Video Games

An Interview With Will Roget: Creative Process & Artistic Background

In honor of our upcoming workshop with dynamic game composer Willbert Roget, our first official Strawberry Hill Studio blog post will be an excerpt from an 2016 interview with Will on the topic of interactive music for games. Check out more of Will's podcast Game of Themes here.

Today we are here to talk about Music and Video-Games.

From Pong in 1972 to the most recent AAA games, there is no question on how much the industry has grown and how much farther it will go. In addition, the simple individual sound of pong evolved into a huge amount of music and sound effects added to these games for the past twenty years, which bring the player to a much more immersive experience.

On Game of Themes, our host Wilbert Roget talks about the process of making music for such games, from indie to AAA. Will is a renown composer for games such as Lara Croft: Temple of Osiris and Star Wars: First Assault. On his podcast we will hear important composers, sound designers and audio designers talk about the world of music and audio for games.

So, Will, what can you tell listeners about your background in the game industry?

I’m a composer with 11 years’ experience writing game and film scores, working both in-house at LucasArts and as a freelance contractor for several high-profile and indie projects.

Have you always wanted to compose?

I started classical piano lessons when I was about 4 years old, and taught myself improvisation almost immediately. But it wasn’t until high school that I started taking composition seriously, writing pieces heavily influenced by the game scores of the time, way back in the Playstation-1 era.

If you did not work with music, what would you do?

This is a very difficult question to answer! Music has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember, though I will admit that like most college freshmen, I started off thinking I would be a psychologist.

What is your creative process? Is it like sitting down and trying multiple things, or more like waiting for the right idea to come and composing around it?

I actually start every soundtrack with nothing but a text file. And in the text file I write down any and all conceptual sonic ideas I have for the score, no matter how vague or bizarre or random. Later on I’ll sketch musical ideas, either on paper or with a piano sketch on the computer. Then finally I’ll start committing to production on my PC, but only after I have a solid idea of what the piece should sound like and know exactly where it’s going.

What has been the most awkward moment that you got an idea to compose?

Musical ideas can come at practically any time, so I always keep a score book near my bed and a staff paper pocketbook in my pocket whenever I go out. So I’ve found myself sketching during audio team meetings, on the bus, in airports, during recording sessions, you name it. But maybe the weirdest place I seem to get ideas from is the bathroom – one time I sketched a film’s main theme using condensation on the shower door!

Does your family have an artistic background?

Not necessarily. Both of my parents are French professors, and my siblings work in government and museum curation. Though my mom is also a fiction writer, and one of my uncles was a musician as well.

What was the experience that most changed your way of thinking about music and games?

I’m lucky to have had many epiphanies along the way, but perhaps the first was just simply my experience playing the game Final Fantasy 7 as a freshman in high school. It was a technical marvel at the time, and I’d never played a role-playing game before so its breadth and complexity blew me away, but most significantly it was the soundtrack that had an effect on me. I’d never considered how I’d make music a career before – I only had vague notions that somehow I’d do it, perhaps as a concert pianist. But the FF7 score showed me exactly how I would make that dream a reality. I then went on to study game music independently, playing other titles and transcribing their music by ear to learn the ins and outs of composition.

Where were you when you received the call/email for the best job you have worked on?

It’s tough to say which of my scores has been my favorite, and I’d almost say that some of my highest profile titles have been secured in really bizarre ways – I was hired to score Dead Island 2 after I applied on a website, and I got the call for Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris because of a Facebook post I wrote earlier in the week. Though for my current project, Anew: The Distant Light, the game director had heard my Lara Croft score and simply emailed me directly, along with some early footage of the title. I was blown away by the art style, and of course flattered that he went out of his way to contact me first, so we had a meeting to see how we could work together and the rest is history.

When did podcasting become a passion for you? What does “Game of Themes” mean to you?

I think part of the appeal of my podcast is that I’m not a professional interviewer, but instead I’m a professional composer chatting with other professionals about the details of our work. So it’s not really about my trying to “make it” in the podcasting world, but rather I’m just seeking to give a glimpse into the creative challenges and strategies that we face as members of the game audio industry.

Who are the personalities the listeners can expect to hear in the podcast?

I’ll be interviewing other composers as well as music supervisors and audio directors on the podcast.

Can you give any advice for the people that are starting in the industry?

The best advice I can give is to take your craft very seriously, take no shortcuts and never write the same piece twice. Because we’re in the entertainment industry, there’s bound to be trends and patterns, but it’s important to have a strong background so that you can survive the trends no matter what. Game music is very different now than it was in the Playstation-1 era when I started writing – if I hadn’t been able to evolve to the new aesthetic goals and challenges each gaming generation presented, I never would’ve been able to progress in my career.