GDC Tips for n00bs

I’ve been posting some tips for first-time GDC attendees in the GDC app, but I thought I should compile and share them all together. Here goes…


GDC Tips for n00bs #1: To everyone looking for the lowdown on the GDC Parties: find our FB group The Fellowship of the GDC Parties. Pocketgamer also has a good list here.

GDC Tips for n00bs #2: bring enough business cards! I mean like 300-500. I HATE when people say they ran out. Seriously? You want to network with no cards? You want me to write down your email? Bye.

Tip #2a: make sure you clearly state your name, contact info, website, and what the heck you do in the industry. Otherwise you’ll be forgotten later.

GDC Tips for n00bs #3: If you’re job hunting this GDC, research the companies you’re interested in. Go through the exhibitor list to find companies making games that match your skill set. Find them on gamedevmap.com to see where their offices are–if you don’t want to work Michigan, don’t bother with that company!
Pick your target companies, and request meetings right in the GDC app.

GDC Tips for n00bs #4: Annotate business cards as you get them. A simple thing like “met outside Humble party” will help you remember who they are. (It will help them too, when you contact them later and remind them where you met.)
As a person always looking for freelance music gigs, I would always put a star in the corner of a dev that said they will be needing music in the future so I’d remember to reach out later.
Trust me-if you’re doing it right, you’ll end up with HUNDREDS of cards networking at GDC. You’ll thank me later.

Tip #4a: Also, grabbing the app Cardmunch is a great way to collect and hold all the cards. Auto-transcribes the info as well, and makes it easy to send linkedin requests. You can add notes about the person right in the app.


DC Tips for n00bs #5: After you research the companies you want to get hired by (see #3), make sure you target your resume and cover letter. Tailor it for that company specifically. Remember that companies like Blizzard just have 2 lines for applicants: one for students and one for professionals. All resumes just drop into one box or another after a brief word with a booth staffer. If you make that application specifically for that company, it will help you stand out.

I’m not saying to not drop off plain resumes to booths–just make sure you take a few target companies seriously, since EVERYONE will be simply dropping resumes everywhere.

GDC Tips for n00bs #6: NETWORK ALL THE TIME. You’re grabbing lunch and see people with badges? Chat for a few minutes. You’re having a smoke outside? Bum a lighter and start a conversation. Waiting in line for the bathroom? Seriously, network. Having a good network of people you’ve met, even if they can’t immediately help you get a job or fill a need on your team is crucial. Connect people you’ve met at an event. Are you an audio guy that met an artist, and later met someone needing an artist? Connect them. Your network brings you clout in the industry, and those people may be in a position to help you later. Hopefully you brought enough business cards (see #2) and annotated the ones you received (see #4) so you remember who they are later (when your buzz wears off the next morning).

GDC Tips for n00bs #7: Please tell me you’re already on LinkedIn. After I get your card and look you up, that’s where you’re going, since LinkedIn is how I organize my professional contacts. It’s like a Rolodex that auto-updates when you get a new job. I get

Cardmunch Rolodex

about 350 cards per GDC conference, some from people asking for audio jobs. There’s no way those are going into my physical Rolodex (as if I had one)!

The other thing is that LinkedIn owns the app Cardmunch (see #4), which I use to scan in my business cards,and actually acts as a virtual Rolodex for the card images. I send LinkedIn invites right through the app.

Bottom line- your website may be beautiful, but I hope there’s a link to it on your LinkedIn profile!

Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful to you guys. If anyone has any more questions, feel free to ping me on twitter: @AznBanjoPlaya. Have a great GDC!


Interview with Gamesauce


I recently did an interview with Vlad Micu for Gamesauce.org, an online publication that writes articles and interviews to inspire passion among video game developers.

I got to discuss composing music for games and slot machines, breaking into the industry, my inspirations, and my thoughts on the direction of game audio in general.

Check out the full interview here.


Ben Prunty: “The most important advice I can give to an aspiring game musician”

Ben Prunty gives some advice to aspiring game composers. He’s a great writer, and a nice guy, so it’s great to see how successful he’s become, especially after FTL. Don’t think it’s just luck, either–he’s worked hard to get where he is.

Ben Prunty's Blog

As you probably know, I made the music for FTL, Gravity Ghost, Star Crawlers and a bunch of other games that are on their way. I am what you would call a successful indie; I get to write music full time and make a comfortable living doing what I do. I’m going to tell you a little about myself and the things I learned, because I think the information might be useful to an aspiring indie, musician or otherwise. First, a brief autobiographical account of how I got to be making music for games. Brace yourself, here comes

My Story

little ben Pictured: dork. Not pictured: musical prodigy. This becomes significant later.

