This set regroups questions that were left under the "FAQ ME" video, various messages that were posted under other OFF-related content, and some mails I received within the past few years. I divided them in multiple categories and regrouped some of them to keep it clean. Before we dive in, allow me to give you a fair warning: this is going to demystify a few things, which means it could dissolve some of that "magic" that makes OFF special to you. Also, "spoilers" (obviously) for a decade old game.
The French version of the game came out in May 14th of 2008. It was first publicly uploaded to Oniromancie I think, and a copy of the file was available on the Unproductive FunTime. The game was presented in a contest called "Alex d'Or" (from what I understand, Alex is the name of the template hero in RPG Maker projects, which would make the contest the "Golden Alex").
Based on the mood of the game.
What I used to listen to up until that point certainly had an influence (see "artists and musicians you'd recommend"). Cop-out answer aside, I started by picking a few sounds I really wanted to work with (mostly choirs, piano and strings with an electronic twist to it), then I drew inspiration from soundtracks I thought did an amazing job putting the emphasis on mood over action:
Graham Norgate's soundtrack to "Second Sight" (2004), a stealth-action game developed by the now defunct Free Radical Design (after the UBI Soft-contracted game Haze failed, part of the team moved to Crytek UK, or maybe the studio was bought and renamed? I'm not sure); The soundtrack (it was available free of charge on their website) contains lots of choirs and electronic drums. You can definitely hear that influence in "Isolation", "Reliance", "Entrapped" and "Confrontation".
Trent Reznor's soundtrack to "Quake" (1996), a dark and gothic first-person shooter developed by iD Software ("id" as in the "id, ego and super-ego" trio, not to be pronounced i-d); The music of that game is unconventional in the sense it's very ambient and fits the mood of the Quake universe perfectly, while distancing itself as much as it could from the more muscular, in-your-face heavy metal music of other games with a similar gameplay. You really have to compare the original Quake soundtrack and Jehun Hwang's work on Quake Mission Pack 1: Scourge of Armagon in-game to understand how each soundtrack contributes to the experience in a different way. Check track number 2 and 4 (track number 1 contains the game data).
Akira Yamaoka's soundtrack to "Silent Hill" (1999), a cinematic survival-horror developed by KCET and heavily influenced by Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder" (great drama/horror movie with Tim Robbins, go check it out if you're into that). This one is a given, because OFF does reference Silent Hill 2 on several occasions: there's that area before Enoch where all the doors are locked (a jab at Brookhaven Hospital's locked doors), this hallway also takes the form of the letters "SH", and there's also the fake UFO ending (as a side-note: the nemesis of the space apes were meant to be a direct reference to the 1957 horror movie "The Brain From Planet Arous", but the name of the planet had been misspelled "Aurus")... OFF soundtracks also references Silent Hill: "Sweet Sugar" is named after the Silent Hill 4: The Room track, and "Brain Plagues" features noticeable notes from "Conspiracy" (Silent Hill) around 40 seconds in. Someone already made a comparison between "Endless Hallway" and "From Hell" (I think it was "From Hell", I can't seem to find the video again). Funnily enough, Silent Hill PT (which was released in 2016) features a never-ending hallway.
Michael Andrews' soundtrack to "Donnie Darko" (2001), a moody/mystery movie about a troubled kid and the weird happenings in his town. I'm just going to quote the note in the CD case here: "If I had to pick a word to describe Michael Andrews' hauntingly beautiful score for Donnie Darko, it would be... retro-futuristic. The score is retro in the sense that it was performed mostly with instruments built in the 60's and 70's (it wasn't until I hung out with Mike that I discovered what a vocoder was), and futuristic in the sense that synthesized musical scores became prominent in the science-fiction films of the early eighties". So there you have it: lots of piano and vocoder (someone said "Teardrop" by Massive Attack?) Go listen to "Liquid Spear Waltz", "Philosophy of Time Travel", and "The Tangent Universe".
Now, for the thing that I wasn't going for, but still took inspiration from: Chia Chin Lee's work on the "Soldier of Fortune" soundtrack left a strong impression in me. SoF is a military first-person shoot with over-the-top gore, developed by Raven Software in 2000. Even though that soundtrack has strong military undertones (especially thanks to the drums), it would almost fit in a horror movie. I like the gritty and ominous mood it has. Similarly, I took inspiration for string composition from "Resident Evil 3: Nemesis" (by Masami Ueda, and Saori Maeda), just listen to "The City of Ruin" (it plays in the early streets of Raccoon City). Nakaido Reichi's work on "Serial Experiments: Lain" (specifically the "Bootleg CD" album) also left a strong impression on me. If you can, listen to the drums in "Tôkô" and "Onigokko", or the chill ambiance in "Rasuto".
