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July 21, 2014, 11:20:20 PM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperCreativeAudioSome shigi music
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supershigi
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« on: December 23, 2009, 12:15:33 AM »

Hi everyone, I thought I should probably make a thread here for my music so here goes... My name is Laura Shigihara, and I've been working as an indie game composer and sound designer since around 2005.  My most recent project was the soundtrack for Plants vs. Zombies, and prior to that I worked on about 15 other published titles.  In my spare time I've also been developing a melodic rpg called Melolune.  I think I first starting getting into video game music when I played the original Megaman series on the NES, and I first pondered composing for a living after playing Chrono Trigger... my two biggest influences are probably Yasunori Mitsuda and Yoko Shimomura, but I listen to just about anything ^_^ 

Well, it's nice to meet you all... here are some samples of my work:

Some songs from Plants vs. Zombies:
Zombies on your Lawn
Uraniwa ni Zombies ga! (This is the Japanese version of the 1st song)
Brainiac Maniac
Loonboon

Some songs from Melolune:
Melolune (main theme)
Eclipse and Starlight
Traces (Liele's theme)
Upplerlands Dungeon
Carya de Mio

Some songs from other games I've worked on:
Russia
Kitanai Sekai
Starshine
Ingredients Room
Cooling Room

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Laura Shigihara | Composer and Game Designer
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noah!
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« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2009, 08:23:31 PM »

YES! I love RPGs, and I love music, so I just had to check this thing out. Well, the music; I haven't played the game yet. (expect that to change soon ;-)

I must say, I'm blown away. Normally I'm not a fan of the generic symphonic score that plagues most RPGs, but these songs just have such a level of polish on them that I can't help but enjoy them. Overall, there's just a melodic complexity that I haven't heard in quite some time. I want to hear more! ;-)
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supershigi
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« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2009, 01:59:10 AM »

Thank-you F687/s, I'm really glad that you enjoyed the music.  I know what you mean about the generic symphonic score... in a lot of triple A games these days there is an abundance of orchestral music that despite having very high quality samples (or in some cases live orchestras) and excellent production, it just feels like it lacks heart.  There are so few cases these days where I can actually even remember the music, as compared with the NES/SNES days where the melodies were so catchy and memorable. 

I was really happy today to find out that Plants vs. Zombies won "best music score" in PC VGChartz Game of the Year 2009 awards... My goal with PvZ was to create something melodic and memorable so the composition itself would shine, even though it wasn't produced in a super studio with a live orchestra and what not. So everytime folks notice the composition, I get so happy because I'm finally getting to share what I loved about the music I grew up with Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2009, 02:34:17 AM »

I adore strong compositions with melody, and these are all really good. I wish I could get that kind of flow down. Sometimes I approach it, but mostly it comes out choppy....(envy)
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2010, 04:42:05 PM »

Wow - congrats on winning best score! That's crazy impressive, especially considering that they were considering games from the whole industry!
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HyperDuckChris
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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2010, 04:52:29 PM »

I was really happy today to find out that Plants vs. Zombies won "best music score" in PC VGChartz Game of the Year 2009 awards... My goal with PvZ was to create something melodic and memorable so the composition itself would shine, even though it wasn't produced in a super studio with a live orchestra and what not. So everytime folks notice the composition, I get so happy because I'm finally getting to share what I loved about the music I grew up with Smiley


This is excellent, I'm well happy for you! Congrats! I hope you celebrated accordingly!
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2010, 05:18:40 PM »

the saddest part is the prevalent business model means you don't get any royalties from the sales and success of that song/game, right? i don't really like that approach, i make sure to give royalties to anyone who works on my games, and they keep the ip of anything they make for the game. i wish everyone did that.
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HyperDuckChris
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« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2010, 05:26:01 PM »

Well you're a pretty nice chap for doing that, but alas that just isn't the way everybody is built. It's not as generous in the world as it could be, but I'll settle for what we're getting at the moment. Lauras very talented, I am sure there are even bigger things coming her way and she will get everything that she deserves, this is just a prime example that things are only beginning, even if they have been going for a while, it's nothing compared to what the future can hold.

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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2010, 05:32:31 PM »

i don't think it's generous, just fair. i think it's unfair to benefit disproportionately from the work of someone else.
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HyperDuckChris
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« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2010, 05:57:19 PM »

I agree, other developers will still see it as generousity, however.
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supershigi
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« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2010, 03:46:30 PM »

Thank-you everyone very much for your nice comments ^_^

@Paul and Hyperduck: It's interesting that you guys should bring this up, because it's something I've been researching a lot lately.  I'm not sure how it would work had Plants vs. Zombies been a purely independent game (it actually started out that way before George went to PopCap), but since it was published through PopCap, none of the core team received royalties on game sales.  However, I'm a big advocate of songwriters receiving royalties on ancillary materials... I know that if a company hires a songwriter to write them a theme song, most AAA companies these days will go by the Hollywood model of paying out 50% of royalties on ancillary materials (soundtracks, iTunes sales, licenses, etc.) to the publisher, which is then split between the composer, artist, producer, etc. 

