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Richard Jacques


Name:Richard Jacques: - Music in Games 2
Links: Richard Jacques Homepage
Richard Jacques: - Music in Games 2 (interview von yak)

Hi Richard,

we would like to continue our interview-series we did with game-composers. Last Time we had the chance to interview Jeremy Soule about music in PC Games, now we would like to look inside the production of console-games, the differences to PC Games and the body of your work. First some biographical questions.

How did you get in touch with music?

I come from a musical family and began learning the piano from the age of 5, closely followed by the trombone aged 7, then I followed music through school and university.

Tell us about the games, you composed music for (year, system, title)

  • Shinobi X (Saturn) 1995
  • Darxide (32X) 1995
  • F1 Challenge (Saturn) 1995
  • Sonic 3D Flickies Island (Saturn/PC) 1996
  • Daytona CCE (Saturn) 1997
  • Worldwide Soccer '98 (Saturn) 1998
  • Sonic R (Saturn/ PC) 1998
  • Snowsurfers (Dreamcast) 1999
  • Metropolis Street Racer (Dreamcast) 1999
  • Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast) 2000
  • Headhunter (Dreamcast/PS2) 2001
  • Jet Set Radio Future (Xbox) 2002

Has your vocational training been orientated in a classical way ?

Yes, it certainly has. When I was learning piano and trombone when I was young, I was following a formal classical training; for example I was playing trombone in symphony orchestras. Then I continued studying all through school, as well as having music lessons at the Junior Royal Academy of Music in London, taking all my exams on trombone and piano as well as taking up percussion and drums.Then I studied for a music degree at University, so you could say it was a classical training route.

Who are your favourite musicians in the classical field or in the field of film composers?

I have many favourites, but they include: Danny Elfman, David Arnold, Howard Shore, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer.

How did you get into the world of computer games?

It was by coincidence really! I have been playing games since I was very young, so was always a gamer. When I was just about to finish University I saw a job at Sega advertised. So I applied for it and got the job! This is very lucky and I was delighted as I could share my 3 interests which were writing music, working with technology and playing games!

Do you play computer games yourself? If yes, which are your favourites?

Yes indeed I still play games regularly and am currently playing MGS2 (PS2), Dropship (PS2) and Sonic Advance (GBA). My favourite games include NiGHTs (Saturn), Panzer Dragoon Zwei (Saturn) and Outrun (Arcade).

Which is the primary/fundamental difference between compositions of soundtracks for computer games, soundtracks for movies and TV commercials?

The main difference is the difference between linear and non-linear composing. On a film or a TV show you would have a set segment of film to score to. This will always be the same length and exactly the same things would always happen. In a game you are still providing mood music and setting the scene in many ways, but you do not know what the player may choose to do in a game, so you may have to prepare to switch from one music cue to another quickly, or to build the pace and the tension is a different way from a linear score.

How do you select your projects?

Now I am freelance it's nice to have a choice. It's usually based on if the game interests me, or rather if I would play that game myself. Also if it involves working with a talented developer and what style of music is required also affects my decision.

Are there limitations on the technical side for console game music in comparison to PC Games (e.g. Memory restrictions).?

Memory restrictions occur in PC games and console games, but only if the music is being done via the sound chip (and therefore stored in memory). Most soundtracks are CD based and there are not really any limitations (other than disc space) to consider.

How do you get your musical "mood" for the game, when do you get your inspiration, do you get a script beforehand? Is there some sort of prescription concerning the style of the soundtrack?

Often the inspiration for the mood comes from looking at the game itself. Sometimes I may be working from a script or some character or background sketches but I can still get a lot of inspiration from these. Regarding the style it is often discussed between the games producers and myself.

Do you get prescriptions by the producers or do you have a free choice? Is the working method concerning console games similar to those of the movie industries, regarding the usage of temp-tracks? Is there a problem that the producer might wish to have this so-called "Horner","Williams" or "Zimmer" sound?

This is true to a certain degree. Sometimes people may use temp tracks to get a feel for the right atmosphere / mood / tempo etc, and yes some people do insist on a "Williams" or "Horner" sound, but I am trying to get away from that now and give people a "Jacques" sound, if you know what I mean!

How much time do you have at your disposal for the development? Is the soundtrack not being created until the game is practically finished?

It depends on the development cycle. These days, with good technology and demanding soundtracks, I am often brought on board about half way through a project or even more. The shortest time I ever had was 2.5 weeks to do a whole game and for example Metropolis Street Racer was so complicated for both music and sound design it took 2 years!

Are there restrictions on budget or is there for instance a possibility to let the soundtrack be played by a full orchestra, as it has already been the case with your soundtrack on " Headhunter" ?

Of course there is always a limit on budget but more developers and publishers are realising that soundtracks are very important and for example with Headhunter it gave the game a unique sound. Also we hope to release the soundtrack in the near future.

Which sort of technical equipment are used?

