1-774-573-7265 alex@alexandre-cote.com
5 Game Soundtracks That Deserve Your Love

5 Game Soundtracks That Deserve Your Love

2015 is almost over, and there were many awesome new game scores that came with it. However, not enough of them receive the attention and recognition they deserve, so before Star Wars comes out and we all get lost in the new John Williams themes, here are five lesser known game soundtracks that are worth checking out. So, in no particular order, here they are.   Tinertia – Jeff Swingle Turns out platformers are hard without a jump button. Instead, you use rockets to boost yourself around the game, which is fun and INCREDIBLY challenging. Fortunately, the music does a pretty good job of keeping you sane. As you take the little robot Weldon on an intense journey filled with many deaths, you are accompanied by groovy electronica, with synths that change depending upon where you are. The bosses tend to have heavier, fatter synths, while Weldon is represented lighter more punctuated colors and tones. The two types of synths then interact and clash as you rocket jump your way to victory over the boss. Check out the score at https://jeffswinglemusic.bandcamp.com/, and play the game if you want a challenge similar to that of Super Meat Boy! Grow Home – Lewis Griffin Although the official OST is only two tracks, I wanted to include it here because the game and audio soundscape deserve more attention. This game was made in house at Ubisoft to test out new climbing mechanics, and Lewis Griffin is part of the team there. In Grow Home, you take control of B.U.D (Biotanical Utility Droid) and are tasked with climbing up from the planet’s surface towards your...
I Took a Day Off, and Didn’t Feel Guilty About It.

I Took a Day Off, and Didn’t Feel Guilty About It.

And now you’re thinking one of two things: Either, “he’s a complete workaholic and I don’t understand at all”. Or, “that sounds like my life oh man please tell me more.” Now maybe you have a job where work doesn’t follow you home, but many of us, especially in entertainment, are always working. And since I work from home, I always feel like I could be doing something productive. But this was the Friday after Thanksgiving – where most people eat leftovers and sleep. And I opted to join that majority. I spent the day with three of my close friends, and did nothing. We made cinnamon rolls, watched two movies, browsed YouTube, and enjoyed the day. And all the while, I was struck by how refreshing it felt to let go of work for a day, and take a true break. But I have so much work to do! That’s a phrase often heard when you encourage someone to take a break. And I get it. I’m busy too and it can feel insurmountable. Breaks are sometimes seen as being lazy, and aren’t looked upon favorably. As a result, people get trapped in a cycle of “I have a lot of work to do, and the only way to solve it is to work nonstop until it’s finished.” And while this can be effective at first, consistent work without breaks will damage your quality of work, create bad habits, and hurt your physical and mental health if pushed too far. I think that it’s even more important that you take a moment for yourself when you have more...
My Role on The Woman Astronaut

My Role on The Woman Astronaut

Hello again! I’m extremely excited to say that Penka Kouneva’s cinematic orchestral album, The Woman Astronaut, was released on July 10th by Varese Sarabande / Universal Music Group. This marks the release of the first big project I have worked on since moving to LA, and I’m here to talk about my specific role in it. (A big thank you to Renzo Heredia for the idea!) Making Sounds & Coffee So what did I do? I’m credited both as the “composer’s assistant” as well as an “additional synth programmer” for the tracks Looking Up (5), Space (10), and Solar Flare (14). These two titles effectively separate my support work (assistant) from my creative work (synth programming). As Penka’s assistant, I created basic templates, bounced a ton of stems, and did various tasks that she didn’t have time to focus on. As a synth programmer, I helped take Penka’s creative vision and turn it into something tangible, whether that be sequencing a drum part, or designing new sounds. I began working with Penka in September 2014. She had been writing the tracks for the past year, and the majority of tracks were ready for recording when I joined. Although Penka had a large team on the project, I worked exclusively with her. She gave me tasks and direction, and I helped make it come to life. I didn’t meet everyone else until the recording session on October 29th. Any questions I had that Penka couldn’t answer were routed through her to another member of the team. This way, she was kept in the loop with everything. Interpreting Creative Visions So for...
The Struggles of Building A Slave PC

