Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. First of all, tell us about yourself. How did you get started in the video game music business?
Tamas: It all started in 1987 when I got my first PC, which was a Commodore 64. I started to play games and paid special attention to their background music. I realized how fast this “ingredient” of games improves. At this very early stage I had my ideals (Ron Hubbard, David Whittaker) and it was clear to me that I wanted to do something similar. In 1990 when I was only 14, me and my friends established our first software developer company, which was called Amnesty Design. Our first game was “Reunion” in 1993. Since then we continued under a different name what is the name of our company now, Digital Reality.
One of your first projects was Imperium Galactica II? What can you tell us about that score? What aspect of it are you most proud of?
Tamas: After “Reunion” and “Imperium Galactica I” (those were also space RTS games) I had the chance to try everything about this genre. What I am most proud about this music (besides the fact that the music received a Bafta award) is that I could separate the three different species. There were about 40 minutes of very detailed Render Cutscenes in the game which gave me a very good motivation as well. I had the chance to work on this project for a year what is hard to believe nowadays when deadline is the no. 1 factor in most cases.
You’ve scored another sci-fi strategy game: Haegemonia: Legions of Iron. How would you describe that score? How did it differ from Imperium Galactica in terms of approach and style?
Tamas: At this point I had to realize that I can not repeat myself and must do something different than Imperium Galctica II. So I tried to approach my task from a different point of view and my goal was to make the music as interactive as possible, and to make a multi-level background atmosphere. At this time I met my composer colleague Ervin Nagy with whom I think we could reach these goals better than in the case of IG2. Ervin brought in a great deal of experience and new approach and by mixing these with my ideas we could create a new sound that I’ve always wanted to hear under a sci-fi strategy. The result was 90 minutes of music…
You’ve also worked on Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps, a strategy game set during the Second World War. What was your goal for that particular project and how does the score compare to your other efforts?
Ervin: This was our first work for this genre and it was completely different from anything what we have done before, due to the historic nature of the game. Naturally we have seen numerous movies about the subject and listened to about two million soundtracks until we could at least decide what to do and - what was maybe more important - what not to do… :) One of our most important goals again was to set apart the two sides (Germans and English) in the music.
How do you approach scoring a strategy game in general? How do you deal with the interactive nature of games?
Tamas: First of all we have several “brain-storming” sessions with the designers. They tell us the most important factors of the game, about its story, atmosphere, style etc. If we are lucky this meetings gives us enough information for the planning, which means to sort out the music to different levels or if it is necessary to different styles.
This already gives a relatively clean picture to start our work with. Of course all these above mentioned factors are under a constant change which means that flexibility from our side is essential.
On the other hand we have to be aware of the technical limits as well. With other words our ideas must be technically realizable.
Are you pleased that your scores are being discussed / compared with film scores? For many years the direction for "crossing over" has been from game scores to movie scores (e.g., Giacchino), but more recently movie composers have gone the other way (e.g., Schifrin, Elfman & Shore). Any thoughts as to why this latter flow is happening?
Ervin: I am afraid that money is one of the most important Muses nowadays, which causes all these fluctuations. On the other hand I find it most natural that everyone wants to do something different, at least for a while. It is a very simple and normal psychological need of a human being. Some people are moving for the same reason, or starting new relationships, or whatever.., and they are still the same tired, boring guys as before. Maybe they haven’t realized that they have been working with the same colleagues at the same table on the same project for 27 years.
Have you ever thought about scoring movies or television series?
Tamas: OF COURSE! Our own website has been launched in February of 2007. Its address is www.newtexproductions.com. We have created an enormous number of references in the past years and on this website we tried to classify these pieces of music to different stylistic categories.
We hope that we can try our talent in other fields too….
Where do you see game music in five to ten years from now?
Tamas: The most important development can be the interactivity of the music. We have all seen and heard some very interesting steps towards this goal but I believe that we still have the greatest surprises in front of us. The players will not realize how and where exactly but the music will always follow the intensity of the game. Somehow it will be like at the beginning of films when a pianist was sitting in front of the screen and played what he saw… all this accompanied by a full symphony orchestra conducted by an invisible conductor in your PC…
What is, in your opinion, the most difficult / challenging / enjoyable task when composing for a video game?
Ervin: The most difficult is to write music that all the players, designers, editors, etc. like :) . This is of course impossible and nobody should even try that.
I think it is most enjoyable to see how your music can contribute to a picture. It can add tension, fear, humor, or it can destroy the whole thing. It is very much fun - and everybody can try that - to add different background music (possibly not only different in style but also in quality) to the same picture. It is amazing how dramatically it changes the picture. You don’t even have to experiment with this. Just imagine a news channel broadcasting a funeral of a prime minister accompanied by some nice techno music.
What other composers / musical styles have had the greatest influences on you? What is in your CD-player right now?
Tamas: Luckily we are not vegetarians, so we eat everything. Of course we try to follow who is doing what, so we listen to many soundtracks of games and movies. Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri were always great favourites and as game composer Michael Giacchino was our ideal.
But we would never listen these while driving or at a romantic dinner with candlelight. Both would be rather dangerous...
What is, so far, your favourite project you’ve worked on?
Ervin: Definitely our latest work, War Front: Turning Point. During the last years we were working on many WW2 games and we learned a lot in this genre. We both believe that we benefited from all of these “studies” and we strongly hope that the music of War Front is our best work so far.
Another very important factor of this project is the freedom what we had from the very first note until the credits list. Probably we were never so free to create music for a game before and this was really inspiring.
What would be your dream project?
Tamas: We were both dreaming about that.
Maybe a great Fantasy game, and music recorded with a live symphony orchestra…
But our biggest wish is always to be able to make something better….
What are you currently working on?
Ervin: We have just finished the music for War Front: Turning Point. It is 110 minutes of symphonic music, with 40 minutes of it made for Cinematic Cutscenes.
The other project is called Field Ops, a hybrid RTS/TPS/FPS game which also has about 90 minutes of music
Do you play PC or console games yourself?
Tamas: On a regular basis since 1987. I started playing on consoles (Xbox360) recently, but unfortunately I have much less time for that as before.
Is there anything you’d like to say that I didn’t cover?
Tamas: I think we told you enough about us. Anybody interested to find out more about our work is welcome to our website: www.newtexproductions.com
Thanks again and good luck on your future endeavours.
Tamas / Ervin: We thank you for your interest and the opportunity.