Frank Klepacki is an audio director, sound designer, and an award-winning composer, who has worked in the video game & television industry for over two decades, including game titles such as Dune II, Blade Runner, the Command & Conquer series, Star Wars: Empire At War, and television shows such as Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Inside MMA.

He is currently the Audio Director at Petroglyph, overseeing the creation and implementation of music, sound effects, and voice-over for their projects.

Comments: 232 • Responses: 79  • Date: 

Crotchfirefly61 karma

Mr. Klepacki, let me just say that Hell March 2 is probably the single piece of VG music that I play most often when I wanna get pumped up/energized for something, so thanks for that!

Do you have a single favorite piece that you've done?

rocktronic19 karma

Thank you! HM2 was a fun one to write. I have many favorites since there are so many styles and projects I've done, couldn't narrow it down a single piece.

AP_YI_OP13 karma

The original C&C Soundtrack was amazing. Target and Just Do It Up have been pretty much permanently stuck in my head for the last 18 years.

C&C Thang is my favorite. One of those tracks that makes me wish I could whistle. I have to settle for joining in the with 'woo's and 'yeah's. =)

rocktronic3 karma

hehe - awesome.

Kojootti15 karma

NOD or GDI? Where does your loyalties lie?

rocktronic36 karma

NOD. Kane had me at Seth's execution.

ZeeHypnotist7 karma

But what about when Kane killed you from behind in Red Alert? Doesn't that change some of your opinion?

rocktronic8 karma

I died for him before that at the end of C&C in cyberspace!

Rivend15 karma

Thank you, that's all I came here to say.

I played what can only be described as too much C&C when I was young and loved the music of it so much. Listened to the soundtrack so much that the CD wore out, or was too scratched from poor care, but we'll go with worn out.

rocktronic12 karma

Right on! Thank you!

veecter10 karma

Did you receive any formal musical training as a composer or are you self-taught? Also, was there anyone or anything that influenced you to pursue your current field with your musical ability?

Really glad that you're doing an AMA. Composers doing what you do don't get nearly enough recognition for how much they contribute to visually oriented projects like video games and TV.

rocktronic12 karma

I took music and band classes all through high school, and started working straight away while learning on the job and seeking side courses to improve my skills all around, from composition to sound engineering, I mainly invested in gear and books and just dove in. It was a very different time back then and the first project I worked on was on the old Nintendo entertainment system. So I had to unique opportunity to grow with the industry. Becoming a game tester really opened my eyes to game development and that was the key that unlocked my desire to pursue audio and composition in games.

allheillefilipinas10 karma

HELL MARCH! What's your favorite music that you wrote?

rocktronic11 karma

\m/ Multiple favorites, would have to be more specific. ;)

Mpr118 karma

What would you consider your greatest achievement? Also how was Joe Kucan?

rocktronic24 karma

Greatest achievement, Star Wars Empire at War. A perfect game dev experience for me in all aspects of audio.

Joe Kucan was awesome to work with, always funny, witty, and of course how cool is it to be 2 offices down from Kane?

Tremingway7 karma

Hi, Mr. Klepacki!

I can still remember the music from Dune II distinctly today, that's just how memorable your music is!

Was just wondering what your opinions are on DAWs aside from Cubase like Reason or FL Studio. Thanks!

rocktronic7 karma

Right on Thanks!

The major DAWS out there are mostly all on the same playing field so what it comes down to are the details features and interface that you prefer. I have used Cubase since it first appeared on the PC and every need I have had over the years to further my productions they have met and exceeded so I've never needed anything else, other than to load it up with vsts, mostly Native Instruments.

That said, if you're asking about FL vs Reason, I would say Reason. FL always felt more like a starter to intermediate daw to me but it has been awhile since I've looked at it so I don't know how much they may have improved. Reason has been consistently good throughout and they have content for days.

Wupme6 karma

What bands are you listening to in your private time?

And with whom would you love to do a Videogametheme together (dead or alive)

rocktronic9 karma

Bands I just listened to in my car on the way to work today was Newsted, Daft Punk, Pendulum, Face The Funk.

If the right opportunity presented itself I'd love to do a soundtrack together with Vince Dicola, Jonathan Wijngaarden, Alex Brandon. Just to name a few.

mweep5 karma

Do you have a formulaic approach to composing for a game, or does it differ from project to project? Are there common traits in other soundtracks that you admire or try to steer clear of?

Thanks a ton for doing this AMA, by the way.

rocktronic6 karma

It differs project to project, but there is common ground in my approach. As composers you can only write for one instrument at a time until you have as many layers needed for a section of music, but my approach is to start with the first instrument choice that is inspiring the new piece I'm thinking of in my head. Whether its a French horn melody, or a bassline, or a drum beat, that's how I generally start it off, and if I'm hearing a finished section in my head, then I start with the fastest things I can load into the daw and crank it our asap before I lose the idea.

As far as what I steer clear of, I try to avoid the things that are done to death in many other soundtracks, but it's tougher these days as everything's been written and tried for the most part, so now I think the main things for me to continue to set myself apart, is unique combinations of instruments I come up with, or delve into some progressive elements to mix it up.

me2dumb4college5 karma

Hey Frank, follow you on FB, just happened to see your post on here. Thought it was nice of you to do an AMA.

