Game music maestro talks secret projects and Mass Effect
Decorated composer Richard Jacques has built a solid reputation during his sixteen years in the game industry, having worked on over 80 separate projects.
Though he runs his own music production studio, Jacques’s valuable experience and collection of awards has allured his services to a range of companies and industry associations.
Today he stands as the European Regional Director of the Game Audio Network Guild, as well as Advisory Director of Song-Tank, and also as a BASCA Media Executive Committee member.
He’s also set to attend next week’s Games Meet Film event at Pinewood studios, an will offer a keynote speech on how music in games and films can cross-pollinate.
Read on for the full FAQ:
What are you working on right now, and what stage is the project at?
I have recently finished scoring Disney’s Alice In Wonderland and am currently working on a very large high profile action game which is yet to be announced.
We also have projects with Nintendo, Sega and Sony, which are on going. We are also in the process of building a new multi-studio facility in London, which will be completed this summer. After the move is complete I will be scoring an animated feature film.
Which aspect of it do you think will impress players the most?
In the case of Alice In Wonderland, I think the developers and have really managed to re-create the feel of the movie and in the case of the Wii version, it contains some of the best graphics I have seen on the platform.
From a musical perspective I have created some memorable character themes and an overall setting which transports the player into Wonderland. There’s a wide variety of music settings, including ambient, puzzle and combat. It was a great project to work on and I am delighted with the way that the score has turned out.
What does your desk/window view look like?
Windows are a luxury for studio based audio folk!
What was your first job in the industry – and what was the first game you worked on?
My first job in the industry was as an in-house composer with Sega Europe back in 1994. The first games I worked on were DarXide (developed by Frontier) on the 32X and Shinobi X on the Saturn.
I spent 7 very hard-working but thoroughly enjoyable years at Sega, working on titles such as Sonic, Jet Set Radio, Outrun 2 and Headhunter, before setting up my own audio production company.
What was the first video game you ever played?
It depends on how far you want to go back! Probably Popeye Game and Watch, or Tomytronic 3D Sky Attack.
Relating to consoles or home computers I remember playing Joust on the BBC Micro and Flight Simulator on the ZX Spectrum from a fairly early age. Arcade-wise it was probably Asteroids.
What was the last game you played? Did you enjoy it?
I recently finished Modern Warfare 2 (which I thoroughly enjoyed), and am now just getting into Dragon Age.
What’s your favourite game ever, and why?
There are so many great games out there, but if I had to single out one I would probably have to say Oblivion. I am a big fan on long, deep RPG’s, and Oblivion simply has it all. I have spent over 150hrs on it so far, and although I have finished the main quest I still delve into it to work on some more side quests.
It simply has it all. A great narrative, an amazingly immersive world, awesome graphics, great voice acting, and of course, horses!
How many hours a week do you get to spend playing games?
It varies greatly. When I am busy on a score I often work 18 hr days. On average I’d say I probably play games 6-10hrs per week.
What area of the industry needs more investment?
All of the above! But of course from my point of view, audio is still (in most cases) very under-funded. It is of course one of those things that the audio community are always ‘banging on about’, but perhaps that is because the saying is still very true?
When working on a large-scale title, there are so many aspects to making great audio, and unfortunately we are still faced with someone picking a number out of a hat for the audio budget. Maybe another 10 years of banging on about it will help matters? Time will tell.
What disappoints you about the industry?
I personally dislike seeing some of the highly talented personnel get exploited, especially some of the amazing designers.
Also schedules are still a problem for everyone. Developing a great game is not an exact science, and in any creative process there needs to be some flexibility on all sides.
What do you enjoy most about working in the video game industry?
One of the main attractions for me has to be the creative and technical challenges that come from games. Composing for TV and Film is so much easier than interactive media.
One of the most rewarding parts is where you spend months planning the interactive music system, then writing, sometimes literally, hundreds and hundreds of musical cues, then hearing it back on implementation and how it seamlessly blends with the game is a very exciting process.
I also think the games industry has some tremendously creative people, and I am genuinely privileged to know many of them.
Of all the games you have been involved with in the past, what has been your favourite, and why?
Mass Effect. It was such a great project to work on, and BioWare are an amazing developer. I am a sci-fi fan so that obviously helped, but it really felt that we were given plenty of free reign to really be as creative as possible.
That can be quite rare, as some developers just want ‘sound alike’ music, which I don’t do, so having enough freedom to create something unique was a real pleasure. Plus the game is also incredible, I have played it through 5 times which is rare for a product I have worked on.
What websites do you visit most regularly?
Develop, UK Resistance, GamesIndustry.biz, Eurogamer, Apple, BBC, The Times Online, Facebook
What do you do in your spare time that isn’t related to video games?
Spare time? Well, in my very limited spare time I play drums for a charity choir, I enjoy swimming and cycling, going to gigs (any live music is great in my book), spending time with family and friends.
What’s your favourite book, movie or TV show, and album of all time?
Books – Orchestration (Walter Piston), 20th Century Harmony and Counterpoint (Persichetti). Movies – Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Bladerunner, ET. TV shows – Generally documentaries or trash.
What game would you most like to have worked on?
Oblivion, for all the reasons I have mentioned. Or perhaps one of the Panzer Dragoon games.