Some time ago Elias posted his introductions on Calypso forum. I suspect it was then that I decided to contact him for an interview, although I'm not entirely certain of this.
I contacted Elias because I thought music is often an overlooked aspect of game development and not discussed as often as other aspects e.g. game graphics. I am very interested in knowing your thoughts on this and if I made a good choice.
Elias has been a pleasure to work with. I sent him a rather random and disordered list of questions. No complaints-he just sent a professional reply back. When I contacted Elias again later to ask for some pictures, and he did one better. Not only did he send in some pics, but also some more detailed responses. Going beyond the call of duty is always appreciated.
Tell us a little about yourself, where you were born etc.
I was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden where I still live and work. I became interested in music at the age of nine years old when I started to practice the piano. Apart from music, programming has always been an interest as well, and thus I’m quite happy to be able to do both at MindArk now, especially since I have higher education in both software engineering and music.
How long have you been working in the music business?
I have been doing studio work from time to time for about fifteen years now. Usually I get hired by bands that need some keyboard work, arrangements etc. Prior to working as a musician at Mindark, I composed music for a couple of other games for PC/Xbox360 and iOS. I also play keyboards in a symphonic metal band called Dragonland. So far we’ve released five albums and toured countries like England and Japan.
When did you realise music was your calling?
When I was about nineteen years old I discovered the music of Rachmaninov and started practicing his C# prelude feverishly. Before that I had been playing with different bands, both keyboard and drums, but it was from this point that I really started to practice methodically and started to learn more advanced music theory.
Is there anything special that inspires you to write your music?
Rain and gloomy weather in general, which makes Gothenburg an ideal place to work.
What do you think about writing music for games?
I love it - running around the beautiful environments of for example the Calypso Thule area and just letting the inspiration flow is a great experience.
Have you worked in any other role apart from a musician?
Indeed, at Mindark I am employed as both software engineer and musician.
Tell us a little about Sweden
Sweden is a quite large country geographically in relation to its small population. For being so few, we have a great music export and an excellent games industry.
Whats your favourite film? what do you like about it?
If I have to name an all-time favorite I think that would have to be Gladiator, and especially the powerful and emotional score that Hans Zimmer created for it.
Name some of your fav pop music? what do you like about it?
Some popular groups that I like are Muse, Solar Fields, Mitch Murder, Crystal Castles, Daft Punk, Soilwork, Electric Youth and Finntroll. I also listen a lot to classical music; composers like Beethoven, Domenico Scarlatti, Brahms and Rachmaninov. Film/Game music as well of course – everything by Hans Zimmer, Brian Tyler, Steve Jablonsky and Jesper Kyd. In general, I’m attracted to interesting/emotional chord progressions and strong melodies, usually regardless of genre.
Which band do you particularly like and why?
My favorite band will always be Bal-Sagoth, a symphonic black-metal band from England. What I love about them is the extremely keyboard driven and forceful music with melodies and harmonies like no other (certain melodies from the Planet Suite by Gustav Holst would be the closest as well as some parts of the scores that Basil Poledouris wrote for the Conan movies).
Whats your fav book? what do you like about it?
This is a hard one, but if I’d have to choose I’d probably choose one of the novel collections that I have by H. P. Lovecraft. The sense of creeping horror that he manages to give his readers is astounding.
What attracted you to work for MindArk?
MindArk has been one of the foremost game companies in Gothenburg for quite some time now and when the opportunity came I applied for a job immediately since I always wanted to work in the game development business.
What do you like about your role at MindArk?
That I have the privilege to work with both code and music since I always thought that would be an ideal situation for me.
What equipment do you use to create your masterpieces at MindArk?
I use Cubase with plugins such as East West libraries, Symphobia, Zebra2 and Omnisphere. Wavelab for mastering. As master keyboard I use my good old Korg N5EX.
What advice would you give our budding musicians reading this article?
Study some fundamental music theory, it’ll always come in handy when inspiration is lacking.
Which music software would you recommend for beginner music hobbyists?
I started out with sequencing using Cakewalk which at that time was a user-friendly and simple sequencer. Nowadays I don’t know, but if there are some stripped down and cheaper versions of Cubase they might be worth checking out.
Is the music all your work?
So far, I’ve done music for various dungeons, the title screen, Calypso start room and Thule. When it comes to Calypso I’ve done all the music for the quite recently revamped Cape Corinth server. For the remaining servers, most music was done by a previously employed musician named Lars Falk.
Is it under your sole control? or do you work as part of a team?
Yes, the only musician working here is me.
Do you commission external musicians to create new tracks?
No, not at MindArk and Calypso, the other planet partners might have done that though.
Any news on some upcoming music tracks?
Currently, work is being done on various Calypso background ambient tracks, as well as more action oriented tracks (for hunting, using vehicles etc). I designed a system for handling the dynamic alteration of music for different in-game situations a while back. So far, the system has been utilized for Cape Corinth (as well as some dungeons). A long term project is to make use of this system across the entirety of Calypso.
How important is music to a game?
For me, game music is of uttermost importance in order to enhance player immersion. If done properly it can really make you feel part of the game.
How important is music from a global community perspective? taking into account the internet and it's impact on global communities...
We use Soundcloud to make people more aware of the music. Hopefully some people hear it before knowing what Entropia Universe is, enjoy it, and give the game a shot. Furthermore, given the sheer scale of the game, new musical content might easily be missed, so to be sure to hear new tunes it’s a good idea to check out the Soundcloud page. It can be accessed at: soundcloud.com/entropiauniverse
The name Elias features in all three main religions and refers to a name adopted by a prophet. Does this give you any special powers from time to time? prophetic visions about EU or in general life perhaps?
Of course! I hereby predict that Entropia Universe will be greatly improved and enhanced over the course of the next few years, both content-wise and from a player experience point of view. We have a great team now of experienced people and we’re working hard to make Entropia Universe an even greater game. Also, expect some nice new music flowing through your headphones in the near future.
Sadly it is here we must end this interview, and thank Elias for taking the time to entertain our curiosities. Although I am tempted to ask Elias exactly what these "greatly improved and enhanced" aspects will be, I leave that to you, our enquiringly savvy readers.