Website: Laced Records
About this Episode
Host Greg sits down with Mat Ombler from Laced Records to explore the transformative role of AI in music, especially within the video game industry. They delve into how AI tools democratize music creation, making it more accessible for those without traditional musical training. The duo also addresses concerns about AI’s impact on jobs and highlights its potential to improve efficiency without sidelining human creativity. This episode serves as a call to both embrace AI’s potential and engage in meaningful conversations about its applications in the modern world
Intro: Welcome to the Player Engaged Podcast, where we dive into the biggest challenges, technologies, trends, and best practices for creating unforgettable player experiences. Player Engaged is brought to you as a collaboration between Keyword Studios and Helpshift. Here is your host, Greg Posner.
Greg Posner: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Player Engaged Podcast. Greg here. Today, we’re joined by Mat Ambler, a video game and music producer. I’m really excited about this because this is a brand new territory for me right now. He’s the head of music and game partnerships at Laced. Mat, I’ll give it to you. I want to do a quick introduction. Talk about yourself.
Mat Ombler: Yep. So my name is Mat. I am the head of gaming and music partnerships at Lyst, a keyword studio company. Prior to joining Lyst, I worked as a freelance journalist for around five or six years kind of specializing in the intersection of video games and music. So it’s been something that I’ve been researching and writing about for a very long time. And I’m just a massive geek, to be honest, for all things video game music. So yeah.
Greg Posner: It’s awesome. I’m excited to have you here. Mat’s really pretty heavy poster on LinkedIn and I see all the crazy news he finds out about the latest mashups between different studios and different whatever pop culture things are out there. And, you know, it’s one of these things that we always talk about the player experience on the Player Engaged podcast. And I love that. But we don’t often think about how we get immersed into the actual game itself. And music plays a huge role in that. Before we get too deep into that, what got you here? I guess my first question would be, what did you want to be when you grew up and how did you end up here?
Mat Ombler: I initially wanted to be a journalist full time. So I remember applying for games journalism jobs when I was coming out of university, not having much luck. It’s a really incredibly competitive space. kind of sent emails out asking how you get into the space, what do you do, started learning that I need to build a portfolio because all of my writing samples were just like weird creative stories from university and stuff like that. So yeah, I did that. And then when I first started writing for a couple of different gaming outlets, I realized that gaming, I think, regardless of whether you work in content creation, journalism, or you’re trying for a dev job, testing, QA, or whatever, it’s an incredibly competitive landscape because there are so many gamers out there who love all aspects of gaming, and naturally it makes sense that they’d want to turn that into a career. quite quickly I learned that I kind of need to niche down as a writer because if I’m approaching PRs and publications kind of going, I’d love to review like the new Zelda game. Then naturally like, yeah, who’s this guy? We’ve already got loads of writers we work with or what, you know what I mean? It’s not, it’s not easy. So, To me, it was like, I need to find a niche. And that niche for me was music and video games, because I’ve always been a musician. Started playing keyboard when I was like six, seven years old. Then I picked up drums, joined a band. We toured the UK and Europe. It was a metal band called Demoralizer. And what got me into metal in the first place was video games, right? Because I remember when I was like nine or 10 years old, like playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and listening to bands like Dead Kennedys and Suicidal Tendencies and AFI, Murderhead, stuff like that. Like my parents were not into that music, so there was no way for me to have exposure to alternative music at that age, right? So, For me, it was games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and then FIFA, SSX Tricky, all of these other games with like heavily licensed soundtracks, GTA as well, True Crime, that shaped my music taste, I think, in such an incredible way. And that was something that I never really realized until I kind of thought about what I wanted to write about. Do you know what I mean? Like when I was trying to carve a name for myself as a journey and I was like, well, I need to write about this stuff because there’s nobody who’s really dedicated like their writing time to just doing that. So I was like, right, so there’s an opportunity here to basically just write about that from the perspective of the impact that it’s had on me in terms of shaping my music taste, but also like a lot of the stuff that I share on LinkedIn, just kind of like who’s doing what, what kind of collaborations are taking place between music companies and games companies, why are these collaborations taking place, what do they mean for players, so just all of that stuff really.
