How do you feel that music composition has changed with the next generation of consoles?
MT: The big change is that it's become surround sound, so you have to make all the audio for a surround environment.
And how do you find developing sound for surround instead of stereo?
MT: In Japan, surround systems themselves haven't become widespread, so... it's pretty difficult, or more like it's doubtful whether you can have the player play the game in the environment you have in mind. In terms of the game itself, I think to be able to simulate the sound of something popping out from behind expands possibilities.
But of course Grasshopper's games don't really sell in Japan; they sell in the U.S., so it must be something you're starting to think about now.
MT: That's true. I'll work on it (laughs).
Adaptive music is not used very often in Japan. Why is that? I'm referring to music which changes with the state of the game. Rather than the more typical situation, where you walk into an area, and when you're in a combat mode, the music changes.
MT: Actually that is the sort of thing I want to do... for The Silver Case, they did it. So, the sound... It's a limited sort of interaction, such as a desktop computer in the game where you can see some data is just displaying on the screen, and depending on the state of the user, the soundtrack, the music - the background music at the moment, for the data you see on the screen, would be changing.
I'm wondering why it's not used too much in the industry. Because also, to explain it a bit better, it's like a situation where it's not just 'you reach a boss and the boss music changes', it's like actual dynamic change to affect mood on the screen.
MT: If you take the case of a game where the BGM changes with respect to the program, with the Xbox 360 and the PS3 we should be able to do it, but with consoles - for example with respect to the Wii, it's harder to have the multi-track coordination with the programming.
How did you develop the very crisp and clean Grasshopper audio style? I'm talking whole sound design. Because it all really works together.
MT: I'm just doing my best to make audio that matches the game. People often say that my sound effects have personality, but I'm not sure why.
But certainly, you want to create your own style, right? So that people will know that it's yours.
MT: To the contrary, I don't think about that much. I don't know if you would call it compulsive, but when I put my hand to the keyboard, the colors of the sound composition just flow like it's a memory implanted in my spine. Instead of over-thinking it, most of my work is compulsive; when I play a tune and the melody seems right, that's what I go for.
Well, a lot of sound designers and composers now, they create very standard things. Perhaps you're not actively trying to do something different, but Grasshopper claims to be a "game development band," right? So they're trying to do something not exactly like everyone else. So how do you create this distinction, and when you think of a Grasshopper game, how are you making that sort of soundscape?
MT: I find that fascinating (laughs). I wonder why. When I'm thinking about creating sound effects, I am cautious that the key of the sound effect doesn't end up clashing with the running BGM.
Well, in Killer7, for instance, you have music, and then you have the sound design that ultimately brings you into the game, and then does something unexpected to push you out again, and make you realize, "OK, this is a video game. I'm not in this world. This is really a game." It's a very "game-like" sound. Most people are trying to make "movie-like" sound, that just envelops you, and brings you in, so you never remember what you're doing. But with the kinds of surprises in these games, a player feels like, "OK, this is a game. I'm still playing a game."
I don't know if it makes sense in Japanese, but it's an "opaque" experience, where it's just all the same experience. There are no seams. There's nothing like that. It's all smooth, and you watch it all the way through. As opposed to a "transparent" experience, where you can see the technique, and it's just like the sound is part of telling you what you're doing, lets you know it's a "game-like" game.
MT: For Killer7, I actively asked the programmer to implement the game audio, so as I played the game I made lots of adjustments. All of the sounds that I didn't want in the game were all omitted. I only kept the sounds that I thought were vital.
Basically I match the scale and adjust sound effects to the specific setting; I sprinkle in sound effects in the same way I work with music; on the other hand, when I don't want to draw the user in, when I want to push them away, I intentionally tune and apply sounds that are slightly off pitch from the optimal adjustment.
Capcom/Grasshopper Manufacture's Killer7
How do you decide when it's time to bring them in, and when it's time to make them feel uncomfortable?
MT: Well, I ask [Grasshopper boss Goichi] Suda, and... [laughs]. It's vague, but I play it myself and... [long pause] Basically you advance in games and you want the user to progress and go to the next step... Is that okay? This is hard!
Sorry. If you didn't make interesting music and sound, I wouldn't have to ask difficult questions!
MT: [laughs] I may sound arrogant right now, but I'm really happy to know someone notices and understands that much about my work. I don't understand English, but I feel like I'm able to communicate with music.
Well, music is kind of its own language after all. So it can really communicate a lot more than words can, and I think it's something that is really done well here. So in a way that's kind of back to my question about developing the Grasshopper Manufacture style; how did you create your language for games?
MT: My own style? I... I don't consider myself, or want to become, an artist; instead, I want to be a craftsman. If someone tells me they want a certain type of song, then by all means, I have the desire to write that song. So from Japanese enka to classic orchestra, I've always wanted to be diverse and able to write anything and everything.