The Struggles of Building A Slave PC

It’s finally time to upgrade my computer. I’ve been running my Macbook Pro mid 2010 for five years now, and it’s officially tired (but still going!) So what do you choose? There are so many options. Could get a full new Mac Pro, maybe an iMac, or even completely switch to PC. But as you may have guessed, I’ve chosen to go the route of slave PC. Why A Slave? There were two reasons I chose this. Partially it was a financial decision. I can get the same amount of power going with a PC than buying a new Mac for much less money. Secondly, I’ll be able to expand my rig easily. The slave PC will always be relevant, and I can just continue to upgrade the master computer. For my budget, building a PC provides me with a better long-term solution, than buying a marginally better Mac and upgrading again in a few years. Plus, I wanted to learn and build the machine myself. So where to start? Building a PC is a pretty daunting task. There are a lot of great online resources, and if you’re about to start upon this quest, I recommend reading this guide! http://lifehacker.com/5828747/how-to-build-a-computer-from-scratch-the-complete-guide It explains each component well, and gives you advice on what to purchase. So instead of me reiterating that, I’m going to talk about some specifics I think are important for a composer’s slave PC, primarily the processor and motherboard.  Processor Wars One of the first components to choose is the processor. It provides all of the power to your machine, and as a result, is one of...
Ori and the Blind Forest – Scoring Cutscenes & Gameplay

Ori and the Blind Forest – Scoring Cutscenes & Gameplay

Oh man this game. What an emotional roller coaster. I’m about 6-7 hours in and it’s been really cool so far. The music especially impressed me, specifically during the opening of the game. It really draws you in. The score is written by Gareth Coker, and features a number of well-known soloists. It’s so refreshing to hear woodwinds again, a family of instruments that was left behind in the recent film and game scoring world because they sounded “too classical”, or because they lacked the power that brass and strings could offer. In contrast to that, Coker’s score makes heavy use of woodwind solos, bringing back colors of the orchestra less seen today. This is the first time I’ve heard his music, and I’m excited to see where he goes after this game. Much like Austin Wintory and Journey, I hope that Ori will help put him on the map as a composer. But okay on to the game itself! SPOILERS AHEAD! Implementation is EVERYTHING So the prologue. There are so many awesome moments. Many people have commented that this is their favorite part, comparing it to Pixar’s film Up, and the music plays a huge role in making that opening so moving.  Why is it so successful at this? Aside from the obvious answer of “it has pretty music”, the real factor is that the implementation of the music is amazing. As the game transitions from cutscene to gameplay and back, the music follows and scores it SO well, and this adds so much to the experience. This is difficult to do in games because the player determines how long...
GDC 2015!

GDC 2015!

Okay hi! It’s been a long time since I wrote a post, and I just got back from my first GDC a few weeks ago. What an awesome experience. If you are at all interested in game development, it is well worth your while to go. So here are some highlights from an action packed week. GDC? What? GDC stands for the Game Developer’s Conference, a weeklong event that takes places early March every year in San Francisco. Essentially, a bunch of nerds get together and get a week long vacation from game design. Industry leaders give talks, there’s a huge expo floor, a career center, etc. It’s the best opportunity to meet future collaborators, your inspirations, and make new friends. This year, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Conference Associate (CA) program – a group spanning all areas of game design who are committed to helping put on the conference, often seen in bright neon colored shirts (this year was school bus yellow, but apparently purple is what everyone wants.) The CAs are our only little family within the GDC community, and are a huge part of why I had such a great experience. CA Community! Something that struck me throughout the week was how welcoming everyone was. From the first CA gathering on Saturday night all the way to our closing party, people were excited for me to be there. Our home base for the conference, the CA lounge, was probably my favorite part. Having a place to retreat to after a shift or just hang out and make friends was the best. It allowed...
What Is Mastering?

What Is Mastering?

Last week I finished mastering Red Lights for Warning Skies, Chris Burgess’s first EP and final project at Berklee College of Music. Putting together any type of album is an extremely difficult process with many different steps, but today I’m going to focus on mastering, and its role in the production. Mastering Vs. Mixing So what is mastering? Maybe you’ve heard of it, or maybe not! Mastering is the final step in the music production phase, and often confused with mixing. So how do they differ? Simply put, a mixing engineer works with over hundreds of tracks, while the mastering engineer works with just one. The mixer will balance all the elements from “lead vocals”, all the way to “cymbal swell 3” and blends them together to form a cohesive track. Once the mixing engineer is finished, he or she renders a stereo audio file of the entire track, and the job is finished. The mastering engineer takes that single stereo audio file, and makes the final tweaks, adjusting the volume and frequency levels, and occasionally adding in reverb or slight distortion. However, since there is only one track, mastering engineers are unable to make tweaks to the cymbals without affecting the vocals and guitars as well. This makes mastering a game of compromises, where fixing one element sometimes damages another. As a result, the tweaks made are often very slight, and not noticeable on their own. With mastering, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.   Polishing Apollo So let’s talk about on Chris’s track Apollo. For the entire album, Chris and I agreed...
5 Things I’ve Learned Pursuing A Creative Career

