-Associate Producer / Sound Designer
Are you using a sound track in Trespasser?
Are you using a dynamic soundtrack like Unreal or a more traditional Redbook audio sound track like Quake 2 and what were the reasons for your decision?
Somewhere in the middle,.. more towards a traditional sense. In Trespasser, we have 30-40 tracks,. most between :40 & :90 seconds. Why? It was basically a code and storage issue. Since we’re constantly loading off the disc, you need to do some clever interleaving (though a solved problem, results do get screwy) to stream redbook. So, we basically do some deferred loading of our game audio format & it works really well.
Dynamic still seems a bit corny to me at times. It definitely has it’s place, I’m just not sold it’s in real-time, first person games. I turned it off in Unreal because it generally told me when I was out of danger… once you killed everything in a room, the music got mellow again. I like feeling as if something could still jump out and attack. It’s been around for a while and Unreal did the best job of it, but it wasn’t the right direction for Trespasser.
Still on the sound track questions, personally I find that most of the time, if I am going for a truly immersive experience, I turn off the music so as to emphasize the environmental effects. Can you briefly give the pros and cons of sound tracks as you see it?
Unquestionably a fine line. Unlike film, in a game the music either succeeds and further captures the player, or fails miserably. Very rarely do games do both well. It’s not easy though. On the surface, ambient sound seems like the easiest thing to re-produce…. and on the surface it is. When you think about it however, you’re trying to create an environmental tone that people shouldn’t hear. After being in any environment for a few minutes, the only time you notice ambient sound is when it stops. The beach is an example I’ve always used here. When you’re walking towards the ocean, you really take notice of the sound waves & swirling water produces. It’s extremely distinctive, however after a few minutes, your brain stops taking notice. Only when the repetition is seriously disturbed, does the brain wake up. I’d tell readers to try it next time they’re at the beach…. but it’s not a conscious experiment. Traditionally, I think most games screw themselves on ambient sound. Take the first Duke Nukem. It had some great environmental tone, but it would blow it with a monster sound effect that was in-your-face, when there wasn’t an enemy with 50 yards. Unreal made some improvements on most games in respect to audio, but still has noticeable problems with ambience (I didn’t care though,.. what a kick-ass game). Congo, though a poor game, did a nice job of environment tone. It all seemed a little in-your-face as well, but it was consistent. Consistently puts your conscious to sleep and sucks you in.
On music, it is always going to pull you out of the emersion to an extent, unless it’s a constant track (that bloody conscious again), but that sucks. Even the best track will annoy the hell out of you after twenty minutes. In Trespasser, we’re using music to support a particular emotion & frighten the player when it makes sense. We’re not constantly playing music, because it’s not consistent with the environment… or any environment for that matter. It’s definitely a different approach. We’ll see how people like it.
The quality of our music, is outstanding. A composer named Bill Brown (out of SounDelux) has worked some serious magic. Spielberg himself commented on how impressive this relatively unknown composer puts music together.
Speaking of environmental effects, what type of special audio effects will Trespasser utilize?
Without giving away secrets, here’s what we do:
– Play a subtle sample of environment tone (mostly air & quiet birds/insects)
– Mix a seemingly endless amount of bird vocals, changing their pitch & attenuation on the fly. Rarely will you hear the same sample, at the same volume in Trespasser.
– We also mix several pre-processed samples to give a nice Doppler every now and again. It’s sounds pretty cool.
What sound API have you chosen to support in Trespasser and why?
DirectSound. It’s really straight forward, robust & we’re half owned by Microsoft 🙂
What about software only (with respect to sound)?
Honestly, not a concern.
How did you generate the sound effects for the dinosaurs?
SounDelux Media Labs creates all the dinosaur vocals. They don’t however, rip anything off from Jurassic Park or The Lost World. They use the films as reference, and that’s about it. These guys love the challenge and have produced some killer vocals. Basically, they combine about a dozen animals (tigers, seals, dogs, penguins, yada yada), pitch ’em, compress/expand ’em, etc…
Last question related to Trespasser, and before we forget, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. What’s your favorite colour? Just kidding. 🙂 But seriously, what’s your favourite sound effect from the game?
There’s one sample of a Velociraptor growling as it stalks you that’s pretty intense. Other than that, there’s a couple bird calls that get me jazzed up (I know, I got issues).
For the last question, can you tell us anything about your plans beyond Trespasser and more specifically is continued support for 3d sound in those plans?
Can’t say much about the next game(s) we’re doing that utilize the Trespasser engine. I’m not holding back here,.. we just don’t know yet. 3D sound? Boy I think it has a bright future (equal to that of video). By next year, I don’t think you’ll be able to purchase a new PC without 3D video accelerator (as if you could today) & some audio board using an Aureole chip. A3D is absolutely great… a first class technology & company. Undoubtedly, anything we do will have 3D audio…it’s too cool not to support.
*Special thanks to Bell Brady for taking the time to give us the interview. Questions were asked by Mark Muschett.