Note: This is our final bi-weekly developer interview. However, don’t worry! In a few weeks we will be introducing our bi-weekly development blog packed full of information about the ongoing development of Galaxy in Turmoil.
In our final developer interview, our community team took the opportunity to abduct and relentlessly interrogate the Audio Director for Galaxy in Turmoil: David Nazario. You can discuss this interview here: CLICK ME!
(Pictured above: David)
David, go ahead and introduce yourself.
Well, my name is David Nazario and I am the Audio Director for Frontwire Studios. I’ve been working in the AAA video game industry for over 8+ years now and some of the titles I’ve worked on include the Ratchet & Clank series, Resistance 3, Sunset Overdrive, and Titanfall 2.
What led you to initially pursue a career in audio directing in the game industry? Was that always your goal or did you start off doing something different?
Well, I started out majoring in Music Recording Technology in college with the intent on working in the music industry as a studio engineer. After doing an internship at a local studio, I began to realize that it wasn’t for me. I still loved audio though, so I was dead set on getting a job that involved my degree; I just didn’t know what that job would be at the time.
Luckily, I had this class in college where all of the seniors who came back from their internships would speak to our class about their experiences and how they got the internship. Well, one of these seniors that came in had his internship at Sony Foster City where he got to work on some PSP titles. This totally blew me away. I never considered a career in video game sound design before and really was the moment that set me on my path to where I am today.
From there, I did everything I could to try and get an internship at a AAA game dev studio. I heard about the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and booked a hostel and a plane ticket to go there for the week. It was an absolutely amazing experience to meet all these industry veterans.
During my time at the conference, I walked around the career floor and handed out my resume to every company that would take it. Eventually I made it to the Insomniac booth where I told the HR reps there about my interest in an internship with their audio department, and they introduced me to their Audio Lead who happened to be working the booth at the time. We talked for a while about audio things, and he told me that they’ve never had an audio intern before but thought that it would be a good idea to explore. So, he took my resume and said that he would get in contact with me sometime after the conference.Well, a couple of months went by and I didn’t really hear anything back from him and, it was getting close to the end of the semester.
If I didn’t have an internship lined up by May, I would have had to either take an internship somewhere else that wasn’t in a game audio or I would have to add another semester before I could graduate. Unfortunately, the Audio Lead there never gave me his contact information so there really wasn’t a good way of tracking him down. Thus I decided to go through all of the game industry contacts that I had made over the past few years and finally found someone who knew the guy I was talking about. I asked him if he could give me his email so that I could get in contact with him, and he did.
After sending the Insomniac Audio Lead an email asking about the internship, I get a call back telling me that I am successfully the first audio design intern at their studio.
I feel I should, on behalf of those less clued-up on the role of audio in game development, ask… What exactly is your day to day job? What is the routine like for you?
Well, currently I am a freelance Sound Designer. Basically, I take contract gigs at companies who are looking for extra audio help for their game. My last major contract gig was with Respawn Entertainment working on Titanfall 2. I also helped out a bit on their recently announced, but untitled, Star Wars project.
Most of my roles are as a Sound Designer which means that I create and implement the sounds that you hear in video games. A lot of the time, sound effects creation is done by taking samples from sound libraries and layering and processing them together into a completely new sound. Other times, it can involve me going out with a mobile recording rig and recording sounds outdoors, which is known as “field recording”, or it can involve “Foley recording” in which I create and record sounds in my home studio using various random objects.
As an Audio Director, my job is a bit different. I will still help out with sound design tasks but I’m mostly in charge of giving direction to the other sound designers in the department. I also make sure that the overall tone of the audio is consistent and that the quality of that audio is the best that it can possibly be.
And, for this project, I will be in charge of the dialogue in terms of recording the voice actors and directing them in the reading of their lines.
I’m also the spokesperson of the Audio Department. I’m there to make sure that the audio team has all the support that it needs from the other departments so that they can complete their tasks with as much ease as possible.
Tell me, when you were approached with the opportunity to work on Galaxy in Turmoil. What made you decide to go for it?
Surprisingly, I was contacted earlier this year by someone from Frontwire’s HR team after they had found my online portfolio. They initially contacted me to come on as Sound Designer to help out with the project but as I was being interviewed they flat out offered me the position of Audio Director which was super surprising!
I guess the reason that I decided to join the team at first was because I love working on Sci-Fi games like this. The sounds are a lot of fun to make so I figured that it would be a good way for me to experiment with new sound design techniques that I had learned while working on Titanfall 2. Then, when I was offered the position of Audio Director, my reason for signing on was because I’ve never really had the chance to run a whole audio department before and this would be a really great opportunity to test out my leadership skills as well as getting to hear what a game that was directed by me would actually sound like. It’s very exciting to say the least.
Do you have a specific vision in mind for Galaxy in Turmoil’s audio, or are you happy with experimenting and going with what works?