Greg Posner: There’s a lot to break down there. So I’m going to take it piece by piece. And there’s one particular point I want to just talk about because I love it. First is you want to be a writer. You realize that it’s a busy market. I mean, it’s crowded. Everyone wants to write about the latest Zelda, right? How do you make yourself different? There you go. You find music. And I just feel like music is such an afterthought until it’s not. And then it’s the biggest thing in the game. And I actually had this conversation with a friend earlier this week because I knew you and I would be talking, but I was talking about Tony Hawk. I loved that game. It was such a great game. And what made that game, it was a good game, but was the soundtrack. And we saw with Crazy Taxi, for people that know that is, Crazy Taxi came out on Dreamcast, started off with the offspring, awesome beginning of a song, and then all of a sudden they remastered it, remade it and came out. The soundtrack was different. People hated it. It’s because the soundtrack was different. But Tony Hawk And this is way off topic, if anything we’re talking about, like it introduced everyone to a bunch of new bands or they brought their favorite music, punk music into a game that they never thought would exist. And skateboarding was so hot. Are there? Why don’t games like this exist anymore that take so much music from pop culture that’s popular and infuse it into the game? And yeah, you have games like Beat Saber, but that’s such a niche as well, right? Not everyone has a headset, but like, can you redo that? that type of game, or is it going to be too expensive? Is it too hard? Even skateboarding isn’t as popular as it was, and maybe it will make a resurgence, but it’s just like, how do we get back to that era? That was a great era.
Mat Ombler: I think the big difference now is we’ve got Spotify, right? When I was playing those games as a kid, and I’m sure when people were playing those games as adults, that was a cool way to actually discover new bands. Same thing, I guess, with GTA 3 and stuff like that, which I believe was probably LimeWire, just the start of digital music distribution. So you can jump into these games and not know what music you’re going to encounter. And that’s a great way of kind of dipping your toes into genres that you might not listen to otherwise. There’s probably a lot of songs in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater where If they’d have come on the radio at the time or whatever else, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to them. But because they’re part of this game that I’m really enjoying, and because I’m hearing them like over and over and over again, that sucks me in, right? I mean, there are still plenty of games with like big licensed soundtracks today, like these big open world games that have in-game radios. I’m sure there are like, there’s probably a generation of kids now that are playing Fortnite and listening to the in-game radio in that, in the Fortnite islands that are having that same experience that we had back then. But I don’t think it’s as powerful because it’s so easy to consume music nowadays. And I think music is devalued now, I think just because of Spotify and you know, I mean, it’s so easy just to click through tracks. It’s kind of taken the value away from music. Whereas like I literally, I remember hearing The Offspring in Crazy Taxi, because it was all I wanted. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Remember hearing that, going out and buying a load of Offspring CDs, my pocket money. Did the same thing with Goldfinger in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. When I heard Superman, I was like, oh, what type of music is this? oh, this is like punk rock and ska. I think that’s something I’m into. I’m going to go out and buy loads of Goldfinger albums. So I bought Open Your Eyes by Goldfinger, bought Hang Ups. So there was that. Whereas nowadays, there isn’t that kind of sentimental attachment to music. So I think unfortunately, we’ll never get back to that with the caveat and without going too deep into it, there are new things emerging. If you look at these virtual concerts where you’ve got Travis Scott doing Fortnite, there was a really cool concert in Sky, Children of the Light, where Aurora did this 45-minute concert experience. I was part of that, like I played it, and that took me back to being a kid where it was kind of like, I’m having this really powerful connection with music. And as well, if you’ve played Tetris Effects or Res Infinite in VR, like when you experience, and I guess Beat Saber as well to some extent, there are still games out there where you get that kind of like dopamine hit, I guess, that like we got when we were younger playing these games. but I think they’re few and far between, or at least they feel few and far between because there’s so many games coming out nowadays, right? I don’t know what your backlog is like, but mine is absolutely horrendous. There’s so much stuff I want to play, but I can’t get around to it because I’ve got enough time now in my schedule to play maybe one game a month. Do you know what I mean?