I think that's it... there's been no inspiration from the Earthbound or Fallout soundtrack, or Venetian Snares; I'm just mentioning it because it was asked a few times (I heard the soundtrack to Earthbound since then, and I like it).
To me, Mortis is the personification of Dada, an avant-garde art movement from the early 20th century. I'm not trying to get pseudo-intellectual here, but I think he likes the unimportance of things, something along the lines of "Suddenly, a big thing happens! But it was really nothing at all. The End". In that aspect I think OFF is post-modern, it's like a catalyst, an ignition point to something else (mostly people's interpretation of the game, there's something participative to that, which is always interesting).
I think Mortis works a lot by subversion: what is this thing? What are people expecting of it? How can I transform its meaning and toy with people's expectations? I think he likes unexpected and random things; finding value in happy accidents... It shows in his life; the way he talks, the characters he draws, the stories he writes. I think he also has something of a cat in the way he reacts to things sometimes (which is ironic since he's allergic to cats)
If Mortis is Dada, I'm more on the American Pop-Art side (the British Pop-Art movement had a much more ironic approach to pop culture, creating mockup ads; the American side reused the meaning behind advertisement to show how ideas and pop icons can be seen as "sold" like consumables).
I think we have complementary approaches and that made it work. We didn't talk in length about what was to be done next or how to do it; but every now and then, I would come up with an idea and he would just manage to include it somewhere, twist it a bit, or reject it; It was completely fine by me since it wasn't my project. He would then show me what he was up to, let me play the game on my own, or explain what was going on in that stage of the story, and I would compose something for it.
There is also an incredible amount of times we "got it right" without concerting each other (I'd make a prototype for no specific reason, and he would find the right place to use it right away). There were many occasions where we got it right by accident. Call it instinct if you will, but it was too common to be a coincidence. Looking back, it was really weird.
I don't, but they say there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Maybe you should dig around somewhere over the rainbow (wink wink nudge nudge).
"Global" is just a sound that is used everywhere, it's shared by the Elsen all through the game, that's why it's a "global" sound. Also, it's my voice (there are like four or five takes mixed together).
According to my files, this one is dated February 22, 2007. "Silencio" (pronounces "si-len-sfio") is Spanish for "silence". This one is a reference to David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" (from 2001), specifically the scene where Betty and Rita enter Club Silencio. This scene allows the two complementary personalities to have "a look behind the curtain" (I know it sounds weird and mystical when I put it that way, but go watch the movie if you haven't). It's the music track employed for the hub, where you can access zones before their purification, and again to witness the consequences of your action; it's also the void, a zone that remains unaffected by your actions. I thought the reference was appropriate.
The whispers are in French (again, all me), and I think only one person figured out what they said (kudos to you). This track was heavily influenced by the fourth track on Quake's soundtrack; I knew I wanted similar whispers, and the words had to be hard to understand. So I had to find a large quantity of text and mix them in such a way it would sound like a whole room full of whispering people. The text is random sentences straight from an old missal. If you don't know what it is, a missal is a small book you can fit in your pocket, which contains instructions and texts for the celebration of Mass – the church service, especially the sacraments of the Eucharist).
There are plenty of references to the Bible in OFF... I'm not sure how it happened, I don't think I knew back then that most characters were named after biblical characters, and I don't recall having a talk with Mortis about the kind of text I should use for this track. We were just that "in tune" I guess.
It first was a test for pairing a vocoder and a piano (a bit like the ending of Massive Attack's Teardrop on Mezzanine); I exaggerated the effect so I could tweak it easily, and even though it was way too much, Mortis liked the track enough to keep it for the main menu. It was last modified on March 16, 2007.
Some wondered who the fourteen residents were. Well, if you exclude the player, who is not resident in the game (as pointed out multiple times by the Judge and Zacharie), we have: Hugo (1), Elsen (yes, they are all the same; 2), Zacharie (3), Sucre (4), Pablo (5), Valerie (6), The Batter (7), Alpha (8), Omega (9), Epsilon (10), The Queen (11), Dedan (12), Enoch (13) and Japhet (14).
Now for the weird part: this was one of the first tracks for the game, and it was composed very early in the project. Back then I had no idea how the game would turn out, or how many characters there would be. Maybe Mortis decided to add or remove characters so it would fit the title, maybe considering all Elsens as one is cheating, or maybe it's a coincidence. Who knows? I don't.
June 11, 2007.
February 22, 2007.
April 4, 2007.
April 6, 2007.
December 17, 2007.
January 30, 2007.
April 1, 2007.
March 16, 2007.
June 21, 2007.
April 22, 2007.
May 2, 2007.
September 17, 2007.
October 7, 2007.
October 16, 2007.
