Name: Joe Basquez
Role: Music Composer at Origin Systems
Hot off composing the score for an indie film, musician Joe Basquez moved to Austin, Texas in search of his next big opportunity. While applying for jobs to keep himself afloat, he took a gig at a video game company called Origin Systems. After composing the music and sound effects for several of the company’s titles, Basquez was recruited to help with the studio’s next project… something called Ultima Online.
While it was simple for Basquez to reference something like footsteps in the real world, it turned out that Ultima Online was a land of both warriors and wizards, requiring a variety of spell sounds to be created. Since such sounds didn’t exist in real life, Basquez needed to get creative. Luckily, Basquez had cut his teeth on the Wing Commander series, though the fantasy sounds he needed were a far cry from sci-fi.
“It was quite a shift,” Basquez said. “Instead of weapons and spaceships, it was a different story that was more elemental and natural. The biggest challenge occurred with the casting of the spells. Each spell was composed of multiple elements, and we had to break down the elements, find a sound for each, and then mix all the elements together for the best impact. Getting the timing down with the CGI was cumbersome, but at the end, pleasing when you got it right.”
Basquez explained that each of the game’s early spells incorporated a different element—fire, electric charge, rotation and explosion, water, or wind—depending on the incantation’s outcome. Then, it was a matter of combining the sounds together so that the core element would be identified sonically by the player.
Shifting gears to the new compositions needed for Britannia’s then-16 different cities, Basquez sought inspiration in unusual places.
“I wrote a track based on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show called “I Am A Fine Musician,” he said. “It was the only track that I really had a plan for before I actually began the composition. When I composed it, I originally called it ‘The Farmer.’ It wound up becoming the theme for Minoc.
Read more of Joe Basquez’s story in Braving Britannia: Tales of Melancholy, Malice, and Peril in Ultima Online!