Recently I had a chance to run some questions by Cole Marshall, musician, game developer, father, and all around creative guy. In the music world he is known as Commercial, and you can check out some of his tracks on his SoundCloud page. My personal favorite songs of his are STAT and I'd Rather Slay Dragons Than Hoes.
Brian Riggsbee: Let's start by talking about your music. How did you get involved in composing?
Cole Marshall: Magix Music Maker. I honestly forget how I first got my hands on that program but it had to be 12-14 years ago. I remember thinking, "I can take sounds, put them together, press play, and it plays back!?" This was when I was just getting into Techno/Electronic and there was a decent library of samples and loops. Once I finished my first real "song" and felt that rush of endorphins the second time you play back a track that you've produced I was hooked.
BR: What is your process like when writing music? Is it very experimental or do you have a clear vision in your head?
CM: It's a smattering of a few different things. Sometimes I'll start with a nifty melody I discovered on the guitar or keyboard (I'm by no means a decent player of each of these instruments). Sometimes I'll just fool around in Reason until I get a nice Timbre out of one of the synths and that'll be enough inspiration to make a nice lead out of. Other times it'll be an inspirational track I hear that gets me to sit down and churn something out. I think my most successful songs have all come from 100% improvisation, though. Nothin' beats tinkering on a melody until you find that note that makes it all come together.
BR: We live in an age now of self-publishing, where an artist can skip the studios and producers, and instead create their work at home and upload it to their website or iTunes. As someone who has tried out this new method of development and distribution what are your thoughts on it?
CM: This is a depressing topic for me. Not because I think ease of distribution is a bad thing for individual artists, but because it's a bad thing for the art. The internet, while a wonderful tool, has diluted a lot of creative avenues. I'm very confident in saying there will never again be a Beatles/Rolling Stones/Michael Jackson. Lack of talent is not the reason, it's over-saturation. The death of truly famous artists has already happened in the visual arts. The last famous artist was Warhol and there will never be another because "art" is such a broad spectrum now. Music is almost there. I think Daft Punk and Radiohead are our swan songs.
There are so many options for visual and audible entertainment that it's paralyzing. Our attention span shrinks by the nanosecond. We all think we're artists. Nobody is special. It's a bummer.
I'm sorry if it seems as though I'm a bummer. Life is still great!
BR: Are you working on any new music?
CM: I wish, but no. I've got a 15-month-old and work full-time on top of a lousy commute. When I get home from work, I eat dinner, watch Mad Men, then go to sleep.
BR: Which musicians inspire you the most? Which artist or band would you like to see removed from the Earth?
CM: It's hard to compile a list of all-time-most-inspirational musicians for me. Recently, I'd say Com Truise. His tracks make you feel so cool. An unattractive man could be rolling an d20 saving throw while simultaneously popping a zit on his nose and still get babes to fawn over him as long as Com Truise was supplying some beats. The dude's a beast. I also admire Dosh very much. He's a super talented musician and I've rediscovered this gem recently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my4zz0P5Ic0
As for people I'd like to kill... I don't know. I really hate the B-52's "Love Shack". I'd erase that song but I don't think I'd want to erase them. I'm sure their nice enough people.
Let people express themselves even if it's annoying :D
BR: What are your thoughts on the importance of music and SFX in video games? Do you feel that music takes a back seat in development too often?
CM: I'm not sure if it takes a backseat too often, because making the game fun is the most important thing. If investing heavily into the soundtrack isn't in the scope of a great project I don't think it's the end of the world. That said, a lot of my most cherished songs come from video games ( ahem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnRmY7fsGdM ) and I don't think it's too far-fetched to think that the next Mario theme is out there. I'm sure every developer would want the first song in their game to be that iconic.
Most of the best songs came from an era when the hardest decision you had to make about art was what 8 colors should be used. Because of that, I think music selection was more focused and significant.
I'm not sure if I've answered the question but this is what my brain made me type.
BR: Speaking of video games, as a developer who has worked in a variety of departments ranging from design to promotion, what interests you the most in game development and why? Are their tasks you just dread?
CM: I have a bad case of development ADD. Sometimes I'll look at a piece of concept art and think, "Man, this is so badass. These guys have it made! They just draw monsters all day. They are the pioneers of development! I want to be that!" Other times I find myself writing probability charts for outcomes from opening a dusty treasure chest. Currently my ADD has focused on story-telling. I'd love to have people mad at me for killing off a character or deciding to make the hero a boy instead of a man. It's all fun to me. If I can imagine the person I'm designing for appreciate my design choices, I'm happy.
I dead any task that I think wont have an outcome that our target audience will be excited about. How are you gonna make an awesome laser cannon if you don't think your target audience will appreciate that a laser cannon is mounted to your hero's terrier?
BR: If you had one piece of advice for someone looking to start a career in the video game industry, what would it be?
CM: To get your foot in the door, play a lot of games, work on your own projects, and apply to QA positions at your favorite studios. If you don't get a call back, apply again in 2 weeks. If you don't get a call back, apply again in 2 weeks. Rinse and repeat until you get a call back. Once you're in the building be excited. I'm not saying foam at the mouth and spike your hair with LA looks. I'm sayin' be noticeably appreciative to have the opportunity to interview at a gaming company. Nobody wants to hire someone because they like Final Fantasy games. They want to hire someone that likes Final Fantasy and wants to make them better.
Once you get the job, have an opinion about everything while avoiding being an annoyance. This is the most difficult part. If you don't like the way the enemy's AI causes unrealistic behavior, tell the designer what you like about it and offer ways to improve it. If it's a good idea, awesome! If it's not a good idea, "Hey, that new QA kid is motivated."
