Hello there, Ladies and Gentlemen! My name is Felix and I am Off The Beaten Track’s historian, philosopher and expert on topics no one else even remotely cares about, as well as the company’s ambassador of sarcasm, black humour and jokes you would not dare to tell.
But I am actually being paid for everything audible since on the official side I am the music composer and sound designer in our little group. Everything your sweet little ears perceive in our game is made by me.
Among the people surrounding me I am known as a lover of RPGs (only western-style ones though, I never got into JRPGs) and games which require brainpower or have some real philosophical depth. But I also play RTS, Shooter, Story games, overall everything that somehow catches me. Except for racing games.
If you ask me what my favourite game is, I ask back “Which genre, at which time and how do you define favourite?” But to give you somewhat of an answer, here are a few of the games my colleagues hear me constantly talking about:
My most played game is Skyrim, followed by Fallout 4. I am one of the few humans left on earth, still saying that both are great games, not least thanks to their fabulous modding communities.
The game with the most impact on me is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords with its unmatched deconstruction of the dichotomous concept of good and evil and the definition of identity based on power, which awakened my philosophical interest and influences my world view to this day more than anything else. (Thank you, Kreia!)
Placed in the same line of games is Nier: Automata, a damn masterpiece in terms of game design, story and meaning, which broadened my horizons and made me feel like no game before.
I can also talk for hours about the life lessons you can learn from the Dark Souls series.
But enough of that, I already wasted plentiful of letters and did not even once talk properly about how I got to work at OTBT.
Looking back, I always played videogames. As a little twerp I sat before our family’s Commodore Amiga playing titles like Battleships, Rick Dangerous or the famous Star Wars Arcade Game by Atari.
But the epitome of my childhood will always be the Settlers series (especially The Settlers III and IV), because I basically grew up on my parent’s knees watching them building up and tearing down whole civilizations on screen, firing the little Felix’s imagination. Later I would use the map editors to create my own campaigns, which oftentimes required massive industrial landscapes and armies in the thousands to withstand the threats I orchestrated for a real challenge. (Hence my well unknown talent for logistical organization.)
The time of the great franchises during the first decade of the millennium I hold dearly. The golden age of Star Wars games gifted the world treasures like Knights of the Old Republic I + II, Republic Commando and of course the two Battlefronts. With my friends, I would put hours and hours into these and the two Lord of the Rings – Battle for Middle Earth games. Of course, there were also The Elder Scrolls, the first Assassin’s Creed games and much more. I miss the times when big blockbusters were something you would look forward to, because it meant quality.
And at the same time, I got another hobby – Music.
At the relatively late age of eleven, I started playing the violin. First for myself, later together with others in ensembles. One day a friend came to me with a free demo version of a music notation software and we said “Let’s compose a piece!” This marked the starting point after which I would spend my teenagehood in service of becoming a composer and my main instrument was no longer the violin but music itself.
Some time fast forward.
I already studied classical composition for a few years at university, had written music for concerts, stage plays at the theatre and films. I also became disillusioned about the possibilities and freedom a composer has in these industries, in which music is oftentimes nothing more than something that has to please and is just imposed on the medium.
At that time my composing style was already heavily influenced by game music composers, like Jeremy Soule and Inon Zur. I recognised that game music seemed to be more free, due to the non-linearity of videogames. Back then, there were no guidelines on how game music has to function and so I started to analyse it myself, bringing together my experience as a long-time gamer with music theory but also psychology and logic.
My first practical step was an old friend – I was engaged to write some music for the famous Edain Mod for Battle for Middle Earth II – a german-led community project, actually quite an honour for me. I also got into the Skyrim modding community, finding some great people like “HaemProjects” with whom I worked on Project AHO and Carved Brink, my proudest work till this day.
I finished my time at university with a thesis about the soundtrack of Fallout 4 and then went out of necessity to Kiel. I did not expect to find anything game industry related there, but I was proven wrong, because there I met Jens and other people building things up.
Networking was never a strength of mine, but at the game-dev meetups they organized, I met great people with refreshing views. I also took further education in sound design.
Two years later, Jens approached me with a newly founded developer studio in pack and an idea for a videogame…
What I do
So, as I said, everything you hear in our game is made by me (except for the voice lines, although that would be funny…).
Regarding sound design, I have to prepare the bits and pieces that fit with our game’s style. The UI needs feedback sounds, as well as the actions you can take in the gameplay. The environments need fitting atmospheres and these are quite diverse – a library, a hospital, a forest, and much more. Sound design is always a delicate thing to handle. Put in too much and it becomes an acoustical mess, put in too less and it destroys the immersion.
Regarding the music, it is not just my job to compose the notes, but produce all of the music. For that, we use mostly virtual instruments, so I control every aspect you hear, from the instruments to the articulation, dynamics and everything else. I also do the music direction that is needed to fit with our game’s scenes together with Jens. Shoutout to him for taking the time and effort to educate himself so we can speak properly about the topic, since every musician will know the difficulties of speaking to people that lack any musical knowledge.
Game music is not just a pleasant overlay to some more important aspects of a game but equal part of the art piece as a whole a videogame represents. And it is my privilege and dedication to stir up the player’s emotions in a way that is nearly as old as humanity itself.
So… this is the point at which every of my colleagues did come up with a quote, so it seems I am inclined to do the same.
Oh, you are still there?
Well, then let me give you a reward for agonizing yourself by reading through this wall of text. Here, have some dancing Laurel & Hardy!