A gathering of great minds: on GDC and the travellers blues.

Well then. I finally had some time to sit down and reflect upon everything that has been happening over the last few weeks, which is quite a bit...Let me start by saying that these have been some of the most amazing weeks of the last few years.

In no order of importance:
-Landfall was released
-Term1nal was announced
-I've visited the GDC and met some amazing people
-I swung by Los Angeles for a visit to Formosa Interactive
-I came back to Force Field finding out I'm starting on not one but two amazing new projects

So, let's talk about GDC first.
The Game Developers Conference is a yearly event in the magical city of San Francisco that draws everyone who is someone or wants to be someone in the games industry, to a 5-day event that consists of lectures during the day and total debauchery during the night.
It was without a doubt one of the most fun experiences I've ever had in a professional context, and I am sad that I didn't go there sooner.
I think the word "festival" or "celebration"  is a better description for this event than "convention".

Granted, it's pricey (even more so if you're from a developing country -check out Rami Ismael's excellent take on that) but in my opinion more than worth it.

Here's what I got out of it:
First of all I was able to (re)connect with some fantastic people such as Niels van der Leest, Jamie Bell, Derek Brown of Soundbytes, and one of my personal heroes Matthew Marteinsson, whose talk about imposter syndrome on the Tonebenders podcast has helped me to properly reflect on my own issues and insecurities, for which I personally thanked him a few weeks ago.

I witnessed talks from cutting-edge audio professionals like Paul Weir, Inon Zur, and the Dice audio guys -people who never fail to inspire me with their creative solutions and inspiring, ahead-of-the-curve take on things.
Ironically, one of the biggest take-aways from these lectures and through talking to some of these folks, is that my own perspective on things doesn't seem to differ that much from theirs, which has given me a huge confidence boost and has given me the re-assurance that I am on the right path in becoming better at my craft.
Working as an isolated audio person can sometimes gnaw away at your self-security and deflate your ego to the extent you start to wonder if there's any need for you to do your work at all. Did I mention imposter syndrome already? Oh that's right, I did.
Anyway, it has totally reinvigorated my love for this craft and the people in it.

In terms of information I was incredibly impressed with Paul Weirs talk on the vocal sound design for No Man's Sky. One could argue it wasn't really "sound design" in the classical sense of the word, in that their physical modelling concept set the constraints for sound to automatically come into existence based on parameters and variables presented by the game.
It was one of the many talks I witnessed that has proven to me once again that -due to the advent of VR and thus the new influx of capital and subsequent development of more computational force- we are moving into a new era of game development and with that game audio.
If you want to know more, check out this Youtube video where Paul explains the details.

Another great talk was Inon Zur's jam on the theme to Fallout 4 -one of my favorite scores of the last few years. Inon spoke about collecting items arond the house and recording them in unconventional ways, using objects as instruments, or using instruments in ways they're not intended for, all in order to create a soundscape that felt as disengaging and ambigious as Fallout's world is graphically. I literally walked out of that lecture with inspiration oozing out of my ears. 
Well, not literally, but you get the point.

Travelling with Niels, my partner in crime for a few days while coming to grips with the east coast city that's on the west coast (a.k.a San Francisco), was equally as fun. Rarely have I had such fun with a (near) total stranger, and my experience was highly elevated by hanging out with such great company. Also, the fantastic food SF has to offer helped that experience (Umami Burger!), and I'm sure we both gained 5 kilo's (9 pounds, yankee) during our many adventures.

After a short stay in Los Angeles where I visited my friend Paul at the fantastic Formosa Interactive (more on that soon perhaps), I came back to Force Field with a slight feeling of travellers blues, paired with a feeling of impending doom knowing I might have to put out some fires and perhaps start a few of my own. 
Luckily that was only mildly the case and I was truly and happily amazed at what I found when I came back: a group of people relieved by a succesfull launch of Landfall, a team vigorously pushing through production on Term1nal with great creative force, and 2 teams starting up new projects of which I'm proud to say Im going to be a part of.

There is something strange about starting a new project as an in-house audio person at a games company. It's a dualistic experience, made up of a sometimes unsettling feeling of impending doom on one side knowing the producer-demon is out and about, and a glorious, tickling, inspiring jab at the heart of that blank canvas that is asking to be coloured in with all the fresh and exciting ideas you have, on the other side.
I guess, as with anything in our craft, it's a balancing act between resource management and creative fun. It's a carroussel ride of wanting to make great stuff and then having to temper that expectation, after which the cycle starts again.
It's a sidechain compressor where the compressed signal is creativity and the sideschain signal is money, and the ratio is set really high. Okay, that's an audio nerd joke. I should stop here.

I guess the bottom line -and my main take-away from GDC- is that it is the same everywhere. We all deal with creative frustration and middle management. Whether you make great stuff or not is whether you let that get to you.

Until next time!

R.