[EDITOR'S NOTE: Continuing its multiple "Schadenfreudian Slips" columns for Gamasutra, notable and more than a little eccentric German game company Schadenfreude Interactive presents an account from its audio director Alex voll mit Aalen of the company's trials and tribulations in getting voiceover for its top-rated title Cthulhu Karts.]
There are three pieces of music that inspired me to become a composer: The Fat Man's soundtrack to Wing Commander, David Hasselhoff's 1989 appearance at the Berlin Wall singing “Looking For Freedom”, and Beethoven's 6th Symphony.
I could hardly believe I was going to meet David Hasselhoff.
From the beginning, Schadenfreude Interactive wanted to get someone famous to do the introductory voiceover for Cthulhu Karts. Our attempt at getting Claudia Schiffer failed, but it turned out that our intern Crispin Frosch's cousin was married to a man who sold a Mercedes to David Hasselhoff's wife's aunt (and he gave him a very good deal -- no charge for floormats).
When we heard Mr. Hasselhoff would be in nearby Frankfurt for an appearance, we jumped at the chance to have him record a few lines. Crispin was somehow able to get Mr. Hasselhoff's agent to agree. How he was able to explain what Cthulhu were, and why they were racing karts, I do not know (I will tell you, though --Cthulhu are a race of hideous godlike trans-dimensional monsters created by author H.P. Lovecraft. They are racing karts because, well, karting games were popular at the time).
How can I describe to you the nature of this crawling chaos? Even now it seethes before my eyes as a waking nightmare...
[Press “Start” to continue]
Behold -- the foul phalanx swarms across the starting line: Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth and countless unpronounceable horrors, each behind the wheel of a hideous, sinister, and yet at the same time strangely adorable KART!
[Select player one or two]
A borean terror gnaws at my vitals as, before me, a many-tentacled creature waves its dire glaucous flag. Am I courting madness with this karting madness?"
I arrive at the studio. We expect Mr. Hasselhoff to arrive around ten – this will give me plenty of time to prepare. I rearrange the speakers, print extra copies of the script, and make sure we have the kind of coffee David likes. Our marketing lead has even made him some very special pfeffernusse (a traditional German cookie).
I hate pfeffernusse.
Phone call from David's American agent. Mr. Hasselhoff is running a little late. No problem – I have not yet finished vacuuming the subwoofers and dusting the wastebaskets. Someone has finished all the coffee, and it was probably me. I hope Mr. Hasselhoff likes Orange Fanta, it is all we have left in the refrigerator.
Lunch. I am starting to get a bit nervous. What will I say to him? What if I say something stupid? I tape a note to the underside of the mixer board as a reminder: DON'T MENTION “KNIGHT RIDER 2000”.
Our recording studio here in Ludvigshafen is shared with some other local musicians - a death metal band and also a Bavarian oompah band. Today of all days, “Moribund Impetus” (not the oompah band) shows up unannounced. Since David has not yet arrived - and since Moribund Impetus pays most of the electrical bill - we let them go in. They set up and play the same song, ‘Maggotsnacker”, for two hours straight. I will translate their lyrics from the German as well as I can:
Ja! Ja! I eat vermin
Yeah! Yeah! Taste them squirmin'
All alone or on a cracker
I am a maggotsnacker
Die! Die! Die! Die!
Ja! Ja! Ja! Ja! etc.
This song sounds no better after two hours of practice, but thankfully, they run out of beer. As usual, they leave the studio a mess. Someone has left a pair of leather chaps behind an amplifier. I sigh and place them in the Lost & Found cabinet beside the Ottorino Respighi-shaped Pez dispenser, a deflated inflatable pig, and a cucumber wrapped in aluminum foil. This job is not as glamorous as I expected it to be -- some days I just feel like a janitor with a copy of ProTools.
Hasselhoff's agent calls again to apologize for the delay. Her cell phone connection is terrible! I can barely hear her. I hope she just said “David needs some take-out schnitzel”, as the alternative is too shocking to consider.
While we are waiting, our marketing department has decided the script needs “more madness”. The script comes back twenty minutes later with a few more adjectives like “frenzied”, “brooding”, “raving”, etc.
Another call from Hasselhoff's car phone. They are near Mannheim, although to me, it sounds like they are in an underwater tunnel on a distant moon of Jupiter. Did his agent just say something very insulting about my mother? My understanding of English is good, but at this point, I cannot be sure.
More script revisions. Those adjectives like “frenzied”, “brooding”,“raving” etc. become personally applicable. I re-dust the subwoofers, make copies of the new script, and re-arrange the pfeffernusse tray.
Agent calls to apologize – there has been a change of plan, and Mr. Hasselhoff has gone back to his hotel. He's flying back to California tomorrow. Ah well. Dealings with celebrities can be difficult to get together, and easily fall apart -- much like IKEA flat-pack furniture. Sadly, a tiny proprietary hex wrench cannot help us now.
Our programmers need these sound files by tomorrow, so our intern, Crispin, does the voiceover. Crispin's English is not so good, so I must give him a phonetic translation. For 45 minutes we argue over the pronunciation of “Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.”
A group of drunks wanders by outside, singing at the top of their lungs:
In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus,
Eins, Zwei, g'suffa.
DA läuft so manches Fäßchen aus
Eins, Zwei, g'suffa.
DA hat schon mancher brave Mann,
Eins, Zwei, g'suffa,
gezeigt, was er so vertragen kann.
Coincidentally, I did the MIDI arrangement of this very song for the game Wurstzeit back in the late '80s. If only we, too, had some beer...there is nothing here but Orange Fanta.
Crispin somehow manages to get pfeffernusse crumbs into the faders. I have to open up the soundboard, clean it out, and put it back together. Ach, Ich kann nicht mehr.
It's a wrap. I'm not happy with it, but as it is often said, “a game developer needs perfectionism like a herring needs a bicycle”. Heading home, I pop my favorite David Hasselhoff CD into the player, and wonder if The Fat Man would be interested in doing a voiceover for our next game...
[Alex Voll mit Aalen, audio engineer at Schadenfreude Interactive, composes the music for all of SI's games. His mother claims that Alex started playing the accordion before he could walk. Even now, he plays accordion while lying on the floor... one has to be careful in the recording studio not to trip over him.]