Leave Luck to Being Rescued – Aristotel Digenis

Aristotel Digenis
Lead Audio Programmer
FreeStyle Games

Notable games Aristotel has been involved with:
The audio tech behind GRiD, DiRT 2, DiRT 3, DiRT Showdown, F1 2010, F1 2011, and F1 Race Stars

Brad: Thank you for being part of the first “Leave luck to being rescued” interview. I first met you back while I was still studying at University when I attended a guest lecture you were giving at York University. We then became friends almost 5 years back when you were still working at Codemasters so I already have a pretty good idea about the games you are going to select. Before we get onto your choices can you give a brief overview of your career so far?

Aristotel: As a teenager I was a DJ (back when one didn’t rely on BPM counters) and upon finishing high-school went on to study Audio Engineering. During my degree I got interested in spatial audio but soon realised there wasn’t any software to do the things I wanted to do. I wrongly assumed I could just “learn” to code and develop the software myself and make that my final project. I soon came to my senses and changed the focus of my final project to something non-software related.

However I didn’t give up on the software, as I went on to study towards a Masters degree in Software Engineering. This time I did pull off an audio related project, but my studies didn’t stop there. Having decided not to pursue a PhD in spatial audio (finally) I instead did another Masters degree in Music Technology, bringing together my audio and software engineering skills.

As part of my first job (Clearec), I worked on the audio software that was bundled with the Nero CD/DVD burning software, including a wave editor by the awesome name of ‘WaveEditor’ and a DJ program by the name of ‘ScratchBox’. Given my background with Djing, that was a pretty cool project.

I later joined a firm (Sonaptic) that developed audio tech for third party consumer electronics. The tech included psychoacoustic bass enhancement for flat screen televisions and portable speakers, noise cancelling headphones, and various DSP effects. The firm also developed the 3D audio engine for Sony that is now in every PSP (PlayStation Portable). However the most exciting tech developed was surround sound for mobile phones, without the use of headphones. Think of it as the audio equivalent to stereoscopic displays (without glasses – like the Nintendo 3DS), only several years earlier. It was integrated in many Japanese handsets, but never took off in the West.

Next stop was a large video game developer (Codemasters) in England where I joined the Central Tech Audio group as an Experience Audio Programmer. I worked on the audio systems that several game teams used to develop their games. Alongside the development of the tech, there was plenty of supporting game teams and sound designer. After a while I landed the role of Senior Audio Programmer as well as getting to lead the audio tech group. Over the next few years we developed some great in house tech, both tools and runtime. The group grew some more, to cover other non-audio runtime disciplines such as networking, animation, and core systems like IO, memory, and controller input.

Recently I moved to another game developer (FreeStyleGames) as the Lead Audio Programmer. While I cannot say what I am working on, the company has a history of making music games such as DJ Hero, DJ Hero 2, SingParty, and DLC for GuitarHero. The emphasis on audio in the firm is clearly great which makes it an exciting challenge. With the DJ Hero franchise there is yet another link to my DJing past.

Brad: Ok, so FreeStyles Games have decided to send you on a bit of a trip and you find yourself on a plane to attend this year’s E3. Unfortunately you end up in a horrific accident but manage to use your games background to think fast. In true Just Cause style you fashion a parachute out of materials on the plane, luckily enough the cargo hold also has a seemingly endless supply of games both old and new (how convenient)! As you are in a hurry you only get chance to grab 5 of them, one of which can be a collector’s edition (explain why you chose this) along with one complete game soundtrack (this can be from something other than the 5 games you select). Now after that very believable scenario suspend your belief for a moment and imagine that you manage to land on an island and stumble across consoles, TVs and a power supply. What 5 games did you grab and why?

Aristotel: Can I choose digital games, such as PSN games?

Brad: Yes

Aristotel: How do I play them? There won’t be any power supply.

Brad: For the purposes of this exercise let’s pretend power isn’t an issue!

Aristotel: Will there be a sub there?

Brad: Er… will that make a difference to what games you select?

Aristotel: No but I want to know if I will have surround sound and a decent TV.

Brad: Ok, you can have a 7.1 system if you want.

Aristotel: Ok, I’ll have a think about it.

1) Super Stardust Delta

Endless fun… can keep on playing this over and over to get new scores

2) PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe

Same as above

3) Battlefield 3

(after 20 patches to sort all the bugs) – amazing multiplayer… when it works

4) Killzone 3

Good campaign and online, especially with the PS Move! Kill the ISA dogs! I suppose I would take the Helghast Edition of Killzone 3 so that I can have the almost life size head to stare at during make-believe conversations… like Tom Hanks did in cast away with the volleyball.

5) GTA 4

So I can dress as a woman, pick up a bike and pick up ‘issueskid’ (referring to me) on our way to a drive-by-shooting (online)

Soundtrack – Uncharted 2 (Greg Edmonson)

Brad: Finally a few months later a ship turns up to rescue you, unfortunately it capsizes and a wave rushes to shore. In the hurry to rescue your games you only manage to grab one of them. Which game did you save?

Aristotel: Super Stardust Delta!

Brad: Wicked, that is awesome. Did you like your plane accident scenario?

Aristotel: Yeah the plane scenario was awesome… realistic and all. I asked April (Aristotel’s wife) what games she would take and she asked “would I have access to broadband on this island? Cause I would need it if I chose multi-player games…” 

Brad: No, I reckon broadband is out of the question, otherwise you might be able to call for rescue.

Aristotel: If broadband is out of the question then I have to remove Killzone 3, Battlefield 3, and GTA 4!

Brad: Ok, well you get broadband but no headset and you are banned from using the video / voice or message features on the PlayStation XMB. I will not let you communicate with the outside world!

Aristotel: No problem!

About the choices

Super Stardust Delta

Developer – Housemarque
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform – PlayStation Vita
Release (EU) – 22nd February 2012

PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe

Developer – Q-Games
Publisher (PAL) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform – PSP
Release (EU) – 6th December 2007 (original version)

Battlefield 3

Developer – DICE
Publisher – EA
Platform – PlayStation 3
Release (EU) – 28th October 2011

Killzone 3

Developer – Guerrilla Games
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform – PlayStation 3
Release (EU) – 25th February 2011

Grand Theft Auto IV

Developer – Rockstar North
Publisher – Rockstar Games
Platform – PlayStation 3
Release (EU) – 29th April 2008

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