Hi everyone! I'm pleased to bring you the first of many developer Q&A sessions that are aimed at focusing the spotlight on some of Excalibur's most key contributors!
Many of our prior articles dealt primarily with the tech, code, and implementation rather than the person or people who actually created it! We will still be bringing technical articles that showcase and explain the tech built for Excalibur, but we thought it was time that everyone has a chance to get to know the hard working folks who pull it all together. These are the coders, the modellers, the texture artists, etc.
We will be releasing these brief developer sit-downs once a month, around mid-month! So, not only will you get to learn fun facts about the developers but, these will also offer a chance to get sneak peaks into some of the things in the works!
So without further ado, here is the first!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself (day job, etc) and how you came to be on the project?
A: My name is Luke Wade, I'm based in Sheffield and I'm a musician. I play piano and bass (and will soon be singing too!) in studio and theater projects all over the UK and abroad. I joined the BCC (Bridge commander central) in July 2007, (I was 14 at the time!) The world of texturing, modeling and modding was unknown to me but it didn’t take long to pick up the required software and begin experimenting. I remember at the time Voyager was my only experience with Star Trek so naturally I wanted to build sets from that. I started on the Raven bridge, before moving onto the Relativity bridge, neither of which ever made it in-game. I joined the Excalibur team around the time the decision was made to leave Bridge Commander in favor of a custom built engine.
Q: What is your primary role inside Excalibur?
A: I've been on the team for a while now, and I've contributed and worked with quite a few of the members and 'departments'. I started on interior modeling, where I designed and created sets, in-game props and bridges. I still love that aspect of Excalibur and so will most likely become involved with interiors again when the time comes. I also play a part in producing PR whenever I can, Making the HP videos and the Galaxy reveal trailer (Which took up far too much time!)
The role I'm focusing most of my energy on (and will be [for the foreseeable] future) is SFX Supervision. It's my job to organize and work with a bunch of talented VO artists, SFX designers and composers to create what you will hear in Quickbattle, and eventually the final game. I often enjoy getting involved with the sound design and recording process, contributing voice assets and SFX. Right now Sound design is a new concept for Excalibur so the team is relatively small, I'm really looking forward to bringing people on board and seeing what we can come up with together.
Q: What kinds of programs do you use for your work?
A: My main DAW is Cubase. I use Soundforge for a lot of the batch processing that comes with multiple VO files. I also use a variety of 3rd party plugins and instruments. A huge help when creating and controlling sound effects is the Korg M3, it has a bunch of controllers that enable you to morph and add character and movement to a sound, I use it all the time! For instance to create our transporter SFX.
Q: Have you found it difficult to get good sound quality without a dedicated recording area?
A: Kinda. The call we did for VO actors earlier in the year was a huge success and a massive learning experience for us. We found a lot of American males with headset mics and no prior acting experience, which were mostly unusable for what we needed in a bridge crew. The main issue was finding someone who has a great sound, and can deliver convincing lines. In a few cases the decision was made to sacrifice quality in favor of a great voice, and so we spent time working with the people brought on board to get the best out of their equipment and voice, a few of them were pro's and needed no direction, however I'm very happy with the cast we have for Quickbattle.
Q: What's the hardest part of working with a group spread across the world?
A: The delay in communication. In an office or a gaming studio you have the luxury of walking up to someones desk and saying: 'Hey, can I have your opinion on this?' Or calling a quick meeting. With a global group of people using forums it can take days to get a consensus or a reply from the team/ an individual, it's not that the discussion is not relevant or concise, it's people just finding the time to check in.
Q: What is your favourite Trek?
A: Can I say TOS films? Yeah I'm going with that!
Q: What sound-wise, in your mind, is definitively Trek (phasers, computers, etc)?
A: The Transporter. It's so atonal and musical. Plus I've never heard anything like it!
Q: Recently I've had the pleasure of being able to listen to some of the musical scores that you've been composing for Excalibur, is there a particular area of Star Trek that inspires you when you're composing?
A: Right now I'm drawing alot of inspiration from the film soundtracks, even though I'm only writing what is essentially background music for Quickbattle at this stage. I think it's important to understand the level of musicality required in order to achieve the standard of composition everyone expects from a Star Trek project. By transcribing and dissecting pieces, the film soundtracks are helping me answer the question: How do I make a piece of music sound like it belongs to Star Trek?
Excalibur is also a big help when deciding if a piece is working. Fellow team member Rob recently wrote me up a script so I can listen to each track as I'm playing the game. It's very important that the music works on an emotional level, so alot of my time is spent flying through space with my headphones on listening to ideas and arrangements to see whats getting the point across the best. The result I hope is when you play Excalibur you're blown away with how the music is interacting with the game.
It's not set if stone if I'll be composing for the final game (Although that hasn't stopped me throwing ideas around the Dev forums!) but right now I'm having a blast putting together our music for Quickbattle.
Q: To help further illustrate your broad artistic and creative talent, you mentioned earlier that you worked on interior sets and other modelling. One of the sets you worked on was for a Breen bridge concept. Where did you get the inspiration for this?
A: I started by looking at the few DS9 episodes which featured Breen interiors. From screen-caps of these sets, I took the shape of the door and the design of the decorative wall fitting and made sure to incorporate those. From there it was a blank canvas and when you’re tasked with making a Breen bridge, you have to think: “What makes something look Breen? What is the exact piece of visual stimulation that is going to convey the message of 'Breen' “?
The truth is I had no idea. And I didn't have much to go on! My main inspirations were their ship and suit design: I wanted the bridge to be asymmetrical, much like their ships. I also wanted to link the refrigeration theme into their interiors. The Bridge needed to feel cold and unwelcoming by our standards. Breen ships' internal atmosphere would mimic their home planet and so crew members wouldn't necessarily need to wear their refrigeration suits when aboard. The Voyager episode 'Scorpion' suggested Breen ships are semi-biological, and so the multitude of coolant pipes also symbolically double up as arteries. As if whatever runs through the Breen refrigeration suits also runs through their ships, keeping them both 'alive'.
I started sketching ideas and eventually drew up that clumsy concept pictured above. It incorporated a second level for no other reason than I thought it was a great departure from what we've seen before on screen. I imagined the Breen commander stood on the second level shouting commands down to the bridge staff. (Plus it gives us an opportunity to throw someone over the edge at some point in the game!)
Q: Finally, could you see yourself becoming a Quick Battle mod contributor after it is released; ie ships, interiors etc?
A: Absolutley! Mainly first person stuff I'd imagine. Interiors, props, retextures etc... I have a few original ship ideas I'd like to see visualized one day, allthough I don't think I'll find the time to get round to making them until after Excalibur is done and dusted! However you can expect to see frequent interior updates and additions from myself when that development milestone is reached!
Awesome, thanks Luke!