Finally, the job is done. We ‘re really excited to announce the final (for real) release date for Teslagrad on Wii U! Write down, our little teslaboy is going to be waiting for you all September 11th, both in Europe and North America. It’s going to be the first time for our game to hit consoles, but hey, not the last. Perhaps you’re still waiting for the PlayStation 3 version, right? Then do not despair, because we can positively confirm that our teslaboy will be magnetizing things on PS3 this September too! We’ll give you the date as soon as it’s 100% confirmed. Ah, by the way. Remember that SOEDESCO is preparing a retail, phyisical version? They want you to pick the box art, don’t forget to drop by their Facebook and make your vote count.
Jørn Lavoll and Linn Kathrin Taklo are the awesome composers behind Bear & Cat Music Production, as well as the magicians who are giving Teslagrad it’s unique musical feeling. I’m really honored to work on the same fastantic team as them, and also I had the great opportunity to steal them some hours, making them park their banjos for a while (not much) and share some random thoughts together with the friends of Indieorama, the Spanish indie game magazine.
Firstly, it would be great to have a few words on yourselves. Kind of an elevator introduction. Who are Jørn and Linn Kathrin?
Jørn: I am a music composer and producer working and living here in Bergen, Norway. By education I am both a theatre director and film composer. And for the last… 6? years I’ve worked full time with music only. I’ve worked on a tv show called City of Friends, several films, documentaries etc. I started working with Linn a few years back, and we have collaborated on a couple of songs and projects (for City of Friends, theatre etc). I sometimes say that I am the Final Fantasy guy and Linnk is a Zelda girl. So we like games where the music is a big part of the storytelling.
Linn: Ok, about me… I’m an educated music teacher with a masterdegree in drama ped.! I work at a cultural school and music theatre, and been working with Jørn since dec 2010. Yes, I´m a Zelda girl for sure. Love that game, and specially it’s music! Besides our projects I have an artist project as well, been writing songs since I was 12! like writings songs for various projects, in almost every genre.
To be honest, I didn’t expected a gaming world reference so soon in the chat. I see you both love videogames, but let’s talk a little about games themselves. Children playing. Where did you grow up? Which where your most beloved toys?
Linn: It started with the typical Nintendo NES: Mario, football game, Tetris, Trolls in Crazyland, Chip & Dale… Lil’bit of Super Nintendo: bit of Super Mario and Sega. Then I got my own Nintendo 64 and got a bit addicted to firstly Mario, then Donkey Kong, then Zelda ;). Zelda made a big impression on me! I fell in love with the story, the world of Hyrule, the various characters but most of all (as mentioned) its music. But, to be honest, I’m quite of a wimp when it comes to scary parts of the game, so most often I sat and watched my father play, while we collaborated on finishing the game (laughts)… so, my father was addicted as well!
Jørn: When I grew up we weren’t allowed to be inside. My mother always threw us out so that we had to play outside. So I didn’t grow up with videogames. But I was fascinated by friends who had amazing machines like the c64. But you know the c64. it took about an hour to load a game, so we started loading, went out, loading fail, tried again, went outside to play more.. then maybe Last Ninja 2 had loaded, but we couldn’t figure out how to play it so we gave up. At the age of 10 I got my first keyboard (the musical instrument) and a little later I got my first Atari st. So that was the start of my sequencing/composing/music production life.
So basicly, you remember a Jørn-boy being a little artist… Very young, indeed. And a little Linn ballerina, perhaps? [one of Linn’s pictures shows her on a ballerina outfit, fooling around]
Linn: I´m not ballerina in real life, but oh well 😉 hehe. Jørn had an itch to create “something” when he grew up. so he made some board games etc, which was fun but not satisfactory. But he felt he “arrived” when he got his musical keyboard, and knew that this is what he would be doing with the rest of his life. Linn felt about the same when she got her guitar around age 10 😉 (after learning how to play and after her fingers stopped bleeding and aching haha). She spent lot of time in her room getting out emotions and writing songs (which are quite embarrassing to read nowadays hehe)
This is for Jørn. Your experience includes a huge list of works for advertising, TV series, short films and videogames, among other projects solo or together with more people. However, you started studying Theatre Arts and Communication. Did you start your career more like a vocational artist rather than a musician?
