[Creative Fridays] #28: Gwen Guo

I first met Gwen Guo at LEVEL UP KL 2017. She was a speaker and conducted an awesome workshop on Game Audio Implementation with Falk Au Yeong. After talking & hanging out with the very cool game audio folks including her & Sharon from IMBA Interactive and the amazing soundtrec folks, I learned so much more about the audio implementation side of game audio. Very interesting stuff. Looking forward to catch up with everyone this year at LEVEL UP KL 2018.

Let’s hear more about Gwen from herself:

I’m one of 3 co-founders of Imba Interactive, a small Singapore-based studio that provides end-to-end audio solutions for video games and other media. Our goal at Imba is to contribute high quality audio to the evolving games industry in Asia, promote good game audio practices in development teams/cycles and educate game developers/students on the value of sound. We also actively promote mutual support, diversity and synergy within local game development communities.

Now let’s go into the interview!

1. What’s your latest project?
We’re working on a couple of really cool projects:
No Straight Roads by Metronomik! This made-in-Malaysia game is all about music without being a rhythm game. The team is led by Wan Hazmer, lead designer of FFXV and its music director is none other than Falk, sound engineer for FFXV! It’s a privilege to be working alongside such a diverse team of talents. For my team (Imba Interactive), we’re working on the sound design & assisting in the audio implementation using the audio middleware Wwise. Read more about it here: https://vulcanpost.com/640032/wan-hazmer-metronomik-malaysia-game/

We’re also working on Devotion by Red Candle Games. Their previous title Detention, a horror game based off Taiwanese culture and mythology, was a huge hit internationally. Our role is also to provide the sound design and implement audio using Wwise. While there is not a lot being revealed about the game at the moment, you can read up more about Devotion here: http://redcandlegames.com/devotion/ and breathe in the hype!

Last but not least, Imba Interactive is co-developing Oslo’s Big Day Out, a narrative puzzle adventure title with Rustbucket Interactive (also a Singapore-based studio) where an inquisitive baby polar bear gets lost and goes on a fairytale journey to find his way home. Needless to say, it’s going to be audio-heavy game and we’re also trying out roles fresh to us such as game design, bizdev and producing. It’s still at the very early stage – the journey is also going to be an epic one for us!

2. What inspires your music/sound?
I can’t really pinpoint what exactly inspires me – there’s too many! Nature definitely; recently watched this video of thin ice skating and the sound blew me away. Also, the sound of breaking off a piece of thin ice (~1 cm thickness) from a frozen lake, throwing it on the rest of the frozen surface and hearing it shatter as it slides across the distance.

So many games/movies/TV out there – I love it when the line between sound and music are cleverly blurred. For example, in the movie Hanna underground fight scene (https://youtu.be/QWN82OqAyts?t=1m24s), the loop of the escalator forms the backing of the music track, and throughout the track, everyday sounds like the subway train forms part of the track, extending to the walk-talkie and punching in rhythm. Subtle but stuff like that is pretty cathartic for me.

3. What’s your 5 Desert Island Albums?
The Flashbulb – Soundtrack To A Vacant Life

Chance Thomas – LOTRO OST

Floating Points – Elaenia

Gareth Coker – Ori and the Blind Forest OST

Lena Raine – Celeste OST

4. Who’s one artist/musician or in your case, sound designer that you love but most people probably don’t know of?
Again, there’s really too many to list! But there’s this OST which I’m surprised not many people talk about (maybe because it’s 5 years old but still..) – Remember Me OST by Olivier Deriviere (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/remember-me-feat.-philharmonia/id655683287). The insane use of filters and glitch/hard gating with live orchestra recordings really blew me away.

5. What’s an advice you wish someone told you when you started in the arts?
I wish someone told me this in secondary school: Don’t trivialise language and math classes just because you’re in the arts!

6. As a audio professional in the video game industry, what has been your biggest challenge in your work? How did you overcome it?
Balancing being everything = anxiety. I speak as a founder of a game audio outsource studio, also applicable to freelancers. Being competent at our craft is merely the baseline (efficiency, experimentation, mastery of tech, creativity) – we need to be also well-versed in bizdev, project management, admin, finance, networking, on top of keeping up with tech/game/game audio trends. Being a collaborator/founder would also have added mental labour of being fair, kind, just, open and inclusive.

At some point, the creator’s guilt of not spending enough time practicing your craft because you have to do all these other essential things like networking/getting gigs will start to build up into a horrible chicken and egg situation. The added complexity is that I’ll feel guilty for having all these issues when I should just be creating and not worrying.

