This is our third interview at TAS. Good to see you back Nikola for another interview. Tell us a little bit about the Starpoint Gemini Warlords and what was your main role in the development of the game?
It’s always great to be back here, since you guys were the first ones to do an interview with me when I started my so called career haha! ? Starpoint Gemini Warlords is an action space combat/RPG game featuring spaceships and it is set in a rather vast universe. Basically it combines 3rd person capital spaceship combat with 4X strategy and RPG gameplay elements. You build your mighty war fleets and send them into battle or lead them into combat yourself. The end goal is to become the warlord of the entire Gemini system. My role in this was to provide the original soundtrack which is around 60+ minutes in legnth.
When did you get involved with the project?
I got involved in 2015 for the first time when I met the producers, the game was still in the early stages of development, but I sent them some demos anyways and they really liked them, so we decided to wait a little bit with music development until the game gets to early beta access for Steam. That was in the summer of 2016 when we finally sat down to pinpoint the exact feel the music should have in the game. That’s when I got the first beta of the game to play and I spent a lot of hours with it, because I wanted to immerse myself into this vast universe that is present in Gemini system.
How did you approach the score for Starpoint Gemini Warlords and what would you say were the main obstacles?
When I sat down with the producers, I got bombarded with a plethora of music examples of how the ambient and action tracks in the game should sound, and most of them were temp-tracks from Homeworld and EvE Online games, which was awesome for me because I am a huge fan of those franchises. But still I wanted to make my own stamp to it, so I decided to create something that is an omage to early space adventures and still make it sound modern. There were a lot of analogue synth sounds involved layered with digital synths and there were some orchestral pieces on top of that, but the bulk of the sound was provided by synthesizer, and there were a lot of them! ? I was like a kid in the candy store! ? The biggest challenge was to make these oldschool analogue synths sound modern enough for today’s standards and still make them dynamic like live instruments.
How did you overcome those obstacles?
I had to ride a ton of parameters on these synths in order to make them sound dynamic enough to go from really soft to really loud, and I had to ride the dynamics of the orchestra as well in order to make everything coherent. Also, I had to pay close attention to solo instruments like electric guitar and electric cello to stand out in this sea of synths. The main idea was to make a huge wall of sound out of these elements and still have enough headroom to make everything sit nicely in the mix when it gets ready for soundtrack mastering. It’s a lot less complicated than it sounds actually, but it’s still a fun process, and I have learned a lot of new things regarding music production while working on SPG Warlords.
In the making of video, we can see that you have used a lot of synths. What were your go to synths?
Yup, there were A LOT OF SYNTHS here! ? I had both hardware and software stuff included. My main hardware synths were my old Yamaha DX7 with my custom patches which were a major pain in the “you know what” to create, and I used these very affordable KORG Volca synths. I had Volca Bass and Volca Keys and I am absolutely crazy about them. Really great little synths, especially if you run them through some guitar pedals to beef up the sound. Volcas were mostly used for bass lines and some weird drone sounds, while the DX7 was for lead lines and some digital bass sounds. All them were processed via Electro Harmonix Big Muff fuzz and Hot Tubes overdrive pedals, which gave them grit and more beef, while my TC Electronic Alter Ego Vintage Echo X4 and Boss CH-1 Super Chorus were there for enabling a huge spacy echoing sound, especially for drones. As far as the soft synth goes, I always use U-He Zebra, which is must-have for any composer, and I used Arturia V 5 collection, especially CS-80, Modular V and Prophet V for that Vangelis-y type of sound. And almost every synth was processed with some additional filter plugins or iZotope Trash 2 if I needed some grit for the action scenes.
What would you say was the most exciting part of scoring the game?
It was playing around with these synths and experimenting with guitar pedals for sure! :) I really get lost in time and space when it comes to synths and pedals, plus when you add Guilmour-ish type of guitar sound on top of that… SWEET! ? Not that I will ever get close to Vangelis and David Guilmour, but I like to try and have fun at least. ?
How did you approach the main theme for the game? Could you share more about the process of making the theme for the Starpoint Gemini Warlords?
Oh man, that was actually THE LAST THING I composed for the game haha! ? That single track was harder to make than all the ambient and action tracks combined. Well for me at least. I am always having a hard time creating simple melodic lines that can be catchy, and this theme is rather minimalistic and simple to play. So I improvised and I was looking for some new sounds to make, so when I got to a point where I liked the patches I made, I started playing around and I this theme sounded really nice when played on analogue synths, so I decided to stay on the course and expand this melody to a main theme which is featured in the main menu of the game.
This one is for the gearheads. How did your gear change over the years?
Well for start, I decided to downsize the collection of my plugins. So far I am on Slate Digital, Softube,iZotope,Sonnox and FabFIlter only. Nothing more than that LOL! ? I like the analogue emulations from Slate and Softube, while Sonnox has a great limiter and Dynamic EQ. iZotope Ozone is always on my master channel, and FabFilter is my bread and butter for everything. I switched from Chinese made Squier guitars to American made Fender Strat and Gibson Les Paul, added a bunch of pedals from TC Electronic, Boss, EHX, MXR, got a tube Vox amp for my guitars, and I managed to get myself some actuall hardware synths like KORG Volcas ,and a vintage DX7 if a digital synth can be called vintage. ? I am still going strong with Studio One by PreSonus and that’s my main DAW still. Regarding the libraries, I am mostly EastWest concentrated now with with their Composer Cloud service.
What are you working on right now and can you tell us more about that project?
Well, I recently finished working on Warhammer 40k Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2 where I collaborated with my dear friend Doyle W Donehoo, and I am at the moment composing music for a Hack’n’Slash RPG and a trading card game for Steam platform.?
Nikola, thank you for another interview and I wish you all the best with your projects.
Thank you for having e again! ? It’s always a pleasure to come back here and have a chat with you guys! ? Stay strong and keep up the good work! ?