The narrative surrounding Marty O’Donnell’s career has been somewhat confusing in recent years. The man responsible for creating the awe-inspiring soundtracks of our favorite games has gone from putting the final touches on Destiny’s score, to a heated legal battle (which he won).
Now Marty is composing & directing the audio vision at Highwire Games, a smaller studio, working to make Virtual Reality the future of gaming.
Marty, accompanied by Ex-Bungie Dev Jaime Griesemer, sat down with Playboy Magazine for a lengthy interview to talk about the challenges developers face, and the creative direction of their new game, Golem:
JAMIE: […] If you know that something’s not your thing then it’s easy to collaborate. Marty’s actually really good about taking feedback too, because he knows you can just say, no, we’re not putting a ukulele in here, or whatever. [Often] you get this whole mid-range where people are still figuring out what they’re good at, and maybe using politics or psychology to kind of get an advantage. That’s one of the big negative things that you find on a triple-A team, is people spending more time fighting for the right to decide than making good decisions.
O’Donnell goes on to recall his time at Bungie, and the point where he knew the studio was getting too large.
MARTY: I think our goal is to make a cool, well-oiled studio where we can make really good games that we like. But I guarantee you it’s not about growing. It’s about doing those things and making a decent living at it for everybody. But like, man, I am going to be really on guard when we get over a certain number of people. I still remember someplace toward the end of Halo 2, I was asked how many people work at Bungie. I named them all off, counted up to whatever was, 67 or something. I say I counted because I walked around the studio in my head and named each person at their desk. That was the last time I was able to do that.
Later in the interview, Griesemer and O’Donnell were talking about how a director can create an environment where creativity can prosper by being flexible and letting others help develop an idea, or hamper work flow by creating “bottlenecks” that keep talent in limbo due to time constraints.
MARTY: And even worse is when you’ve been backed up for a long time and you finally get up to present and they say, oh yeah, that’s not going to work. Or it goes through but is reconsidered later—like, yeah, we gotta start over from scratch on this huge thing. That’s not a good healthy way to make progress.
And I just think the bigger the project and the more people there are, the more you can’t be that kind of a leader.
This quote hits close to home for anyone that has been following Marty’s career recently. After all, it was less than 2 years ago when he was unceremoniously fired after a string of incidents, set off by the removal of O’Donnell’s score in the 2013 E3 reveal trailer for Destiny.
Activision’s decision to forego music crafted by one of the most iconic influences in gaming soundtracks still seems curious at best.
As the gaming industry continues to evolve and usher in technology that provides more immersion to players, Martin O’Donnell and his team will continue to create amazing experiences. Not only has he provided us with the sonic backdrop for some of the most iconic moments in gaming history, he has proven without a doubt that he is more than capable of adapting to anything life has to throw at him.