"Minuit A Fond La Caisse" comes from Sofia Coppola's movie "Lost in Translation". In the French translation, Kelly (played by Anna Faris – yes, Cindy in Scary Movie, go figure) is attending a Q and A session to promote her incoming movie: "Midnight Velocity".
The title of that movie is hard to translate to French; the proper translation to "velocity" would be "vélocité" (but I've never heard someone use that word in French), or "rapidité" ("rapidité" would be "speedy" or "quickness"), but none of these really sound good or convey the proper idea. I guess someone thought slang would work better for that type of movie and picked "ŕ fond la caisse" (which translates as "full speed" or "really fast"), but even then, it still felt like an awkward translation... This would be a perfect example of meaning "lost in translation".
Funnily enough, there has been similar issues with the OFF translation. For instance, I hinted Mortis that it would be cool to have a reference to Postal Service's "We Will Become Silhouettes" when you go back to Pablo after you killed Japhet. The original line was: "and I'm screaming at the top of my lungs, pretending the echoes belong to someone, someone I used to know" ("Et je crie ŕ plein poumons, prétendant que les échos appartiennent ŕ quelqu'un, quelqu'un que je connaissais"). The team translating the game was not aware of that reference, and translated my French translation of an English text back to English (which made it different from the original material). I think Mortis also told me there was one instance where the word "femme" was translated as "wife" where it should have been translated as "woman".
This title comes from a Portuguese Spiderman comic book Mortis had in his bookshelf. I can't remember if we knew what it meant back then, but he really liked that image of the character screaming the sentence, so we used it. I think it's one of these times we got lucky and it matches what's happening on the screen... this kind of coincidence really happened with a disconcerting regularity.
This one has some hints of Sega's 1996 classic rail-shooter "The House Of The Dead" (the soundtrack was composed by Tetsuya Kawauchi). As it would be the last track specifically composed for the game that people would hear (I ignore the secret joke ending), I replaced the artificial choirs with my own voice, but still used the recording as a pitched sample (unlike Stay In Your Coma, which was multiple takes layered on top of each other).
Because it will likely cost ME money: I'm doing niche things, and it's unlikely I will get enough revenues to cover the expenses.
I enjoy the usual entertainment stuff; video games, especially first person shooters, classic survival-horrors (not the modern hide-and-seek-jump-scare-fest that is going on right now), and puzzle games (Daedalus Opus, Pitman, Adventures of Lolo, Kickle Cubicle, etc). I have a soft spot for bad movies like "Hard Ticket To Hawaii", "The Impossible Kid", or "Jason X". I'm a big fan of the classic David Zucker's movies ("The Naked Gun", "Airplane!", "Top Secret!") and weird stuff by David Cronenberg and David Lynch. Mindless action flicks and classic horror/slasher movies are also a safe bet with me.
I like to program too: reverse engineer old file formats, create extra content for games (I mapped a few levels for Duke Nukem 3D, Doom and Kingpin), modify game rules (I'm working on a multiplayer bot for Kingpin right now), or create tools (I wrote a converter from 2.5D levels to Quake brush-based geometry not too long ago, had to learn a lot in the process, it was great). I also have a weird fascination for declassified documents and digging into math concepts (for instance David Albert Huffman's coding - he had a simple yet brilliant idea, reading how the process works, understand it and being able to apply his findings is as rewarding as completing a video game).
I like to dig into things in general; I think the process of getting interested in something is often more entertaining than its application.
It varies a great deal; Let's put it another way: if you want to go on vacation, you may spend more or less time on the journey, depending on whether or not you know how to get there, and also whether or not you know where you want to go (I know it sounds silly, but that's how it goes sometimes).
Some tracks take very little time to make, because I know where I want to go, I know what it has to convey, I know what it needs to feel "complete". Other tracks I will spend a lot of time on without feeling like it achieved what I wanted it to be, which explains why most of the stuff I do without a master plan feels uninspired.
Some tracks I will stop working on because I feel like I'm running around like a headless chicken, but will eventually come back to later because I still think it has some potential, which is a terribly dangerous thing to do: it's easy to get yourself trapped in an endless cycle, constantly willing to waste time to make up for the time you already invested it.
If you're building something, anything, and you spend more time correcting mistakes than actually building, maybe you should reconsider the very foundations of your project, and see if they matches what you're trying to achieve. If it doesn't, salvage the good ideas, make a short debriefing to figure out what caused so much trouble, learn from that mistake and start another project altogether. The problem is not necessarily where you want to go (too ambitious for instance), but the way you're trying to get there.
I have no project for an album.
Mortis and I met in art school, the main difference between the two of us being that he enjoys drawing, while I don't. I always liked to write stories a lot more, but I also thought it wouldn't translate well in text form, so I needed someone to draw my ideas.
