  • Shattered Nations
  • Pax Imperia
  • Denizen
  • Warcraft Adventures
  • Nomad
  • Raiko

Strangely, there is a cancelled game that doesn’t show up in that list … Diablo II: Salvation which shows up in the abandoned Blizzard trademarks dating 2003.

Gamespot has a lengthy article covering the D.I.C.E. event with quotes from Mike Morhaime and a few screenshots.

Starcraft: Ghost Interview: Julian Kwasneski

Julian Kwasneski Sound Designer

Julian Kwasneski started his career in game audio at LucasArts Entertainment Company, and is credited with sound design on several leading LucasArts titles. After leaving the company in 2000, he co-founded The Bay Area Sound Department with Clint Bajakian. Julian has worked on many award-winning game titles, including Starcraft: Ghost, James Bond: Everything or Nothing, Star Trek: Bridge Commander, Star Wars: Jedi Outcast, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and SOCOM: Navy Seals. His consistent sound design has been critically acclaimed by ign.com, epigamer.com, gamezone.com, Computer Gaming World, gamepro.com and others. He also has many independent film credits, including sound design for Big Love (Sundance 2000), The Upgrade (Mill Valley Film Festival 2000), and The Last Birthday Card. He has worked extensively with wireless and Internet audio technologies.

1. How much of an influence was the original StarCraft soundtrack on your work? Did Chris Metzen guide you along the production?

A lot. We are all so familiar with the sounds of the RTS that it would be criminal not to base sounds on those. Still, this is a different type of game, so you can expect to hear a lot of cool new things.

2. Will StarCraft: Ghost have specific soundtrack themes per race, and scenario-based themes?

I am not doing the music, but the ambiences are totally immersive so the player will really feel like they are “in the Space” in each of the locations.

3. Which game out of all of the games you’ve worked on, have you enjoyed creating the most or fills you with satisfaction the most?

I liked Knights of the Old Republic for the diversity of the locations and I loved creating ambiences for the different worlds. Grim Fandango was also very satisfying ambient work (I worked on the ambient beds with my partner Clint Bajakian). Jedi Outcast was cool too and of course, Ghost was a nice new challenge for me.

4. Do you reuse/recycle the old sounds from previous games where applicable, or do you start all sounds of a game from scratch?

On the Star Wars titles I’ve worked on, I always build upon the awesome sounds created by Ben Burtt and I will use the classic sounds from the films as elements to create new sounds. In some cases though, I need to start from scratch if there isn’t sufficient source sound from the movies. For example, while a certain vehicle may only make a brief appearance in a film, it may be a featured vehicle in a game. In these cases I need to recreate the vehicle sounds from scratch. Another example is the Ebon Hawk in Knights of the Old Republic. It is similar to the Millennium Falcon, but it’s way bigger and beefier. I took the Falcon sounds, added new elements like V8 motors, dragsters and thunder and created a similar but different vehicle sound.

5. How did you make those Zerg sounds, do you swallow something and yell; or are they animal sounds added and mixed with some other sounds?

I didn’t actually, these were done by Derek Duke and the Blizzard sound gang and they did an awesome job.

6. Who are the composer(s) of all the songs in Starcraft: Ghost and their career background(if available)?

Kevin Manthei

7. I assume you are involved in both voice sound editing, and sound effects of Starcraft: Ghost from what I have heard. Are you backed up by more people? Or is this a solo job?

I am doing the majority of the sound design though Derek Duke and the sound team at Blizzard have done an awesome job on all the creature sounds and many other sound effects.

8. I was wondering this one when I looked upon that Goliath model. How on Earth did you go about getting sounds for something that huge? It is hard to “recreate” I guess.

We’re still working on it, but I drew upon large machinery and hydraulics recordings and thunderous metallic foot impacts. It’s really fun to drive!

1.Hardware, what do you use? I am dying to know. We got many Sound Editing fans from a Modding Guild at WC3Campaigns, BlizzSCUMS and SAVAGE(Star Alliance) who may want to learn more from your expertise.