I usually try to get it worked into my contracts that I would receive 50% of the royalties on ancillary materials.  I hope that this method will eventually become standard for the whole industry and not just AAA companies, because it really is the fair method.  If a soundtrack is being sold, there's no reason the composer shouldn't get to participate in this revenue.  Same with if the company wants to license the music to another company who might use the music in a car commercial or something; there's no reason the composer shouldn't be properly compensated... that's how it works in the film industry and in most AAA companies.

Unfortunately, I was not given a formal contract until about a week before the release of the game, so while I wanted to negotiate including very fair and standard legal language concerning a soundtrack and other ancillary materials, I was being pressured to just sign the contract.  I don't want to get into all the details, because I think for the most part I'm really happy with how everything turned out... but I felt that the way they handled the contract was very unprofessional.  Hopefully it'll be better in the future though; we're taking steps to improve things.  How have your contract experiences been... either as the composer or developer?

On another note, Paul, that's cool that you allow your team to retain their IP and receive royalties.  Although I'm doing all the music/sound for Melolune, if I was using a separate composer I would allow them to participate on royalties just because the music is so central to the game and is actually a huge part of the development (there will probably be about 70 tracks in the game and the music and puzzles were built concurrently because of how intertwined they are). 
« Last Edit: January 03, 2010, 03:55:05 PM by supershigi » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2010, 07:52:58 PM »

Unfortunately, I was not given a formal contract until about a week before the release of the game, so while I wanted to negotiate including very fair and standard legal language concerning a soundtrack and other ancillary materials, I was being pressured to just sign the contract.  I don't want to get into all the details, because I think for the most part I'm really happy with how everything turned out... but I felt that the way they handled the contract was very unprofessional.  Hopefully it'll be better in the future though; we're taking steps to improve things.  How have your contract experiences been... either as the composer or developer?

All contracts I have signed to date have been contracts I have assembled, let the developer see over and over, amended again and again, until we're both happy, so I have been lucky in that respect to have great personalities to work with, from Iji up to (and including) Dust, they've all been down to earth guys who are just wanting to make it work for everybody and themselves in a totally fair and approachable humanistic manner.

That is quite a distressing situation to be rushed into signing a contract, I really (who would??) would not like that kind of treatment, it would almost force me (without fully reviewing the contract and it's potential consequences) to pull out of signing.

I have only started considering the prospect of selling the soundtracks from games we write for, and have considered putting Iji back into remix production amongst a few others, depending on the response I suppose. I suppose you gauge it on the response you receive back from the game & the music? Though, if not, what do you gauge it on? : D!
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Craig Stern
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« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2010, 10:13:39 PM »

Unfortunately, I was not given a formal contract until about a week before the release of the game, so while I wanted to negotiate including very fair and standard legal language concerning a soundtrack and other ancillary materials, I was being pressured to just sign the contract.  I don't want to get into all the details, because I think for the most part I'm really happy with how everything turned out... but I felt that the way they handled the contract was very unprofessional.

I assume that you've already completely performed your part of that contract? In the future, if you're subjected to undue pressures during the contract negotiation process, I'd advise you to consult an attorney. There's a little thing that we call "undue influence" that many judges don't look kindly on...
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supershigi
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« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2010, 02:42:37 PM »

@Chris: That's good that you've always had positive experiences working with developers.  It sounds like the folks you've worked with are great guys.  That would be great if you guys ended up doing an Iji soundtrack; the other day George and I went back and listened to some of the mp3s from the game and were commenting on how cool they were.  He thought one of the sounds sounded like Rush, which is cool because he's a big prog rock fan.  If you ended up releasing a soundtrack, do you have a duplication service in mind for making the CDs?  I've been trying to decide between Discmakers and CD Baby for duplication... although I wish I could find a company similar to the one Alec described, because it would be so cool to make Plants vs. Zombies posters to include in the CDs ^_^

@Craig: Thank-you for the advice ^_^  In any other situation I totally would have fought for my rights.  I knew what I was asking for was fair, and I knew it was their fault for getting me the contract so late... This situation was unfortunately very tricky for me, as the game's designer is also my boyfriend.  Basically, someone in the company was threatening to just remove the credits sequence altogether and delay the release of the game if I didn't sign... and I knew how important it was to George to have that credits sequence and to release the game on time.  So they basically used my concern for him against me... Even though I knew it wouldn't take more than a week for them to insert very fair legal language into the contract, I didn't want to risk messing up such a great project if the company was going to be retarded about it and actually take out the ending credits (incidentally, if I didn't sign the contract they wouldn't own any of the music, not just the ending credits song, so I knew this guy was just trying to push me around). 

In the end I just tried to look on the bright side; it was really only one person who was doing this... everyone else was really great and awesome and I had a great time working on it.  So for future projects I'm just being very upfront about them being more responsible about getting me a contract early on, so that I can make sure it's fair.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2010, 02:47:06 PM by supershigi » Logged

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Daiz
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« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2010, 11:55:05 PM »

So I've been listening to these tunes you posted and now having heard them quite a few times I guess I could share some views.