Greg Posner: Yeah, it’s funny. Yeah, I’m with you. And I like the fact that you brought up that this dopamine hit, because I think that’s a great way to put it. So I’m going to attempt to play music through this platform, and I’ve never done it before, but we’ll see if this works. But this is the first song. I don’t know if you hear this. Yeah, this is the first song when I was young, one of the first things I ever beat, right? This is the last level of Sonic 1. And I just remember hearing this song and it gave me chills. I’m just like, wow, this is awesome. And to this day, I love that. And it’s like, it’s not a licensed song, right? It’s part of Sonic. It’s not like, it’s just an in-game song that just kind of blew my mind. And it was just so exciting to hear. And like, I still play it to day to day. It pumps me up in this way. and I think the dopamine hit is the right way to do it. And I guess you’re right with Spotify, right? People get these options all of a sudden, even with, sorry, I didn’t mean Spotify, I meant the in-game radios, right? You’re playing GTA, I don’t like this song, I can skip it, I can skip it. You said FIFA, I think back to Madden, right? Or like years ago, Madden just had this killer soundtrack, right? It went from country music, which I don’t normally like, but I still listen to the songs to rap it. And over the years, I think it’s just become more rap, rap, rap, rap, rap, which, fine, I’m okay with rap, but like, The jarring difference between a country song followed by like a Bubba Sparks followed by some other random pop song was just like, this is a wild mix, but I love it. And it just becomes now, all right, I don’t like this station. I’m going to switch this station. I feel like this takes away something, but it also adds a nice element to the player that helps them get more involved in the game. That’s kind of my thought there. Is there a specific song that was the first song in gaming that kind of, like my song with Sonic, that kind of sucked you into this?
Mat Ombler: Probably Sonic was the first ever game I played that I remember playing. So I think I’ve got definitely like a nostalgia thing going on for like Green Hill Zone. In terms of the music that like hits me now, probably say Zelda’s Lullaby, like, just because obviously that’s in like, I remember hearing that for the first time in Ocarina of Time. And I think the nature of the way songs are composed in Ocarina of Time, the fact that there’s so few notes using a lot of the melodies, they’re catchy, they’re almost like little pop hooks, they stick with you. But I recently just finished Tears of the Kingdom. And the way they use Zelda’s lullaby in that, and then flip it into different keys and then build it up and add these new instruments into it, like, it’s absolutely wild. So I think it makes sense, right? Everything you were saying then about the final, is that Sonic 2 or Sonic 1, the final? Sonic 1. Sonic 1. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It sticks with you because You remember that music playing during a certain moment, usually quite a pivotal moment in the game, whether it’s like Sonic 1, where it’s like last battle, or like me here in Zelda’s Lullaby, where I think you see Zelda for the first time in Ocarina of Time. So it’s that, it plays such an important role in the narrative as well. It sticks with you.
Greg Posner: It just shows you, right? Specific experiences that you build into the game just to reminisce with you, right? I remember what level I was on. I remember the music that was playing it all. You don’t forget. It’s part of that experience that’s important. Yeah. What’s the day-to-day job like of the head of music and game partnerships?
Mat Ombler: So I am kind of part-time at the moment. When I am in, at the moment, it is fielding a lot of requests, I think. People are growing more aware of the opportunities that are in gaming from an artist perspective. We get a lot of managers reaching out, artists too, inquiring about opportunities. At the same time, we get our clients on the gaming side who might be looking to do something with specific artists in a certain genre and want our suggestions on who might be open to what. we’re constantly chatting to artists as well in terms of what games they’re playing, because that’s a super important thing for me, right? Because I don’t want to kind, anything that I do in terms of getting artists into games or fielding that kind of stuff, I want to make sure where possible there’s a genuine link there between the artist and the game. Like, I don’t want to push a load of music from artists into a game if they don’t actually enjoy playing video games, right? Because I don’t think that’s fair on the fans because ultimately what we’re doing should be, yeah, should we deliver a cool music experience in game? Or if we’re doing something outside of the game, like a remix album or an arrangement album, yeah, it needs to be fun. It needs to sound good. It needs to make sense, but it needs to make sense for the fans and fans need to be into it. And I think that can only happen when the musicians and the artists that you’re collaborating with are genuine fans of the gaming IP. So I don’t know if you’ve played, have you played Neon White? I have not. So have you seen that game? Nope, I’m pulling it up now. It is essentially It’s made by Ben Esposito, did a Donut County. So it’s essentially Mirror’s Edge meets a first person shooter. meets like Jet Set Radio. It’s like this really weird hybrid of like almost lost Dreamcast games. And the game has this really cool vibe, but Ben reached out to a person called Machine Head, who is like glitchy kind of breakcore music, does some really cool stuff. but he absolutely loves video games, like specifically like that era of like really Japanese Dreamcast and PS2 games, right? The ones that were quite obscure and like never made it outside of Japan. So the music that he wrote for Neon White basically just sounds, it takes you back in time because it reminds me of the soundtracks of the games that I was playing on PS2 and Dreamcast, right? So I think that’s a really great example of like the artist is into the game has been asked by someone working on the game to get involved. And that collaboration has worked because he’s understood the vision. I think sometimes like if you’re working with artists who aren’t necessarily a fan of the gaming IP or don’t understand gaming, there’s a risk that they might not get the direction of the project, which is why I’m always interested in talking to Art is to basically live and breathe video games. I think that’s super important.
