developer interview

April 2003

Interview with Paul Weir

I got the chance to interview Paul Weir from Earcom, who is responsible for all the music, speech recording and sound effects that will appear in Ghost Master.

Paul worked alongside Gregg Barnett from Sick Puppies, the development team of the game. 

In the past he has produced the music and sound effects for games such as Warrior Kings Battle and the Discworld adventure games. First of all, how many different tracks did you come up with altogether?

Paul: Gregg is a big fan of pastiche, his Discworld games are a good example of this, we definitely wanted the game to have a recognisably B-Movie soundtrack feel to it.

Before we properly started work on the game, I wrote lots of different horror film parodies. So we had a Halloween parody, we had an I Know What You Did Last Summer parody, and that was fine but the problem with that was it was all kind of, you do 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and that's it. In this game you can stay for quite some time on a level, so we decided the only way around that was to build an interactive music system, which we've now got. It actually works remarkably well. You mentioned the orchestra. Have you focussed on electronic music, or is it mainly live instruments?

Paul: There's a bit of live stuff in there but there’s rarely the budget unfortunately to do large scale orchestral recordings. This is a shame as I do work quite a lot with live musicians, I have written a fair amount of ‘classical’ music and music theatre pieces. Is it a solo project? How many people worked on the music altogether?

Paul: This one is. I've got a couple of people who do stuff for me on a part time basis but I was kind of over protective about this project. It's because it was so interesting, and had many different elements which needed fitting together. As to how wise it was to do it alone, I’m not so sure. You seem to have a big control over the game. Did Empire give you a specific goal or is it you that's mainly in control as to what the music should sound like?

Paul: Gregg's very, very good at music - he's probably one of the best producers I work with, because he's got a very clear idea of what he wants, and he's a very good listener.

We’ve worked together for quite a few years now and once the style has been established, he’ll leave me largely to work alone.

Empire have seemed really happy with the work so far which is obviously nice, and they've been pretty hands-off - as long as they get the stuff on time, they're happy. As well as the music, I've heard you did the speech recording for the game?

Paul: I did everything, all of the sound stuff apart from the actual coding, so that's the sound effects and the speech recording, all of which has been equally complicated. Can you tell us more about this?

Paul: What we did with the speech is the mortal characters have different emotional bands, depending on what they're feeling. I've written kind of "gibberish" - a bit like what you get in The Sims - which is dependent on how they're feeling.

For example, they might be scared, they might have a scared question, or they might have a friendly statement, or they might laugh, and so forth.

I wrote and recorded that with over a dozen different actors. We’ve also got the ghosts who speak regular English and a really great guy doing the narrator’s voice. We've used a lot of Americans because we know America is going to be a very important market. There's nothing worse than having an accent which is not authentic. What are your views on the game itself?

Paul: I have to say, and no offence to all the other great games that I’ve worked on, but this probably is the best game I’ve ever worked on, it’s got such a strong design thanks to both Gregg and Chris from iHobo. Yeh it looks fantastic. It's been compared to The Sims, but I'm sure there's much more to it than that...

Paul: Well it's kind of a level based version of The Sims, so you have an objective, which is more or less to keep the people scared whilst managing your ghosts. I think the only difficulty it's going to have is that because it is so original it may be hard to market.

Actually, The Sims had exactly the same problem when it came out and EA nearly canned The Sims. It took about seven years to make, and almost got cancelled three or four times. Where can people find out more information on Ghost Master, and the music that is in the game?

Paul: There's the Earcom web site and I stick stuff up there every now and again. Obviously I'm a bit restricted as to how much I can do before the game comes out. When the game is released I'll probably put a load more stuff on. If people want it, I'm quite happy to put stuff up. I've just done a game called Warrior Kings Battles and there were a few people on the forums who said that they had enjoyed the music so that was great and we stuck a bit more on my site - I'm happy to do that, as long as Empire don't mind.  

I think publicity is beginning to start up properly. This very evening I'm finishing off the intro movie which again is probably the most impressive movie I've ever seen for a computer game. It's just absolutely gorgeous and once that's done that's going to be sent out for publicity purposes.




For more information on the Ghost Master music, sound effects and in-game speech, visit the Earcom web site, where you will also be able to hear sound samples.

There is also an in-depth interview with Paul at Music4Games.