Willie Wilcox is the principal member of the Utopia group, and together with Todd Rundgren, he travelled through a long and windy road to Scientific Games and the casino gaming industry. Besides, this veteran songwriter and artist has worked with veritable musical artists like Ringo Starr and Mick Jagger. Also, Willies Wilcox has composed music for NBC shows and TV Channels where he covered everything from The Sci-Fi Channel to Wall Street. Besides, the artist was also the senior audio director at Bally Technologies when it was incorporated by Scientific Games, where he continued to craft his melodies.
Willie Wilcox’s Career So Far
Willie has started his musical career by performing with Daryl Hall and John Oates. He had a great time touring the Abandoned Luncheonette album with the hit “She’s Gone”. He and his teammates were on tour with Bee Gees, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen and Dr John. He also recorded the Hall and Oates record “War babies” where they also toured. Besides, he also created “No Goodbyes” which was released by Atlantic Records studio.
For the production of “Clam on The Half Shell” Willies has joined Bette Midler on Broadway and the Minskoff Theatre where he featured “Lionel Hampton”. At the same time, Willie was invited to join Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, which meant that he had to stop performing at Bette’s show. By rehearsing at Utopia Willie has become a full time member where he toured the world and recorded about 20 records.
During that period, he also recorded the “Bat Out of Hell” record with Meatloaf which sold 43 million copies. Willie had played on some additional recording sessions and live events with Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr and Carlos Santana. During this time, Willie had publishing deals as well as writing songs for artists like Luther Vandross, Meatloaf, The Pointer Sisters, Stacy Q, Kylie Minogue and Natalie Cole. After he toured for some years, Willie decided to move into the Television industry. Here, he built an audio production facility in Miami’s South Beach and has worked with MTV and VH1 production audio and recorded many shows for each of the networks.
After he left Miami, he moved to New York for the Sci-Fi Channel shows and several show themes for CNBC, such as “Mad Money”, “On The Money” and “The Wall Street Journal Report” which are still on air even today. After that Willie has spent three years living in Huatulco, Mexico where he learned Spanish and wrote and recorded the ring walk music for the lightweight boxing champion of the world “Manny Pacquiao” where he released the “Pack Man Punch” as a Verizon ringtone for Manny.
After the Mexican adventure, Willie has returned to the US where he started his position and gaming career as a composer and audio director in Las Vegas at Bally Technologies. He quickly realised that there was an opportunity to grow in the gaming business by bringing an entertainment audio perspective to the iGaming industry. As a senior audio director, Willie has designed and assisted at the building of 4 audio recordings that were tailored for the gaming industry. He also hired audio staff and assembled the audio department of Bally Technologies that became Scientific Games audio department.
The Role of Senior Audio Director
At Bally Technologies Willie Wilcox has designed the role of an audio director that usually Bally didn’t have the position for it. For Willies, it was a great opportunity because he was able to utilize his knowledge and experience of the music entertainment industry and apply it to the gaming industry. At first, after Willies had settled the audio team, he created the production workflow for the audio teams where he incorporated the use of proprietary audio system playback for accurate audio monitoring in the studio.
He quickly discovered that the gaming companies had not been exposed to the workflow disciplines of the pro audio and entertainment industries. He realised that this is an opportunity where he could share these concepts and proceeded to immersive himself in the workflow processes of all the gaming departments. He was fascinated on the way how the hardware, software, game development, marketing, and procurement teams functioned. And in order for him to accomplish his goal, he has to understand how the teams worked and why they worked in the ways that did.
Understanding these workflows helped Willie to collaborate more with the hardware teams where they were able to have meaningful discussions about the audio setups for the cabinet designs. Audio had to become a consideration at the beginning of a design process. He also concluded that installing a modular audio amplifier design would be the best solution for the company as well as for the player experience.
Willie’s role is mostly defined as innovate, create, and deploy. In addition, for him the player experience is like a union of the player with the game that comes with the excitement of the entertainment industry. Willies believes that the player experience should go as far as to day that it should include the online and mobile space so that the player will be unified with the cross platform game play production.
The Collaboration Process
The collaboration process between different teams can affect the outcome of the final audio brand. Typically, every department has to touch the game. That would consist in software, hardware, game development, audio, and marketing departments. The workflow works pretty much in that order.
The software department provides the operating systems, player interface and computer system protocols that operate the games. They also provide another very important part of the software development. It is considered the most important part because the software tools are sent to the game development teams. These tools are used by artists, game developers and audio teams which directly can affect the speed in which games are developed. These tools are also directly related to innovation and immersion of the player gaming experience. It is important to have the right software tools for the right audio branding.
The hardware department is responsible for the look, feel and aesthetic execution of the game. The hardware relates to the responsibility of the audio brand, because the hardware part needs to have a clear understanding of the professional audio protocols. This involved incorporating the best audio practices at the beginning of the hardware design process. It is important to know where what kind of speakers to use and pay attention to the surround speakers for mitigating the sound reflection issues. By using the correct audio amplifiers and speakers will finally turn the audio systems for optimal player experience.
The audio department has to monitor the audio while composing and mixing with in-studio speaker monitors. Audio artists need to be careful when they mix and develop audio because it will always sound great on the studio monitors, however the slots player will never listen to the game on studio monitors. They are listening to the speakers system in the slot games. Willie has developed a composing and mixing system that will allow the audio teams to compose and mix directly on the game cabinets by using the game audio speaker systems.
The marketing team involves descriptions of the product lines, game release schedules, social media posting, live event planning and company brand messaging. The gaming industry is no longer for the older generations. The industry has become a big part of the world of entertainment. Traditional game themes, software tools, audio production and marketing techniques aren’t the same as they used to be. Companies have to innovate and adapt.