Confession time: I played trumpet in high school band, and I was so bad at it that the teacher actually had me stay back a year in band class. That’s right, I might be the only person on Earth considered…

View original post 1,478 more words


Blowfish Meets Meteor Trailer released

A new trailer I did music for is out! This time it’s for Blowfish Meets Meteor, just released in the iTunes App Store by developer Sky Tyrannosaur. Check it out.  I did some of the music and sounds for the game as well, so definitely give it a download.


Minion Master out of Beta

MM LogoMinion Master has finally officially launched! If you weren’t already in the beta, go get it right now! And if you just want to try it, grab the free-to-play “lite” version and try out some pre-built starter decks. And since it’s free, you have no excuse to not be playing it right now! So grab it straight from MinionMaster.com or from Desura. Do you prefer Steam? Then vote for us on Steam Greenlight!

So far, this is the the most ambitious game that I have written music for, and it was an honor and a privilege to work with the experienced guys at BitFlip Games. They all have so much previous AAA experience, that it was surprising to work with three devs that could all code, model, animate, create sound design, and still express what they want me to do in musical terms. I can’t wait to see what expansions they bring out next.

Check out the newest live-action trailer we created to commemorate the launch!


Working on Minion Master

MM LogoI am currently working on music for Minion Master, an upcoming collectible-card strategy video game from BitFlip Games. The fantasy genre works well with my style of music, and am happy to be an addition to the team. BitFlip was out in full force at GDC Play 2012 in San Francisco, and received great interest from the conference attendees. Keep an eye on this studio! An official launch date for Minion Master will be later this year. The fantasy deck is nearly complete, but two more factions are planned before release.

Here is the most recent PAX 2012 trailer for Minion Master. Have a look!


Guest Post for Betable: “Stand Out: Brand Your Game with Audio”

The following is an article I wrote on game audio for Betable’s blog. Thank you to Betable for the opportunity! We got lots of feedback, including a tweet from Angry Birds composer Ari Pulkkinen that made my day. We also got a lot of feedback and discussion from people on Hacker News and Reddit.

Enjoy the read, and feel free to give me comments, ideas, and opinions here or on the original post!

Stand Out: Brand Your Game with Audio

Guest Post by Peter Inouye, a freelance game composer from the SF Bay Area. Peter is a musician, audiophile, and closet social gamer. You can find him on Twitter at @AznBanjoPlaya.

Think back to the games you remember most from your childhood. Doesn’t the music start to come back to you as well? And like it or not, start to loop incessantly in your head? Whenever I think of the original Legend of Zelda, Koji Kondo’s renowned title/overworld theme come directly to mind and won’t leave (which is OK, because it’s so good I walk around town like I’m on an epic mission).  Even the sounds come to mind—I loved the sound of the sword beam so much that I would wander around trying to find half a heart just to get the sound back.This, developers, is why audio is so important to your game—it is part of your game’s essence.
audio brands your game
Branding your game
Music and sound is a big part of your game’s brand and IP. It sets the mood and feel just as much as that art design you’ve agonized over through your development process.  Is it possible to think of Angry Birds without thinking of the goofy opening music? Rovio Mobile did a great job creating a complete IP package, with the music, character and art design, and even the “wheeee!” sound effects whenever a bird gets launched. Composer and sound designer Ari Pulkkinen put a lot of thought into the audio side of Angry Birds, and it paid off by becoming a huge part of the game’s brand.There’s a reason that so many corporations rely on audio logos as a part of their branding campaigns. Audio, especially when connected with video, really sticks with people whether they want it to or not. Probably everyone around you at this moment could recognize the five tones of the Intel audio logo (Blom…dun-Dun-dun-Dun). Audio should be built in to your brand, not just tacked on at the end. This is arguably even more important in the saturated mobile gamespace, though audio faces new challenges brought on by the mobile devices themselves.

