We're happy to introduce Michael, who's been a member of our sound design team for over a year and recently became a supporting composer for Path of Exile! We took a moment to interview Michael about his music background and new role at Grinding Gear Games.

Hi Michael! Thanks for participating in the interview! Could you please introduce yourself?

Hey, I’m Michael and I’ve been in the audio team for around a year and a half now! I started in sound design just before Ultimatum, and began the switch to music a little after Archnemesis. I have a little over 3000 hours in PoE, and have played on and off since beta.

What is your musical background?

I’ve been playing music since I was about 9 years old. At school I was classically trained in Piano, Guitar and Voice. I studied Composition at University for a couple of years, but didn’t really enjoy the Classical degree so I moved on to the popular music degree where I learned about working in a studio environment, and how to use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) which gave me the tools to work in a modern composers workflow.

How long have you been creating music for? Did you always want to be a composer?

The idea of being a composer had been in my head since I was about 10, but I didn’t really start seriously writing my own music till I was about 15. At some point I had a falling out with my Piano teacher so I wrote a piece of music instead of preparing for my exams. That piece evolved into a three part sonata, and ended up winning me a few awards. I think that gave me the confidence to start pursuing writing instead of just performing music, so after that I spent more time writing than just about anything else, which annoyed my teachers… I can’t even remember how many times I was asked what my ‘real’ job would be. But it all worked out in the end I guess!

Have you created music for other video games?

I had tried a few times to get some writing gigs for games, but it can be pretty tough to connect and get a chance with studio’s or indie developers without ‘experience’. Most of my previous work has been for TV and Film, or producing music for various NZ artists. I did manage to pick up a job for an in development MMO just before Covid, but unfortunately that got shut down during the extended lockdowns.

How did you end up working at Grinding Gear Games?

I’d applied for a job in sound design a few times and had almost given up on trying, but right after covid it popped up again so I messaged the audio team lead directly and ended up getting an interview.

Fast forward 9 months, Kamil had seen that I use a lot of the same tools as he does for my own work and with things picking up speed on PoE2, it was getting a bit tough to keep up with writing for marketing material and the live game on top of scoring a whole new one, so he gave me a few art tests to see if I might be a fit for the music and eventually agreed to take me on as a supporting composer.

Can you describe the process of becoming familiar with your role here? Are there any guidelines for Path of Exile music that you need to follow in order to fit the composition into the game world?

Besides getting some fancy new equipment, I’d already been working with the audio team for a while so It’s really more of the same, just with a bit of an extended timeline. The main differences are probably that you have to get as much info out of the writing team and directors as early as possible so you can start to build references and plan out core instruments for the pieces of music ahead of time which can help kickstart the creative process.

For guidelines, it’s similar to most other types of scoring. The best music is the music you don’t realise is there until it’s gone. It’s not really about taking centre stage, but enhancing what you’re seeing on screen.

Other than that, it’s making sure the mixing and general feel of the orchestration and arrangements are in line with Kamil’s work cause I don’t think a JRPG style emotional piano piece would quite fit as you’re tossing fireballs at some primordial old gods.

You're currently working on a soundtrack for the upcoming 3.19 expansion. Would you be able to give us an overview of this process?

Since it’s my first expansion as a composer it’s been a chance to follow the progress of the league right from the initial concepts. It mostly starts with private messaging people every couple days on discord until there’s some more concrete themes, or art concepts that can influence where I might start with the piece of music.

The first step would ideally be to come up with a theme for the league which can then be developed into in-game music, then something for the teasers and trailers. I kind of made my way there in a more roundabout way than I might in the future, but I got there in the end!

After you have the theme, you can start with the most epic moment in the piece and then work backwards to create small chunks of music that can be dynamically changed based on what is happening on the screen. For example, seamlessly going from overworld music, to boss music and back. Or varying intensities of music in that boss fight based on boss health or mechanics.

What hobbies or interests do you have outside of creating music?

Well, gaming of course! But other than that.. Mostly watching films, binge watching anime here and there, and going to the gym.

Who are your favourite composers?

I never know how to answer this question so I’ll just name the first big ones which were Beethoven and Nobuo Uematsu. I played a lot of their music on the piano while growing up which in turn influenced my beginnings in composing my own music.

What inspires you?

Fame, crippling self doubt, and the fear of death.

Are there any particular instruments you most enjoy composing for?

Piano mostly, just cause it’s my original instrument. Which is funny, cause I almost never write on it anymore… Other than that would be string arrangements.

Thanks for the interview! We can't wait to enjoy Michael's soundtrack in the upcoming 3.19 expansion very soon!
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Grinding Gear Games
Neat interview.

Could be looking too much into this but since we have Michael talking about working on a soundtrack for 3.19, and we are mostly used to Kamil, I wonder if when they said 3.19 was larger in scope(compared to Sentinel) if it is something akin to heist/delve in size.
Last edited by sumfight on Jul 27, 2022, 6:09:11 PM
Last edited by ldrufio on Jul 27, 2022, 6:07:13 PM
What inspires you?

Fame, crippling self doubt, and the fear of death.

We stan a relatable queen
Is it possible to get piano renditions of Lol Poe sounds? Mainly skill gems. I know this is a lot for ask for.

Also hi Micheal. Nice to meet you.
Last edited by aneruok1 on Jul 27, 2022, 6:26:44 PM
"I don’t think a JRPG style emotional piano piece would quite fit as you’re tossing fireballs at some primordial old gods."

I now want this to be a thing. You develop rapport with some great old one, but deep inside them is some key that you require to gain access to the True Threat that must be stopped at all costs. What follows is the most tragic of boss battles...
Our glorious leader 👑 Can do no wrong ❌ If I'm in camp 🏕️ Then I've been bad 😰
sumfight wrote:

Could be looking too much into this

You think? Lol
"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
- Abraham Lincoln
Last edited by DarthSki44 on Jul 27, 2022, 7:24:37 PM
I love music and voice acting in PoE. Im glad that he familiar with the game! 3000 hours is quite alot. Did he got mirror?
Its honor to work with Kamil. Good luck, Michael, with your Path of composer, waiting to hear your music in 3.19.

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