My question for you: How has your music evolved throughout your life? Is your music influenced by things in your life, the game itself, or any outside factors?

rocktronic19 karma

Thanks for following on Facebook, and welcome! Great question! I predict a long answer... here goes!

Evolution is key to any creative person. We require growth, learning, inspiration from as many angles as possible, new interpretation, exposure, and even being out of our comfort zones here and there, to allow us to improve, evolve, and further hone our craft.

In my own life, I can give some examples. It evolved in phases. FIrst off, my parents were musicians, so my fisrt exposure was from birth being around them playing and performing. So as a little kid, I took it for granted that everyones parents must do that, and didn't understand when other kids were so overly wowed by it, for me it was part of daily life.

First time I saw Star Wars, I made a musical connection right away. First thing you hear is that iconic opening piece of music and all you see is text on a screen. You know music grabs you if it can do that with no other real reference to connect it yet.

Growing up and hearing what was on the radio, I slowly tried to form my own tastes certain upbeat songs would catch my attention, and clearly anything with a good groove was what I seemed to like. Then my sister introduced me to hard rock and that introduced me to a whole other kind of energy surge I've not felt with soundtracks or pop music.

So I rallied around that until I saw Woodstock movie and discovered Sly & The Family Stone, which blew my mind. That particular performance owned a crowd of 400,000 over all the other acts. This band was truly the most unique funky rockin inspirational group I had seen.

This is an example of the evolution of musical taste through exposure.

I learned to play guitar and keyboards out of the need to contribute original ideas to bands I was in, which essentially put me on the composer path. I paid attention to all the band classes I was in and was able to dissect an orchestra. Upon getting my first PC, I learned to program basic language to make it play back music I put into it, and started learning about audio tracking, and before I knew it I was composing and landing my first job at Westwood.

From here, technology dictated my evolution. I started on the Nintendo, 3 mono fm voices with a rhyhtm noise channel, which was pretty accessible to work with at a young age. Then the next PC and Sega genesis projects required editing fm instruments, and using up to 6 channels instead. So I learned that and adapted to that. Then supporting higher quality playback came into the mix with the Mt32 and Sound Canvas, so evolve my tracks to suit that.

All the while I'm being introduced to new music, new artists, new styles, new soundtracks, and I would just take what affected me most and apply it to whatever I was working on at any given time.

I would get feedback and inspiration and encouragement from my boss, the management, always promoting creativity. That was also helpful.

Outside of composing full time at this point, I'm still trying to do something with bands, and what really inspired me to further myself in sheet music writing for horns was a band Home Cookin, which I later joined. They had a horn section already but when the main guy became unavailable, I took the reigns and crash coursed learned what I need to do to make it happen. Which of course translates to orchestra and beyond but it was a good starting point for me.

Experiences you have in life will also contribute to how creative or inspired you are and no matter what emotion you are feeling you can take advantage of it and harness it into music. If you are composing something for a somber scene, you can draw from sad experiences in life, same with uplifting, or anger, anything. I learned to channel it.

The game itself naturally is a big factor in style and all the various settings / levels and situations so referencing those directly is also a must of course. From there, the art inspires me, the fun of the gameplay inspires me, and the team I'm working with does too whether they enjoy the direction its going or offer more feedback as to how to redirect.

With all that in mind enjoying what your doing is also a big part of it, even when its stressful and you have deadlines. I feel extremely fortunate that I love all that I do no matter the situation and that I've been able to evolve, adapt, and rise to the occasions all along the way to grow and improve and further my position to audio director and all other aspects of audio work aside of just composition, which of course is as much an equal passion as its ever been.

OK, that was a book! Hope its answers your question and thank you!

me2dumb4college3 karma

That was a great response, thanks so much!

Seems as though everyone on here is asking the same, "what's your favorite piece" question, but which piece do you have the strongest emotional connection? For instance, when I was younger I went on a vacation with my aunt to visit France and the only thing I can remember is listening to the new linkin park cd, driving across the country. When I play the song, I can close my eyes and it puts me right back to where I was when I first heard it.

rocktronic6 karma

Music is the soundtrack of our lives, and we tend to put certain selections of music in our brain that occur at certain times of our lives, and that helps us to remember those times, or people we hung out with - I think that is so cool.

Some pieces that have emotional connections for me are City of Ancients in Lands of Lore 2 because it always reminds me of the late great Rick Parks who was the artist that created that sequence and was loved by all at westwood.

The Love Theme to Blade Runner is not my theme, but I recreated it from scratch for the game, and had my good friend Phil Wigfall play live sax on it, and it just wowed everyone that it was so faithfully recreated I felt a connection with it.

I really felt this kind of connection with my scoring for End of Nations, when I was there listening to the symphony it just grabbed me, also thanks to my arranger who gave it the extra nuances it needed.