Greg Posner: example, right? You had a game that needed a soundtrack or a song for a soundtrack and they reached out to someone say, hey, will you create a song for us, right? And it’s great, right? He was excited because it’s the type of game they played. But I’m sure there’s oftentimes when a game needs a sound or a soundtrack or a song where you look at stuff that’s already created, right? Like How often, what happens more often? I don’t know if that’s even a real question, right? Is it more often that someone’s creating a new, new song for something, or are you looking at assets that are already created?
Mat Ombler: In terms of creating original, do you mean in terms of like reference material and stuff for when you’re working on your music video?
Greg Posner: If I’m creating a new game and I want to, if I want to create a soundtrack, what’s the best practice for me as a game creator? Ooh.
Mat Ombler: It depends. I guess this is where I look back to the composers that I’ve interviewed and the developers that I’ve interviewed in my former life as a freelance journal. There’s numerous different ways you can do this. If you’re in indie studio. and you’ve got a smaller team. So Ben Esposito, who did, by the way, we didn’t work on the music for Neon White. I just want to put that out there, but I did want to talk about it because it’s one of my favorite game soundtracks. It’s amazing. But he’s a cool example of someone who, because he developed this game, he already had in his head like this Sonic like landscape for the game, right? He knew the sound that he wanted and he was also a huge machine head fan. So sometimes it can be a case of that, right? Where you might be a studio head and you’ve got a game that you’ve worked on and you think you already know what sound you want because it’s your baby, right? Do you know what I mean? Like, you know where the sound needs to go. And that’s where you can, you can reach out to an artist directly depending on how big they are, obviously. and try and work something out. Or you might have a couple of different ideas in mind, but you’re not sure of the best route to go down. Or you might just kind of think, you know what, we’d love a soundtrack that’s similar to this game or that game. Or we’ve been playing this album loads recently in the studio. We’d love to get someone like that involved, but we don’t know how to do that in terms of we don’t know how to approach composers. We don’t know what that right structure is going to look like. We don’t know what a fair price is to pay and all that kind of stuff. That’s where you can come to a studio like us and we will work with you to try and find the right musical direction for your game. Or you can just go down the third route of you’ve gotten a composer that you work with, right? And most composers Our contractors, they work freelance, but there’s so many amazing composers out there. And then you will work with them in terms, if you brief them and just kind of go, look, here, here are the basic ideas we’ve got for the music, but you pass that over to the composer or audio director, and then they’re going to work with you on creating that sonic palette for your game, basically.
Greg Posner: It’s interesting because, you know, I feel like soundtracks are typically an afterthought and I’m just the outsider looking in, right? You’re correct. And I know when you’re selling something, you’re like, oh, you want to start thinking about this before you even create the game, right? You want to have a soundtrack. But when’s a realistic time of looking at a soundtrack? Do you want to have something playable? You want to just have a thought? Does it vary?
Mat Ombler: I would say as early as possible. Or at least as early as possible, because you’ve got to take the economics into account, right? Because if you’ve got a vague idea for the game that you want to make, but it might change depending on game mechanics or funding or whatever else, You don’t want to onboard a composer as a contractor on like a two or three year, again, depending on like what kind of deal structure you’ve got, because a lot of composers charge by minute, but there’s no point paying for someone and just kind of getting them on board, but you’re not ready for the game to go out yet. Do you know what I mean? I’d say at least have like your base build sorted, have a clear vision for the game. And when maybe you’ve started thinking about a proper roadmap and when you want to get that game out, speak, get the composer like as soon as you can, because the composer should be working with you. to flesh out the soundscape of the game, do you know what I mean? I’ve interviewed so many composers as a freelance journo, and one of their biggest complaints has been we were brought onto the project too late or were brought onto the project during a really messy time in development, which meant that I was writing music for a certain part of the game or level, but then it got scrapped. So then I’ve got to completely throw away what I’ve done and then start again. So I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying there’s never a perfect time, but if you’re confident that your game is kind of on track and everything is going well, get the composer in. And second thing, I cannot stress this enough. If you are thinking about a physical soundtrack release or digital distribution for your game soundtrack, let the composer know as well, as soon as you can, rather than kind of turning around last minute or to the end of the project and going, we’d also like you to do a soundtrack release because releasing a game soundtrack as a product is a lot different to composing music for a game, right? Because as soon as that becomes a product, that then needs to be something that can be listened to outside of the game and enjoyed in its own right. And that’s where music might need stretching out. You’ve no longer got the beats of the game to rely on. So you’ve lost that dynamic nature. Everything needs to be in a certain order. The same way as an album, it needs to take the listener on a journey right? So there’s all of those different things to consider.
