Hey guys! Today, I wanted to share my experience when it comes to getting on to a project.
You can also say that this is more like a journal, remembering the fond memories of every project I dedicated my time on! :)
If you’re reading this and you were hoping to get some experience in game jams and want to work on indie games, or have a portfolio piece to apply to a studio, then you’re at the right place!
The first game that I ever worked on was Voodoo Cheval. I was a junior at the time in college, and I noticed that there was a videogame development club on my campus. These guys were working on 1 large projects throughout the semester, and they needed music for the project. At the end of the year, we had this event called SGDA (Student Game Development Alliance) where professionals in the industry come and give panels and take a look at our games. I still vividly remember a really friendly developer from Obsidian complimenting my music!
If there is a videogame development groups near you, join it! You will make lots of friends and work on really cool games.
2. Sight and Silence
The first game jam I worked on. When my friend Kei was too busy with her projects, she referred me to this project. It was short, it was fun, and memorable. I tried a little adaptive music I could on this project, where volumes of 2 tracks would fade in and out from each other.
Friends help each other out by referring projects when they’re too busy. Be there to help out, and refer projects to others when you’re too busy!
3. Mindblock VR
Not every project that you pour your heart and soul into will ship. This project started as an ambitious project for us to work on in the span of 3 months. Lots of things happened, but ultimately we didn’t get to ship the game. I was new and very passionate at the time and wrote 30 minutes worth of unused music. It’s okay when projects don’t ship - it will happen. I learned from it and moved on.
Follow the production and only write and create assets depending on what is needed. Also, it’s okay if your game doesn’t ship - keep making games.
I’m a big fan of just going to indiegamejams.com and joining a random team to work on games. This was a really cool collaboration between me and 3 other music producers and 1 programmer. I mixed everyone’s music and handled MIDI to spawn buildings for player to step on in this First person Parkour rhythm game.
Collaborate with other Audio people (or any disciplines) for unexpected fun.
After Voodoo Cheval has shipped, the club wanted to work on a game that was focused around gameplay. Everyone can pitch their game ideas, and mine was picked due to the presentation and footage of a short gameplay loop. Ultimately, we ended up shipping the game, and I learned about how to pitch a game as well as how production works.
You don’t have to just focus on your discipline! Try your hands on game design, or any other disciplines and you’ll see a new light in creativity that will help shape your main discipline.
6. GrandPix Racing
This was a really short game that I worked on for a day, and I pushed out the music of. I worked on this project just because I could, to keep me in shape and always working and shipping even small projects. Sometimes when you get bogged down on big projects, you don’t see the end and feel really tired.
Don’t forget! Among all the complications of game development and production, think back to why you started making games - you started because games were fun, and short game jams help remind you of that.
7. Witch Hazel
My best buddy Jason and I were dreaming of becoming real game developers for ages. He has made several twitter friends who were indie game devs, and one in particular stood out to me for his daily posts about his progress! His name was Chase of Bass., and after our 2018 GDC, the three of us decided that it was a good time to work on a game afterwards. What was really rewarding was watching youtubers play our games afterwards and exclaiming about how mindblowing the game was! I was really happy to see people play our game.
When in slump, watch people play your game! It really fills you with energy again.
8. Last Whisper
A game pitched by my good friend Chau. In the following semester, Chau reached out to me and asked for my feedback about her design. I helped her with my previous experience of pitching Banish and how she could enhance her pitching by sellinga solid gameplay loop. What started out as a simple 2D platformer became a gameplay focused, tight game with a great story that I believe is the best game out of the 3 VGDA projects I’ve had a chance to create sounds and write music for.
This was my first Global Game Jam game! I had made lots of connections from VGDA at this point, and we had a certain group that just understood and worked well with each other. When our team presented our game after 2 days and nights of working really hard, the entire room was really impressed with our game!
Go join global game jams and work on games at physical locations! It really helps build meaningful friendships and build important memories.
9. Garden Warrior
One day, my ex invited me to come to join her at an artist freelance seminar. At first I was hesitant about going, because I had other game projects to work on, but ended up going to see if I can learn about freelancing more. The person giving the seminar was Sarah Putros, who is currently working as an art teacher at CSULB and a devoted Christian, and turns out - a game developer! She was looking for a sound person, and we immediately knew this must have not been a coincidence. Sarah and her husband Dawood have been very nurturing to me ever since and we’ve worked on 2 games so far with them! Garden warrior has been in the making since last year, and it’s shaping up to be a really fun game, and I can’t wait to share more about it soon.
