Hi Reddit! This is Vincent Diamante, and I’m the audio director and video game music composer for the studio thatgamecompany (who are best known for making Flower, Journey, flOw). I composed the soundtrack to Flower for the PlayStation 3 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJam5Auwj1E), and it was recently remastered and released for the PlayStation 4. In celebration of the 5 Year Anniversary of Flower’s launch, the original soundtrack is being released today as a limited edition CD & also on iTunes. I’ve also worked on a variety of other things outside of thatgamecompany, such as Lab Zero Games’ Skullgirls and random things from Konami’s early forays into web and phone gaming. I’m currently composing the soundtrack for the upcoming thatgamecompany title and I also teach at University of Southern California’s Interactive Media and Games division as well.

We’re big fans of Reddit here so I’m excited to chat more about composing Flower’s soundtrack, music and video games design, cool music tools, breaking into games, and anything else. So ask me anything!

PROOF: https://twitter.com/thatgamecompany/status/534851773983641601

Thank you all so much for your time and questions. Follow us on Twitter @sklathill and @thatgamecompany

Comments: 62 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

cayal37 karma

Do you have a favourite video game soundtrack and a favourite video game composer? (eg. I like what Cris Velasco did for his part in the God of War soundtracks)

vincentdiamante10 karma

WAY too many favorite game soundtracks, but put a gun to my head, and I'll say I'm a huge fan of Hitsohi Sakimoto, especially Vagrant Story and Radiant Silvergun. I actually just played through the opening of Vagrant Story in my audio class last week as a great example of interactive music composition. So I guess there's that!

Can I do a second one? I LOVE Michael Z. Land's work at LucasArts back in the day. Again, awesome interactive music composition!

exoduster3 karma

You stitch together a lot of your TGC music through algorithms. Can you talk about that a bit? And how do you compose for music that can do things that you might not be able to predict?

vincentdiamante6 karma

Yeah, in Flower, I think I spent about as much time designing the Flower sounds as I did composing the music. I think a lot of that resulted from the fact that I enjoyed working with the game development tools I had, especially the Sony SCREAM tool, and I loved surprising myself with what the system could do if I pushed it.

It also meant I was spending much less time staring in front of my traditional music composition software. But that was okay... once the music heuristics, whether for melodies or for larger song structures, were setup, actually composing the hard music content came about really fast. It's kind of like jamming with a musician... once you learn what he likes to do, you've got a more solid idea of how to jam along with him. In this case, the musician I'm jamming with is a set of heuristics in (For Flower) SCREAM and Lua.

billsong3 karma

What was the first instrument you learned to play?

vincentdiamante4 karma

I was a classical pianist for a LONG long time... I actually got a piano scholarship in college. I'm not sure some of my music professors were too jazzed when I switched out of my piano performance major to focus on computer music (electroacoustic media), then moving to grad school where I focused on interactive media (and met with the guys who eventually became thatgamecompany).

loencn3 karma

Hi Vincent!

At TGC, do you utilize dedicated audio QA, or are you mostly checking your own work given the size of the studio?

Do you work with any particular middleware, or is it a toss-up between projects?

vincentdiamante3 karma

Yeah, we're a pretty tight group over here, and while I'm the audio director and deal with other audio and music contractors all the time, I pretty much deal with all the sound needs directly and have to keep my ears fresh so that I can be objective about the stuff I'm making.

The middleware I'm most familiar with is Fmod, but I've had to do other things in the past, like Unreal and XACT, as well as just having only low-level audio capabilities available to me... and then I'd have to do some C++, which I can do (but I really don't like it... :) )

Mikestar83 karma

Hey Maestro Diamanté, the music in Flower is, for me, what takes this game from incredibly brilliant to close to perfection. Whenever I think back on playing the game I picture the visuals and hear the music in equal measures. This is probably the only game I do this with. So thanks for that it's amazing! Original, scored music in games is so important now I wanted to know if there are any other game soundtracks you've been impressed with in the recent present? Any that stand out as exceptional pieces of work? Thanks again, your 100% un-rock like music completely and totally rocks

vincentdiamante5 karma

Recently? Proteus. There's some wonderful music happening in there! I think a bit like the way Flower felt at the time, Proteus is pretty unusual and aspirational and really fantastic.

sophiejr3 karma

Hey Vincent! Thanks for the AMA! What made you you decide to become a video game composer, and what studies/projects did you do to help you get there?

