Pulse’s lecturers and tutors include a number of high profile industry experts with interesting and varied careers. In this section of our newsletter we delve into their stories to learn about their experiences and, if we’re lucky, uncover some of the secrets of their success.
Paddy Murphy is the lead sound director and CEO of Open Emotion Studios Ltd. He has created music for over 11 released games including Mad Blocker Alpha, Ninjamurai and Revoltin’ Youth and is currently writing the scores for another six projects. He has an extensive knowledge of Game Design and uses this encyclopedic knowledge of game design for making executive game-play and artistic design related decisions.
Before taking on the huge challenge of setting up the hugely successful Open Emotion Studios he managed a Gamestop store in Limerick for over two years, while studying video production and manipulation in Limerick Senior College… and by night he was in a band called Verfield for nearly five years. We are delighted he found the time to give us a first hand look into the Videogame industry in Ireland.
Q1. You started off your creative career studying video production and media manipulation. How did this help you go on to set up one of Ireland’s leading video game companies?
To be honest at first it felt like it wasn’t a really useful skill. When we started the company, I was mainly doing the composing and the main brunt of the sales and management tasks – my skills from Management in Gamestop and writing music with Verfield aided me in becoming adept with these parts of my job role. It wasn’t until we made Mad Blocker Alpha and a trailer had to be created that my Video Production and Manipulation skills came into play, but I was really glad to have done it as I was familiar with programs like After Effects and Flash.
Q2. How did Open Emotions come into being in 2009?
Back in November 2009, I had just been let go from my job in Gamestop due to the lack of available hours. With nothing to lose, I approached a group of my friends with the idea of starting a small video game studio. Colm English (Lead Programmer) and Mike Naughton (Lead Artist) came on board and together we put out one flash game per month for the first few months of 2010 – this kept the roof over our heads until we received an investment from some local businessmen. After the success of Goldies Revenge, we met with Sony and they suggested we move onto PSP Minis development which is when we decided to create Mad Blocker Alpha – We took on another programmer from Dublin, Eoghan O’Donovan, who now runs the Dublin branch of Open Emotion in the Digital Hub. Our company has continued to grow since then and we now have 10 employees in total and expect to have 3-5 more by the end of 2011. I think it’s our collective love of videogames that makes doing this job so easy 🙂
I think it’s our collective love of videogames that makes doing this job so easy 🙂
Q3. You’re the lead sound director for the company. Can you tell us what this involved?
Originally, I was less of a sound director and more of a straight up composer. However, in the most recent titles (Revoltin’ Youth, I Kill Zombies) we’ve worked with other musicians such as George & Jonathan (a successful New York based chiptune act) and Fabrice Favre (an amazingly talented composer who has played live on tours with artists such as Serj Tankian and Scars on Broadway) and during those projects it kind of became my role to oversee all aspects of the sound and music. I will often sit there for hours just synching the sound effects to the music to make sure it all fits and it’s my goal to try and discern what might be uncomfortable audibly to the player. I still like to get my hands dirty and record some tracks though and I am looking forward to being much more involved, once again, in the audio development on our next six titles.
Q4. How important is creating the musical score to the overall success of a video game concept?
Hugely important – The musical score will often set the tone for a level, area and most importantly the game itself. Without the chip-tune soundtrack, I’m not sure what we could have done in Revoltin’ Youth; and Mad Blocker Alpha’s disjointed soundtrack is reminiscent of the twisted world it’s set in. Also, the sound effects are vital to delivering feedback to the player – i.e. you’re doing great (cheer), you failed (explosion and booing) – it’s the sound director’s job to ensure that the player never struggles to sync the visuals up to what they hear.
Q5. In 2010 you switched focus to console games. Why the change?
We received a tremendous opportunity from Sony Europe to work on titles for the PSP and PS3 in mid 2010 so we made it our goal to deliver top notch games to those platforms. It worked out really well and we’ve since received further support from Sony as well as a chance to develop for their new handheld, the Playstation Vita. We have also received a publishing deal to develop a series of games to the PC platform through Steam, but I can’t talk too much about that now, ha ha… Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement 🙂
Q6. The success of Mad Blocker catapulted you to another league, with over 2 million plays worldwide. What do you think made it so successful?
With Mad Blocker I think it was 60% luck and 40% hard work… You never really expect your first game to be picked up in the way Mad Blocker was. I think we were very lucky, but we created a game that had a lot of familiar elements (a simple falling block puzzle game) with a very unique audio and visual twist… I don’t think people had really experienced a puzzle game quite like it beforehand.
Q7. This was followed by Goldies Revenge which had over 6 million plays. How do you keep coming up with new and exciting video game concepts?
In our company it’s more about trying to reign in the concepts. It’s the kind of work environment that just generates good ideas. We all laugh and joke and discuss silly concepts and sometimes these develop and become a great idea, and sometimes they just go back in the box. To give you an idea of how long some titles can take to come to fruition, I created something back in November 2009 which we benched as it was a bit big to tackle at that point. We are now, two years on, looking at developing that I.P. as part of the Steam publishing deal. So yeah, sometimes it’s all about creating stuff, saving it up and then using the right idea at the right time.
The musical score will often set the tone for a level, area and most importantly the game itself.
Q8. You released Mad Blocker Alpha for PS2 during the height of the hacking scandal. How did this impact your company?
Strangely enough, it actually worked in our favour. We had just released Mad Blocker Alpha in the US on the 19th of April (The day the PSN crashed on PS3) and we think that we would have had very little visibility at launch. However, when the PSN went down we got a lot more attention from sites like USA Today, IGN and the BBC. When the PSN came back up, every user had access to Playstation Plus offers… including Mad Blocker Alpha, so we had a huge sales spike in the first two weeks of the PSN’s return… I guess we were just very lucky 🙂
Q9. You bring a wealth of industry knowledge to talks you give here in Pulse. Can you tell us briefly what students can expect?
Well thanks for the compliment. I must say that a lot of my knowledge is gleaned by listening to the amazing talks at GDC Europe every year and also staying in contact with amazing people like Mark Rein (VP, Epic Games), Cliff Bleszinski (Creator, Gears of War), Brian Gomez (Lead Designer, Silent Hill Downpour) and more. Generally when I talk to a class or a group, I simply try to give people a better insight into the games industry and my favorite part of it, the game design process.
Q10. The gaming industry in Ireland appears to be a growing recruitment sector. How do you see the future of Irish games developing?
I can only see things getting better, so long as there is constant support from government initiatives, such as Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, which helped us a lot in growing our company to the next stage and securing a publishing deal. I think it’s the responsibility of the developers, people like myself and also other CEOs, Lead Programmers, Art Directors and so on to deliver knowledge and insight to students and people looking to break into the industry. If we can do that, Ireland’s indigenous game sector will grow at an unbelievable pace.[openday]