Have to say playing Hell March 3 at Games in Concert 3 in the Netherlands was pretty epic. Definitely an all time unforgettable moment for me.

ken272385 karma

Is there a game you wish you could've done music for?

rocktronic11 karma

big fan of Unreal Tournament series and Transformers war for cybertron games, would have been great fun to work on for me.

ottoonkolonna4 karma

Hello Mr. Klepacki!

First of all I am HUGE fan of your music on C&C games. I listen to them often while I am jogging.

I'd like to ask what does the man say at the beginning of the song Grinder? And what language is it?

rocktronic6 karma

Was told it was Russian, vaguely saying something to the effect of "this is a Red Alert" or "emergency" but I'm not entirely sure. It was a sample from one of the games cutscenes while a major alarm was going off.

Korberos3 karma

Hey Frank! I used to work with you at Petroglyph, from early 2009 to mid 2010. I just want to let you know that during my interview, meeting you was my fanboy moment. You gave me a few CDs and once I was hired you were always really cool.

I'm sorry I didn't go see your band at the Blue Martini. Never got the chance.

Not saying my name because I know what happens on reddit when you do that, but you might remember me from this: I couldn't find you at the Iron Maiden IMAX event and didn't have your number, so the ticket got wasted and I still feel bad about that.

rocktronic6 karma

Hey there! haha - no worries! Was nice to work with ya as well!

alien_beach3 karma

Favourite Synth ? Opinion on software synths?

rocktronic5 karma

As a composer in many genres I need a ton of sounds at my disposal so while I will say Kontakt is my central hub with which to load up with custom banks of instruments, Komplete Ultimate contains majority of what I use today, and then I will then load in third party sounds into Kontakt like libraries from Cinesamples.

I used to have a rack of all hardware synths and samplers back in the day and while I have an affinity for some of those signature sounds and still have some of that gear, I definitely have embraced all software synths because saving all settings and instant renders are the only way to go now. Of course I will combine that with live instrument tracks as well.

Random_Knight3 karma

Thanks for making part of my childhood awesome, how has the switch from Westwood to EA and then Petroglyph come about? Do you miss the olden days of Westwood much?

rocktronic13 karma

You're welcome! Westwood days were great and I always look back fondly, was a great era. When EA consolidated, I didn't make the move to California, I stayed and freelanced until Petroglyph formed up. I miss the way the industry in general used to be in older days - it seems that it is pretty rough out there now. Petroglyph always feels like an extension of Westwood with many people we have from there. I'm thankful that we can continue to make fun experiences and move forward as a creative team.

gtfo-atheist-douches2 karma

Did you work on Nox? That was one of my favorite games of all time.

rocktronic3 karma

Sure did!

Aequitas1232 karma

Not sure if you'll see this late in the AMA, but what are your go to plugins or gear? Anything that would surprise us?

rocktronic2 karma

Steinberg Cubase, Native Instruments - Kontakt / Komplete, Audio technica microphones, K-Tek field recording accessories, Tagg guitars, DW drums, Nomad Factory effects

GrooveCombo2 karma

Ever jammed out to Some Skunk Funk by the Brecker Bros?

rocktronic3 karma

Hell yes! Awesome stuff.

Stormmando2 karma

Hi Mr Klepacki, I just wanted to say thank you for this IAMA. I grew up listening to your music. My friends and I used to sing along to the C&C and Red Alert tunes!

What's your favorite drink?

rocktronic3 karma

Right on! I'm not much of a drinker, but if I'm in the party mode, Kamikaze!

peripheral_vision2 karma

Alright, I have to know. I'm looking to get into the music side of video gaming doing exactly what you do. How did you end up in the job you are in?

rocktronic9 karma

How I started, and how one has to start today, are two completely different scenarios.

Some advice I can give is:

•Quality has got to be there, has to sound like what's currently out there right now. Network, attend game conventions, talks on the subject of game audio, get a feel for things.

•Start small with indie devs or mod communities, get in some experience with working with teams, how the audio gets plugged into the game as to have a better understanding of approach to composing for it.

•If you pursue in-house positions, maybe start as an intern with a larger company, or junior position. if you're freelance then prepare to chase work more than doing it at first until you establish enough clients.

•Don't just pursue 'games’, pursue all media! Composing knows no bounds or formats. The level of quality is all on the same playing field. A "game composer" used to have the stereotype that you make a 'bleeps and blips' soundtrack. Now its full symphonies, any everything in between.

rocktronic2 karma

Going to lunch (1pm pst), be back in an hour!

The_Real_Praxis2 karma

What is considered to be your most famous work?

rocktronic3 karma

Command & Conquer Red Alert is probably the most famous, but a lot of people have also gotten to know my solo albums through Ultimate Fighting Championship tv shows.

gtfo-atheist-douches2 karma

Just do it up?

rocktronic4 karma

Every encounter, is gonna be much more difficult.

AdamFri2 karma

I absolutely loved the soundtrack to the original C&C - it's really somewhat unique music - have you ever thought of releasing something new in a similar style?

rocktronic6 karma

Why yes ;) Have you heard my solo albums? Ton of it there.

liftport2 karma

I liked your work in Blade Runner. What was the music while in Tyrell's office called? I have a hard time finding the name of that ambient piece. It was simple but lovely. It had what sounded like wind chimes played intermittently. Thank you.

rocktronic6 karma

Not sure which one that was - but thank you! I totally immersed myself in Vangelis work for that one - made me appreciate his soundtrack so much more.