Greg Posner: It’s fascinating. This is beyond what I would even imagine, like, when I’m thinking the outside in. But it’s right, like, I’m trying to think to myself, and I feel like this is a straightforward answer, but like, these dopamine hits that we talked about, right? Like, are these planned in advance? Like, hey, we’re going to come in here with this soundtrack, right? Or when you start Mario 64, and we’re playing that music and the camera’s sprawling around, right? Like, that’s clearly like, Are they designed at the same time? Like here’s the soundtrack and as the soundtrack is going, this is what we want to happen. And we just kind of pan that whole vision out.
Mat Ombler: Yeah. Uh, yeah, I, again, having not been directly in those conversations, it’s hard to like say, yeah, absolutely. But yeah, cause you’ve got to think of it as any other project, right? Where if it’s a creative broad, let’s say you’re working on a. film scripts or TV scripts or whatever else, or an advert. You’ve got certain moments during that creative process, during the visual and audio process where you want to hit the viewer or listener, right? And it’s the same thing in a game, where you’ve got those moments of emotional intensity, you want to ramp things up. So when composers writing game soundtracks, most cases, definitely in AAA, they’ve got the game scene in front of them. At least four. If they’re scoring a cinematic part of the game, like a cutscene or something, they can see what’s happening. So they know when certain things need to go up and down. And I mean, off the top of my head, there’s so many moments in gaming that I can think of, like Super Mario 64, the whole camera panning thing with like Lakitu, like you were talking about then, the way the music kind of, and then at the end, da da da, and it builds up. The sound effects as well, that’s like a massive thing. The chest opening thing in Ocarina, well, all Zelda games, that chest opening sound effects. Sound effects are massive, and that definitely is a dopamine thing. I mean, look at the way that… if you’ve ever listened to Charlie XCX’s Boys, that, oh, he’s thinking, they’re boys. And you’ve got the Mario coin sound effects that like, just as a listener, like if you’re a gamer, that’s like, oh, what’s this pop song trying to drag me in with these really familiar gaming sounds. Suddenly it doesn’t sound too bad. It’s almost, you know what I mean? It’s that kind of thing. But music cues as well, right? So it’s not just original music. It can be licensed music as well. Have you played the Life is Strange games before? I’ve played them, yep. Yep. There’s a moment, I think it’s episode four in the first Life is Strange, where there’s a horrible scene where you basically dig up the body of someone. And as you’re doing that and the camera’s kind of panning around and you’re seeing these characters about to get like emotionally devastated, there’s a certain song cue that hits and it’s A song by an artist called Message to Bears. The song’s called, I think the song’s called Mountains, and it’s just a really like somber, like acoustic guitar song. And it just hits like right at the, do you know what I mean? Even thinking about it now, I’m like, God, that was like a part of the game that really got me. And then there’s the, I think it’s Gears of War 2, where, I guess I’m not talking about spoilers now, am I, when it’s Gears of War? That’s a long time ago. We’ve passed enough years. I think it’s okay. I think it’s Dom who dies in Gears of War 2. It’s either 2 or 3. And he basically goes on a suicide run where there’s all of these locusts and he knows, right, I’m in this big van thing. I’ve forgotten what the explosive material is in the game on the back. And he just drives it into a horde. But as he’s doing that, Madwell plays. And it’s still like one of my favorite scenes in gaming. And I’m like, that was like a perfect, it’s the whole Stranger Things, right? Kate Bush. Like everyone was talking about that all over radio, all over TV. Like it sent Kate Bush to number one when they played that song in Stranger Things, running up those hills. But there’s been loads of other moments like that in gaming, maybe to not like that commercial awareness and success. Do you know what I mean? But there’s loads of moments like that out there.
Greg Posner: The The Strange World Gears of War. I remember the commercial was one of the most amazing gaming commercials I’ve ever seen. I remember being in college and like we were all sitting around like, holy shit, this is going to be amazing. Like you couldn’t come up with a more perfect sound for that scene than that was. And I know they tried to other games, tried to do similar things every year. Call of Duty comes out with their new trailer. But like Gears of War just nailed it right at the gate. Can you can you remember the
Mat Ombler: Dead, was it the Dead Island trailer? The newer one. Oh yeah.
