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We met Kris Force when Jarboe invited her to assist with the soundtrack for The Path. At first, we were a bit worried. Especially because Kris is a seasoned professional in the games industry. She started by asking us all sorts of professional and technical questions only half of which we knew the anwser to. We were worried that she would not have the artistic flair that we require in our collaborators.
But we were quite wrong. In the meantime, Kris has become an invaluable part of the creative core of Tale of Tales. The Path does not contain any sound effects, only music, but when we needed a sound designer for The Graveyard, we asked if Kris could help us. And as it turned out, she had a lot of experience in the field. She lovingly created the rich palette of sounds that make up one of the most immersing features in The Graveyard.
You have also worked for more traditional game companies. Can you talk a bit about what you did for which games?
Yes, I worked at Maxis/Electronic Arts where I was a sound designer for The Sims. I was a voice director for Sims Bustin' Out for PS2 and Xbox, which was super fun because the Sims speak their own language, Simlish, which is a form of gibberish. All performances are improv and the direction is all intention based. Actors work in tandem because they respond to each other and have greater enthusiasm then if they were alone. It was great fun.
The Urbz game was a series of Worlds featuring urban subcultures such as goths, skate punks, bikers, indie rockers, hip-hop gangsters, etc... The player unlocked each district and earned cred along their way. I thought the game was fairly weak in general.
I took care of the UI design for the entire game, most of the in-game music other than the tracks that were licensed from The Black Eyed Peas. I composed a few tracks myself. One that was particularly fun was a piece for the dancing van which was a van that transformed into a boom box. The Sims games have an in-game radio object and for The Urbz each culture in this game had its own radio station.
In previous games The Sims radio tracks were written and produced by music houses and often sounded generic and disingenuous (except for the bluegrass!) but for The Urbz I asked existing recording artists if they would re-record their vocals in Simlish. Everyone was more than willing to comply. The believability of the music took a huge step up. The design concept became studio-wide and the game started to attract big artists such as New Order, Willie Nelson and Hillary Duff, etc. Who knows what they are doing with it now. I left EA two years ago.
For Sims 2 for console I did the same tasks and some of the more musical sound effects. I especially enjoyed designing the genie lamp. For Sims 2 Pets for console I was the senior voice editor, which was fun because people performed all of the animal voices. Or I should say person: Roger Jackson who is the voice behind the Monkey Mojo Jojo in the Power Puff Girls and the killer's voice in Scream. He is so talented that it was perfectly fine to listen to his voice for hours on end.
What's the difference between working on these big games and working with a small art team like Tale of Tales, if any?
Well first of all one has to have something of a sociopath personality to survive at a big game company. They can eat you up and spit you out like any big corporation -- possibly even worse. One should enjoy lots of late night pizza in the company of men in their mid-twenties. To some this would be a dream come true. The culture is interesting and sometimes strange and alienating. EA is near Oracle in Redwood City (California) where the area is exclusively corporate parks. Do they have corporate parks in Europe?
It's like working in Disneyland without the rides. I had an internal relationship with the manicured landscape. In a big game company very different groups of people are put together; engineers, programmers, mathematicians, conceptual designers, sound designers, visual artists, management, and business people all under the same roof. There is an inherent awkwardness with that.
An average team for a console title would be 60 or so people and the production cycle would be as short as six to nine months. In some ways working with Tale of Tales is similar to working for EA because EA divides people into smaller cells or groups of four to six people and these are your primary teammates. It's considered a very effective working dynamic. I would have to agree. I see Tale of Tales functioning this way.
One of the biggest difference is that a big game company makes products with a two to three year shelf life and Tale of Tales makes art games for a discrimating audience. When big profits come into play, everything gets hacked to lowest common denominator. There is a huge difference in the integrity of a product or art piece when the designers have executive power.
In The Graveyard, the soundscape is generated by the game engine with sound clips that you created. Do you wish you had more control over the way in which the sounds are played and mixed in the game? Would you like to program that engine?
I didn't have any nagging urge to take over the audio engine for The Graveyard. I'm fairly confident in Michael and Auriea's decison making process. I am interested in the technical complexities of the sound engine. Understanding these helped me to create the best content. Does it score vertically and can it score for different times of day? How does it map footprints and does it have collision detection? Are there any dynamic effects such as room reflections? These are the kinds of questions that I would ask.
I have programmed engines in the past and I am always game to learn new tools.