Being the asocial type of guy I am, I decided to learn how to draw, so I would be self-reliant. I was pretty okay at it I guess, but dropped out around 2006 because I was being fed up with how the school was administrated; I almost completely stopped drawing the day I left, and as far as I remember, I never really drew much in my spare time anyway...
Since then, I did a couple of sprites for OFF based on Mortis' designs, and later worked on texturing. For instance, I have had a long-term project for System Shock 2: a mod called Four Hundred, which increases the resolution of all world textures in the game. I haven't touched this project for a while now, which is a shame since there's only ten textures left to redraw and it's all done. I need to get back to it.
I also draw stuff when I'm creating maps for old games, I recently ported Duke Nukem 3D's Hollywood Holocaust to Kingpin, and decided to recreate some textures specifically for that map. It's not amazing, but it contributes to the overall ambiance. I also did similar work when creating maps for Duke Nukem 3D.
The easy answer is "you have to force yourself sometimes", while I think this is true, I also think it's not a really helpful advice. So I'm going to ask you a question: how come you can't get motivated by what you do? You have to build your motivation, and you also need to discover what makes you tick.
In my opinion, the most important thing (and I've said it before because it's a trap I still reliably fall into – cf. System Shock 2) is to see progress being made. You need to set a finish line, and you have to constantly check how close you're getting to it. Keep going forward, and be happy of the progress you make.
Get satisfaction from your work, and if you keep seeing imperfections and issues, make sure they do not put your goal in jeopardy. The goal is what matters. If there's a fuck up, and you know it, learn from your mistakes for the next project; but don't let that prevent you from accomplishing what you do. You'll have other shots at it.
Having a complete plan of all the little steps you need to take in order to reach your goal is also very helpful. Just strike steps have you complete them so you can see what you've accomplished already. Always look toward a goal. There's an advice in management: when you setup a goal, always put a deadline, a list of resources you need to get there (money, skills, people, the things you rely on, the things you need), and a set of conditions that allows you to check whether or not the goal is achieved (quality standards for instance). It's going to help you reach that goal, but also will force you to stick to the plan and drop less important stuff in favor of what really matters.
So again, how come you can't get motivated by what you do? What makes you tick?
A bunch of software for different things. For the sampling part (that is recording sounds, cleaning them up, cropping them, etc.) I used to use a very old version of CoolEdit (but it doesn't really work on modern operating systems anymore, is painfuly slow and unstable), Magix AudioCleanic (I think it has another name now, I can't remember what it is from the top of my head - the software is pretty cheap by the way, about the price of a modern video game), and Audacity (which does a good job at recording, but not so much when it comes to cutting samples; it also tends to crash on me every now and then - but it's completely free).
For the composition, I use Reason (I'm still on version 4, the latest version is 9.5). It's a bit pricey but it comes with tons of instruments, effects and samples. I have friends using Ableton Live, but I have no idea how good it is. Sometimes I also use midi composers: I still have an old copy of Midi Recording Session (it works on Windows 3.11, which requires emulation), and uses MuseScore (which is free, by the way).
I'll stick to musical artists only because there's a ton of them. Some do sound similar to some of the stuff I do, others I often listen to and really enjoy, but doesn't translate into my stuff. All in all, it really depends on what you're looking for. Part of this question is answered in "what kind of inspiration did you have for the OFF soundtrack?"
Piano and weird stuff:
- Ryuichi Sakamoto; mostly for his piano pieces. I own "BTTB" (or "Back to the Basics", which is piano-only), "Chasm" which is a mix of piano and electronic sounds, and "A Day In New York" (with Paula and Jaques Morelenbaum, it's a cover album of Brazillian music and contains well-known tracks like "Insensatez" and "Samba do Aviao"). I also love "Bricolages" ("odd jobs" or "patch up" - I listened to it, but was unable to find a copy), which features many remixes from "Chasm" by different artists (Steven Jansen, Alva Noto, Richard Devine, ...) The album would classify as mostly IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). Real cool stuff.
I haven't seen or talked to Mortis for the past couple of years, something like that. Now, don't worry, that doesn't mean mommy and daddy are mad at each other. I'm going to explain something that probably won't make me look very good, but it may also help you understand my motivation and why I interact with people the way I do. Short version: I have a hard time bounding with people.
I tend to stick with people for only one reason (that reason varies from person to person). But the moment I lose this connection, I also lose interest. I tend to treat all my relationships the same way you probably treat relationships with strangers; Let's say you really like that stand up comedian because he or she makes you laugh, the day they stop being funny to you, you also lose interest in them. That's how it goes for me, with everybody.
I'd got for the guitar. It's really versatile.
Yes, no, maybe, but most important of all: have a backup plan because I'm not sure I would do a good job at it.