Greg Posner: The very first one where it plays backwards. Yeah. They kind of spoofed Gears of War and they spoofed something else as well, I think. Both of them. Creative stuff.
Mat Ombler: Yeah. But music and trailers as well, I think that’s another like… important thing because that sets the tone for the game as well. Square Enix for Final Fantasy XV did a lot of stuff with Florence and the Machine, and they kind of had that music in the announcement trailers and stuff as well, and just in the marketing materials as well. It was in-game, but just having that in the run-up to a game coming out as well, like especially when it features in the game, kind of like sets that emotional tone for what you’re expecting, right? I love that stuff in Final Fantasy. Square Enix always does a really solid job I think of music and games, just thinking about some of the stuff that Uematsu has written for the Final Fantasy games over the years, like that’s just ridiculously good.
Greg Posner: I’ll have to check them out. I normally don’t venture too much into the Japanese RPGs or just normally RPGs in general. Knowing that and then I think as I’m getting older, I like these calmer things. You know, I like to be able to see what that’s like. It’s should be interesting. I want to take a quick time out here because I’d like to ask some like rapid fire questions, quick answers. Mat has no idea what’s going to happen here. So we’ll surprise him. It’s normal, easy questions. Don’t think about it. So ready? Yeah. You’re going to go to a bar. What type of drink are you ordering? Glass of red. All right. Last game you played. Cheers the kingdom. What did you have for breakfast?
Mat Ombler: I had a single slice of brown toast with half a tin of Heinz baked beans.
Greg Posner: There you go, proper English breakfast. Stretcher. I normally ask last book, but instead of asking last book, I’m going to ask you, what’s the last soundtrack you listened to?
Mat Ombler: got on the name of the game. There’s a really cool indie game soundtrack that I’ve been listening to today by a French composer, but I can’t remember the name of the game. So I am going to say, um, the DLC for Sonic Frontiers. I’ve had that on repeat. It’s incredible.
Greg Posner: If you’re going to listen to a soundtrack, what is your medium of choice?
Mat Ombler: It’s YouTube, which I feel like is a really weird platform to use. Yeah.
Greg Posner: For the record, everyone, lacedrecords.com has some awesome vinyl covers. I’m going to be hopefully purchasing some. I want to put them on my wall behind me so they can… I should be saying vinyl, shouldn’t I?
Mat Ombler: I’ll take that back. It’s vinyl. It’s vinyl.
Greg Posner: Exclusively vinyl. You know, it’s funny. We talk about that a lot. Like, what’s the medium of choice? I’ve been going to YouTube a lot recently, but I have these nice speakers downstairs. When you play them through YouTube, you just get the center channel. I’m just like, oh, I want to play properly. Last question. Ideal vacation. I’ve just been. Japan. Boom. Crossed it off.
Mat Ombler: He’s done.
Greg Posner: Send me back. Cool. That’s the end of our Spitfire round. You did well there.
Mat Ombler: Thank you.
Greg Posner: Is there a pet peeve that you see happening in the industry around music that you’re just not a big fan of?
Mat Ombler: Well, It’s a good thing you said music, because I would have just said the mass layoffs, because I find that wild. The fact that we constantly big up the fact that gaming is the biggest form of entertainment, one of the biggest industries in the world, yet people are getting laid off left, right, and center, and there seems to be no job security. In music, I’d say There’s a risk that some studios can sometimes play it too safe with certain game soundtracks. I think there’s a lot of AAA games that sound the same nowadays, whereas going back to the PS1, PS… I mean, PS1 N64 era, I think we’ve got to remember as well that I guess the reason a lot of stuff sounds the same now is because you’re getting the best orchestras in the world. Everything’s recorded properly. Whereas back in the day, you had the actual console sound fonts, kind of, do you know what I mean? It was the chips that were set in the sound. So Sega Mega Drive games sounded so amazing or Genesis games even because of the Genesis sound chip. Do you know what I mean? Same with SNES and stuff like that. Whereas now I think a lot of music does It’s almost like that Hans Zimmer epic orchestral thing. So when a game like Neon White comes along or when an indie game comes along and really dares to do something different with its soundtrack, that’s when my ears kind of perk up and I go, Oh, this is, this is cool. So yeah, I’d say Peave is a lot of soundtracks that sound the same. Other than that, I think music and gaming right now is in a really good place, to be honest. There’s a lot more soundtracks coming out. Game studios are taking the music and games so much more seriously than they used to. And I think the general public their kind of impression of gaming and game music by association is changing. The fact you’ve got the Grammys recognizing video game music with the first ever Grammy for video game music in 2022. You’ve got the BBC proms in the UK celebrating video game music in its own concert. I don’t know what it’s like in the US, but over here we’ve got like dedicated video game music shows, like on the BBC, BBC Radio 3, Sound of Music and stuff like that. So there’s a lot more going on. So, which, which is great.
