If there is one of the few things we can count on life it is music. Music can soothe the soul. It can turn sad times into happy ones with just that voice, that guitar riff, and sometimes it can be just that one beat. So when I heard that we would be able to mix genres from rock to techno so that we can make our own perfect song, I really had to learn more and Tomas Sala from Little Chicken Game Company was more than happy to help out into what Track Lab is about and his thoughts about Virtual Reality.
Hello and welcome to The PlayStation Brahs. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Little Chicken Game Company?
“I’m Tomas Sala co-founder and creative director at Little Chicken Game Company. A Dutch independent game developer. My role means I oversee the design aspects and maintain vision for most of Little Chicken’s games.”
For those who may not be aware, what are some of the other games and projects that you have been a part of?
“We have existed for nearly 17 years doing a lot of local work, work for hire, porting existing games, serious games and such but 3 or 4 years ago we changed gears on our entertainment projects. We did an outrageous comic book /app crossover called SXPD way back, but more recently I think most people outside our region would know us from REKT which is a skate meets car-stunting crossover that did really well on iOS and is coming in a new version to all console platforms pretty soon.
I think more than a few gamers might know me personally from a Skyrim mod back in 2013 I made “moonpath to Elsweyr” which had a few million downloads over its life. And is still being upgraded by fans to the latest Skyrim incarnation.”
Track Lab came out not too long ago, can you give us some detail about the game and how the player would create the music?
“So Track Lab is a VR experience in which you can create music from scratch based on a very specific method. Namely a construction kit that deconstructs music as loops inside a grid that works with pulses you get to deflect, reflect split and construct as you want. Whenever a pulse hits a sample you place it plays that sample or more often a sequence. It’s a bit strange in that it doesn’t attempt to copy how regular sequencers and other DJ Gear works. It uses similar principles, which most pros will recognize, but puts them in a new way of creating music.”
Can you really go into Track Lab without any musical experience? Is the learning curve pretty simple that someone will be able to start creating music in about 5 -10 minutes?
“Well, it’s incredibly intuitive, which is what most reviewers also recognize. But it’s always going to output what someone puts in. We find that it certainly doesn’t “click ” with everyone. But if you wrap your mind around the construction part it’s astounding what’s possible. So our problem as designers is how to explain something that’s fairly off the beaten path. And hence the evolver puzzle mode, it’s only there to get your “brain” to accept our construction principles. But there is a huge gap between making cool beats and an entire song. What TrackLab is great at is taking people from never having made any music to make their very first loop. We find if people take that first step, they can then dive into the nuances and possibilities to make an actual song with multiple parts. Which is completely possible in Track Lab but does require a certain amount of actual work to do.
In that sense yes you can pick it up and have a beat in a few minutes, but it will require you to stick with it, explore what’s possible through the puzzles and examples and experiment to actually make a song.
We love that in Track Lab you create from scratch, we aren’t fooling around with pre-made loops or beats. We want you to feel like you have actually made this, not a simulation of being a musician, but actually be the musician.
The cool thing whatever you do in Track Lab it doesn’t require you to know anything about music, musical notations, DJ technology or any existing training. Just dive in and experiment.
That said, musical talent isn’t included in the box, but we believe there are a lot of people that have more musical talent than they are aware of.
And we actually made Track Lab discover and explore that talent. It wasn’t made for pro musicians but for those that love music and want to explore their talent and aptitude without needing to acquire a lot of skill.”
Are we able to share our creations with others and if so could we take someone’s creation and create off that creation?
“So we support all the native sharing features but there is no file swapping at the moment. There are multiple reasons for this, but suffice to say it’s a bit easier said than done. Its something we really want to offer, but tackling it will be something for the future. We wanted to focus on the creation tools and plenty of sound libraries for the first release.”
Virtual Reality is a new way to play and experience. Do you feel that we are at the beginning of it all?
” It’s fun to watch how the rise and fall of VR is being based on predictions and gut feelings. If we take a step back, it’s clear we are at the beginning. There is much that isn’t great yet, cables, poor tracking, and poorly designed VR interfaces.
But there is so much which is already great and bizarrely unique, and creation is perhaps the most powerful fulfillment already. Be it TrackLab, 3d modelling , painting, building all of it is mind-blowingly unique. some of these creations can only be made and enjoyed in VR.
These creative experiences are so empowering that they are easily there most original and imaginative digital content of this time.
So, in my opinion, it is through creation experiences VR will grow for a long time yet. And if it doesn’t hit that multi-million user mainstream target, who cares! as long as it keeps offering these unique and amazing experiences, especially those that just forego reality and take you to a completely new place.”
Where do you see Virtual Reality in say 5 or 10 years?
“Hmm, predictions, as a designer you are looking at what’s there, what you can work with, not necessarily what will be there in 5 years. I don’t know, but it will be pretty cool, I can tell you that.”
Knowing what you know now, what are the three tips that you would tell your younger self who was just starting out in the industry?
“Get into mobile games quicker you fool!, luckily we’re diving into VR earlier than we did with mobile.”
With the catalog of PlayStation VR games growing, what would you say to someone who was looking for that one title on why they should get Track Lab?
“We designed Track Lab to be unlike anything existing in the real world. We wanted to create something that was different and wasn’t a recreation of reality inside VR. It truly doesn’t require you to know or understand anything about music or electronic music technology. We created it to be a different type of creation experience, one in which you experiment and play, and create beats and music simply by picking up a sound and building with it. It doesn’t force you to recreate or follow a path, you are free just to build and add until something that pleases you is born.
And yes the more you use it, the better you will become at making music with it. We see a lot of responses where reviewers are expecting a certain type of music creation experience, something that’s grounded in convention and similar to what’s already out there, and they find it to be very very different from what they expected.
I like that, that it’s not beholden to anything out there, it is its own thing, new and original and if you like that as well, then it’s probably something you’ll enjoy.”
I really want to thank Tomas Sala for taking the time from his busy schedule for the interview.
Track Lab is out now on PlayStation VR.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.