If you could compose the music for any game (or franchise), past, present, or future, what would it be?

vincentdiamante5 karma

What made me decide to become a game composer? I think it was being a little kid and playing Commodore 64 games on that black and green monitor... without speakers. :) I had to imagine a lot of sound while I was playing those games.

Probably Panzer Dragoon. Loved that universe. LOVED the RPG. (And I also loved Saori Kobayashi's and Hayato Matsuo's work on the later games, but I'd love to have had a shot at working on those. Alas, a little before my time...)

vincentdiamante3 karma

Oh, the studies/projects part!

Probably the biggest thing that I did early on was tracker music in the mid/late 90s. Before I did "real" music, I had way too much fun making Scream Tracker and Impulse Tracker modules. Those taught me a lot of stuff about not just composing but about construction and how sound in the computer realm works compared to traditional composition.

exoduster3 karma

You wrote the music for a Castlevania cell phone game, and then, years later, were directing a later Castlevania composer, Michiru Yamane, for Skullgirls. was there a feedback loop of influence there, at all? Can you talk about that working relationship?

vincentdiamante3 karma

That Yamane/Castlevania link was a really funny coincidence. I actually started on Skullgirls after the overall music style and a few of the tracks actually got final approval, so it was more working with the stuff Yamane was instantiating and clarifying the needs of the game/stage/character to her. Yamane was awesome to work with, and she was great about spinning our feedback into tracks that were even better than we could hope.

If anything, I was pretty anxious about making music that would feel right in the cinematics between the fight stages. I like to think I did an okay job with that, though.

cayal32 karma

thatgamecompany has some amazing work.

How do you begin the journey (heh pun) on composing for a specific game? What makes you decide to go in a certain direction?

I mean for some games, especially like Flower, you could pretty much use any type of music ranging from peaceful to dramatic epic scores. How do you determine direction? Is it decided by a collective of people who created that game and they tell you they are wanting to have a certain style/element (such as peaceful or dramatic) or do you have completely creative control?

Sorry if that question came out disjointed, I can't word exactly what I am trying to say.

vincentdiamante5 karma

Well, with my work at at TGC, I get to start working on sound and music from the very beginning, so the process of exploring the sound of the game is informed a lot by the game design experiments. For Flower, the game mechanics were a big influence. The use of the Sixaxis and the feeling in the hands and arms as you're moving the flowers... that was a big influence on all aspects of the music: style, rhythm, themes, everything. After we hit on that, the differences in the levels and how you used those basic game mechanics were a big influence on what made the music different from level to level. I really wanted the music to capture the feeling of playing the game on a really tight, low level.

psychicgoblin2 karma

Hi Vincent! What do you love about what you do?

vincentdiamante2 karma

Making music still feels pretty magical to me, as do video games. So I guess... video game music? :)

egathis2 karma

Hey Vince! (I hope I can call you that)

When you were in school I saw in an earlier question that you started out as a performance major; once you switched to electroacoustic media did you do so with the intention to write for gaming? I'm currently in my 3rd year as a composition student but I don't really know what I want to write for once I graduate, be it film or tv or gaming.

Also, what was your decision process for deciding to teach at USC? I've also considered teaching theory or composition as a career choice but like I said, I'm really just not sure what I want to do once I finish school. Do you have any advice for a young comp student who doesn't know what they want to pursue for a living?

vincentdiamante3 karma

I think I've always known that I wanted to teach. When I was in high school, I started teaching some piano students, and I learned to love it. Later on, I started doing some games journalism (radio and web), and I found my voice always seemed to have an educational bent. Nowadays, I love the teaching I'm doing now for both young game design students as well as music students.

Hrm... there's that whole thing about doing what you love and never feeling you have to work a day in your life, but I'm not so sure about that, personally. :) I think if you find something that's both challenging and exciting, you'll learn to love going to work on that challenge every day. If nothing's challenging for you, maybe you should expand your horizons and find a challenge. I feel lucky to work in a field that gives me excitement and challenge in game development.