Greg Posner: Yeah, I have a buddy that’s big into listening to music, gaming soundtracks when he’s working. He says it just gets him in the zone. I don’t know if we have any stations that are dedicated to it, but that’s an awesome place to be. With the rise of AI and it taking over the world. We hear a lot about writing and how people are worried about artwork, but we don’t often talk about, at least from my audience that I listen to, we don’t want to be talking about audio. And I think that’s one that’s probably a big one that’s coming up as well. There’s a lot of tools out there. Is this a threat to the industry? Do you think it’s obvious when the AI comes up with music versus someone else? Are there ticks that you notice?
Mat Ombler: From an audio perspective, I don’t think it’s a threat because games are always going to need original music written in a certain way. I feel like within gaming, AI in general as a word has a really negative connotation, but I think it’s important to understand that there are certain AI tools that can improve workflows. I’ve interviewed composers about this, that there’s AI systems that they can use to basically make programming dynamic music in video games a lot more smoother. That’s not taking anything away from anyone else’s job. It’s normally making their job a lot easier because you can get some cases where a composer rather than a programmer is tasked with kind of making music dynamic or whatever else. So that’s where that can help. So I don’t see it as a threat yet. I guess it depends what comes on the horizon, right? And what’s kind of put in place. I can understand why some people would be concerned. And I understand that I think there’s a concern, especially with bigger corps, that they might get rid of some stuff and start using AI tools or whatever else. But I think we also need to have conversations where we can talk about the viable practicalities of AI and like how they can improve stuff rather than just instantly jumping on stuff and kind of going, AI bad because AI steal job. Do you know what I mean? Like it’s stuff like that. So as of yet, I’m not fearful, but I’m happy to change my opinion if something pops up and then kind of proves me otherwise.
Greg Posner: I think something that’s important to note is AI is here, right? Once something’s introduced to the public, you’re probably not going to take it away from the public, right? So maybe it’s not good for the industry and I’m not a huge fan of it, but at the same time, you need to start to embrace it. Because if you’re not embracing it, you’re going to fall prey to it. It’s the people that are going to not try to use these tools. It sucks. It does suck. Right. But it’s also a great opportunity to learn these tools and maybe build stuff that’s a little more productive or quicker or more efficient. Right. There’s ways to utilize this stuff. I think it’s important to take it a look at like that.
Mat Ombler: Yeah. And I think as well, from a music perspective, real quickly, if these tools encourage people to experiment with music or get into playing music who might actually, because you’re not picking up a guitar or a piano or whatever, when you’ve got no musical skill at all, like that can be scary, right? Do you know what I mean? It takes a long time, but if there’s tools that I guess almost act as that gateway and let people do cool stuff as long as it’s not ripping off or stealing other people’s work or being fraudulent or whatever. Do you know what I mean? I’m all here for it.
Greg Posner: Cool. I think one last question for you and maybe we’ll change as we go on here. My last question to you is there have been any cool, I think I look at your LinkedIn and you talk about these partnerships and collaborations, anything recent coming up that maybe you want to say, Hey, this is going to be exciting. Check it out. What, where should people focus their time?
Mat Ombler: Riot Games releases an anthem for Worlds, which is basically like the big League of Legends esports tournament that happens every year. I’ve, I still need to listen to this year’s Anthem. I think it came out today, but they also have, they always absolutely smash it out of the park. So I’d say a hundred percent that. Um, Ubisoft is doing some really cool stuff with its trailers. They’re worked on by, uh, uh, they do a lot of work with a company called Feel for Music and their trailer work is really, really good. Speaking of trailer work, buzzing with the latest team, we put out a trailer recently for Lords of the Fallen, which we got Iron Maiden onto Fear of the Darkness and it worked so well and I’m excited because I can’t wait to play Lords of the Fallen as well. In terms of interesting music collaborations in general, I’d encourage people to keep an eye on what’s happening in the mobile market. I think mobile games do not get anywhere near the amount of attention they deserve, especially from gaming press. And I say that as someone who is a former freelance journo. I think Garena Free Fire has more players than Fortnite, yet it’s rarely talked about in the press. Green Free Fire has also had concerts with the likes of Justin Bieber. And again, that was reported on nowhere near like anywhere similar to like Fortnite or anything like that. So there’s a lot of amazing stuff happening in mobile. You just need to look, you need to, there’s a lot of amazing stuff happening in mobile. You just need to search quite hard to actually find it, unfortunately, but there is some really cool stuff happening out there.
