Welcome!

Jake Kaufman is a composer and sound designer in Los Angeles, with a truly heartfelt connection to game music. His versatility, charismatic style, and devoted following make him an essential part of any development team — large or small, epic or fluffy — who want to stand out from the crowd.

Click the navigation dots below for a quick overview, or feel free to explore.

Experience

As a freelancer and an in-house studio employee, Jake has held positions ranging from sound designer to audio director, and worked on over 50 games in his 10 year career. All this before age 30!

Meet Jake

Dynamic Music

Jake’s overall sound is generally “big”, with many layers of intricate harmonies. Continuing the traditions of his own favorite composers, even his underscore is filled with detail. For Red Faction Guerrilla (pictured), he joined forces with a team of composers to write 3 hours of huge and contrasting music, which changes in intensity as the player explores the barren landscape and gets into trouble.

The Composer with a Thousand Voices

Big band, Gypsy Jazz, Surf Rock, 50s Sci-fi, Disco, Bhangra, Mambo, Zydeco, Southern Hip Hop – Jake is able to take the integral harmonies and rhythms of a particular style of music and write strictly within them, or even combine them (often in hilarious or mind-bending ways!)

Sound Reasoning

Jake loves creating sound effects, designing atmospheric audio, and field recording new sounds, from footsteps to airplanes. Jake has created thousands of sound effects over the years, from alien blasters to cat warriors, from scripted noises on a Game Boy to cinematic foley for AAA titles.

Not just a rock star

Jake is himself a hobbyist game programmer, 3D animator, level designer, and visual effects enthusiast. This gives him the unusual ability to communicate with programmers and artists as easily as with other audio people.

For example, click the image to see a video he created to promote his recent soundtrack to IGN’s DS
Game of the Year, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge.

All true warriors

Anyone in the game industry knows that the best-planned project is still a minefield of stress. Jake’s professionalism is tempered by humor, a deep respect for Murphy’s Law, and above all, empathy for fellow developers.

When inspiration strikes and time allows, Jake will stay up way past his bedtime, making great stuff for your dev team to enjoy. Click the image to see an example.

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Latest news

It’s May already?!

(EDIT: Yes, I know it’s actually June. I started writing this a month ago, got sidetracked, and thought the title would be funny to use now.)

Okay, okay, okay. I’ve been putting off updating, because:

- I packed my house up in the last week of December, became temporarily homeless, flew out to MAGFest, flew back to Illinois, drove out to California, and reported to work 42 hours after taking the keys to my apartment.

- At WayForward, since January I have:

  • • Handled sound and music on four separate games, including this and this.
  • • Written 89 songs
  • • Designed 2,178 sound effects
  • • Programmed 4 tools ranging from command-line data prep utilities to a graphical patch editor
  • • Written specs for and overseen the implementation of:
    • - a reactive music system
    • - a scripted sound effect system
    • - an ambient sound region system
  • • Drafted out QA testing documentation, so testers will know how to verify that all the stuff above is working.
  • • Played through all Mega Man games from 1 up to X8 (Even terrible ones and spinoffs) during our month-long “Mega May” event. We held separate Robot Master and Maverick Boss design contests, and I drew 15 of them with crayons and colored pencils. Scans forthcoming. Also, one night at 2 AM, we deliriously (and deliciously) noticed that a certain silo near Dr. Wily’s castle in MM6 resembled a baguette. So I made this, which now adorns the fridge in our break room.

- At home (on weeknights and weekends) I have:

  • • Worked on official synthesizer demo tracks
  • • Worked on preset data and voice banks
  • • Written soundtracks for four Flash / cellphone games
  • • Contributed a track to a large console game
  • • Developed a duodenal ulcer
  • • Seen very little of LA, not hung out with friends, wife, or dog.

Now, finally, the reason you’re here — MUSIC!

- Donkey Kong Country 2: Serious Monkey Business
(one of the best game remix albums ever, and not just because I’m on it)

- Mario Paint: Que Rico el Mono
(my entry for the Magfest Dwelling of Duels contest, won 2nd place)

- MC Nachbar: Rock Band
(alternate entry for the Magfest Dwelling of Duels contest — Warning: NSFW, extremely profane lyrics)

- Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’ Loaded
(one of the best game remix albums ever, and not just because they’re arrangements of my music, done by some of the most amazing musicians in the scene, including none other than noted Greek bastard Snappleman and noted pretty-boy Prince of Darkness)

Doctor Who Theme arranged for Nintendo DS
(The unquestionably superior 10th Doctor theme [I don't care about your opinion on this matter] arranged with the same samples I used in Contra 4, using 156 kilobytes of waveform data, recorded from the hardware)

Time to stop slacking and get back to work!

Autumntunes, and Interviews

Two items:

1) My friend C-Jeff, a crazy talented chiptuner, runs a label called Ubiktune which has rocked the chiptune world, with its incredible quarterly seasonal albums, featuring some of the best and brightest in the scene, like Malmen, Lunar, Shnabubula, and Coda. The latest release is Autumntunes, which would be one of my favorite releases of the year even if I hadn’t contributed a track to it.