Jørn: No, music has always been my main focus. But I feel sometimes like a… potato or renaissance man. With lots of interests in all fields of arts. For me they all blend together: photography, theatre, music, film.. for me it is all about how we humans tell stories to each others. So it is easy for me to apply the knowledge from the theatre into photo for example, what makes an interesting staging makes an interesting photo as well.. depth, light, the drama, where you want to direct the audiences attention. Same with music.. and video games. What’s your focus in the story, which bit are you telling at the moment. And many other things.. like structuring your story. Dramaturgy and storytelling structure, good both for music, theatre, games etc. Did that make any sense?
Linn: I agree very much with Jørn 😉 especially this sentence: “for me it is all about how we humans tell stories to each others”.
Jørn: We just had a concert/dance performance hybrid here called “Munch Remastered”. What we were really successful at was blending the different “expressions” together seamlessly to create a natural complete. And although we told these stories in a more abstract way, this was a very concious decision on our behalf. To leave more room for the audiences personal interpretation of what the story was about. Not sure if I am anwersing your question now :).
But the first goal of this performance was: we want to create a good experience for our audience. Something where they can really attach themselves to emotionally… and after this came the idea of making music inspired by Munch’s paintings.
This mixture of arts and feelings. How would you apply this, let’s say, to voice acting (other of your works, isn’t it)?
Jørn:Tilstedeværelse is a good norwegian word. the best english translation I know is “presence” . It’s especially apparent in modern dance, but super important for voice actors also. It’s about where you are with your mind/body. You have to be present in the moment, otherwise it will be fake and the audience will notice that, and you want the audience to be equally present and mindful.
Now let me change the subject. One of the fields you know the best is advertising. In that respect, I would like to know how to adapt your inspiration to a commercial focus. How complicated is to work with the eyes put on sales, on a product?
Jørn: Hard to answer. The difference is the people you work with. And specially how they are able to communicate what they want from the music. I’ve had many fun comments from directors like “I want the music to be more like insects” and “I want piano music but I don’t want any notes”. And then it is up to me to try to interpret what they are hearing inside their heads :). But production-wise, and artistically, there’s no difference for me. I don’t have an “art on/off” button I can press. I just make music the way I think it should be and how I would like to hear it, regardless of what it is for.
Linn: I think the main focus is -in every project- making as good music as possible to reach out to as many people as possible, and often commercial projects are a good opportunity to do so… but non-commercial projects can make you feel a bit more ‘free’ in that matter… ah, hard to explain… Commercial projects often has a target audience, so one has to keep that in mind making the music though, as well as keeping in mind what the customer (ordering the music) wants… Not good at explaing, but hope you see my point, heh.
Taking a glance into your personal Twitter account reveals how passionate you are about your works, Jørn. And somewhat I can feel a lot of strenght when you talk about Haap, a duo on which you take part. Tell us about that project.
Jørn: Ok, let’s go back a couple of years. I was watching “Norways Got Talent” or “Xfactor” or something on TV. And there was a girl singing who I didn’t know, but I got a strong feeing that somehow, sometime I would work with this girl. A few years later she was booked in to be the voice of a commercial in my studio. And I was very excited, but I was too shy to tell her my “vision” when I had seen her on TV. But she had also googled me before and wanted to discuss some musical projects with me, but she was also too shy. So we were kinda like some teenagers in love where no one dares to tell the other. Musical love, of course. But luckily she was booked in for more sessions and eventually we got around to talking about music, and it was instant happiness. We were both “missing” a project like this in our lives. A place where we can go all the ways we want musically. So the music is very conceptual/prog in nature. Our idea was that these are songs and music from films that doesn’t exist yet. So for this first album we have made a complete story and characters, and it all comes together when you hear them on the album. But each song should also be strong itself. I guess the genre is symphonic rock.. with prog elements.. and lots of folk and world music. Film music turned into songs. The best part for in this project is to get to write music that I know Heidi will sing. Heidi is an incredible singer, truly amazing. And that alone is so inspiring, just to know that this amazing angel will sing the music. I feel like the phanom of the opera, hehe.
