Indie Game HQ ventures into new territory by interviewing Ballpoint Universe composer, Nicholas Minniti (a.k.a. Doc Prop). In an attempt to help gamers learn more about the creative process behind writing music for video games, Nick shares some of his inspirations as well as his background to explain how he paired with the development team behind Ballpoint Universe.
About Doc Prop:
Nicholas ‘Doc Prop’ Minniti is an avid artist, producer, and writer who strives to bring a distinct style and finesse to an audible medium. Born and raised in the eclectic San Francisco Bay Area, Doc has immersed himself in the art of making music going on 15 years. After graduating and earning his degree in Music Industry & Technology, Doc set his sights on a career of producing and composing music for film, television, and gaming as well as writing and producing music for artists and entertainers. (Soundcloud)
Q: How did you get started working with audio in general, and what inspires your work with video game music?
A: I started messing around with audio and music production in high school, making electronic beats and DJ type mixes. I then went on to attend CSU Chico where I studied music theory and orchestration, songwriting, business and marketing, and received my degree in Music Industry & Technology. Since then I have been composing music and doing freelance production work. I grew up as an avid gamer from NES on, so my inherent love for gaming and the gaming industry inspired me to work on this title as I’ve always wanted to do something music-wise for a video game.
Q: What were some of your inspirations and influences for the tracks you laid down in Ballpoint Universe?
A: At first the inspiration came from the general concept of the game; having an entire universe spawned from doodles and sketches in a notebook. As I got more involved and was able to see the concept art and all the original designs unfold, it really took my music creation to a deeper level and helped influence the direction I was going with the composition.
Q: What kind of hardware did you use to compose the music for BU?
A: All I needed was my MIDI controller that is hooked into my audio interface and I was able to compose a lot of the music just via different software and multitrack programs.
Q: Describe the process you went through in finding the right sound for the game.
A: From the start, I felt that Leo’s style of art as well as my style of music really meshed well together so the process was pretty smooth. I often joke about it because when asked to do the music for the game I warned Leo and told him, by default, when given freedom to write music my style tends to be very eclectic and abstract at times. He said perfect, and when I saw the art direction I knew we would work well together.
Q: Could you explain a little about how you implemented your music into Ballpoint Universe? Did you use middleware programs like FMOD or Wwise?
A: Honestly I left that up to the brain(s) of the operation. I’m just the guy who sits alone in a dark corner and bounces my mind against the wall until a new universe is brought to life through sound & music.
Q: Are you a video gamer yourself? How has gaming inspired your compositions?
A: Yes I am an avid gamer. I currently game the most on Xbox 360 (gamertag: Doc Prop). I love listening to in-game compositions and game soundtracks. I really feel that the gaming industry is carving out a special niche in terms of music and the style of music that is being created. I especially take note of genre as well as the time period or overall theme of a game when listening to the music, as well as creating the music for a new title.
Q: Are you a gigging musician? What instrument(s) do you play and what’s your favorite style of music to jam in?
A: Yes, I recently moved to LA from the SF Bay Area so I haven’t done any shows down here yet but we have done plenty of shows around San Francisco and Northern California. I am one of those backwards musicians in a sense that I know how to read and write music but I don’t really play an instrument. I enjoy many styles of music, mainly Jazz, Hip-Hop, Orchestral, Lounge, Electronic, and anything ambient/eclectic instrumental.
Q: What makes life easier and/or more difficult when composing for a video game?
A: The thing that I enjoy the most is not having any sort of creative or technical restrictions that you may have when doing a job for a more modern or ‘typical’ project. Creating the music for a game is a really intricate and in-depth experience, because in essence you are helping shape and mold this new universe. [You] also define the atmosphere and guide the player through an audible adventure.
Q: What motivates you to work on game audio? Is it something you’d like to continue doing?
A: What motivates me is just the overall experience of being involved in the creation process of something new and exciting. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I was given and hope to continue making music for many more titles.
Q: How did composing for Ballpoint Universe challenge you as a musician?
A: It challenged me by forcing me to push the boundaries that I was used to working in. It also gave me the opportunity to experiment with mixing together different styles and genres that were unconventional or typically wouldn’t fit together in an average production sense. For example, I enjoyed doing such things as creating a heavy modulated synth melody and then layering it with a more classical, orchestral motif. Not something you hear everyday but it definitely fit for the game.
Q: Do you have any other projects you would like our readers to know about?
A: Yes. Outside of composing game music I am currently producing two progressive hip-hop projects. One will be under the name ‘Doc Prop’ and is an EP with a feel good, laid-back style. The other is under the alias ‘Masterful Mind’ and is a collaborative project I am doing with a painter. Leo will be involved with this project either with art or multimedia. This project is a bit more abstract and features in-depth lyrical themes over all my own production.
I am slated to do a Kickstarter in the Spring of 2013. You can stay up-to-date with everything on my Soundcloud or on Facebook.
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