Linkinito2 karma

Hey Vincent :)

What is currently your favorite composer, your biggest source of inspiration?

vincentdiamante6 karma

Since you said "what" instead of "who" I'll answer this with:

Sid Meier's CPU Bach for 3DO.

Pure_gamer_2 karma

Hello Vince, I'm a huge fan of your work and I've got 2 questions for you:

1) I'm an amateur composer in highschool and I was wondering what I could do to get into the soundtrack composing scene now.

2) Are you going to make sheet music for Flower?

vincentdiamante2 karma

Well, if you want to make game soundtracks, I'd suggest doing some game design to understand more about game design and mechanics decisions. It's cool how stuff like Unity and Game Maker are making the game making process easier than ever.

Flower sheet music... I've thought about it, but it's a lot of time that I don't have. I won't stop you if you'd want to do a transcription, though. :)

yadyn2 karma

Flower has one of my all-time favorite game soundtracks! I bought the soundtrack on PSN way back when that was released. Is this latest release on CD/iTunes the same as that one or has it be remixed/remastered?

vincentdiamante2 karma

Yep, it's the new album.

StagSound2 karma

Hi Vincent! What software are you using to write your stuff in and how do you take it from there to the finished product?

vincentdiamante2 karma

My main music software is Cakewalk Sonar, and I've been using that for about 13 years now. For sound, though, I tend to do more destructive audio design, and I use Sound Forge for that. (Yep... I'm a PC user here.)

Getting it to a finished state, since I'm more a game audio guy than a music composer, I take to mean getting it in the game. And for that, I'm working with other designers and programmers to make sure that the implementation in code/script is working as intended. Sometimes I'll do the coding myself, but sometimes I need some programming help. :)

mgeiger2 karma

who slings your current favorite bowl of Ramen in the LA area?

vincentdiamante4 karma


All my favorite LA ramen bowls are not quite your usual bowl of ramen. My two favorites are Yamadaya's bowl of parmesan-miso ramen and Tusjita's tsukemen (noodles served separate from broth).

Maybe I should get some ramen right now... kind of a cool night in LA...

pancakenoise2 karma

Hello Vincent! I'm a big fan of your work in Journey and Flower!

If you could team up with a film music composer for a videogame, who would you pick?

vincentdiamante2 karma

I really miss Shirley Walker. She was fantastic and is still horribly underappreciated.

For a current living composer, I think I'd be thrilled to work with someone like Alexandre Desplat.

StagSound2 karma

Here's a pretty standard question..but hey! What do you think a composer/sound chap should do to break into the industry? Like myself for example, I have a few years experience in composition and sound - but not in the gaming industry. Any tips?

vincentdiamante2 karma

The game industry is a pretty tight industry compared to a lot of other spaces. It's all about relationships. Recognizing how my music could fit with specific games and teams and aspirations is a big part of how I got to where I was. I didn't try to go for every single audio and music job that was available and instead tried my best to show the possibilities of how my skill set would pair with a very small set of developers whose ideals and aspirations I could get behind.

Charlyhz2 karma

Hi, what is the kind of approach you take when making the soundtrack for these games, considering there aren't speaking lines from any character and music plays a crucial role to express the mood on a given situation?

vincentdiamante2 karma

There's a lot to glean from everything else. The player does a whole lot of stuff... big stuff, intricate stuff, patterns, series... making music for the physical actions of the player provides for a lot of anchor points for the music.

BaseDeltaZer02 karma

Hey Vincent

Absolutely love your compositions! And truly am impressed by thatgamecompany's direction of creating non violent games.

I'm working on Dinosaur Voyage and you guys have been an inspiration to create something that doesn't involve guns.

Would you give me some inspirational examples of music that would work well with my game? :)

vincentdiamante2 karma

First of all, congrats on making something that looks really cool.

I have to say, though, it's hard for me to imagine what music would work without knowing what the actual interaction is like. It could easily be big neo-Romantic filmic stuff, but it could just as easily be sparse melodies over top percussion beds, or incomprehensible micro-tonal set works.