Despite of the fact that the duo’s life is yet short, you have a legion of fans, and many singles which have been successful. Has it been easier for you to break through as a “traditional group”, rather than being a musician for videogames, for example?
Jørn: I think people can sense our genuine enthusiam for this project, and that this carries over into the music and peoples experience of it. And this is the same thing in indie games. At the core there’s this fantastic enthusiasm for the medium which you can feel as a player. Throughout (art) history you see this bursts of creativity, new thinking and times of collective enthusiasm at the cusps of “new schools”. I think this art revolution is happening right now with indie games, and that when people look back to this very time, indie games might perhaps be the new “art-movement” of our time. But back to Haap. It makes us very happy to see that the music is welcomed in this way, and also very interesting to see where in the world people like it. For some reason we have tons of “fans” in Macedonia. So maybe we have to start a tour in Skopje :). But it is important to not make this sound like I am not equally excited about writing music for Teslagrad! Teslagrad rocks. I am very happy to be a part of Teslagrad.
Life is easier for musicians since we have access to a myriad of digital tools, on which each musician have his personal touch and secrets. Would you share with other musicians some program or tool which you like especially?
Jørn: We work in Nuendo. It is the “big brother” of Cubase… or more specifically, it is a post-production version of Cubase. What this means practically is that you can have these huuuuge projects with no problems. I used Sonar before, but it started crashing.. so.. here we are on Nuendo, a super-stable and dependable platform. With Haap our secret spice is Heidi and her agile voice. A lot of things that you would think is an electronic effect, is just her voice. We also have some signature sounds that are great contrasts to her angelic-soprano voice. We have one sound that we have called “the Haap bass”. The idea was to make a bass sound like a wild and dangerous animal trapped in a cage. So the foundation is an Absynth patch that goes through a lot of modulated distortion (for growls and wild screams) and then the sound is “tamed” with a filter. And the result is this dangerous sound just lurking at the bottom of the song, hiding in the shadows but ready to eat you at the first opportunity.
You’re also the composer of Teslagrad (along with Linn Kathrin) and we have talked about some videogames in your childhood. How are your relation with nowadays videogames?
Jørn: I am so happy that Shadowrun just came out as a game again perhaps my favourite fantasy universe.
I still love games, but I guess I am kinda particular on what I like. I love Kairosoft games on my android phone. And on my Vita I play pinball all the time. I don’t play any of the COD and those types of games. On the Wii U I play a lot of the “social” games and Mario, and of course Final Fantasy on the PS3. And also the Lego games: Lego Star Wars, Batman.
My “problem” with games now is that I get inspired to write some music. The other day I had a few hours off, and I decided to relax a bit with some games from Steam.. but I got to an intro screen and that triggered a musical idea in me, so I had to exit the game and get the musical idea recorded before I lost it and that idea will most likely be a Haap song a little later.
Linn: It’s still Zelda for me… both in “nostalgic” ways where I play Nintendo 64 again sometimes when I’m home, but also newer versions at Nintendo Wii. And I’ve been playing newer versions of Mario and Donkey Kong I guess.. the last game I played was Teslagrad, to be honest. Had to check out the demo! And will be perhaps also extra cool because I feel related to it because of its music (ríe). I almost managed to beat the first boss, but had to give up because it was getting very late, hehe. But definitly going to play it more later on when the whole game is available :D. Looking forward to it!!
Do you have composer you admire, regarding videogame music?
Jørn: David Whittaker. And my favourite video game soundtrack of all time is an old Atari game called Brattacas or Brattacus.
Linn: I’m a Zelda girl, again… so Koji Kondo. And I’m also fond of Assassin’s Creed music (like the fact that they combine songs into their soundtracks, like Woodkid – Iron, love that one!. (Been watching my brothers play Assasins the last few years.)
How did you reach Teslagrad? How do you started to work on the project?