Also, learn Outlook.
There's a bunch of other crap you should know but I didn't know at the beginning so neither will you :D
BR: Favorite video games of all time. Go.
CM: Since this list could be anywhere from 1-100 I'll settle with the middle decimal point and make a top ten list in no particular order:
Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy 7, Golden Eye, NHL 94, World of Warcraft, Diablo 2, Starcraft 2, Street Fighter 2/3/4 (can't choose), Ogre Battle, WCW vs NWO
In late May, 2013, I conducted a survey of 688 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) practitioners, 626 of which were male and 62 female. They ranged in belt levels from white to black, with ages ranging from children to seniors. The majority (682) are actively training, whereas 6 identify themselves as retired.
When asked what initially inspired them to try BJJ, the most widely selected answer was "personal challenge", with "fitness" coming in second. Refer to the chart to the right for a full list of responses.
Like myself, 8 people surveyed wrote in that it was due to witnessing Royce Gracie in early UFCs, which most, if not all of those that practice BJJ, are familiar with.
"As soon as I found out what BJJ was I [was] obsessed and amazed."
As someone who has broken multiple digits while practicing jiu-jitsu in the couple of years I have been training I was not surprised to discover that over 200 surveyed have broken at least one bone.
Participants were also asked to identify what they consider to be the worst injury they have ever received while practicing BJJ, and the most commonly reported major issue, by far, was knee related.
Keep in mind while viewing the chart on the right that these are the "worst" injuries an individual has endured, not a collection of all injuries ever received by an individual. What is considered the "worst" was of the opinion of the individual taking the survey. Responses were grouped into like categories, arranged primarily by body part (e.g. knee injuries such as ACL and MCL tears were grouped together under "knee").
"[I] destroyed both [of] my knees..."
When it comes to pain, participants were asked how often they feel physically in pain, excluding training times, with examples such as arthritis, stiff knees, shoulder pain, trouble rotating joints, etc. The chart to the left shows the results of that question arranged by how long a BJJ practitioner has been training for, in years. You will notice a general trend of pain increasing, in terms of frequency, as a practitioner continues throughout the years, with a decline in the 10+ range, which may be the result of a small sample set (of the 688 surveyed, only 25 fit into the 10+ group).
There seems to be a mixture of beliefs when it comes to strength and muscle in BJJ, whereas some feel strength is not very important, while others utilize strength, at least to a degree, and as such find it to be beneficial to lift weights and build muscle.
BJJ is a sport and art that one can start learning at a very young age. As with many sports, it's common for one's offspring to be encouraged into trying that activity, and BJJ appears to be no exception. Out of the 688 polled, only 4 people said they would not encourage their child to try Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, all 4 of which are male. Overall, the responses between the men and women were incredibly similar.
In BJJ we are taught to tap-out (or submit) when our opponent is choking us or manipulating a body part to the breaking point. But how many of us have been choked so badly that we passed out before we had time to tap-out (or because we had too much pride or ego to give up)? Of those surveyed, 29% reported they have been choked unconscious at least once.
In the end, what I found to be the most interesting collective response to this survey was the reaction to the following question: If you could start all over again, would you still practice jiu-jitsu or take another path? Despite the broken bones, busted knees, and frequent pain felt outside of training by many, 99% responded they would do it all again. And as for the 1% (4 individuals), they are all still active practitioners.
I would like to thank everyone that participated in the survey. Since I plan to run more surveys in the future I encourage you to drop a comment with suggestions for questions.
UPDATE (6/20/13): We have a discussion going on the sherdog.com forums, and a question was raised regarding the correlation between haven been choked unconscious at least once before as it relates to your current belt level. In other words, is there a connection between roughly how long you have trained for and if you have ever been "choked out"?. Please refer to the chart to the left, and keep in mind that the higher the belt level the lower the sample set.
I am pleased to announce that Tour of Terror, my custom campaign for Left-4-Dead 2, has received over 1 million downloads as of 6/3/13. Thank you to those of you that supplied some of the textures and artwork, all the players that provided feedback back when it was in Beta, and to anyone that has enjoyed the Eastern European experience.
There are many great games for the iPhone/iPad (iOS) devices, and selecting my top 10 favorites was not easy. Let me know if your favorite game isn't listed by dropping a comment. Here is my top 10 list, with #1 being "the best".
#1 - Walking Dead: The Game
Summary: Dynamic story with engaging puzzles and unforgettable and diverse characters.
#2 - Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery
Capybara Games Inc.
Summary: Simple yet complex puzzles and the most amazing retro sounding soundtrack.
#3 - Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars
Summary: The joy of GTA constructed perfectly for touch screen devices.
#4 - Kingdom Rush
Armor Games Inc.
Summary: Incredible tower defense game with lots of bonus levels and customization.
#5 - Year Walk
Summary: Immersive experience that transcends the typical gaming boundaries.
#6 - Shining Force
Summary: Classic tactical strategy game with a huge collection of characters.
#7 - Plants vs. Zombies
Summary: A relaxing strategy game infused with silly humor.
#8 - Zombie Highway
Summary: The best of the "infinite runner" games -- highly addictive.
#9 - geoDefense
Critical Thought Games
Summary: Thought provoking tower defense game with visual effects that excite the mind.
#10 - Orbital
Summary: A simple puzzle game with endless replay value.
Brian Riggsbee lives in San Francisco CA. He enjoys practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creating art, gaming, chasing adorable dogs, and spending time with his wife and boy.