It’s always a pleasure to announce a new guest on Designing Sound. During this month, Rodney Gates will be sharing with us a lot of his experiences in the world of sound design and audio direction for video games.
“I became interested in sound and music at a young age, making cassette tapes on my Yorx stereo with a crude electret-condenser microphone with old needle-drop sound effects on LP added in, telling crazy stories in this fashion, at the age of 13 in the sizzling-hot summers of Phoenix, AZ.
The teen years naturally led to an interest in the electric guitar, and after getting my first one at 15, I proceeded to learn every single Metallica song I could, with my brother on drums. I never went the band route though, like my brother did, but instead saved my money working in food service and wholesale printing to get a Tascam Portastudio 4-track cassette-based recorder. I remember vividly the moment I soloed a guitar part over a previously-recorded rhythm track and played it back. It was then I was hugely bitten by the recording bug.
This led to a class at Phoenix College, which opened me up a little to audio engineering. I ended up buying a lot of equipment I didn’t thoroughly understand, which included a Yamaha ProMix 01 digital mixer, an original Alesis ADAT, and a Tascam DAT recorder, plus a couple of mics. I remember buying Cakewalk 3 on a single floppy disk for $300 to use with my Alesis QuadraSynth and a Compaq PC running Windows 3.1 back in 1995, sequencing all kinds of crazy tunes, while recording guitars, bass and drum machines all by my lonesome.
Then I decided to finally jump into something that would hopefully prepare me to be a little more professional – the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe, AZ. What a great school. I sponged up the information they taught me there and couldn’t wait to intern someplace. I had really gained an interest in post production and Foley artistry, and I remember I wished I could have interned at Skywalker Sound when it was over. However, with limited placement there and the fact I didn’t know anyone up in the San Francisco area to stay with, I opted for New York instead. I briefly interned at the Soundtrack Group in Manhattan, whose focus was music production, working the graveyard shift of 12-8AM. The highlight, if you want to call it that, was making hot chocolate for Busta Rhymes and his posse.
Let’s just say that it wasn’t my cup of tea. I could see myself spending years there, paying my dues, only to finally get the chance to assist on some sessions, and maybe one day become a house engineer. I didn’t think that was the path for me.
I moved back to AZ a little disillusioned and went back to work in printing, for several years actually. Phoenix was mostly a dead town for recording skills. It wasn’t until becoming so impressed with 2002’s Medal of Honor: Allied Assault on PC that I fully realized there must be people with careers in game audio – this seemed like the niche for me.
After spending a year creating a demo and mailing it out, I finally began my career as an Associate Audio Designer at Sammy Studios in Carlsbad, CA in early 2004, working on a fun vampire-western FPS, Darkwatch.
Sammy turned into High Moon Studios in early 2005 and eventually was purchased by Vivendi-Universal at the end of the year, as I began working on the title, Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Conspiracy, as Sound Designer. Part-way through the title’s development, I was promoted to Senior Sound Designer, and once the title was wrapped, Lead (the dev cycle ran a little long).
When the Vivendi – Activision merger completed, High Moon fell under the new Activision | Blizzard parent and began developing Transformers: War For Cybertron. Unfortunately, the merger had stopped HMS’ development of two other projects, one of which I was the Lead of, so I began to feel redundant.
An opportunity arose at Sony Online Entertainment, and I started there in November of 2009 as a Senior Sound Designer, and shortly thereafter I became and currently serve as their Audio Director.”
- Free Realms (SOE – PS3, 2011)
- EverQuest II – Destiny Of Velious expansion (SOE – PC, 2011)
- Magic: The Gathering – Tactics (SOE – PC, 2011)
- DC Universe Online (SOE – PC / PS3, 2011)
- James Patterson’s Catch A Killer (SOE – Facebook, 2010)
- EverQuest – House Of Thule expansion (SOE – PC, 2010)
- Clone Wars Adventures (SOE / Lucasarts – PC / Mac, 2010)
- EverQuest II – Sentinel’s Fate expansion (SOE – PC, 2010)
- Transformers: War For Cybertron (Activision – Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC, 2010 – uncredited)
- Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Conspiracy (Vivendi-Universal – Xbox 360 / PS3, 2008)
- Darkwatch (Capcom – Xbox / PS2, 2005)