mobile game music
Game audio has come full circle
A GDC session this past year called “Audio Full Circle,” put on by Guy Whitmore and Jeff Essex, discussed how the mobile game world has brought music and audio programming back to its old-school roots. Early NES games had minimal audio teams, primitive hardware specs, and tiny file sizes—so small that music files were composed in text editors. With the advent of the PS2, file size wasn’t as much of an issue (650 MB, OMG!), and suddenly composers could use CD audio in the projects. Later, compressed audio formats like mp3 allowed hours of music within a game, paving the way to adaptive music and other creative applications of music.Now, the mobile world has brought back some of the old restrictions of the 8-bit world. We’re back to small dev teams, one audio guy, minimal hardware, and small file sizes. And not only that, most users will experience all sound through a half-inch speaker. So composers once again have to get creative with their choices—a few one-minute music loops and a title theme is usually all we’re offered, and few or no transitions/crossfades to lessen the CPU load. Where Koji Kondo had to think about what instruments to drop out in lieu of sound effects in Super Mario Bros., mobile composers have to come up with concise and memorable music that doesn’t get too repetitive while using instruments that can actually be heard through the tiny speaker. This is the new art of mobile game music. With a single person in charge of your game’s entire audio identity, finding the right talent and communicating with them properly truly impacts the quality of your game and it’s brand.


Choosing your sound
As the game designer, one of your many tasks should be to think “what should the music convey here?” You don’t need to get deep into instrumentation or musical form, but having a vision of something when seeking a composer really helps. Is your game fun and quirky like Angry Birds? Or is it dark and brooding like in Rage? Do you want it to communicate a gameplay element like in Resident Evil 4, where music usually means there are enemies around? Or do you want the music to simply keep the energy up during wave after wave of enemies? Answering these questions will help you guide your composer along your vision’s branding path, be it a dark and violent zombie world (Resident Evil) or a casual and comical zombie world (Zombie Farm). The music in both of these examples is key to framing the user experience and make their atmospheres significantly different even though they are both set in a zombie-ridden world.On the other hand, your composer is in charge of making the music sound awesome.  And this is no easy task, especially when it comes to those short loops in mobile and social games.  It’s hard to walk the line between “memorable” and “repetitive”—there must be peaks and valleys in the music so it doesn’t sound droning, but too much of a peak begins to stand out every time we hear it. Social games in particular have a particularly hard time with this, because most users typically spend most of their time in one environment, hearing the same one minute loop over and over. There’s some great music in Playdom’s Facebook game Gardens of Time, where the different instrumentations and moderate tempo changes really make the music “breathe” and actually bring me back to the game. When music is done properly, it becomes a tool for user retention by being a part of the memorable experience you are striving to create, and thus a composer is a necessity when creating a quality modern game.


Finding a composer
This, of course, means carefully choosing your composer and sound guy is just as important as ever.  Just as you probably wouldn’t hire the cheapest artist you could find, or hire a complete mismatch for your project (you probably wouldn’t seek out the composer for Deus Ex: HR to do music for Farmville for both style and budgetary reasons), finding someone can be difficult. You could always license some pre-made, generic music, but then you’re missing an opportunity to tie original and innovative music to your game’s experience.Hopefully, you can find a composer the same way you would find any other vital contractor for your team. Go look through your Linkedin connections and groups (like I Make Music, I Need Music). Get out to those IGDA and other networking events. Even Reddit can be a great resource. And even better, ask your fellow developers who they used and what they thought. Most companies only contract out to composers anyway, so chances are they completed the project and have moved on. Once you start asking around, you’ll find there’s more of us out there than you thought. And hey, I’m usually available. (/shameless plug)

If you’re on a tight budget with limited time like most indie developers, at least consider trying out AudioDraft. It’s essentially 99Designs for music, where you write a proposal, put up a few hundred bucks as a prize, and watch the numerous entries come in. As the contest creator, you get the giant end of the bargaining stick, with nominal fees and many different options to choose from. Personally, I enter AudioDraft contests as a fun way to expand my portfolio into different musical genres, and many upcoming composers use the service hone their skills. Figuring out exactly what the developer wants from a simple design brief is an art in itself, and best learned through experience.

Video Games Live, AZ 2011
Becoming Memorable
While outside doing yardwork the other day, some tune came back into my head, and I couldn’t place it. After a half hour or so of singing it to myself, I finally realized it was the level music from iOS game ZombieSmash—written by my colleague Chris Huelsbeck. This was a game that I had bought and played for only a couple days before it faded into the rest of my 200+ installed apps. But the music pulled me back in, for a little while anyway–and just long enough to hit the next content update.Isn’t a memorable experience the purpose for all of the time, energy, and thought you’ve put into every aspect of your game? Music is a large part of this experience, creating the atmosphere of the game world before the player even leaves the start menu. In today’s mobile market, a game needs a good brand to stand out from the crowd, and your audio identity will help to create one. So find a composer, and go make your game memorable–and maybe you’ll create something as recognizable as Angry Birds. Wheeeee!