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Audio Input – Vincent Diamante Talks ‘Skullgirls’, thatgamecompany, And The Future of Music Composition

Vincent Diamante

With the recent PC release of indie fighter Skullgirls, there’s been a lot of work going on at Lab Zero Games. There’s many patches to be released, as well as a healthy handful of new characters coming soon. That’s going to require some audio work to be done, no? Vincent Diamante, former audio director and current sound designer for Skullgirls, is the man behind a lot of the music and sound that will be put into the game. But for Diamante, Skullgirls isn’t his full-time gig: he’s also the full time audio director for thatgamecompany, creators of Journey, Flower, and flOw. He’s the brain behind the music in Flower, which won multiple awards upon its release in 2009.

I got a chance to talk to Diamante about his work and what’s coming up next for him:

IGM: So, how did you get started in the gaming industry?

Diamante: I started out doing the game journalism thing, writing for my own website (insert credit) as well as others, while working on student game work that was happening at USC.  I ended up doing music and sound effects for a few games that got recognition at the Independent Games Festival in the mid-2000s (Dyadin, Cloud, Roboblitz) along with various scale mobile phone games before I started working with thatgamecompany on Flower and, later, Reverge Labs on Skullgirls.

Skullgirls Screenie 1

IGM: What music do you draw inspiration from? What are some of your favorite game soundtracks?
Diamante:  There’s a lot of classical music that really get me. I’m a huge fan of Bach, and I try my darnedest to write fugues in the game soundtracks I work on.  I also love Mozart, Scriabin, Schubert… yeah. I was a classical pianist growing up, and it’s hard to get that out of me. As for game soundtracks, I’m kind of all over the place. I really enjoy Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy XII), Michael Land (Monkey Island series), Saori Kobayashi (Panzer Dragoon series), Jeroen Tel (many Commodore 64 games), Hayato Matsuo (Shenmue series), Hideki Naganuma (Jet Set Radio)…

IGM: How is working with thatgamecompany? What studios would you like to work with in the future?

Diamante: Working with thatgamecompany is fun. Knowing what I know about working elsewhere in the industry and contrasting that with my day-to-day experience, it’s fun working on a project that’s really different with a process that’s substantially different as well. I would hope that I continue to work at places with really fresh ideas that stand in contrast to the seeming movement of the rest of the game space. I think it’s just more fun that way. Sometimes the game I’m working on really surprises me, and sometimes I can surprise myself either rising to the challenge of a hitherto unseen concept or mechanic, or making something that doesn’t have a clear game industry precedent. I really enjoy my hardcore traditional video games (fighters, action shooters, vehicle simulation) and I think that pushes me to keep on working on things that sound and feel substantially different.

 

Flower Screenie 1

 

IGM: What do you see for the future of video game music composition?
Diamante:  Probably in the not-too-far future, instead of licensing Fmod or Wwise, game developers will license virtual music composition middleware that will work at runtime to match the video game action on screen. At least, I’ll be rather disappointed if I don’t see something like that in my lifetime. After all, Sid Meier gave us CPU Bach for 3DO just two decades ago. I guess once that happens, I’ll be doing either a) substantially more interesting work than the algorithms those middleware producers got or b) being more of a combo game designer/audio person making interactive toys for a (hopefully real!) niche audience. That or a farm-to-table restaurateur in Minnesota.

IGM: Is there anything you’re working on/any upcoming releases that you’d like to share with us?

Diamante: Right now life’s got me working on the next thatgamecompany game, continuing work on Skullgirls in the form of DLC characters and other patches, and teaching both game design and sound design at the University of Southern California. Maybe in the future, I’ll put out that vocal album I’ve been working on, but for now, please look forward to the arrival of Big Band in Skullgirls; he’s going to be hard-boiled detective and a musician, all wrapped up in a fighting game character!

 

You can follow Vincent Diamante on Twitter through this link. Also, check out our review of Skullgirls here!