Interviews: Sling It! (Pollushot 2) creator Greg Lobanov

Greg Lobanov of Dumb and Fat Games

Douglas Laustsen and I recently assembled and arranged the music for the game Sling-It! (Pollushot 2) by Greg Lobanov.  For more information about the game, you can go here.  I can tell you the mechanics are awesome and it’s super addicting.  The music is nice too haha.

Anyhow, Greg had a very clear vision as to what he wanted for the game, music wise, so I asked him if I could sit down with him for an interview.  We didn’t really “sit down” I guess…. this “interview” was conducted via email earlier this week (3/11).  Enjoy!

Classical Gaming:  It must be really exciting to be a gamer who actually… well… MAKES GAMES!  What originally inspired you to pursue game development?
Greg Lobanov:  One characteristic that really separates me from people is my fascination with simple mechanics. The best example I can think of that is an anecdote my mom likes to share about me, which is that when I was very young I’d regularly come across string on the floor and busy myself with it for literally hours (made me pretty easy to take care of). Everybody on some level likes to play with things; that’s why we like games. But whatever that acumen is, I seem to possess it in a bigger than normal amount. I think that’s informed everything I’ve made, one way or another, and it made games a very natural pursuit. Telling a good story in a game has a lot to do with being able to create a fun make-believe the way kids do with their toys. And making a game that feels good and is fun to play involves tapping into that inherent “play” feeling we all have. Plus, I just love making things, and games if nothing else are wonderful as big projects which you can sink an endless amount of thought, creativity and effort into. So, yeah… I firmly believe that making games is what I was meant to do.
CG:  Obviously, and you stated this to me during the production of Sling It!, you feel that music in video games is very important.  What are some of your favorite soundtracks?  Composers?

GL:  I love video game music. I listen to it almost exclusively these days, for better or worse. When I’m talking about “favorites” in video game music I’m rarely talking about an album or a composer, but rather, specific songs. I think that’s because individual pieces are tied so closely to particular game moments, and so when considering an entire soundtrack or an artist there’s always some specific shining stars in the lineup which stand out to me rather than seeing the entire soundtrack as a single unit. That’s not to say I don’t have my favorites. I’m just saying this preface the fact that my favorite game soundtracks are naturally the same as my favorite games.
My absolute favorite soundtracks are those of Earthbound and Zelda: Wind Waker. I don’t remember particular names associated with Earthbound, but I do know it has a lot of associated musicians, and its music is I think a particularly unique expression of many different artists coming together at a moment in time. Zelda, meanwhile, has Koji Kondo. Wind Waker’s best moments didn’t all come from him, but he’s an obvious individual whose music is consistently great whenever he makes it. If I had to name a favorite video game composer I think I’d have to default it to him. But really, favorites aside, I listen to a lot of different soundtracks and composers, almost indiscriminately.

CG:  You made some very interesting choices for the music to Sling It! (Pollushot 2).  Why did you pick the music you picked?
GL:  To score the original game, Pollushot, I wanted something that would be easy to get, free to use, and sound right for the game. I quickly landed on classical music, and used a license-free version of Danse Macabre for the game, which worked surprisingly well. So it started as a choice of convenience, but I think it came to be an actually significant piece of the game’s portrait.
Coming into the sequel, I’d seen how well classical music had worked, and wanted to use it again but this time without restricting myself to free online samples. The decision to focus on Russian/Soviet composers was the result of a few different factors: I have a big heritage in Russia, and I wanted to let some of that flavor into the game. I started to see my game as a sort of loose homage to Tetris, which also used Russian classical music to great effect (including a piece from Nutcracker). And most importantly, Russian composers are just plain great! The Russian theming really helped to inform the game back, too, and helped inspire the idea of an endless pollution-induced winter as is depicted in the game, the TV broadcast-style opening, and the main character’s design. Everything just fit together very nicely.
CG:  I remember you saying that you like to listen to the music to the game while developing the game.  Can you expand on that a bit?
GL:  I think every game has a very particular internal rhythm, and feeling that rhythm while you play is an important part of what makes a good game great. As the creator trying to locate that and express it, it’s like pressing your ear to a block of marble and hearing the statue inside, waiting to be carved out. Just as the music co-inspired the game’s theming and style, it also co-inspires the game’s pacing and feeling. Constantly visualizing the game is very necessary while I work on it, to inform every detail from the size of an enemy to the animation curve of a menu button. Listening to the right music puts me in the proper headspace to do that. I generally build playlists while I’m working, not just of the game’s actual music, but of other tunes I happen to be into at the time, and I generally come to see those non-soundtrack songs as “honorary members” of the game soundtrack, too.
CG:  What’s next for you?  Any other games in development?

GL:  I hope to work a lot this year and put out many more games in the coming months. As I was finishing Sling It! I already made a lot of progress into my next game. I haven’t formally announced it yet, but it will be called “Perfection.” and it’s a tranquil, simple puzzle game in which you cut shapes to fit into outlines.

Screenshot from Perfection, coming soon!

For more information on Greg Lobanov and Dumb and Fat Games, you can check his website out here.  Special thanks to Greg for responding to my questions so eloquently, Doug for putting up with the deadlines I kept altering on the work, and Sharon Torello from LocalArtsLive for helping Doug and me connect with Greg in the first place.

About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

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