5 Things I’ve Learned Pursuing A Creative Career

On July 8th, I packed up the majority of my life, shoved it into a car, and began the cross-country trip to Los Angeles. I had no job lined up or opportunity awaiting me. My Dad and I spent a week driving through the US, stopping at Niagara Falls, Pikes Peak, the Grand Canyon, and a couple others along the way. If you’re moving somewhere, I highly recommend making it into a sightseeing adventure. Five months later, I have a job; I’ve worked on some extremely cool projects, and met an amazing group of people who have been welcoming and supportive. Starting a new life and career is challenging anywhere, so here are some things I’ve learned that made it easier.   Lists I’ve found that making lists is the best thing ever. If you already do this, congratulations – I wish I had figured it out sooner. There is something so fulfilling about creating a list, and then crossing off each item as it’s completed. Having a list gives you the feeling that you accomplished something that day, even when work is slow. I like to add simple tasks to it as well, such as “get groceries”, or “take a walk”. Anything that I know I need to do that day, but might not do without some prompting, goes on the list. And at the end of the day, I feel productive and satisfied.   Routine Having lists helps create routine, and routine is something difficult to come by when you’re working freelance or assisting someone with odd work hours. All of us are creatures of habit, and...
The Basics of Game Music Interactivity

The Basics of Game Music Interactivity

Game music has evolved exponentially over the years, moving from beeps and bloops of Space Invaders to the lush orchestra of games like Uncharted and Halo. But even though there are 30 plus years separating these games, there is one unifying musical element that links them together; music interactivity.   Reactive Music! Now what is this music interactivity you speak of? Music interactivity refers to how the soundtrack adapts to player input and varying game states. Why this is this important? At their core, games are just another storytelling medium, much like film and TV. However, the unique feature of video games is that the story is nonlinear. When you watch a film, every event happens exactly the same way every time. This is not the case in games. Every person’s play-through of a game is slightly different. Maybe the player doesn’t go into that cave, or encounter that character, or engage in a battle. Since these choices are in the player’s hands, it makes it difficult for the music team to predict the player’s actions, and as a result, nearly impossible to write a linear score. So composers and sound designers developed systems within the game engine for music to adapt to player choice, and music interactivity was born. Over time, game designers have developed three main ways to create scores that respond to player input, hence the name interactive. These three methods are known as branching, layering, and crossfading, and are still used today. However, some audio teams choose to blend the techniques to create a more intricate and musical score.   Branching First let’s talk about...
Music Interactivity In Hearthstone! – Part 2

Music Interactivity In Hearthstone! – Part 2

So last week I talked about how Hearthstone’s music changes while the player navigates between the different menus of the game. (It’s actually really interesting, and you can read about that here!) Now I’m going to geek out about how the music changes during actual gameplay!   A Worthy Opponent But first, you must choose your deck. As I mentioned last week, no music plays in the pre-game lobby. All you hear are various crowd ambiences creating the illusion of the bar you’re playing in. However, once we choose a deck and click “Play”, the music kicks back in. We hear Blizzard’s version of slot machine music complemented by an extremely fast spinning wheel indicating that you are searching for a worthy opponent. The game randomly chooses one of four different pieces each time you search, helping to make each match feel different and to keep you from becoming annoyed every time you start a match. However, the coolest part about this is that the tracks Blizzard uses are excerpts from the music of Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness! These excerpts are then looped, and heavily filtered and processed to sound like they’re coming out of a slot machine. Additionally, this is the only time that the music loops in Hearthstone (although I tend to find opponents so fast I never reach the end loop). Otherwise, every piece plays from start to finish. Listen to Hearthstone’s version, and one of the originals from Warcraft 2! Once our opponent has been found, the sound effects and screen change covers the fade out of the “searching for opponent” music and the fade in...