Hi Everyone! Great to see you again. You look like you’ve lost weight; have you been working out? What’s that? Food poisoning you say? Well, whatever it is, it’s working for you.

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. I recently finished an orchestral piece (which I’ll post as soon as I get it into the orchestra for a reading/recording session) and am currently scrambling to finish my final piece for my master’s degree, which I should be obtaining in a couple months. I’ve slept about fourteen in the past three weeks, so if I continue at this rate I fully expect to be a raving lunatic by the time May rolls around. There is a serious danger that, when I’m handed the degree during the graduation ceremony, I will, in my sleep-madness, mistake it for a Hostess Snack Cake and leap upon it like a beast, devouring it ravenously and snarling at the security personnel who try to intervene that I am the alpha male, and thus deserve first kill. So look for that on Youtube soon, I guess.

So until that day comes, my posts here on the ol’ blogonet might be a little shorter than usual. Just a heads up.

At the beginning of this month, I was lucky enough to attend the Game Developer’s Conference for the first time. I mingled with a ridiculous number of people in the games industry, met two of my compositional idols (Jack Wall and Marty O’Donnell of Mass Effect and Halo fame, respectively), and paid more to park in San Francisco for a week than it would have cost me to simply rent a Roman style chariot and a train of horses to cart me to the event every day.

But mostly I learned a ton about the industry that I didn’t already know, particularly about the artistic and business ends of being a game composer. Here are three things, pretty much off the top of my head and in no particular order, that I learned at GDC. I know three isn’t many, but I have to crawl back into the pile of sheetmusic and empty No-Doz bottles that has become my new home and occasional restroom.

1. Never Work For Free

Scott Selfron of Microsoft gave an amazing presentation on the basic ins and outs of game audio, and the main thing I took away from it was his advice to never, EVER work for free. Even if you’re working your first job for a low-budget indie production, you can’t do favors. It sets a precedent that you’ll work for no pay, so even in the future when they’re better off, they will assume your work has no value and ask for free music again. At least make them wash your car if they absolutely can’t pay.

2. Avante-garde Music Has It’s Place in Games Too

During my graduate work, I’ve studied a lot of avante-garde music (Cage, Takemitusu, etc.). For those of you who aren’t as familiar, most 20th Century Avante-Garde music doesn’t apply to the rules that govern most music that we hear every day, whether on the radio or in movies, tv shows, and concerts. To the uninitiated, it can often sound harsh, alien, or just plain random, and it’s not something you hear in a lot of mainstream games. Jason Graves, composer for Dead Space and Dead Space 2, gave a talk on his compositional techniques, and it turned out he studied a great deal of 20th C. music to prepare for his work on the series. The result is fantastic, and if you have a 360 or a PS3, you really should check it out, if you haven’t already.

3. Beware Strange Women Bearing Free Mexican Food

Seriously, there were a bunch of scantily-clad women giving out tickets for free burritos outside the convention center. All you had to do was approach a suspicious looking food truck, give them your business card, and presto! You have dysentery, and now your inbox is full of spam! But at least I learned that “carne asada” ss Spanish for “burnt eraser shavings and packing peanuts.”

So that’s it for now. Anyone else go to GDC and want to share? Anyone wished they could have gone and want to ask about the events? Don’t care at all? Comment anyway!

Ryan