Jørn: A little Munch Remastered anectode again. When we started the Munch project and everyone involved was gathered for the first time, I got a very good feeling. I thought “with this great group of people, something extremely good will come out of this.” I got a similar feeling when meeting Ollie and Peter for the first time. I was secretly thinking “whatever these guys make, will be great. And I want to be a part of it!”.
Linn: I joined in on this project after writing music for Pinocchio (theatre-play) together with Jørn, and because I really liked the expression and feeling of watching clips from Teslagrad. Jørn was also looking for someone to cooperate with. We develop eachothers ideas in a good way; Jørn often starts with an idea, a core-melody, which I can write out to either be a fuller melody or a whole song including vocals and text. In this project, we made “Teslagrad-sangen”/”Song of Teslagrad” in cooperation with Teslagrad’s producer Peter.
One of the most prominent aspects on Teslagrad’s personality is its appearance. Teslagrad’s visuals have a unique artistic stamp, due mainly to Ole Ivar Rudi, the lead artist. Such a personality. In this particular case, visuals were born before music, and regarding that meaning I’d like to ask you. How do Teslagrad visuals affected to the game’s music? Have the melodies been born with a birthmark?
Jørn: This probably isn’t a sign of good mental health, but when I see a picture, I hear the music for it in my mind. So yes, the music is very inspired by the art. Ole Ivar’s art is the father, and I am the mother of the music, hehe. But it is the game that is “the thing”. Not the art. Not the music. But how everything comes together in one unified experience for the players of the game.
Linn: I agree with Jørn in this matter, visual arts and the music commenting it shall fit together like “hand in glove”, and is equally important in my eyes and ears. As probably mentioned before, music makes up half of the experience when I’m playing a videogame, because it adds very much of the emotional depth and involvement, in the same way as a touching/scary/funny etc movie would be boring and shallow without its music commenting the drama.
Teslagrad music could be slightly tetric sometimes. However, the game doesn’t have that kind of dark mood all the time, or is it perhaps evasive. In my opinion Teslagrad music is build with many lively tunes, with a wackiness and merry/absurd touch. Do you agree with that observation?
Jørn: I think you just described us, the composers, as people… so you are probably right 😉
And will we be able to find some Nordic inspiration on Teslagrad soundtrack?
Jørn: Probably as in we are nordic, and whatever has influenced us through our lives will color whatever we make. But not as in “let’s make something nordic”. For us it all about Teslagrad’s world and the emotional journey of the boy.
As we stated, part of Teslagrad music is Linn Kathrin, your Bear & Cat Music partner. I love this thing with the glockenspiel. How do you work together? Impulsive creators or planners? Wait, let’s try to change the point of view. Composers or improvisers?
Jørn: I guess I’m very much about intuition..? When I orchestrate for example, I just hear in my head what’s missing, so then I just play the parts. When I was young I realized that I could take a song apart in my mind. I could remove the bass from a Beatles song, or just play the bass, or change the bass, or add a new instrument. I dont know how other people hear music in their minds, but this is how it works for me. But of course we leave room for improvisation, happy accidents… and sometimes you need to plan. But my process is mostly about the “triggers”. And then I just “do”. Perhaps best not to analyze the process too much. And I am curious about what linn replies to this.
Linn: Often I just get an inspiration, like a melody “popping into my head”, sometimes after watching pictures of or even talking about Teslagrad. The glockenspiel is a good tool to communicate those ideas, and it is indeed very cute as well -nothing sounds “wrong” at it and that makes it quite inspiring to play at;) I regard the process both as improvising and planning as composer, perhaps most the first, at least in the first part of the music-making!
Yet you add a lot of different instruments, like the Ukelele and many others. Do you have some fetish instruments, or do you prefer to be in constant discovery?