I am all Mac-based using a Digidesign Pro Tools TDM system with loads of plugins including everything from Waves as well and Kantos, Pitch’n Time, Bias Peak, etc. In my opinion, Digi is the only way to go. Expensive, yes. But you step into any major studio on the planet and you’ll see Pro Tools. It’s rock solid and sounds incredible.

2. Voice acting, do you normally get a batch of wave files from Blizzard studio and they want you to work with those?

Yes. I will get large batches of edited voice files and will process them to sound the way they should. I have different processes for each group of characters…the Marines sound one way, radio briefings sound another and Nova has a sound all her own.

3. What hardware do you use for voice editing?

I use Pro Tools to get the regions (files) in the ball park. Sometimes this means adding a little EQ or compression or simply a global gain change to get them to healthy levels. Then I use Bias Peak to trim them nice and tight and for the final mastering.

4. What hardware do you use for recording sounds? Do you actually go out into the wild outdoors and record stuff?

I use a Tascam DA-P1 DAT deck to do mobile recording with a variety of mics depending on what I’m doing. I absolutely get outdoors and record things. The only way to get a game to sound unique is to use unique sounds. We’ve all heard most of those library sounds a few times now and though they have their place, I like to roll my own.

5. In Starcraft: Ghost, How much of sound effects are computer generated? And how much are real recordings? Elaborate.

Some of the Protoss sounds are synth generated or some kind of other processing like granular synthesis, etc. The vast majority of what I’ve done to-date have been real-world sounds.

1. What do you use for sound editing, voice editing and music editing? (Software wise)

Digidesign Pro Tools and Bias Peak are my main tools. I use them for everything.

1. Are you in any sort of sound editors organization? Let the Starcraft Modding Sound Editors(fans) know more about it in detail.

I am a member of GANG, the Game Audio Network Guild (www.audiogang.org); but other than that, I am honestly just too busy to get involved in a lot of different organizations (though I’d love to).

1. I think we would all die to know the exact specs of some of the Starcraft: Ghost voice effects. (This is probably restricted?)

Not much to tell. Blizzard hired some real pros, they just do what they do and have great creative direction.

2. How do you go about just cleaning up and preparing for recording a simple humanoid voice? Mention examples(units–Marines, Templar, Zealot, etc.):

I didn’t record the voice, Blizzard handled that.

3. How do you get realistic effects? I doubt you bang pots and pans together.

I record things that make the types of sounds I want and combine them. It takes a lot of trial and error and often you have to leave something and come back to it if it’s just not working. It’s kind of like music….like a guitar solo. When you’re ripping a lead, your mind is slightly ahead of where you are playing. You know where you want to go and how you want that note to sound….when it happens, you go, “Ahhhh, that’s it”. Sound is the same. I see an animation and I instantly know how it should sound. The tough part is matching what’s in my head. That’s where experience comes in handy. Like a chef who knows what two things make a nice spicy sauce, I have my bag of tricks. Still, there’s often nothing better than a fresh take on something. I often run my sounds by friends and colleagues.

1. Any internet sites with forums you can recommend that contain all your sound guys, from where we can learn and interact, even talk to for advice?

Check out GANG, the Game Audio Network Guild. If it’s not there, you will find out where to look for it.

Advice on how to make it into the industry

2. I hear that you did not have a specific College education for this line of work. How exactly did you get in then? How can a young guy, like any of the fans, make it into LucasArt, BioWare and Blizzard? –This is to show fans that they don’t need to spend thousands on a College degree to be a professional in the industry. You are the role model with a great career and testimony. All you need is the talent and the guts.

Oh boy…well…there is nothing that prepares you for life like a college education. But you are correct, I did not study sound design or anything related to it. In Junior High and High School I played with synths and ganged tape decks together to make my own poor man’s multi-track recorder. In college I was in a band (and still am to this day) with my cousin and we did all kinds of sequencing. I also saw many films and would notice the details of the sound. When I graduated I worked for several Real Estate developers and was miserable. I was a stock broker with Merrill Lynch for a year, got my series 7 license and I was miserable. I even went to law school briefly and was also miserable. I ended up getting a waiting/bartending job and pursued my passion at the time which was recording, mixing and playing music.

