Get to Know a GameDev: Felix Arifin
Music is a critical ingredient when it comes to game development, especially when considering its impact on the player experience. Toronto area freelance composer Felix Arifin has spent his entire career crafting auditory experiences for games and movies. You may have heard his work in titles like Turbo Pug, Clash of Talons or Eaten Alive; but Felix still feels like he’s still trying to break in to video games. “It’s a vicious industry where lots of talents get swept away due to money or blind luck… [it’s] only getting faster and faster, so you have to make sure you can keep up!”
Since music is such a unique element of game dev (and can be a precarious career choice), we were eager to ask Felix what really motivates a game composer to keep going (and keep up!)
What is your official title?
My official title is music composer. Sometimes it’s sound designer, but in either case I’m responsible for creating the auditory experiences for players that are playing a game.
How about an unofficial title?
One of the game developers I’ve worked with has lovingly called me “SuperDude”, so I suppose I’ll go with that!
Did you always want to work in sound design?
When I was a wee lad, I’d always had aspirations for building giant robots. Watching shows like Power Rangers or Transformers lead me to believe that I could save the world with the power of giant robots! But then life and school happened, and it was during high school that I had an existential crisis – I really disliked physics and chemistry and all the subjects you needed to become a robotics engineer. Ultimately I had to boil down my passion to its roots: which was that I loved creating things to make people happy. I was taking lots of piano lessons at that time, and I was already fooling around with playing pop songs on the piano. All it took was just a teacher to introduce me to GarageBand for the first time, and I was hooked! I knew I wanted to write music as a career.
Did you try anything else, before the games industry?
I was a student, haha. I’ve been writing since I was in high school, pretty much. Not for real games, mind you, it was all just student projects and whatnot. But I knew where I wanted my trajectory to travel, so.
How did you break in to the industry?
Honestly I still feel like I’m still trying to break into it? It’s a vicious industry where lots of talents get swept away due to money or blind luck. But I remember my first music project very clearly – it was an iOS project called LostStar Tactics.
All I had to write was 30 seconds of music total – I wrote a short loop for the main menu, the victory jingle, and a small loop for the level up music. In total, 30 seconds, and I was to be given $50 (which was a huge fortune for me at the time!). Unfortunately the developer didn’t pay me until half a year later, after much pestering. Looking back at it, it was a bit ridiculous to wait so long for $50, but heck! I could get a lot with $50, haha.
Heck yeah! Do you have a favourite project so far?
My favourite project so far has got to be Turbo Pug. Dan [the developer] has given me an incredible amount of freedom in writing the music for this game, and that has been an absolute blast.
Space-funk? Egyptian pop? Ukeleles with choir and dogs? Hard rock? It’s all in there. It’s pretty crazy, but I think that’s its greatest strength! I’m able to show off my musical passions as well as my favourite genres.
And it’s about pugs (editor’s note: pugs are awesome.
What’s the biggest misconception about making music for games?
You’d be surprised at how many people will try and act like they know everything about music, when they actually don’t. And the best part? Most times, if people are being fussy about the tiniest of details, we won’t change a thing, send them the exact same music file, and they’ll be perfectly happy with it. Insider info 😉
Oooo, industry secrets. Are there any other challenges you’ve had to face?
The biggest personal challenge has definitely got to be the difficult balancing act of, “How to Stay Alive and Feed Yourself with Your Career Choice”. I’m currently working three part time jobs, including this one, and I’ll be completely honest, the music composition is the one that’s making the least monetary returns! For me though, it’s not about monetary returns for the music. That stuff will come down the line. Right now it’s about the experiences and the people I’ve met that make it really magical and incredible. I just love writing music!
Has your job ever forced you to be apart from people you love?
OOOH YOU SNEAKY PERSON YOU HOW DID YOU KNOW. Nah I’m kidding, I’m sure it’s pretty obvious. I have three pieces of crucial advice for long distance relationships:
- Always Stay In Touch! If you guys are not texting each other throughout the day, or Skyping every night, you’re doing something wrong. You and your partner both will miss each other’s physical comfort, so you have to provide every bit of emotional comfort you both can!
- Always Surprise Each Other! Send each other gifts! Send each other cards that say I miss you! Find cat gifs for each other! Introduce new music to each other! Keep your relationship lively and active, and full of unexpected things. It’s always more interesting and fun that way!
- Always Stay True! I know this is a bit of a misnomer but please, don’t play with your significant other. If you’re hanging out with friends, let him/her know who you’re going with!
Long distance relationships are just like normal relationships, except there’s no physical portion of it, and every other aspect of the relationship is ramped up to 11. It’s a lot of hard work, but I’m happy to say that it’s paying off for me – I’m getting married this October! (and of course I wrote the music for the actual ceremony).
Congratulations on the wedding! And great tips; especially in an industry where travel is common.
So, if you could travel to any point in time for a single day, where would you go?
Oh man. I’ve always wanted to travel to when Beethoven premiered his Fifth Symphony, which he also premiered the Sixth Symphony, on December 22nd, 1808. Apparently it was a frightfully cold day for a performance, and the orchestra only had one rehearsal the day before to play all the music, and people were absolutely indifferent towards the performance. But I really want to be there to see Beethoven conduct what people know now as absolutely timeless masterpieces!
Nice choice. Any new games you’re looking forward to?
I’m honestly super excited about my next game project to be completed, titled Candy Ballad. It’s about these two girlfriends who owe candy, and so they travel around Pumpkinton to help people so that they can pay off their candy debt. It’s amazingly cute, and very Tim Burton-esque! The soundtrack is also appropriately crazy and spooky.
As for a mainstream title, I’m awfully interested to see how Final Fantasy XV is going to hold up. It sounds way too good to be true, and I can only imagine how the music will sound in that game!
What about you? Any wild dreams for future projects?
I’d love to write music for a big, AAA budget game! Maybe work with a small orchestra too, and have some nice vocals to go with it. I always have these dreams of asking my way-more-musically-talented friends to help me out with projects, and I hope I’ll get a chance to do so someday.
Asking for help never hurts! As a take away for others, what is your personal philosophy around making music for games?
When writing music, write hard, write fast, and write the best that you’ve ever written before. This industry’s only getting faster and faster, so you have to make sure you can keep up!
Do you know someone in the gaming community with a unique perspective, interesting project or creative take on the industry? We’d like to talk to them!
Let us know who we should feature next: firstname.lastname@example.org
- On September 26, 2016