Jørn: We add a ukulele when it has a purpose and a function. This purpose could perhaps be to just to add some “fun” into a track. That’s a good enough excuse when that’s called for. But it is important, especially when creating music for a world like Teslagrad, to have something “real” in the music. And of course I don’t mean to say that samplers and virtual synths etc aren’t real instruments. What I mean is that I want something recorded in a room, with a mic, and real air around it, and a living/breathing human playing the instrument. It adds to the “truthfulness” of the music. Not sure if that was the best word. But we want the emotions and the experiences of the boy to be real, and one way to achieve this is by having “real” mixed in with the rest of the music, which is created in a digital vacuum. Besides, the ukulele we have used isn’t what people would typically expect. I have a brass resonator ukulele, which sounds just perfect for this. It’s a very rustique sound which leads us elegantly into the next question.
So here it goes: how would you describe Teslagrad’s sound palette?
Jørn: Symphonic plus a mix of unexpected instruments, machinery, new instruments things built of found objects, lo-fi versions of established instrument… and more. Establishing a unique sound palette for a unique world is a huge part of the fun in a project like this. We don’t want a traditional sound of “this world”, but something just different enough, just like Teslagrad is compared to our world.
Linn: And as we talked about earlier, the Nordic inspiration is present in the background, combined with inspiration from Russian folk-music! When we orchestrate we select sounds that communicate and old, cold world!
What’s the most important ability that a musician need to have, in order to keep moving on videogame’s industry?
Jørn: Being able to communicate music with people who are not musicians but video game creators. And of course a good understanding of the genres and the medium. And the ability to maintain your personal wackiness and merry/absurd touch.
The first time I interviewed a videogame musician (also the last one, until this very interview) he said he dreamt with crazy architecture, giant monsters and flooded forests. What do Jørn and Linn dream about?
Linn: Hmm…tricky question! Linn tries to sum up: Our dreams varies a lot, influenced by our daily lives, our surroundings etc as we guess is normal for all people, composers/musicians or not. But, some nights/dreams carries with them some cool ideas for our works, and some of our songs actually came to us in our dreams! We wake up, reach for our phones and use our recording-apps and sing, hehe..
We, the team of Rain Games, hereby declare that all YouTube users have our permission to run advertisements for the purpose of monetization on their videos of our game, Teslagrad. This also applies to other video services besides YouTube, such as, but not limited to, Twitch.tv.
Eduardo Garabito & The Rain Games team
Okay, hopefully that’s enough for the legal stuff. Let’s carry on creating!
True, we’ve just returned from that PAX, but obviously we control de mighty power of teslamancy! And also London is relatively close, so we’re (again) letting Teslagrad to take us here and there. This time it’s been to the UK, withing the framework of the Eurogamer Expo. As you already know, we were selected as part of the Indie Game Arcade, and now it’s time to enjoy this new opportunity of volt-walking the dance floor.
Can you see that Indie Arcade purple zone, up on the right corner? Exactly, next to the wee zone and the food stuff. Go an meet us, and don’t miss the opportunity to see all this good fellows too (descriptions are taken from Eurogamer’s blog).
With the Greenlight thing achieved and our progressions letting us hit more and more milestones in Teslagrad’s development, new challenges show up. The game is virtually done, with almost every level, environment, secret and boss fight polished and put on its correct place. Jubilations! As aforementioned, it’s time to focus on some important details. At this time most of you know that Teslagrad is basicly a silent game, relying on visuals in order to narrate the simple (yet complex) story that you are going to discover soon. Nevertheless, we still have some text over there (menus, chapter names, basic interface, and so on) as well as the handy dandy instruction manuals. Yes, we are those kind of sentimentals yet worrying about instruction manuals. So, at this stage and considering the nature of the job, we’d like to entrust such an important task to our community again. In fact, you’ve been the ones who allowed us to go through the Greenlight and reach Steam, and also community proved as the best possible alpha testers, helping us hugely with the Linux build bugfixing, adding as well great feedback, and meta-improving the improvements queue.
To sum up: We have some small text that should be translated, around 150 words in-game text, and a fistful more words on the instruction manuals (not finished yet, around 500-600 words). And you can help us contributing to Teslagrad with your language talents! We’ve made a selection of languages which are specially important (for many reasons beyond the language itself) regarding the release. This is it:
Mandatory languages (required for some releases): English, Norwegian, French, Japanese.
