22 Sep Music for Games: Meet Josef Falkenskoeld
Combining his passion for music and gaming, he won the runner-up prize for Riot Games’ ‘Songs of The Summoned’. A competition for fan-made music inspired by ‘League of Legends’. This sparked the launch of his YouTube project, Falconshield, which currently has over 70 million views.
Melodie’s Craig Hodges caught up with Josef to hear all about composing music for games and his role at Level Eight.
How are you doing? What are you up to at the moment?
I’m doing great! This week I’ve been producing an arena rock track that was a commission from a Falconshield fan. Plus, putting the final touches on a super derpy (but heavy) song about a goat in Robbery Bob 3. It sounds random…and it is (laughs).
You’re the Audio Director at Level 8, how did you end up working in that role?
Back in 2009, my first game music gig was for the game Aqua Moto Racing, which was developed by Resolution Interactive. One year later, the employees of Resolution founded Level Eight and I’ve tended to their audio needs ever since. It was as a freelancer for the first few years, but I’ve been their in-house audio guy since 2013. I actually doubled as both Audio Director and Community Manager for the first few years. My experience with YouTube and content creation boosted Level Eight’s channel a lot. These days my focus is on the content creation and in-game audio aspects.
What are the key elements for a compelling game?
Well, that could be a long list (laughs). If I had to choose, I’d say immersion, balancing difficulty and interesting characters and/or story that you can relate to.
How important is story for a game and how do you go about developing story in your games?
A game can be very enjoyable without a story, but to allow a person to fully immerse in the game world, a compelling story is critical. But I do think it’s a personal thing.
Some people want the experience only a story can offer. Others are more interested in the competitive “dexterity” aspects. Then others prefer the creative or social aspects. Counterstrike didn’t get so popular because of its deep and immersive story (laughs)! But it offers a particular experience that appeals to a certain crowd.
Games offer a wide variety of experiences. It’s like music, some days you want to slap on a metal track and slaughter monsters in Doom, the next day you want to listen to classical music and build a cosy tavern in Minecraft.
Our games aren’t strictly story driven, but our Robbery Bob franchise offers interesting characters and a story that runs throughout the games, even though it’s a puzzle game at its’ core.
Story in this case is a means to keep the player interested and care about the character, Bob, as well as to allow the creation of interesting content for the community outside of the game.
It’s also crucial in explaining why Bob is actually a really nice guy while the game is about burglarising! (laughs). In the case of Bob, he is truly a hapless burglar with a gift of sneaking, which bad guys take advantage of. He’s clumsy and gets in sticky situations where he often gets his arm twisted into stealing things, but he always ends up saving the day!
How important is music for games? Can you run us through your role as Audio Director?
Let’s widen the definition and say that ‘audio’ is extremely important in a game. A game limited to one sense naturally has less potential to grab the attention and interest of a person compared to a game that can satisfy several senses. In my opinion, good audio is absolutely crucial in order to create immersion. Music alone isn’t always necessary to create immersion, and if you’re not careful it can be distracting, and making that distinction and identifying when and where to provide audio cues is my primary role as Audio Director.
When I’m presented with a game design idea, I ask myself, how can music and audio benefit this experience? I try to treat music and sound effects holistically. They are different kinds of elements but need to complement each other and both strive towards the same goal – to provide a pleasant experience that fits the visual elements, as well as to inform the player of what is happening.
In the Robbery Bob game we’re developing now, I was committed to creating a general sound image that was consistent throughout. I wanted the music to serve a few different purposes. I wanted a strong main theme that immediately catches your interest and conveys the whimsical and quirky nature of the franchise. Upbeat and joyful and something you can hum along to as well. While playing, I wanted the music to put the player in a particular emotional state – you’re either carefully sneaking through a house, or running from the guards, or taking a breather after a successful level, each with distinct themes to match the tempo of the game.
While playing, I wanted the music to put the player in a particular emotional state - you're either carefully sneaking through a house, or running from the guards, or taking a breather after a successful level, each with distinct themes to match the tempo of the game.
With the sound effects I wanted to match the music, so I designed most of them with the same instruments that I used to write the soundtrack. That way the entire audio image ties together nicely and even the sound effects have a musicality to them. I think it will be one of the best sounding games on the mobile market.
Outside of Melodie, you also create epic, game-inspired music with your project ‘Falconshield”. How did this come about?
Well, I think it was back in 2009-2010 that I decided I wanted to combine my passion for music and games. But getting into the gaming industry as a composer without any experience is next to impossible. I thought that perhaps it was possible to turn it around and create music about games.
I searched for that type of content and found a lot of covers and parodies but very little original content. So, I started writing a few songs about games or game aspects and I ended up writing the album ‘Gam3r M3tal’.
On that same track a couple of years later, I was playing League of Legends a lot and Riot Games hosted an interesting competition called “Songs of the Summoned” where fans could write songs about a champion from the game and win cool prizes (along with recognition). I wrote the song “Hecarim” which came in second place and got 12,000+ views which was absolutely mind-blowing. I continued doing this for the fun of it, and eventually one of my tracks (This Is War 2, which was a massive production where I collaborated with other YouTubers from the LoL community) went viral and added 60,000 subscribers to my community.
With that sort of fanbase, and with the support of Riot Games, I started making some money and I spent a few years producing content for the channel.
A couple of years ago I disbanded the group in favour of my employment as Audio Director, but I have recently started writing some Falconshield songs again, which I enjoy a lot.
Are you a console or PC gamer?
I’m not one to discriminate! (laughs). But jokes aside, I have both PC and all current gen consoles at home. If I were to choose, I’d go with PC.
Favourite game? I’m partial to The Legend Of Zelda franchise myself as well as Halo!
So difficult to choose one. These are my top four most played games, that should say something!
- League of Legends
- Jedi Knight 2, Jedi Outcast
- World of Warcraft
Thanks for chatting Josef!
Thank you! Always a pleasure.