I have not managed to overcome this. HAHA. But a huge part of me coping is accepting that this is ongoing, part of who I am and it’s not something to “solve”. My co-founders have helped me immensely in forming a safe space for me to share if we spot early warning signs of a panic attack! Also, don’t feel ashamed to delegate work and acknowledge that many things are out of your control. Seek a therapist/counsellor if you feel it’s necessary (THIS IS V. IMPORTANT)

7. How do we reach you?
Website: www.imbainteractive.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gy.guo
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gy_gwen

Thank you for your time Gwen!

Thank you for reading this week’s instalment of #AzCreativeFridays. Please do check out the past interviews (28 so far, including this one) and come back next week for the next one with jazz guitarist Sean McGowan! Stay tuned! 🙂

Read the recent [Creative Fridays] interview:
[Creative Fridays] #14 : Taylor Roberts
7-String Solo Guitarist

[Creative Fridays] #15: Dylan Lee

[Creative Fridays] #16: Scott Murphy
Saxophonist and Composer

[Creative Fridays] #17: Nisa Addina

[Creative Fridays] #18: Jake Shimabukuro
Ukulele Virtuoso

[Creative Fridays] #19: Jared Sims
Jazz Saxophonist

[Creative Fridays] #20: Gabriel Lynch

[Creative Fridays] #21: Rizal Tony
Jazz Guitarist and Educator

[Creative Fridays] #22: Raja Farouk
Multi-Instrumentalist and Sessionist

[Creative Fridays] #23: Kho Chia Wen Sharon
Sound Designer

[Creative Fridays] #24: Josh Maxey
Jazz Guitarist & Educator

[Creative Fridays] #25: Toru Watanabe
Jazz Drummer

[Creative Fridays] #26: Jordan Klemons
Jazz Guitarist & Music Educator

[Creative Fridays] #27: Armen Movsesyan
Jazz Guitarist & Music Educator

[Creative Fridays] #28: Gwen Guo
Sound Designer

Next Friday:
[Creative Fridays] #29: Sean McGowan
Jazz Guitarist
Coming up October 26 2018

[About Creative Fridays]

The original Creative Fridays was an interview series I did back in 2012. Published on my website, www.azsamad.com, it explored the musical influences of various musicians from all over the world. Relaunching this now in 2018, there are some cool add-ons. For a super obvious one, we’ve now added Spotify and YouTube links whenever possible for the Desert Island Albums list.

This to me is amazing because you can actually immediately listen to the recommended albums. Coming from a generation that used to make trips to the record store to check out new music, it still boggles my mind that we can immediately listen to the records that is recommended here. Imagine if you listened to the 5 suggested albums – how much could you learn from it?

Also, in addition to the original questions from the series, I’ve added a new question into the mix asking about the biggest challenge each individual has faced in their work. I’ve found that we all can benefit by learning from one another. Let’s share and grow together!

If you know a musician who you think could be a good fit to be featured in Creative Fridays, please contact me with your ideas. The focus is in diversity for music, cultural background, geography, age and experience. It doesn’t matter where you are around the world, if you’re a creative making interesting music on an interesting journey and have something to share, please reach out to me. Please do note, due to this being a weekly series, the interview may be featured later in the year depending scheduling.

Thank you! 🙂

[The Original Series]
Season 1: Every week for 13 weeks, published from Feb 2012 to April 2012.

[Creative Fridays] #1  : Kevin Broken Scar
(Melbourne Singer-Songwriter/Sound Engineer)

[Creative Fridays] #2  : Deborah Crooks
(SF Bay Area Singer-Songwriter)

[Creative Fridays] #3  : Dylan Kay
(UK/Auckland Jazz Guitarist)

[Creative Fridays] #4  : Azmyl Yunor
(Malaysian Singer-Songwriter/College Lecturer)

[Creative Fridays] #5  : Gustavo Assis-Brasil
(Boston Jazz Guitarist/Educator)

[Creative Fridays] #6  : TragiComedy
(Malaysian Singer-Songwriter)

[Creative Fridays] #7  : Candelaria
(Oakland Cumbia-Dub Band)

[Creative Fridays] #8  : Pete Teo
(Malaysian Singer-Songwriter/Filmmaker)

[Creative Fridays] #9  : Lori McKinney
(West Virginia Bandleader/Festival Organizer)

[Creative Fridays] #10: Helen Sherrah-Davies
(UK/Boston Violinist-Composer & Berklee faculty)

[Creative Fridays] #11: Adam Everett
(SF Bay Area Drummer-Composer)

[Creative Fridays] #12: Julian Chan
(Malaysian Jazz Saxophonist)

[Creative Fridays] #13: Sharon Chong
(Malaysian Keyboardist and Vocalist]

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