You seem to have quite an identifiable style that all your songs are in... even though they vary (as usual), I could probably easily tell that "these songs were made by the same composer" if pretty much any of these two were played after each other. I'd also say the style is kinda, well, JRPG-y. At least in quite many songs.

Then, regarding this:
I know what you mean about the generic symphonic score... in a lot of triple A games these days there is an abundance of orchestral music that despite having very high quality samples (or in some cases live orchestras) and excellent production, it just feels like it lacks heart.  There are so few cases these days where I can actually even remember the music, as compared with the NES/SNES days where the melodies were so catchy and memorable.

I also agree with this. Some of those old NES/SNES melodies are very memorable. However, your compositions don't really feel like they're there yet. I found these songs quite hard to grasp in a way that would have made me hum them afterwards or even when listening to the songs again. I'd say that if you want to make catchy melodies, you need to repeat elements a lot more and not stuff so much in a single song; this is how you make pretty much anything extremely catchy. More on this a bit later in this post.

Also, regarding your style, it seems quite limited right now. All your songs are pretty much slower-paced and the "feel" they have is kinda similar all the way through. When listening to music, I often find myself thinking about some of our games playing to the music, but I couldn't really think about this while listening to your songs. Though bigger part in this is probably the fact that the kind of music you make wouldn't really fit any of the projects we have in mind.

I know a lot of composers who have an amazing range in the styles of music they can produce, most of them Japanese. To be honest though, most of these are anime soundtrack composers - I don't really know all that many game composers, I can mostly name Nobuo Uematsu and some others whose names pop up ever so often in various places. But for example take the likes of Yasushi Ishii (Hellsing OST, Darker than Black S2 OST) or Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Darker than Black S1, Macross Frontier, Turn-A Gundam to name a few) or Tsuneo Imahori (Trigun, Hajime no Ippo, Gungrave) - these composers produce an amazing variety of music for the stuff they do. Take the most recent one, Darker than Black S2 for example. The music varies from aggressive rave to jazzy rock to moody and melodic piano tunes, all in the same soundtrack. It's quite amazing.

Then there's also composers who have very identifiable styles, like Yuki Kajiura. Though even though she has an identifiable style, she can also vary quite a lot - most importantly, she can make very moody slow tunes as well as fast-paced action themes. And whenever she teams up with a singer, everything she produces is pretty much amazing (see FictionJunction YUUKA or Kalafina songs for example).

But back to game composers, there's also one game composer who has pretty much perfected the art of making extremely catchy and amazing game music. He also happens to be Japanese and as indie as you can get. In other words, as you probably already guessed, ZUN, the man behind Touhou.

Touhou music is probably one of the ear-wormiest music on earth. How does he achieve it? Well, when you listen to his compositions, you can hear that he usually has about 3-4 "element" sections per song, which are varied as the song progresses, but there's usually one or two strong and followable main melodies going on at every section. After hearing a Touhou song once, you can usually hum it afterwards whenever you hear the song again or even hum them when you're not listening to them, since the main melodies are very catchy and stick to your mind. He's probably one of the most successful indie composers ever when considering the huge amount of fans of his works alone. And then there's also that 500 gigabytes worth of remixes and re-arrangements of his songs. You don't get that much of fanworks without doing something right.

<EDIT> One more thing I completely forgot about and probably one of the most important points: Peaks. Good songs will have points where they "peak" in terms of audio satisfactory, which is preceeded by build-up for this peak. Your compositions seem to lack this. Like said, your songs have some pretty complex stuff going on at times, and the tempo seems to remain quite slow throughout all songs. During songs, they don't seem to "grow" - in quite many cases, when a song ended, I thought "oh, it ended already? It hardly even managed to began" because there was no real build-up to be found. There were elements of build-up and places where the songs could have peaked, but they didn't because there wasn't enough emphasis put on the peak parts or the build-up parts. So to sum it up, the feeling I get from listening to your songs is that they are flat and "bland" through the whole song and maybe a bit too complex for their own sake. These combined result in the fact that the songs are pretty hard to grasp, and thus they don't turn out to be something really memorable. </EDIT>

Have you listened to any of the composers I listed above? I'd love to hear your opinions regarding these too, and also I'd like to hear about your goals as a composer. I know you want to make catchy and melodic tunes akin to the ones produced in the NES/SNES era, which I totally respect. But for that, there's still work to do in my opinion. You're clearly talented and clearly do something right already (I mean you don't win "best music score" prizes for nothing), and I'd love to hear more about you and your songs in the future.

PS. By the way, based on your name, I take it you're american-japanese? Nevermind, browsed your site a bit and found out that this is indeed the case.

EDIT: Looks like I accidentally quoted my own post when I meant to edit it... removed the duplicate now.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2010, 03:41:50 AM by Daiz » Logged
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