Aaaaaaand most likely you’re wondering about the task difficulty, aren’t you? Fortunately it’s pretty simple. Either with a simple text editor or using Unity (free), the technical aspects of translation are literally a piece of cake. Then, would you like to take part on the translation process?
As usual, just write us to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with the following info:
– Brief presentation
– First language
– Additional languages (if any)
– Language(s) that you want to translate
– Previous translation experience (if any)
We’ll reach you out as soon as possible, give you additional details and guide you through the whole process. Let’s dance! And of course thanks a million :D.
Edit: We’re getting a lot of requests, thank you! That said, and as many of you asked, you’ll be rewarded too. Concretely, all of those chosen to take part on the translation will have a free Teslagrad digital copy (once released), a document accrediting the participation, and special thanks on credits.
We’re having fun enough with Teslagrad’s development, but everything could be improved, heh. In other words: PAX Prime, here we go! Part of the Rain Games team will be donning gauntlets, magnetizing Teslagrad new playable builds and leaving the Old World in order to bring a piece of our Elektropian universe to Seattle. What the heck, Elektropia itself!
As most of you know PAX is the acronym for Penny Arcade Expo, a thrice-yearly event where thousands of videogame fans, tabletop evangelists and all kind of amusing people gather in order to share their passion for gaming, noise and fun. A cool gang also including videogame creators. cosplayers, musicians… from Nintendo to Cellar Door Games, every year the PAX stands as one of the most important events on worldwide gaming. Specially for small teams like us.
Just to give some examples, PAX 2010 showcased games like Super Meat Boy, Bastion or Retro City Rampage. One year later, people were amazed by the outstanding Fez, the nowadays highly successful Antichamber or the addictive and frenzy Jamestown (personally one of my favourite shmups EVER).
Now we’re joining the party, and it will be a pleasure to take a new and fresh build of Teslagrad with us. So regardless of whether you’ve tried the game or not, new secrets and more nooks of the Tesla Tower will be waiting for you to discover them, with the immense advantage of having a Rain Gamer to tell you more. What a bargain! And hey, be sure not to miss Owlboy, the game in development by our friends from D-Pad studio, which will be playable too. And of course, congratulations to them and all the fellow indies selected for the PAX 10!
No less than 80 days have passed since we decided to get into Greenlight. It’s been (it’s still being) quite a ride. Three years after Peter and Ollie outlined for the very first time the core for the game, what Verne wrote seems to be true: eighty days are more than enough to travel around the world, even if (as far as I know) we haven’t used any new railway in India. As for Indies… well, maybe!
We have been featured in more than 300 podcast, international videogame sites, youtube great channels, tiny personal blogs, or even local media. WOW. Every ambitious project as its milestones, and the long path along which we are creating Teslagrad—and, at the same time, being accompanied by the aforesaid— is about to meet a new goal. But let me explain, no rushes. As you already know, Valve’s valve opens from time to time, and recently a new batch of games have been approved, taking positions on the frontline that heads to Steam. Yes, the distributor, store and sanctuary of the Introduce-Word-Here Sales jeopardizing our wallets. We’d like to take the occasion to congratulate our friends on Krillbite Studio, which are part of the new batch of greenlit games thanks to Among The Sleep, an outstanding first person horror adventure which will turn all of us into crybabies again (literally). That’s a great news itself! But the Teslagrad Makers Traveling Circus has something to celebrate too: we are now on top #12 (and climbing), which means that we could be following them pretty soon. BRAVO!
A lot of good news, as all of you, our dear Teslamancers to be, are able to see. In point of fact, the whole Rain Games team wants you to be closer than ever. You, who have celebrated with us each one of our successes. You who gave us your unvaluable feedback, who joke with us on twitter. You who are testing the Teslagrad alpha side by side with us (again THANKS, you’re awesome). Its one final push to have the door to Steam opened, and we don’t want you to miss it. So a really good way to do your bit is to upvote and share our Greenlight project (fortunately we won’t be saying this again soon, lol!) and, above all, stay tuned. The next months will be incredibly exciting for the Rain Games crew. Hope it is for all of you too :D.