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Kind Spirits: Interview with Over The Top & Steven Gutheinz

Kind Spirits: Interview with Over The Top & Steven Gutheinz

August 6, 2009 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Kind Spirits: Interview with Over The Top & Steven Gutheinzon Twitter

NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits is an unusual game in today’s world. It doesn’t rely on high explosive sequences, cinematic cut scenes that last longer than a wedding or space marines fighting an alien invasion. It’s about a girl searching for her friend in a forgotten world, with ancient Gods assisting her on her way. It’s also a platformer, very much in the style of good old classics, something many have been wanting more of the recent years. Hot off yesterday’s review, we had the chance to discuss the game with the Spanish dev team, Over The Top, and the composer, Steven Gutheinz on the creation on this interesting WiiWare title.

You can read our interview after the jump.

OSV: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! First, tell us a little bit about your background and what you and Over The Top worked on before NyxQuest, and your musical background, Steven.

Rob Álvarez de Lara: Thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk about our games! We are a team of very passionate people that love videogames. Before founding Over the Top Games, I had experience working for other videogames companies. I have been making games since I was very young. Over the Top Games is a new company and NyxQuest is our first project. We worked very hard on that game to make it fun and visually attractive.

Steven Gutheinz: I grew up playing piano and tuba, but I didn’t become serious about music until I started composing in high school. It quickly became a huge part of my life and I went on to study music in college and then film and television music at USC. The vast majority of my music so far is film music since that has been my focus for awhile now, but I’m excited to be working on a game score and I hope to do more!

OSV: How did the idea of NyxQuest come together? What were some of the initial ideas you had for the title in the starting stages of the project?

Rob: We had the idea of creating a game were the player used the Wii Remote to help the main character. At the same time we wanted to create a game with a flying winged character… so we mix them both into NyxQuest!

OSV: In terms of gameplay, were you inspired by any other game? As a gamer, I personally felt some similarities between NyxQuest and Another World, the French smash hit from the 90s with its lonely atmosphere and searching quest.

Rob: Another World was an awesome game! Our game is inspired by all the classic platform games. During the development of NyxQuest we spent time playing old classics like Mega Man and Super Mario Bros to inspire ourselves. When we started the development, we noticed that having a flying character opened a lot of doors for level design and gameplay and that not many games have a character that can fly as much as Nyx.

OSV: The art direction is quite beautiful and very inspired, with some great cut scenes showing paintings in the style of ancient Greek art. Who was in charge of art and was it always clear that this was the approach you were gonna take?

Rob: As you might know, the team that made NyxQuest is formed by just 4 people! Two of them, Enrique Orrego and Juan Alvarez de Lara, were in charge of the art. When we wrote the story, we wanted to have a few cut scenes to explain what was happening in the game world. One of the ideas was to have everything painted in the style of Ancient Grecian jars. We chose it, because it was a beautiful and original way of telling the story, and at the same time it was simple enough to be made by a small team.

OSV: How was it working with the WiiWare system? Was it a smooth process or were there any setbacks in terms of compression and technical limitations? Was the audio length reduced because of limitations?

Rob: It was a very nice experience. We recommend it, because it was all smooth and a good opportunity for all the starting studios.

Steven: Well, they originally wanted me to do just 5 minutes of music total. An atmospheric looping track, a main theme, and an action track. So when I started writing, that was my goal, but I ended up giving them 19 minutes of demos to choose from. I figured they would just pick 5 minutes from that due to the size limitations, but they ended up using all of the music, which is great.

OSV: How was Steven approached to work on this project?

Rob: Juan, my brother, is a fan of movies and videogame music. When we were talking about the music in our games, he had some scores from Steven Gutheinz. We heard them and placed them in the game and they fit perfectly! It was very inspiring music. Since we didn’t have a big budget for this game, we were at first scared to contact Steven. He was very kind and open to working with us.

Steven: Juan contacted me about doing music for the game when they already had a website up with some screenshots, and it was very clear then that this was going to be a great project. I was very impressed with the artwork.

OSV: Did you give Steven more or less a clean page to work with, or did you have ideas for him to work around musically?

Rob: We gave him some drawings, screenshots and videos from the game so he could understand it better and get inspiration. We explained the game, the characters and the story we were telling. Musically it was all his work. After a few days he sent us some “examples” and we were amazed and happy with his works! We rushed to place them into the game and loved them from the first moment.

Steven: I had the screenshots and concept art, and they also gave me a gameplay video so I could get a feel for the game. So from that I had a very good idea of how everything was going to look and what the gameplay was going to be like, etc; and I wanted the music to reflect the visuals and story in a way that felt natural to the game.

OSV: Are there any other inspirations behind the music of NyxQuest (Movies, Games, Composers, etc.)?

Steven: They didn’t have any temp music in place and actually when Juan contacted me, he mentioned some of my music for the short films Passage and Modes, and specifically my use of santur in those scores, as a potential starting point. So I started the NyxQuest music with santur in mind and went from there.

OSV: Can you tell us a bit of how you recorded the soundtrack? Is it live instruments or sequenced?

Steven: It’s all sequenced using samples. Of course I wish we could have recorded at least some of the music live, but the budget just wasn’t there for it.

OSV: Nintendo of Europe had a campaign where they gave out the soundtrack to the first 100 purchases, which I think is a first time for WiiWare here in Europe. Was this the plan all along or was it decided by NOE?

Rob: That was one of many ideas that we worked together with NOE.

Steven: I didn’t know that was a first. I thought it was very cool that they did that!

OSV: What are your feelings on the finished soundtrack?

Rob: 10 out of 10! When people play our game they always mention the great visuals and the great music, so I think he did a perfect job and his music is an important part of the experience of playing and enjoying NyxQuest.

Steven: I’m very happy with it. I hope that there is a sequel, or even better, a much longer, bigger budget version so that I can expand the music and record at least some of it live. I don’t know what their plans are, but that would be awesome in my opinion.

OSV: Would you like to work with more video game music in the future? How has the process of composing games been for you in general?

Steven: Absolutely! I loved working on this game and I hope to do more.

OSV: Nyx has a lot of potential as a game character, being mysterious, powerful and beautiful. Do you have any plans on expanding upon her character through more games?

Rob: That would be amazing. We left some things in the drawing board and would like to work on it in the future.

OSV: Probably the question which has been directed to me the most in preparing for this; are there any plans of releasing NyxQuest in America and Japan?

Rob: Yes, we are working on that, too. It’s not official but hopefully we will be able to have our game in Japan.

OSV: Thank you so much for your time and all the best to your future projects! We at OSV are great fans of your work on NyxQuest and hope to see more from Nyx in the future! Anything you like to say to your fans?

Rob: Thank you! I hope you had a good time playing our game and that you enjoy our next projects, too.

Steven: I want to thank everyone for supporting the game. The developers have a lot of talent and passion, and they put so much into this project. I’m very happy for them that it is doing so well.

We thank Over The Top for their great support and their time. NyxQuest has been announced for release on 10th of August in America

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