Greg Posner: That’s a question I always like to talk about with people. Like there’s so much news. Where do you get your news from?
Mat Ombler: I will admit that I basically have keywords set up for like, so I’ve got a spreadsheet where I track. anything that I’m at risk of missing, right? You know, in terms of like video game music stories, video game music collaborations, partnerships, integration. So I do a lot of tracking. So a lot of the news that I get that is more left field just comes straight into my inbox. Other than that, games websites, Video Games Chronicle is probably one of my favorite websites at the moment because I think there’s a lot of video game websites that run a lot of opinion pieces and stuff like that, but don’t do much reporting. Video Games Chronicle does so much original reporting, they get loads of scoops, get a lot of stuff from there. But I think also newsletters like I didn’t buy into the newsletter thing at first because I was like, why would I want to subscribe to newsletters when I can just visit gaming websites? But then I subscribed to a couple of them, was finding out all of this amazing stuff that I’d never read on gaming websites. And I was like, all right, cool. So I’d say the vast majority of stuff that I find out now is from video game newsletters, you know, from people working in the industry, right, who are sharing that kind of, like, first-hand, like, it might be surveys or, like, interviews with devs or, like, I really like the Deconstructor of Fun, does some really cool deep dives into mobile games and like deconstructions of why is this game that came out two weeks ago on mobile, sort of the most downloaded game in the world? What kind of game mechanics is it using? Like how does it monetize? All of that kind of stuff. Like all of that like geeky mechanical stuff I’m really, really into. So yeah, newsletters. Game Discover Co is a really good newsletter. There’s the Bullet Points newsletter as well from an ex-Kotaku editor. and a couple of others. Cool thing with Substack as well is once you subscribe to these newsletters, you get recommendations basically going, you enjoyed reading this. Maybe you’d enjoy reading that. So it’s just like a constant, like you’re just constantly finding new stuff.
Greg Posner: I appreciate that. I’ll have to pick up a few of these. I think I’ve recently got into newsletters because I realized they’ll email me first thing in the morning. I could lay in bed and just quickly scroll through some emails and start picking up information like that. But on that note, Mat Ambler from Laced. I appreciate you coming on. I’ve been talking a lot about music, not a lot, not as much as you, so I can’t say a lot recently. And it’s exciting just to be able to talk from someone from the player experience from this side, because we often talk about it from the customer support side, but the whole immersive effect all comes in, I think, with music. And I think it’s probably one of the last, probably the most The thing that remains most in my mind after playing a game is the music. And I was really excited about having this. So with that, would you like to take the floor? Do you want to plug anything? Plug yourself, go to town.
Mat Ombler: If you like video game music as much as I do, you should definitely head to the Laced website. Just go on Google, just type in Laced Records. We’ve got so many amazing video game soundtracks that are up for sale. Even if you don’t have a record player, these are really good collectors pieces for specific games, so definitely check that out. If you enjoy a piece of music in a game, think about how you can support the composer in the studio. like leave comments on tracks on YouTube, get in touch with composers, tell them you love their music. If they’ve got Bandcamp, there’s a thing called Bandcamp Friday, where if an artist has music on Bandcamp, 100% of the royalties goes to the artist. Support artists, support game developers. I think there’s so much negativity in games industry right now, just because of all the layoffs, I think it’s nice to kind of spread some good news. So yeah, if you have played an amazing game, listened to an amazing soundtrack, let the team responsible for that know and spread some love and positivity.
Greg Posner: Love it. Thank you, Mat. This was a fun podcast. I’m excited for people to be able to hear it. As Mat mentioned, I’ll also have the Laced Records website linked on our website, our Player Engaged website. If there’s any other information, Mat, you want me to share and let me know. But this has been a fun experience. I appreciate you coming on today and I’m looking forward to A, having some Laced Records on my wall here so we can follow it up and start making a little more gaming here. And yeah, and I look forward to continue to talk to you and work with you. Thanks for coming on today. Awesome. Thank you very much, Greg.
Mat Ombler: It’s been a pleasure.
Greg Posner: Thanks again to Mat for joining us today, and be sure you join us again next week when we’re joined by James Batchelor of GamesIndustry.biz. We’ll learn a lot more about the industry and then see what’s going on in the news. So thanks, everyone. Have a great rest of your day.