Cromodileadeuxtetes2 karma

Hey Frank!

I play World of Tanks pretty often and I find the soundtrack a bit lacking, which is why I use the soundtrack from Red Alert!

Thank you for making great music. The nostalgia value is through the roof!

rocktronic3 karma

Much appreciated! I tend to prefer more adrenaline pumping tracks while gaming as well ;)

icocentric2 karma

I wanted to simply say thank you for making some truly memorable music that's stuck with me since my childhood (obligatory Hell March mention, of course). You make truly amazing music, dude. To this day I still listen to it on a regular basis.

rocktronic3 karma

Rock on!

Shutan2 karma

Mr Klepacki, thanks for everything you have made ! I have a question though, one of muy favrite songs from C&C is "Act on instinct" and I wondered if the voices in the song were stock samples or extracts or if you have made everything up ? (but then, who talks ?)

rocktronic4 karma

They were recorded at Westwood by various voice actors and processed to sound like they were sampled.

JacksRache2 karma

Mr Klepacki, I've been a big fan of your music since I was a child. You defined my taste for music.

What do you think of current developments in the C&C series?

(Also, I made a fan C&C music video with your music. I'd love to hear your opinion in case you should watch it: )

rocktronic5 karma

Thank you very much!

Curious to see how it develops.

Nice job on the vid!

ReadMyPosts2 karma

Hey Frank! Do you have a favorite film that you have worked on? Thanks for sharing!

rocktronic15 karma

Not really, but if John Williams isn't avail on the next Star Wars movie, I need someone to tell JJ Abrams I might be able to clear my schedule. ;)

Sirin1112 karma

Mr. Klepacki, can you please advice some books for a person who wants to become composer and write his own music for films? I like your work, thank you for awesome music:) Sorry for my english.

rocktronic3 karma

"becoming" a composer requires education so college courses are a must. To write music for films, or any media you'll just need some early experience to get your feet wet. See my response to peripheral_vision below.

CnCFAN12 karma

How do you feel about the current state of the Command and Conquer series since Westwood was bought out? Do you think the command and conquer series has lived up to its potential or is there something you feel is unfinished?

By the way, the tracks you made for Tiberian Sun/Firestorm were mind blowing, it really made the entire atmosphere. Link Up and Slave to the System were my favorites.

rocktronic6 karma

Thanks a bunch - I think those are among my favs in Firestrom too. :) Since WW closed, I still thought C&C3 & RA3 were fun, C&C4 however felt disconnected. No matter though, I am glad the series still remains popular and we can always go back and replay our favorites in the series.

aztec2step2 karma

Thanks for doing this Mr. Klepacki, just wanted to ask, what's your favorite track from the original C&C? Me and a friend picked up almost all of the tracks and tabbed them back in the day, kick ass work you did there!

rocktronic3 karma

Cool! My favs from C&C TD has to be Act on Instinct and Prepare For Battle.

wayward-drone2 karma

Can you drop any hints about upcoming game/personal music projects you're working on?

Also, along with most others here, a sincere thank you. The music you've done for games is just incredible. From the C&C and Red Alert music to the amazing End of Nations opening theme, the music you make is (for me) among the most iconic out there.

rocktronic6 karma

Much appreciated!

Most recent work to have come out is The Battle For Graxia Soundtrack in both mp3 and flac is on Steam right now:

Besides that I have released 3 albums in the past 6 months: Frank Klepacki - Conquering 20 Years, Face The Funk - Here At Last, The Bitters - Live in Vegas,

Digging in to early stages of other projects now. ;)

tinypaperclip2 karma

I wonder, apart from composing, how many/which instruments can you play? Like, if given in 'real life' :P For example, I've seen your live performance with the guitar, that was awesome!

rocktronic3 karma

I play drums, guitar, bass, keys and sing. In my most recent group Face The Funk, I play drums and lead sing at the same time.

bronze50002 karma

Hey Mr. Klepacki - main thing I want to say is that I've really enjoyed your tracks for the Command & Conquer series: all three Hell Marches, Just Do It Up, Grinder, Prepare for Battle are a few faves. Listened to a little of your other stuff as well which I've also enjoyed. Nice going and thanks dude!

Feel compelled to include a question - Do you end up with a lot of cut material when you put together a soundtrack? Do you often carry over cut material from one project over to another?

rocktronic1 karma

Thank you!

I don't end up with a lot of cut material usually, if I do, I identify it early on as something that doesn't fit and I'll keep it on the shelf until I find a home for it. Experimentation is key - I'll often "sketch" out a handful of ideas in very basic form, a single track or melody or chord change, and I only pick the strongest ones to continue forward with. Depends.

Traumahawk2 karma

Vanilla cheesecake or pecan pie?

Yes, this is important.

rocktronic1 karma

Vanilla Cheesecake no question.