Go to places where you’re not expected to be. You may end up meeting people who may becoming amazing friends in your life.
Chau reached out to me from the previous experiences where we got to work on games together! I helped her create sound effects as well as looping music for her really cute Kiwi sliding game. This was amidst my busy schedule, where I was working on 3-4 projects at the same time and I gotta admit, the stress did get to me at the moment and I was unable to be attentive to my significant other at the time because of the workload of every game I was working on at the same time.
Don’t work on more than 3 projects at a time. It’s going to diminish your overall quality of work on every project, and leave you stressed out.
I was adamant about writing music for games in my non-game focused music school. I was showing game music to presentation days for composers, and making it clear that I was involved in VGDA. One day, my professor reached out to me and said that someone was looking for a composer who can compose music for his game, and passed me his email. That guy turned out to be Marty, who I helped write music for his game Valencio. The game was perfect for my craving for writing something more orchestral and adventurous, and we went on to become good friends. In this game, flying around on the broom was really fun.
Let yourself be known in your community as that guy/girl who works on games. People will eventually reach out to you when they need help.
12. Food Drive
Two weeks after GDC 2018, I saw a facebook post of Will, my friend, looking for a visual effects artist for his project. I referred my friend Jason in hopes to get him more experience with VFX, while also adding “By the way, do you have a sound person on your team?” to see if I could help out on his project as well. This lead to one of my most important games I’ve worked on - Food Drive. I met incredible mentors and friends who I value my friendships with. After 3 months of Wwise, composing and creating sound effects, I shipped my first game on steam with 90% positve reviews and 30,000 players. Furthermore, I was invited again to work with the team on their future projects.
Look out for unexpected opportunities from people who you might not expect. But don’t treat people as job opportunities - instead, always be faithful in your work and eventually you’ll meet people that you deserve to work with.
Remember the broom mechanic on Valencio? Well, Music Game Jam of 2018 was coming and I wanted to work on another game with Marty. I knew I wanted to get more experience with Wwise, so I asked Marty if we could take that flying mechanic from Valencio and turn it into the main mechanic in this game. After 1 week of development, we created a short game where the goal is to fly around gathering bird friends with your singing (inspired by Journey) that had evolving music throughout the game. The game placed 2nd place in the Music Game Jam, but what mattered to me more was the reaction of the players who’ve played the game. They were moved emotionally, and at some point a friend messaged me and told me about how Flight positively impacted their life. Without Marty’s help, this game wouldn’t have been what it is today. Thanks Marty!
We are still working on Flight as of now, and I’m really excited to share our progress with it very, very soon. :)
Create games that help people. It doesn’t always have to be about senseless violence. Build friendship with your previous developers.
Peet from Food Drive invited me to join in for Ludum Dare 43. In the span of 3 days, we created this awesome backwards roguelike game. From working on this game, I got connected with programmer friends named Pat and Robert.
Not only was this a fantastic portfolio piece, I also got to get familiar with FMOD as well as matering Wwise by this point. Always take new opportunities to work on projects as best times to learn something new.
14. Super Homie RPG
Okay, this is a ridiculously wholesome game jam! From my previous connection with Pat, I got to work remotely as their sound person on the 6 people team to work on this game. The theme of this game was friendship, and I wrote the game’s music with lots of kazoos. The kazoo idea was from my good friend Lucy who was the artist on the team, working on her team Social Cipher’s Kickstarter game! We chat time to time about our work as freelancers and cheer each other up and stay accountable to each other.
Friendships form from friends you already have! And game jams are like tunnels for you to find new friends. Make sure to stay in touch with them afterwards!
Josh, who’s a good CA friend, asked me through facebook messenger for help on this really cute doggo skating game. I learned a lot about cute pop-song music production while working on this piece of track. (It was heavily inspired by Katamari - Lonely rolling star). By this point, I had been sharing what I’ve been doing on social media, so when my friends need a go-to musicguy, they could remember me in their head!
Stay active on social media and let others see your work and projects! As a creative, it’s your job to let others know what awesome thing you do. Bonus Tip: Create a website with your finest works on it.
Those were the 15 lessons I’ve learned from my 15 previous projects! It was a good refresher to think back to these projects and learn from them again.
I’ll see you guys next time! Take care.