Polish - Lithuanian Connection
Now I would like to share some of my personal experience, summarizing
in a few paragraphs my achievements as the composer (hope it may serve
as an inspiration for some of you). In May I had the pleasure of giving
a presentation on music making and on sound to the Lithuanian students.
I started by playing live some of the music from a Modern Warfare 2 trailer.
Then I showed the notation for the winds section of my own piece “Dust
of War”. Having finished the piece, I was astounded to get an applause
from the audience. It was quite a surprise. Well, I was so tired that
I seriously considered the possibility that it was merely a hallucination.
Apart from that, I did not really expect the piece I presented to be inspiring
for people of my generation. Then I created a 30-second tune from scratch
in about 5 minutes, explaining all the time what instruments I was playing.
I got another round of applause when I saved the music as an mp3 file
and replayed it. I also answered some questions, for example about how
long I had been composing, or if I had had any formal training (I said
I had had not, which got me another round of applause). I finished with
an animation by Aleksander Wasilewski with my music (which was received
with laughter rather than fear).
Piotr Koczewski and Latvian Translator
My Polish connection came during a business trip to Wroclaw
(I was negotiating with an investor about an MMORPG), which I used as
an occasion to meet my fellow composer Piotr Szwach. We spent time until
5 am composing war game music, discussing about equipment, music, computers
and exchanging experience. I think both of us learned something new.
From Independent projects to AAA games
If you ever get an e-mail asking you to make a sample of
music for an “AAA” game teaser, enjoy the very fact that you
were contacted (even if they have to postpone publishing the teaser trailer
for technical reasons), because a lot of musicians dream of cooperating
with big companies that work on large-scale projects.
At the beginning, I’ve treated my adventure with music as a hobby,
something like Sunday fishing at my favourite lake. After some time of
distributing my tracks to friends, I’ve noticed that they like my
work, what’s more – one of them persuaded me to create my
own album (to my own surprise it got high rates and good reviews). The
initial problem with creating music was: Who will listen to it? And at
some point you realise that someone is actually listening to your music
– and what is even more – he is willing to pay for it!
Take advantage of every day to learn something new. After finishing work
recall your music. If you can do it and you remember it – congratulations!
It’s one of major keys to success in video game music creation.
However, before you decide that your work is hundred percent finished
and ready, listen to it a few more times. If you don’t have any
objections after that, you can send it to your publisher or boss. Usually,
the next day after recording you can hear your shortcomings – it’s
a normal sign of creativity, all it means that you strive for perfection!
Learn what ASAP is!
If your employer expects you to do a music track, and in the conversation,
or an e-mail, he uses an acronym of ASAP (as soon as possible, in case
you did not know), then focus on the recording (even if the mess in your
kitchen resembles that from the movie “7” and there is a family
meeting tomorrow). By sending even a sample of the tune (1 minute) you
will calm the nerves of your boss, who wants nothing more than to yell
"Jetson, you`re Fired!".
The Power of Marketing
It is a good idea to appear on expos, conferences and meetings related
to Game Development and presenting yourself, spreading your business card
or demo CDs (in my case, several free singles from my Wasteland Theme
album increased the interest in me). Therefore you should stay in touch
with your old team, employers and companies, because someday you may receive
a call / an e-mail with a job offer. In game development, as a rule, clients
are working with people they remember, and with whom they had no problems
during the cooperation (the more contacts you establish, the greater chances
of employment you have). It’s highly probable that some past occupation
will result in a contract for another game in the future. Even if you
had submitted an application, and you didn’t get a job because they
took someone else, it does not mean that they will not call you again
in a few months, because they remembered you and your savoir-vivre). Be
open to constructive criticism (and be critical of yourself). Never be
afraid to alter or add some instruments to your track, even if you’ve
been working on it for three days. Learn something new every day. Experiment
with instruments. Creating the "Little Boy" track, related to
the 6th of August 1945 (nuclear attack on Hiroshima), I was wondering
how to capture the character of that event using only orchestra. When
I was choosing suitable instruments, Bass Wagner's Drum caught my attention
(I used the sound of scraping and light, long beats for the sound of the
There is another thing that I discovered creating the WWII music. French
horns played long, depending on the velocity, can imitate an Air Raid
Siren Sound. A few months ago I racked my brains on how James Hannigan
created the electronic background effect in "Yoriko Theme".
After an hour of experimenting with effects and rhythm of the instrument
called shaker, I finally found out how to record something closely resembling
the original song. Not only did I find a good way to create background
music, but also discovered how to make the sounds of futuristic computers.
For about five years I have been devoting myself to an ongoing effort
of boosting my keyboard skills, expanding my knowledge of orchestra articulation,
and continuously developing information technology. After so many years
of working with music, I finally became a recognizable person in the game
industry (but before I achieved my present status, I had gathered experience
in amateur projects). Professionals from all around the world write to
me and invite me to music expos. One very motivating thing for me was
the positive opinion about my music, which came from a western musician
who creates music for commercials and AAA games. As I already mentioned,
I once had the chance to create the music for a teaser trailer of an AAA
game. Then, after a few months, I got one more such offer – for
the E3 expo too! By the end of May, I was to create the soundtrack for
a teaser trailer for Afterfall Insanity, which meant I had to meet the
team in a studio to discuss the music. E3 - this acronym left me sleepless
for days. Even though I did not make it in time for the presentation (someone
else had to fill in for me), I created a few versions of the music for
the teaser trailer, which served as my demo reel.
The making of Afterfall Insanity Trailer Music
It is also a very pleasant feeling to receive good reviews of your work
from the project manager. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the
head of the Russian game project PostWorld that after their last meeting
they decided that they had to have my music at any cost. For an unbelievable
moment I felt like I was the new Hans Zimmer. When strangers ask me what
I do for living, I proudly answer: "I create music for computer games"
(so far I have not discovered why there is always a slight expression
of surprise on their faces).
Post-World Unity Engine and Gameplay Screenshot
Piotr Koczewski`s Home Studio
When I play games I sometimes add my own music in my head.
Some ideas I write down as notes, for the future use. A few years ago
I was supposed to create music for a Space Opera comic. Unfortunately,
the piece, which I thought was perfect for it, was rejected. However,
a few years later it found its place in another project.
Finally, a few pieces of advice from me: listen to music
as much as you can. After some time you will start recognizing instruments
and be able to place them on the world map. As for the most important
advice, which served me well in the music design (changed the way I work)
and life in general – spend money to develop, not to impress (Michael
Dell). After a few years of work I try to overcome my own limitations.
For example, I created a 13-minute piece (inspired by Modern Warfare 2)
for my second Wasteland Theme album. Remember to sign up on portals like
Linkedin, Myspace, Reverbnation and to create your own homepage and keep
it up to date. In the future, in order to protect your music copyrights,
you should register a copyright for your tracks in organizations such
as PRS (Europe) or similar. Remember to create your web page portfolio
and keep it updated.
I hope that my tips will be helpful, and we will meet at the Video Games
Live concert this year.
You may also want to read part
1 of this article.