J-BEZ52 karma

My brother and my first computer game was Command and Conquer Tiberian Sun. So many awesome memories and so many tied to the awesome soundtrack! I recently looked them up on you tube and they bring me straight back to that game and time. That's it I guess... Thank you!

rocktronic3 karma

You're welcome! Keep rockin!

GobBluth92 karma

Frank! I once emailed you and you were incredibly cool and responded multiple times. Just wanted you to know that C&C Red Alert had some of the best music of all times...

Thanks for the tunes!

rocktronic2 karma

Thanks so much!

I_draw_anything1 karma

Hello Mr. Klepacki, just wanted to thank you for your performance on the third edition of Games in Concert in Holland a couple of years back. The majority of the tracks were a complete surprise, but your appearance made my day. Thanks for everything!

rocktronic1 karma

Thank you, I had the most awesome time there myself - hope to return someday!

SchAmToo1 karma

Hi Frank! Did you create the music for Command and Conquer 3 regardless of whether EA was signing you onto the game or not? If I had to venture, the album "Awakening of Aggression" is pretty perfect for Command and Conquer 3, yet was not used. I went as far as to use it as my own personal OST for the game because it fit so much better.

rocktronic1 karma

No I didn't - but around that time we had done Universe At War, which had intentional style similarities to my C&C work ;)

thefonztm1 karma

Frank Klepacki AMA? No friggin way...

I love to throw on the old C&C music. Driving, working, making pasta, etc., it always puts me in the zone!

Thanks for the great music!

Oddball question. I would like to know your opinion on using HM1/2 wither a video featuring gameplay from Company of Heroes 2? Did Relic ever contact you/EA? Licensing could have been a problem, but a CoH2 teaser with HM2 would be epic!

If I made my own video, properly attributed, would that work as far as you are concerned? Think EA might get it pulled down since CoH2 is sort of a competitor to the C&C series?

rocktronic1 karma

Its out of my hands, EA controls the licensing of that music so it would be up to them.

tirril1 karma

I loved your soundtrack in Earth and Beyond, lovely otherworldy. What was your experience writing for an mmo with the different races?

rocktronic1 karma

It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed the idea of kinda losing yourself in the immersion of the space travel and exploring around. E&B had a lot of atmosphere and I was feeling that as I was creating pieces for it. Definitely focused on giving the different races their own unique soundtracks. Probably had most fun with the Terran race.

tirril1 karma

Terran tracks were my favourite. Do you have more tracks in similar style done?

rocktronic1 karma

Cant say I've done anything since specific to that, but I did revisit a bit of the ambient style more linked to Blade Runner on this track off my latest solo album:

tirril1 karma

Oh and another question, do you have ANY idea who did the music for the Earth and Beyond intro movie?

rocktronic1 karma

Afraid not! Marketing dept licensed that one way back, so no idea.

wesleyt891 karma

Have you ever put together any music for those corny soft-core porn films?

rocktronic2 karma

lol - no, had no desire to go that route.

MrHermes1 karma

First off, huge fan of your work, Mr. Klepacki!

My question: Have you ever considered doing a tour of sorts where you'd play live versions of the tracks you created for the Red Alert/C&C series?

rocktronic5 karma

Thank you! I have, and I would, given the right circumstances / offers.

BJJF121 karma


rocktronic1 karma

Apart from occasional custom pieces, they use majority of my heavier tracks in my solo albums on a regular basis:

fied1k1 karma

Smackdown, Crank, Sonic Pain, and especially Ownage and Epic Destruction sound very UFC-y

rocktronic1 karma

They use "The Streets" a lot in their in between announcements.

Pritchy961 karma

Hi, firstly I'd like to say thank you, Hell March 1 & 2, Grinder, all of the tracks from the PS1 version of Red Alert, and more are all soundtracks that were a huge part of my childhood, still love playing a game occasionally, the music is awesome!

Could you briefly describe your setup? What hardware/software did you use for Red Alert/Red Alert 2? Thanks!

rocktronic5 karma

For RA1 I used Cubase as my sequencer, and all else was hardware, an Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler, Roland S760 sampler, Roland JD990, Roland JV1080, A Paul Reed Smith custom 22 and Mesa Boogie DC5 amp.

For RA2, add to all that a Fender Jazz Deluxe bass, Roland JV2080.

Was using outboard effects like Ensoniq DP4, & Lexicon LXP15, dbx compressors.

RPofkins1 karma

Do you ever feel as though the genre you write for is forcing you to use over-used tropes?

rocktronic1 karma

Which genre and which example?

KazPaz1 karma

Absolutely loved you're work on C&C, ever since I was a child... But I especially love your work on the Dune games. For me, you truly captured the 'essence' of Arrakis, I guess that's one way to put it. To this day I still listen to the Dune soundtracks.

What were your inspirations while scoring Dune2000/Emperor Battle for Dune? Also I noticed Emperor had 3 different composers, which tracks were you responsible for? Regardless, the music was fantastic across the board :) Keep doing what you're doing!

rocktronic1 karma

I loved working on Dune 2000 - was my chance to make Dune 2 sound the way I always envisioned it. The newer selections I added to that game definitely drew influence from the David Lynch Dune film, as well as extension of my previous work.