I use many different types of equipment For example 2 Apple Mac G4's (one running Pro Tools 64 track hard disk recording system, and one running Cubase and Logic sequencing programs), also 10 Akai samplers, an 80 channel Mackie mixing desk, many MIDI modules, many outboard equipment etc.

Which game would you have liked most to compose music for, but never get the chance to do?

Either Panzer Dragoon or Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy.

What about the future and capability of development concerning interactive music?

Now the technology is getting really good and the internal quality of a console is very high, the interactive music is getting very good indeed. I would like to explore it more using CD or DVD streaming so that we could have a fully interactive score with a full orchestra.

How is it possible to change the soundtrack according to the present situation within the game without disturbing the fluency of the soundtrack or the composition, unless using the fade in/out method?

If the soundtrack is CD based, it can be very difficult to do this unless using some kind of fading techniques, but you could achieve it using smaller segments and various look up tables.

In Japan game soundtracks gain a much higher value than in Europe or America? Do you vision the future of game soundtracks to be a new way to bring modern, classical orientated music in public, or does it seem to remain a marginal appearance?

I would hope that in Europe and the US that game soundtracks will start to achieve the same status that film scores do. Since there are many gamers that wish to buy this kind of music (I get many emails asking the same question) hopefully the record companies will realise this and start to release more soundtracks.

Are there similar problems with mixing the soundtracks of the games with the sound effects as it is the case with movies and the sound effects there, or does the composer of game soundtracks get much more into contact with the section which is responsible for the effects, respectively is he literally involved in this process as well?

This can vary greatly. Sometimes the composer will be asked to do the sound design as well, sometimes the composer may just hand over all the tracks when a project is finished. I like to work with the sound designer as much as possible. On Headhunter I was very lucky to be working with sound designer Dominic Gibbs who is currently working on the new Bond film, Die Another Day. This was of great benefit because we knew exactly what each other was doing for a scene in the game, so we could ensure that the music and sound design worked well together.

Are there differences in composing for more complex PC Games or arcarde like-console games?

In terms of composition, no there shouldn't be any difference between the platforms but of course a huge PC RPG would present its own challenges compared with a console racing game.

Is there a consideration of techniques like Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 or MP3 during the creation of the soundtrack? Are there advantages or disadvantages ?

Yes the composer would need to take this on board right from the start. The main things to consider would be recording and miking techniques, mixing in surround, as well as the physical disc space and compression used. The advantages are HUGE when playing a game that has full 5.1 music and sound and far outweigh the disadvantages.

How was the feeling to stand before an orchestra in the famous Abbey road studio, where legends like Jerry Goldsmith recorded some of his finest works, to hear your music played by some of England's most talented musicians? And why you choose Abbey Road for recording?

It certainly was an incredible feeling knowing that many of these musicians have recorded some of the greatest film soundtracks. One amazing thing was that many of them contacted me after the recording to say how much they had enjoyed playing the music, so that was excellent to hear. We wanted somewhere like Abbey Road because it has a very large symphonic sounding hall.

Why did you record in England instead of the much cheaper sessions with Russian orchestras (like most of the Score Rerecordings done by William Stromberg for Marco Polo)

If we didn't have the budget we may have gone to Prague or Moscow, but I wanted to record in London because the musicians are some of the finest in the world, which is why so many film composers record here.

How much was the budget for the Headhunter Soundtrack?

Over £100,000

Is there any chance to see Headhunter as Audio CD Release?

Yes we are currently discussing this with record companies, so watch this space!

It seems that the software companies are increasingly featuring higher quality soundtracks in their games and therefore increase the budgets. Do you think "Headhunter" was "one of a kind"?

I think it was fairly rare for Headhunter but many companies are realising that it is so important in games to have a good soundtrack so hopefully it will happen more and more in the future.

Your very beautiful Dream Sequence with the French Horns in Headhunter reminds me of a bit in the musical Style of Film composer David Shire (Return to Oz) and the very military Main Theme reminds of the way Ennio Morricone did his orchestrations. Very good work! Do you orchestrate all of your music by yourself. Are you influenced or take references by Film composers?

Thank you! I did the orchestrations myself but orchestration is something you never stop learning. Of course all composers listen to other composers styles of orchestration, even the greats like John Williams.

Do you think, that more Film composers will join the new interactive medium?

I don't think it will happen so much as film composers don't know about the technology and challenges involved in games. Also, the games industry has some very talented people working in it.

What are your future projects?

I am afraid I can't speak about them yet, only to say I hope to return to Abbey Road next summer for another orchestral project.

Are there any PC Titles in process?

I am not currently working on any PC titles.

What is your most liked CD

  1. Classical: Stravinsky - The Firebird Suite
  2. Filmscore: John Williams - Star Wars
  3. Pop: I don't really listen to much "pop" but dance music would be Prodigy - Fat of the Land
  4. Jazz (or something else): Jazzanova - Remixes

Which of your work in the field of computer games are you most proud of?

Headhunter!

Thank you very much for the interview

You are very welcome.


Photo von Richard Jacques by Sega, Derek Asken.





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