Archive for Infinite Ammo

Manitoba Music “Video Game Composition Seminar” 2010 – Part 1

Posted in Kenley, Local Music, Public with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2010 by Kenley

It’s been quite some time since the blog has been updated, but it’s been busy! So expect a few posts coming up!

The first thing that we can report is that Kenley was part of a seminar series for Manitoba Music (industry association for Manitoba musicians) on composing music for video games!

Alec Holowka talking about Indie Game Development (photo courtesy of Chrissy Chubala)

The line-up for the presentations was legendary! There were:

– Indie composers (Alec Holowka of Infinite Ammo, maker of Aquaria and Marion, and Danny Baranowsky, composer of such hits as Semi Secret’s Canabalt, as well as the upcoming and highly-anticipated, Super Meat Boy).

– Film and TV (Steffan Andrews of Orchetect, composer for YTV’s League of Super Evil and of the animated feature Kung Fu Magoo)

– Audio Engineering (Andrew Yankiwski and Skot Moat from “Precursor Productions” here in Winnipeg)

– Writing and Game Development (Ryan FitzGerald of “Rogue Nations Studios,” who have worked on everything from ARGs to online media.  I’m a big fan of RadioFreeKrakow, so definitely check them out!)

I hope that I didn’t miss anyone!

In which case, we had five students from all walks of writing – from songwriting, to writing for bands, to writing for NBC!

I spoke about a few different topics of composing for games, 4 of the 7 sessions, actually.  I gave the “Introduction to Composing for Video Games,” “Repertoire,” “Loops” (with Alec) and  “Traditional Orchestration Techniques in VGM Composition,
(with some killer input from Steffan).

All the sessions were really cool – Ryan’s totally blew my mind.  In particular, he spoke about the ideas of narrative involving free will (agency) and of rewards (affordances).  I don’t want to give his whole presentation away, but he looks at storytelling in a way unlike any other – in a very interactive, open and collaborative way.  It’s as though it’s more about the dialogue creating the story rather than the “sage on the stage” model of telling and listening.  Put another way, it’s more like going to the bank and setting up your financial future with a manager and both crafting your economic tale together, rather than the deposit/withdrawl pattern of an ATM.  I could listen to that guy talk all day – go check out his work.

There will be subsequent parts, so stay tuned! I’ll leave you with a teaser – if you were to write a caption for Danny Baranowsky’s moment below, what would it be? Write your answer in the comment box!

What will the caption be?

Good luck!

Kenley

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Many Hands…: The Importance of Collaboration

Posted in Kenley with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by Kenley

Hey all, Kenley here and, as promised, I’m writing about collaboration.

Many hands...

I would put money in saying that Winnipeg’s New Media sector is different than most other New Media sectors in the world because rather than looking in for inspiration, it looks outward to its colleagues, compatriots and counterparts.

That needs clarification.  One company from out west moved over to Winnipeg approximately one year ago and asked me about “the way that we do things here in Winnipeg.”  I happily replied that we’re really all on the same team and we commonly discuss what we’re working on, how it’s going and ask for ideas or feedback.  The head of given company (who shall remain nameless, because I haven’t asked him if I can blog about our conversation) gaped at me as though I had broken the cardinal rules in business… oh wait, I have.

In many big cities and big companies, secrecy and protectionist tendencies are of paramount importance and collaboration is a faux-pas that no company can afford: What if their product leaks? What if someone tries to copy it? What if someone does it better?

I appreciate that those are valid concerns and they are in place for a reason – Blue Harvest and Rory’s First Kiss helped to quell the fans from discovering that the companies were really making Star Wars and The Dark Knight. But, why did they have to keep the secrecy? This does the opposite of a tried and true marketing force, perhaps one of the strongest marketing forces out there: Hype.

Many Indie game companies understand this better than most.  In fact, they do the opposite: They post their developmental material as well… and blog about it… it’s almost like they bring their fans into the creation process. One killer example of this is with Bit Blot’s 2007 release of Aquaria, made by Derek Yu and Winnipegger, Alec Holowka.

The Seven Days of Aquariahttp://www.bit-blot.com/?p=27

On the first day, they take you through Concept Art and conceiving the basic elements of the game; then, on the second day, Music and a cool mix from some of the 53 tracks from the game; on the third day, we meet Jenna Sharpe, the voice actor for the game’s protagonist, Naija… you see where I’m going with this: Opening up creates hype and builds a relationship with your fans.

Other awesome examples of this include Bear McCreary’s blog on writing/conceiving/recording the music for Battlestar Galactica and Super Meat Boy Blog.  To be REALLY fair, Alec Holowka’s independent company, Infinite Ammo, has “Marion Mondays,” where  new design aspects of their new game, Marion, are released and discussed.

Where am I going with this? Many hands make light work, or in short, collaboration makes everyone better.  The last few examples weren’t ENTIRELY about collaboration, but focusing more on the idea of secrecy and how a sense of “intellectual protectionism” can be detrimental to everyone.

Winnipeg shares everything and attracts the best people from its pool to do the best work.  Winnipeg’s chapter of the International Game Developers’ Association has regular meetings every two months to showcase new ways of using lighting effects, manipulating gravity in the Unity engine and/or showcasing new games that are in development.  All of get to be inspired by crafty coding, beautiful artwork, beautiful sound design, excellent 3D modelling and stunning animation – there is no fear of stealing ideas because we are all on the same team.

One company in Winnipeg manifests that credo in everything it does: New Media Manitoba.  New Media Manitoba is like an umbrella that helps enrich all of the New Media companies within its subscription by holding seminars, bringing in speakers, running courses, hosting events and promoting the cutting-edge work that’s being done in our fair city.  New Media Manitoba had a hand in the course that Jeremy just attended… amazing work.  But again, it is through this collaboration that a shared and exponential success is nurtured – not only happening once, but a continual growth of the industry.  Again, collaboration.

Author Seth Godin discusses this idea at length in Episode 97 of CBC’s technology program, Spark and I recommend this listen for everyone  – it’s terrific.

Pick your cliche:

– Many hands make light work.
– The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
– The more that hold the net, the less that fall through…

… All of these make sense and that’s one of the reasons why Winnipeg’s New Media industry is growing by leaps and bounds.  The unified strength of our many companies is creating something special in the Paris of the Prairies and I think that it has a lot to do with collaboration and our sharing of skills.  Imagine how much further ahead we could be if we all shared our strength to create great arts and services for the world around us… if you can’t imagine, ask a friend.