I wrote a J-rock-ish song about an ancient Japanese Buddhist monk who sojourned in China, following his writings about traveling the autumn months, armed with a chaingun and targeting computer. Features simulations of such instruments as the chinese Erhu violin, the Yangqin hammered dulcimer, and the shakuhachi, a legendary Japanese bamboo flute favored by the Fuke Zen school, and later by Peter Gabriel and that one Revlon commercial.

2) They interviewed me over at Original Sound Version for Red Faction: Guerrilla. Sorry if none of it makes sense, I was pretty amped at the time.

WESSIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE

Oops, cat’s out of the bag. I was hoping to delay the announcement until Magfest, but I was probably dumb to expect that.

So: I’m relocating to northern LA at the beginning of January.

Wayforward Technologies, my favorite game developer and longtime client, has enjoyed great success lately, and they have enough going on to keep an audio guy busy year-round. So I’ve made the utterly nerve-wracking choice to leave Volition, despite the incredibly good time I’ve had there, and be that audio guy.

So.. at Magfest 2010, I intend to celebrate with whichever of you foolios can make the trip out there.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Starting December 18, I’m back in the freelance business too. Street team, start your engines — it’s open season. I”m especially angling for iPhone and Flash games I can take on in my spare time, but I’m going to shoot for everything from handhelds to feature films — I want to make music and/or sounds for anything I can, and keep meeting brilliant people who love what they do.

The RFG reviews are in!

A familiar saying among audio people is that “the best soundtrack is the one you don’t notice”. Reviewers and critics are in the business of noticing things, but even the largest review sites often decline to mention audio at all, while writing at length about texture maps and character models. I guess that means we’re doing our jobs like a flock of ninja!

Other reviewers, however, think audio is as worthy of critique as any other aspect of a game’s presentation and style — whether or not it stands out on its own, or involves unusual hype or big names. My rainbow hat goes off to them! Here is a sampling of what they have said about Red Faction Guerrilla:

“…the various explosions, gunfire, building collapses, and other sound effects are uniformly impressive. The solid “thunk” you’ll hear every time you use your sledgehammer is especially satisfying.” –Gamespot.com

“…The audio quality is likewise just as wonderful in that the sound effects are full and rich. The weapon sounds are accurate and that naturally makes for better game play. The music really adds a great dimension to the game.” –GameSHOUT.com

“…the weapons look the part and sound authentic, and the quaking of toppling towers and the thunder of explosions have real weight to them. Throw in some excellent music that genuinely adds tension and substance without overpowering the action..” AceGamez.co.uk

“Some serviceable music tracks and sound effects.” –IGN. Oh, IGN. :))) But hey, that’s 7 more words than sound got from Kotaku or 1up, and Destructoid used the word “sounds” twice as a synonym of “seems” without ever talking about audio. Come on, guys, seriously?

“Forget vengeance. Forget liberty. The cheesy action movie story is background noise to the sound of 12 bombs crippling a skyscraper, tires tearing across a craggy Mars, and a sledgehammer smashing the skull of EDF infantry. Good times.” –Gameshark

“Almost as good as the graphics is the professional voice acting and brilliant soundtrack that just adds to the atmosphere of the title. The sound effects truly RUMBLE through a surround sound system and sometimes you need to play this game loud.” –ImpulseGamer.com

“Lets start out with the cons…or con of this game. I couldn’t wrap my mind around any problems beside the music, which is annoying. After you simply turn off the music, the game doesn’t really have any problems at all.” –Gamer-pulse.com

“The sound effects are decent but not extremely remarkable and the music is absolutely top notch. Yes, out of all the noise, booms and bangs the game offers, the most aurally pleasant aspect is the symphonic yet futuristic music that surrounds and adjusts to whatever may be happening at that given moment. They are definitely the kind of tunes you will find yourself humming after shutting off the game for the night.” — Game-Over.com

“com agrado que se ouve por vezes uma música de fundo orquestral que tanto prazer voz irá dar. Não opta por OST com músicas a passar na rádio mas sim por uma abordagem mais clássica.” –Eurogamer.pt

“I wouldn’t mind a stand-alone soundtrack of this game, the music is excellent and the composer has done a top job of capturing each musical theme for the various sectors. The music is dynamic so it shifts to match what’s going on and can serve as an audio cue for impending doom.” –GamesXtreme.com

“Sound: 10.0. Stunningly great music, crystal clear sound effects (though they need a little tweaking to not have the music drown out some radio chatter) and wonderful voice acting. This is treat for your sound system.” –TotalPlaystation.com

If you’ve gotten this far and are wishing you could post reviews like this about something you worked on.. Well, come work across the hall from me! I have a never-ending bowl of jellybeans, pixel art posters with carefully hidden naked girls, and something like 825 terabytes of sound libraries.

Magnetis

My friend Romain “Nino” Gauthier was the Audio Supervisor while I worked at Gameloft. He is one of the most passionate game makers I know, and has the sort of talent which attracts other talented people to work with him. Makes sense, then, that he started his own game development studio and is making a game involving magnetism!

Paris-based Yullaby has been climbing the ranks since 2006, and they are very close to releasing an awesome-looking puzzle game on WiiWare called Magnetis. It has a really cool mechanic and an incredible soundtrack by Nino himself. Check it out:

http://wiiware.nintendolife.com/news/2009/06/magnetis_wiiware_trailer

Support startup developers! Keep an eye out, or check back here often; I’ll announce as soon as it’s through Nintendo approval and released to the public.

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