EP 8 | Creating Music for Video Games from The Set Up Podcast | Behind the Scenes in Music
00:00: Sydney: Welcome back! I'm Sydney and thank you for joining me on another episode of The Set Up Podcast. I am joined by a new guest who works behind the scenes in the music industry. We will have in-depth conversations of their experiences that led them to where they're at today and as a bonus they share tips for those who aspire to break into the industry.
00:00:34 Sydney: In this episode, I am joined by Mikolai Stroinski who has composed music to convey emotion and tell a story for video games for the last 16 years. He is best known for his music in Witcher and Bee simulator. I am super excited to have him!
00:03:23 Sydney: As a background for the listeners, Witcher 3 is an enormous open world video game in which players get to role play on different territories. You guys might be familiar with the Netflix series. So my question for you is "how long did it take you to create the soundtrack for Witcher 3?"
Mikolai: While I was working with Marcin, I was I was in LA so every couple of months, I would just receive a new section to compose music for that I would receive on an excel sheet.
00:04:23 Mikolai:Every track would have its its own Combat music. So they would share a Tempo. It would be in the same tempo and they would be in the same key. So I would receive email from CD projekt that We need another 45 minutes of music. I would give them the music and then wait another month.
00:05:00 Mikolai: Marcin was in Warsaw and is the house composer for CD projekt. Then he would divide the batch of music between us two. It's important to mention, the amazing contribution to the Parcival band who gave us their tracks from older music that they recorded before.
00:05:54 Sydney: You guys created such perfect sound of music for every event, every character, and every Kingdom that was in the video game. You went from calming music to this darker battle sound. Were the tracks Broken Out by event?
Mikolai: The world was divided into into three subworlds. Each of the world would have its own color. Each world would be divided into 60 sections and there would be a special task music for special events in the game. It's just like putting together a movie, basically there would be a list of themes. That's how to glue the whole thing together.
00:06:52 Sydney: The Music in video games draw the players in the moment and make them super invested into the character that they play almost to the point where they need to turn off the music so they could pay attention. In fact, my boyfriend in the other room,as I was playing the music to get the particular titles of the track I was looking for, his ears perked up and he was like That reminds me. How do you test if the music is a good fit for that particular scene?
Mikolai: Instinct is a big part of it and experience is another big part of it. My experience in music and experience in playing video games as well. So it might not be something that maybe all film composers can do, if they hadn't played video games, but I need to be able to feel how the game should feel.
00:08:42 Mikolai: They obviously have the bigger picture of what the music will be about the game. The astronauts is the founder of it and the person who I'm working directly with and this guy is just amazing. Like he doesn't speak music language, but he really knows what he wants and is Right for game developers.
Sydney: When are you brought into the process?
00:09:42 Mikolai: I Base my first choice on the QuickTime videos screenshots and I can be mistaken at the beginning, eventually I get warmed up. If you wanted me to get a bigger picture of the game so I figured out process. I would say when they're like 3 years into the process.
00:10:15 Sydney: I don't entirely know the process in the background of video game development. I'm assuming you have to translate the music into code. Do you do that yourself?
Mikolai: It can be done in a couple ways. The best way is to use something called middleware. I don't usually operate them. My job is to figure out the interactive part of the music. It's like how the music changes according to the choices on the player on what happens to us through to the player in the game place. And so I have to prepare my music in a way that works with us and then deliver the file. So this can be done either in the middleware so it's a software between the engine and the music. It can be down directly in the engine of the game as well.
00:11:21 Sydney: Usually video games are not linear like movies, that means that one action does not lead to one result. There isn't a single way of doing things in games. In Witcher 3, there are various twists and turns that can happen depending on what the individual player decides to do. Before you compose music or video games like this, you have done films and TVs. How did you approach this difference that change to nonlinear?
Mikolai: With ease. I started with an independent game. The first task was the track needs to loop so, I just saw something in my little bit and in order for its track to Loop, it cannot have A distinguished beginning nor distinguish the end. The player will always feel this moment of loop and that's wrong. So, you know, I discovered that and I made sure that the beginning is similar to the end just so that it be glued together. This coupled with the fact that I play video games, you know, since I was five or six and same age as I started playing piano.
00:12:48 Mikolai: I really felt that. It's probably cheesy to say, but I don't remember stopping with this part. I've always wanted to score video games. It was a calling.
Sydney: It really does sound like Destiny where you pursued both of your passions especially knowing that you started both of them at the same age. What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
00:14:21 Mikolai: The most difficult soundtrack that I did because of the interactivity in the game. They gave me a lot of freedom and creative freedom is a challenge because no one's telling you what they want. There's a lot of responsibility and you have to put those borders. And if out of nothing or everything, you can come up with something very distinguishable that works for the game. But on the other hand, you know, it has to be defined. It's challenging and everybody was happy at the end of the day and I'm really fond of memories connected to another project. It's a working title of Valor switch. It's based on Magic the Gathering that was in the orchestra was recorded in Los Angeles. And then it was just to be recording my own music in this spectacular beautiful place where I was in Williams recorded in many of the great ones we can play by the best musicians in the world or like really so, you know, lots of good moments to give me the fuel for life.
00:16:12 Sydney: What was the most important thing that you've learned in your career?
Mikolai: I think it is to think not what you can get from the project but what you can add to it.
00:17:12 Mikolai: Not a lot of people are saying that you should work on your craft and your music. Everybody is stressing how important the production affectsthe music but I don't think people are stressing how important it is to know your Harmony. It's a challenging thing. It's very satisfying work that I do it. I love it.
00:17:57 Mikolai: But people who are entering this thing who are new to the Community. They don't realize that it's difficult. They don't realize that the amount of time required from your prior to entering it is required a lot of time due to practice your craft.
Send any topic recommendations or feedback to www.thesetupseries.com/contact
Listen to the full episode at www.thesetupseries.com/listen