I worked in several studios (for free) to get exposure. I bought a bunch of gear and recorded bands on my own. I wanted a job at Lucasarts and eventually found my way in as a temp in product support. I quickly advanced and got hired into the Voice department and from there, the Sound department where I absorbed everything I could. I’m sure I am being too modest so I should add that I obviously had some talent and a good ear. I kept working on numerous titles before leaving to form my own company with Clint Bajakian who was a real pioneer in game audio and a mentor of mine while at Lucasarts. I really enjoyed working there, but I wanted more variety…and I got it. You know what they say, be careful what you ask for….

2. If you could go back, how would you have changed your approach to getting into the industry?

Hmmmm…..I don’t look back. I am happy with everything I got to experience, the good and the bad.

3. Will recent technologies influence how to get noticed? Is internet a good way? Or maybe game developers hardly need new fresh sound engineers anymore, because they have all they need with Veteran engineers?

Just be persistent and get good with whatever tools you can get your hands on. I scored all the cinematics for Outlaws with a 4 channel Deck system on a Mac Quadra 650. You need to really push sometimes, and you may not always get paid….but if you stick to it, and you’re good, you’ll make it.

4. Do game designers find you, or do you find game designers in this phase of your career? Who contacts who?

Both really. I am fortunate to be friends with a lot of my clients. Sound is really a collaborative art to me and I enjoy the back and forth that often results in a great soundtrack. I am not one of those sound guys who knows everything and who take complete ownership. I’ll stand my ground when I need to, but you never know when that next brilliant idea will get suggested.

5. Have you ever considered writing some tutorials on getting started in sound creation? The web is strangely silent on the topic.

Yes, but it’s a lot of work and I tend to work 60+ hour weeks and I like to see my wife and son from time to time.

1. Do you even have time for fun things with all this work. I hear you are working on 6 games at the moment!

It’s all fun and I am lucky to be doing what I love to do. I am also lucky in that I work in my own studio, free from water coolers and senseless meetings. If I work a 10 hour day, it’s 9.5 hours of pure sound work. It also doesn’t hurt to be in a company with other people to share the heavy lifting. Still, I am pretty particular about what I am after and often can only get the sound I want by doing it myself.

2. Do you have a lot of competition in the business?

Absolutely and it keeps getting more intense. But I should add that a lot of the competition are my friends. I don’t play dirty pool…you win some, you lose some. It’s a business at the end of the day.

3. Why haven’t movie directors contacted you more often?

Movie directors don’t often play games. They also don’t move in the same circles game audio people are in (GDC, E3, etc)…though this is changing. I have done sound for quite a few short or independent films, but game audio is interesting in one respect. The skills we game audio folk rely on to score games are directly applicable to doing film work but it is not the same in reverse. While there are a lot of people who do both game and movie sound, most of the film people I have worked with had a tough time with the technical limitations of games. Short loops, 28 sample boundaries, memory budgets, sample rate conversion and the lack of a consistent linear playback can be overwhelming, even for those of us who do this every day. I should add that I like doing game sound. I like the challenges and I like the payoffs. If I wanted to do film sound, I would do film sound.

4. Have you ever done a voice acting yourself or played a role as an actor? :)

Only in small roles, like a single line for a computer or something. My recorded voice sucks!

5. Have you ever checked out the modding of games, and what do you think of their sound level?

To be honest, I haven’t…but I would love to if I had the time.

6. What are your favorite games?

This is like asking what my favorite song is, it’s just not a question I can answer. There’s too many.

Well thanks for sharing many tips and info to the fans. Many Modding Sound Editors out there are grateful to sharing questions with you and get some feedback that can teach them more about your career and that may direct them through the right tracks into the Game industry. We appreciate your time and dedication during the interview, and will keep tabs on your future projects and your sound editing organization.

Helpful links for Modders and Sound Editors:

Digidesign Pro Tools TDM system

Below are links with information, and details about this tool. You will find links to download it too.

List of Hardware and Software you may find in a Studio:

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