I think if I were starting out, I'd begin with the sound effects that I'd be hearing, where things are in the frequency spectrum, if they have a tonal character to them, and writing music around that. I'd guess that the dinosaurs are probably going to be doing some thunderous walking/running about and vocalizing every now and then, so I'd hope to create music that meshes well with that.

dracorian1 karma

Hey Vincent. Love your work. What is your process of inspiration when composing a track?

vincentdiamante3 karma

If it's a game track, I play a lot of the game and try to realize what it is the game wants me to write. :)

If it's just any old track, whether I'm playing on piano or EWI or sitting at the computer, I focus on cool sounds and try to explore what that sound means. Sometimes I'll just be listening to a chord for an hour or three, trying to build a friendly rapport with it.

I'm not the fastest composer, it must be said.

UnsolvedParadox1 karma

Hey Vincent,

Love your work! I still listen to the Flower soundtrack which is tremendous, will definitely be picking up the CD.

I'm quite interested in your role with USC, do you have any advice for me as someone who wants to eventually teach at a university while working in another professional role simultaneously the way you are?

vincentdiamante2 karma

Man... it can be tough... Especially with games, where the schedule can be really hectic. A lot of the difficulty comes from balance. Making a work-work-life balance work out is a challenge in and of itself.

I think my students appreciate when I bring my game work into the classroom and talk about what I'm doing in my day to day work. They want to know more about that space, and if you're honest about that, they'll respond with even more effort and enthusiasm in the classroom. I'm glad TGC allows me the time to share what I've got.

SippyCupGiraffe1 karma

You did a great job with that soundtrack. It was an integral part of flower's narrative. Very poignant and emotional. Still in my top 5 all time favorite games. Have you guys considered a flower sequel? Pollution and environmental destruction hasn't gone anywhere.

Also, this is one the most visually and audibly stunning scenes in gaming.

vincentdiamante1 karma

As you might be able to guess, we're not really the type to do sequels... but there are some pretty clear through lines from game to game. :) Thanks for the kudos. :)

Manwhorerubberband1 karma

What is your mindset at the start of a project? How do you begin to write?

vincentdiamante1 karma

It's always a balance of my desires as a music composer and what I observe in the game. Sometimes I'm in the mood of doing something fun and percussive and rhythmic, but I can see plainly that the game desires something else entirely. Exploring where those meet within myself makes for some cool musical ideas, I find.

andiCR1 karma

Hey Vincent, I'm a huge fan of thatgamecompany/Jenova and I've always been very inspired with your work. Since my first GDC where I saw Cloud, I understood the importance of a good music setting. Working on my game called "I am a brave knight", I struggled a little bit with what we wanted the music to be. How does your thought process go about what kind of music or theme setting go when you are going to design a track for a game? Do you normally start getting into the mood since the concept stages or do you evolve the style of the piece as your game gets more and more mature? Which is the "proper" way to go about this? Thanks, and again, HUGE FAN!

vincentdiamante2 karma

Is there ever really a proper way? :) I like the idea of the music evolving as the game evolves over the entire course of development. Even though it can be quick, or even relatively easy to create a piece of music, that doesn't mean that it should be, especially when it takes hours/days/weeks/months to get something like a level design or character right... I think it's only good and respectful to try to be similarly considerate in the design of the music, from high-level style to individual notes. But that's just me...

exoduster0 karma

How important do you think it is for a composer to be able to code? Do you do a lot of your own audio implementation? Where do you recommend people start?

vincentdiamante3 karma

I don't know if it's incredibly important... there's plenty of music composers that don't do any programming whatsoever. Modern games, though, are exploring so much when it comes to player agency and interactivity, and I think composers would be remiss to not know what game music is technically capable of.

Me, I'm no programmer, but I'd consider myself good enough with code to hack stuff around and do some basic stuff. For game composers, I think they should at least be familiar with the tools that are provided by the graphical editors in Fmod Studio and Wwise. If you can show how music can actually evolve and change with parameters and scripting in a software tool, that's a huge win compared to just mocking up what the change could sound like or only describing the change happening in a design doc.