In Emperor I did all the Atredies themes which picked up where Dune 2000 left off.


NeutrinoCubed1 karma


rocktronic1 karma

It feels great and I'm humbled by it - it still blows me away that so many are still out there that fondly remember all the other games apart from the C&C ones. Lands of Lore 1 was probably my personal favorite of the series as it was very much along the lines of Eye of The Beholder 2 which I'd previously worked on and I loved the 3d grid style dungeon crawls. LOL2 was very creative and inventive though, I loved scoring the videos to that one in particular. I remember both those scenes very clearly - I was captivated by them as well. ;)

Hallelujah_Popcorn21 karma

I am a composer, mixer, producer, etc. currently about to leave graduate school.

This question is a bit personal, and I don't want you to feel uncomfortable, but maybe you can give some sort of insight. What kind of pay can someone expect when writing freelance for games? Obviously it differs per project, but a range for larger and smaller games would be helpful. Also, what is the salary like for in-house composers at both larger and smaller firms?

Are you receiving royalties from freelance game projects or are they up-front payments?

What are the licensing payments like for your material that UFC uses?

Sorry if I crossed any lines don't have to answer all of it. I just expect some of these opportunities will be open to me in the near future and I'd like some guidance on which will be the most worthwhile to pursue.

Thanks for your help.

rocktronic3 karma


If you are freelancing you set your own rate. The pay scale may differ depending on how demanding the job is. It's your choice whether to charge based on how many hours you work, or by the assets you are providing. I generally would charge by the asset: per sound effect, or per minute of completed / delivered music. You have to take into consideration of a buyout, meaning that if the client is paying a one time buyout fee that gives them the rights to use it for the project and you collect nothing further, what is that worth too you? The game industry generally does not want to pay royalties in this category. So then it's upfront payment, or milestone payment, or whatever is worked out on the contract depending on the work load.

In-house position salaries will vary on your experience level and amount of duties you take on. Most game studios these days want sound designers more than composers in terms of in-house. The more things you can do to be valuable and flexible will open more doors.

Licensing usually means you are allowing use of music for an agreed upon fee, in exchange for you retaining the rights to it. Which traditionally would be a cheaper fee then a buyout in that case.

Royalties in the case of television are collected through your performance rights org like ASCAP or BMI, and they track the usage and pay you quarterly accordingly.

Hallelujah_Popcorn21 karma

Thanks! Very tactful, haha.

Follow up - so for example in the case of the UFC music, generally one would get licensing + royalties?

rocktronic1 karma

All clients are different. Generally in more specific cases, (if they want a specific song) there is an initial license fee and then broadcast royalties. But if you were to submit to music libraries that shop it around for you as part of their collection, then generally you're only looking at broadcast royalties.

darktr331 karma

Just wanted to let you know your music from The Legend of Kyrandia is some of the most beautiful we've heard from any game. My wife walked to the altar at our wedding to a harpist doing a rendition of your "Pool of Sorrow" track.

Anything you could tell us about the inspiration for that song or how you went about composing the music for that game?

Floating (Will-O-Wisp) is also highly underrated and a hidden gem many people don't know about in a small section of Book I.

rocktronic1 karma

That's very cool! Have not heard of a Kyrandian wedding theme before, I'm honored :)

Wow you are making me think on that one. I think to me an area called "Pool of Sorrow" needed a simple and stripped down piece, and it's certainly had a very basic classical foundation.

So I go on Youtube just now to remind myself of the theme and I pulled this up. My fans are awesome - listen when it gets to 1:30, someone decided to rock it out, hehe put a smile on my face.

The game in general was centered around the "new-age" style that was circulating at the time. I drew heavily on the Mt-32 sounds for that game.

I remember being particularly fond of the Will O Wisp theme right after I wrote it, I think I was thinking at the time I just wanted to write a warm feel-good piece for that scene.

Anyhow, glad you enjoyed that soundtrack, and thanks!

Zhangar1 karma

Do you always play the games that you made music for? And what are some of your favorite games that you didnt have any involvement in?

Also, thank you. I think I can sum my childhood up in Hell March.

rocktronic1 karma

Yep, I do. Part of the gig!

I also have enjoyed games like Batman Arkum asylum / city, GTA4, Transformers War for cybertron, Unreal tournament series, Infamous, Force Unleashed.

urquanlord881 karma

Hi! Love your work. Are there any other game soundtracks/game music composers that you enjoy?

rocktronic1 karma

see my response to liverscrew below.

Teanut1 karma

Thank you for doing what you do! The Red Alert soundtrack was the first CD I remember listening to on my own (and I listened to it a lot!) You've significantly influenced my musical taste from when it was first developing.

Who were some of the influences you remember from when you first started actively listening to music?

rocktronic2 karma

From when I first started taking notice: John Williams, Vince Dicola, Midnight Star, afrika bambaataa, ACDC, Van Halen, Metallica.