I do have a particular vision in mind but mostly in terms of how I want to mix the game. In terms of tone, we are still experimenting with that at the moment. I’ve been looking at different games from the sci-fi genre for inspiration. Some of those include Star Wars, Mass Effect, Deus Ex, and Destiny. I’ve also been looking at some sci-fi movies as well that take place in space to get some inspiration for some of the vehicles that will be in the game.
What would you cite as the most challenging part of acting as Audio Director?
I’d say that the most difficult part of being an Audio Director is having to keep track of everything. Like… EVERYTHING. There’s having to keep track of how the other departments are progressing so I know when we can work on particular assets, all the things that the people on my team are working on, and then having to review all of it as well! There’s having to keep track of dialogue stuff, and remembering to contact all of the voice actors. Then there’s having to make sure that the tone is consistent in the game as well as making sure that the mix isn’t out of balance and potentially deafening our players. There is so much more to keep track of and it’s going to be a really tough challenge to keep it all managed.
For Titanfall 2, the Audio Director on that project had two giant whiteboards in his office that he used to keep track of everything. They were labeled “The Wall of Pain and Suffering” for Singleplayer stuff and “The Wall of Pain and Suffering (with Friends)” for Multiplayer stuff. I’ll probably have to do that for Galaxy in Turmoil…
When working as a sound designer, what was the strangest or most absurd sound you were tasked with creating?
HAH! I know exactly what my answer is for this one without even having to think about it. When I was working on Sunset Overdrive, I was tasked with creating all of the sounds for this one particular mission where you had to go fix a water treatment plant. Well, the designers decided to make this section where the player had to unclog the water treatment pools by shooting these giant balls of poop and making them explode… and I had to create a sound for that. The sound of a giant poop ball exploding. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to top the absurdity of that sound but I’m hoping that some designer out there will make me try.
On a similar note, what part of the job do you enjoy the most?
I would say that the thing I enjoy the most about my job is the variety of things that I get to work on and mostly having the creative freedom to make it the way that I want. I say mostly because I still do have to answer to the Audio Director or the team (if they don’t like a particular sound I make, they are really vocal about it, hahaha).
On the topic of people not liking your sounds, what would you say was your biggest cock-up? Naturally, nobody goes 8 years without the occasional humorous mistake, right?
Luckily, I’ve never really had the misfortune of creating a sound that the whole company has genuinely despised. I’ve had people come up to me and say that a sound wasn’t big enough for the action on the screen or that it was too dull but never anything that started a whole email thread where people bashed my sounds.
As for accidents, there really isn’t anything too major here either. I think the worst thing I’ve done was accidentally forgetting to set the instance limit on a looping sound that was spawned over and over again but never actually turned off. As a result the sound would just stack and stack and stack ‘til all other sounds in the game would start to drop out and then eventually the game would crash. The reason we had such a hard time figuring out what was causing the crash was because the looping sound was playing well outside earshot of the player. So we didn’t hear anything weird ‘til sounds started dropping out of the game.
I will say though that the most divisive sounds that I’ve ever created for a game was the post game UI sounds for Titanfall 2. People either loved those sounds or hated them. There was even an entire article written about them on Polygon!
What would you cite as a common mistake made by sound engineers when working on games that you want to go out of your way to avoid repeating?
I would say that a common mistake is not making your sounds big enough, if that makes sense. A lot of newer sound designers that I come across tend to have sounds that are a bit reserved in my opinion, and that can lead to a game feeling a bit empty when it comes to its overall soundscape.
If you could put any Easter egg in Galaxy in Turmoil, what would it be?
Oh, I love putting audio Easter eggs into games. I’ve put one into just about every game I’ve worked on except for one. And I have a few planned for Galaxy in Turmoil but I’m not going to give them away because they are pretty damn good, if I do say so myself! ;D
It’s customary for us to finish on a more lighthearted note. So, with that in mind, what would you consider to be the most embarrassing moment of your life thus far?
OK, so one time in college, I was driving back to my dorm after visiting my parents. There’s this speed trap that’s set up right as you get into the town the college is in. It goes from a 50 MPH speed zone to a 25 MPH zone, just like that. As I was crossing into the 25 MPH speed zone, a cop clocked me at 40 MPH. Naturally, the cop followed me and pulled me over. Now I’m sitting there, in the middle of campus, pulled over in front of all the dorms, and up walks this female officer. She asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Well, me being nervous but pissed off cause this was to be my first speeding ticket, I don’t think about what I was going to say and just blurted out, “Cause it’s that time of the month?” NOW, BEFORE YOU JUDGE ME, I said that in reference to the police having to meet their monthly quota of traffic stops! She, of course, does not take it that way AT ALL!
Right after I say that, it hits me why her face changed and she looked pissed! And I start apologizing immediately. Like, fumbling over my words and everything.
Thankfully, she has mercy on me and lets me off with a warning, but I was crapping my pants the whole time!