I suppose that's enough of a start to influence a mixed-up kid who wants to handbang and breakdance while writing orchestral backing behind roller skate beats & synths with metal guitars. lol ;)

krespin1 karma

Just came here wanting to say thank you for all the wondering work you've done over the years. The tracks in the early Command and Conquer games instilled very fond memories from my childhood and I'll never forget them. Keep on doing what you're doing, the industry needs you and others like you.

rocktronic1 karma

Thanks for that sentiment - much appreciated!

Zeropass1 karma

Wow, I feel like I am talking to a lifelong hero (grew up playing westwood games from age 11)- I want to just throw it out there that the track "scouting" from Tiberian Sun has always stood on top as my favorite from you. Have you ever thought about doing a live stream or going to a smaller gaming con like "magfest"? (Nobuo Uematsu came in 2010, and it was rad to not only see him perform, but also to see him romp around and have a good time with all his fans) It would be really cool to meet you or hear about your career, since you got into it so young.

rocktronic1 karma

Hello! Glad you enjoyed TS. I do consider making appearances when I can, usually comes down to scheduling conflicts or accommodations. Hadn't thought about the live stream thing before...

Charliep611 karma

Looking at my playlist, my favorites from CNC: Act on Instinct, Airstrike, Depth Charge (awesome), Floating, Finished game, Industrial, Industrofunk, Motorized, Mud, Mutants, Running through pipes, Vector, Workmen. A long time ago I used to listen to these songs from your website and then I copied them, renamed the downloaded files to mp3 and woohoo. Now they're in my computer and my car. Thanks! I guess I should have paid for them :-D. Sorry about that. Great songs, perfect compositions. I love the way you sometimes mix in odd/atypical sounds with other typical musical sounds. The combination sounds great. Its great to see you.

I know you said you don't have any favorites but are there are other awesome songs like the CNC ones?

rocktronic2 karma

Thanks for the kind words! You would probably enjoy my solo albums, and the Universe at War soundtrack.

liverscrew1 karma

Hi Frank! I've been listening to your music for ages and your creations actually got me to stop and notice the music in video games. Since then I've acquired quite a large collection of my favorite composers (none of them as good as you of course). I think a lot of people don't appreciate how awesome you guys actually make the video games.

My favorites are Doyle W. Donehoo, Inon Zur, Jon Hallur Harraldson, Michael McCann and all the guys from the Unreal Tournament series.

I wanted to ask you, which video game composers or soundtracks do you like and would recommend listening to?

Kuronuma1 karma

Was the "Awakening of the Aggression" album made from themes/materials/ideas intended for Command and Conquer: Tiberian Twilight when the Westwood Studios was working on the game?

Since EA just recycled music for their Tiberium games and the only actual music I could even remotely connect to the universum was from the "Awakening of the Aggression" I've always felt some kind of connection there. Not to mention that the album cover features hands which are reaching the sky like the NOD barracks from the CnC games.

rocktronic1 karma

Nope, the demos I did for C&C TT were not part of anything I've done after. Awakening of Aggression was written and titled aptly during a year where I was particularly in that kind of a mood.

Nemerian1 karma

Hello, First of all, i'd like to thank you for making all this awesome music(the graxian soundtracks are so calming and mystical). Question is: which of petroglyph's games resound more with you?

rocktronic1 karma

I enjoy all of them for different reasons. Star Wars Empire At War is what I was born to do, being a huge Star Wars fan who knows the music and sound effects and voices like the back of my hand.

Universe At War was just a straight up fun RTS with truly unique factions that played differently and had that sci-fi meets campy C&C spirit and so it was a direct extension of that feeling of the past.

The End of Nations scoring I did had a lot more emotion and allowed me to make something a bit more organic.

Battle For Graxia was a cool fun and creative experience, much more akin to the old days of game dev with a smaller team, and more action arcade like qualities that I enjoy.

Looking forward to what the future brings. If you want to keep tabs on what were doing be sure to visit Petroglyphs facebook & twitter.

norieeega1 karma

Carpenter or Vangelis?

rocktronic1 karma


jonathanchau1 karma

In this current industry, it's hard for composers starting out like myself to find any opportunities at all, and must resort to offering free work in order to gain experience and connections. However, it's been discussed that this modern surge of fully equipped composers and free labor is shifting the entire industry for the worst, and lowering the overall standard for all artists.

What do you think about it?

I hate to think I'm contributing to a downward shift of the very industry I'm trying to work my way into.

EDIT: Also, how would you compare the video game scoring industry to the film and television scoring industry? It seems that there's more stability and in-house jobs to be found in the former, do you find this to be true? Thanks again for the AMA!

rocktronic2 karma

I feel for you on that. Believe it or not its just as hard for some of the veterans too. I was just discussing this with a colleague the other day. It seems that timing is almost always key. Most people are not thinking about music and audio until the last minute they need it, and sometimes catching them right when they're looking is what can do the trick. But one thing you mentioned, gain experience and connections - that is vital. And starting off with smaller indie devs is a good way to do that. You should never work for free, if you do that tells the client they can take advantage, and the next project when you ask for money, they may move on to the next desperate guy who will work free. But submitting a "pitch" or "demo" for a given project to secure the gig is pretty common. And if you don't get it, well you now have a good piece of music you can pitch to someone else, or put on an album, or license to tv, think beyond.

Network at game conventions, attend talks, check out communities like audiogang, ask questions, but you want to be meeting people like producers & leads on a project to get their contact info and discuss opportunities to pitch to them. Take genuine interest in what they're working on and ask them about it. Most important thing to find out is what do they need "right now?" Back to timing. That's where their minds are most likely at. I often tell composers to also become sound designers, because the industry tends to look for those more often than composers - then you can pitch for sound design work too, and once that's going well, if there's ever talk of music needs after, "oh, what did you need there? Maybe I can help."

Don't stop at games - go after ALL media, commercials, tv, film, short films, music libraries, licensing, agencies, exhaust every possible avenue.

Servilius_Novus1 karma

Mr. Klepacki, first of all, I've been waiting for this moment - I love You <3

My question would be - Do you have a single all-time favourite from the C&C Saga, and if you do, which one is it? :)

rocktronic3 karma

Many favorites from C&C Saga! Act on Instinct, Prepare for battle, Hell March 1 2 and 3, Blow It Up, Brain Freeze, Workmen remix, Dusk Hour, Mad Rap, Got a present for ya, Dogfight, I'm sure there's a few more. :)

Valn1r1 karma

Just came here to say I grew up listening to "Hell March." I loved that track and its on my iPod to this day.

rocktronic1 karma


fellchieftan1 karma

Hello, fellow Las Vegan here. I just wanted to say thank you to your company for creating such an awesome bit of video game history in our city. And of course for making sure they all have such kick-ass soundtracks. My question is this: With the announcement that Take Two is moving some of it's operations to town, how do you feel about the future of the industry here? Has Petroglyph been affected by this announcement?

rocktronic1 karma

Hey there! Thanks! I hope it presents even more future for the industry to consider Vegas. It's the perfect place for any of them to move to, cost of living is less, no state tax, free parking everywhere, and most importantly NO DISASTERS. I'm surprised it's taken even this long for another one to make a move. So I'd say we welcome it!

labrat2561 karma

Frank, I must say that you are a great inspiration to me. Not simply inspiration in the musical sense (although I greatly admire your work), but more the attitude of 'Well my music won't be heard if I work in a band. Fuckit, computer games instead!' and the success you've had in a notoriously fickle industry. Your name is well known although yourself and Koji Kondo are the only computer game musicians I can name off the top of my head.

Do you think thatre there any opportunities around now for the talented, or possibly lucky, musicians amongst us in computer game music, so we can follow in your footsteps? Are there any other unorthodox avenues that would be worth pursuing for an aspiring musician?

Compared to being in a band and releasing albums in the traditional manner, do you think your job has been easier or harder?

rocktronic1 karma

I appreciate that, thank you! State of mind can play a big part in determining your path, and if you run on parallel paths for a while to figure out which one is better for you, than so be it. That's basically what I did, computer gig by day, band pursuit by night. Funny thing is I still do that, but the difference is my state of mind. I'm not trying to kill myself over the band thing anymore. I know what that's all about and now I pick and choose, only do whats fun, and I have no other expectation. Where as video games most certainly is my "career" so I came to accept that years ago and so that's is always my priority above all else.

I've touched on some other things in threads below of what I think are ways to investigate pursuing it today. The industry is pretty wacky so you never no from what angle something will turn up but constantly putting yourself out there and perhaps taking on some other skills and traits that compliment the field can be helpful to subsidize what is going slower in one area. Audio renaissance guy is what I recommend for anyone. More options you have the better.

Mibias1 karma

I feel like your work on the Universe At War soundtrack haven't been appreciated enough. I didn't play the game a lot, but I've had the soundtrack on my ipod for years. Which of the three factions were the most fun to work on?

rocktronic3 karma

Yeah I wish UAW had more marketing behind it, it was a very under-rated and unique RTS in my opinion which still had that fun quality of the old C&C's to me. The Hierarchy was probably the most fun. I loved those massive walking units which inspired the ultra decimating soundtrack style for them.

toastinator1 karma

Hi Frank! I just want to say that I love all your soundtracks, and listen to them on a regular basis, especially the Command and Conquer soundtracks. My favourite song would have to be No Mercy, which samples one of my favourite movies, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.

When you were composing the soundtracks for Dune 2000 and Blade Runner, how did you go about getting the feel for those universes? Did you just listen to the movie soundtracks over and over?

rocktronic1 karma

Listened to em, watched em, played the game over and over, everything. Totally immersed myself and loved it. ;)

randomthought91 karma

do you have any tips for us bedroom producers looking to get into the industry? being able to make a living off something music related is a dream of many of us, i'm sure. any advice?

rocktronic3 karma

Hi there! Sure - see my response to peripheral_vision below.

Wupme1 karma

Where did you get that awesome guitar you got. And how can i get one too ?

rocktronic2 karma

The guitar is made custom for me by Tagg Guitars, and you can request to order it as well through them:

financecommander1 karma

Are you a fan of Rammstein?

rocktronic2 karma

"Feuer Frei!!"