Game Sound Design

Shipped titles:

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Middle Earth: Shadow of War

Released 2017 on PS4, XB1, PC

Shadow of War was the logical continuation of our previous title. My role continued to be focused on owning most of our underlying audio systems and guide other team members throughout the project.

Here is a clip showing two of our Fort Assault missions. These were new to Shadow of War and I think are a good demonstration of our audio systems coming together.  These moments were definitely a collaboration, but I had a heavy hand in mixing and the vocal presentation components. Some cool things shown:

  • Variability in music based on orc tribes
  • Orc background chanting
  • Variability in orc voices
  • Orc “speech” delay effects when on the tower
  • Rowdy orc crowd walla to imply chaos and to amp up the initial charge into the for

Note- This is an edit of a video posted on youtube by someone else.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Released 2014 on PS4, XB1, PC

During development on Shadow of Mordor I moved into a more senior technical role. I participated heavily in the design of our Nemesis System dialogue while still tackling traditional sound design and implementation tasks.

Areas I was involved in:

  • Developing voice systems with Design and our audio programmer
  • Overseeing the implementation/tuning/processing of all dialogue
  • General audio systems design (combat, foley, occlusion/obstruction etc.)
  • Outdoor Foley recording for player movement
  • World ambience implementation
  • Submixing of my areas of ownership and final mix with the team
  • Providing constant feedback to other sound designers

Areas of focus:

Conditional Audio
I worked with our audio programmer to create a conditional audio system that would allow us to use game conditions combined in various ways to create complex behaviors. The main benefit of this system was that it was extremely flexible and easily tweaked in data without having to depend on a programmer for changes. It made iteration super efficient and ultimately put more power in our hands as sound designers. I leveraged this system to create the dialogue behaviors you will notice in some of example videos.

Nemesis Taunts
In the game when the player would meet any Nemesis Uruk he would call out and taunt the player. In designing these moments we needed the enemy to be the focal point and have unique personality. In collaboration with design, I was responsible for tuning these until we had the best dialogue playing at the best moments.

Some audio strategies we used to “feature” the Nemesis:

  • We ducked the ambient audio and added stylized SFX on the camera moves.
  • We used a specific microphone for these moments to make them stand out. We also had the actors deliver these lines differently using an “eat the mic” technique to enhance proximity effect.
  • I processed the files aggressively by adding distortion/compression/subharmonics
  • In general we kept them sounding intimate and “in your face” so they served as a break from the normal combat sound palette.
  • I added a conditional runtime “helmet” muffling effect to the voices of enemies wearing helmets.

VIDEO: Enemy Voice Montage
Here’s quick video to demonstrate some of these moments. You can hear the variety of voices and the subtle differences in their processing.



VIDEO: Enemy Helmet FX
And here’s a video showing the helmet muffling effect I mentioned above. Since these dialogue lines could be spoken by a character with or without a helmet I used a Wwise runtime convolution reverb to achieve the result. I set a simple RTPC to turn on the effect if the guy was wearing a helmet deemed muffle-worthy.



Combat/Awareness
I developed and prototyped the list of contextual combat dialogue (barks) we would need for the game. Some examples:

  • combat while alone with the player
  • combat in a group with the player
  • combat while player is up high
  • combat response to an ally getting killed
  • many many many more…

Once we settled on our initial category list I began figuring out how to implement these using our conditional audio system. The results of the prototyping informed our decisions on how many variations we needed per category as well as how many orc voices we needed overall. I was also responsible for sub mixing and tuning these within Wwise. I chose the MKH50 mic for these lines so they’d have a more raw, less “studio” feel.

VIDEO: Combat Voice System

General Combat Barks (0:00 – 0:35)
Periodic combat barks from lower-level enemies

Responses to Player Actions (0:35 – 1:35)
Demonstrates enemies responding when the player decapitates or grabs an ally.

More Reactions and Location Barks (1:35 – 2:21)
Calling after the player, responding to a grog explosion, identifying the player is above, etc.

Nemesis Captain Reactions (2:21 – 3:09)
Generally speaking I set the Nemesis captains to have a higher priority of speaking if they’re in the area. I wanted to feature these guys more since they show up less frequently. Notice he reacts to the player’s actions by scolding the surrounding Uruk.

Nemesis Captain Counters (3:09 – 3:34)

Nemesis captains general have more combat abilities and can counter certain moves that the player tries on them. In this case if you continue to attempt to jump over the Nemesis he’ll remind you that he’s immune to that attack. This is another example of something I controlled within in data in our conditional audio system.

VIDEO: Ambient Voice System

Occlusion On/Off with Wraith Vision (0:00 – 0:56)
This is just a simple demonstration of the FX we did for the ambient voice occlusion and how it reacted when the player uses wraith vision. It’s a subtle difference but you can hear the LPF turn on/off as the player switches modes.

Ambient Enemy Celebrating/Singing (0:56 – 2:25)
A this is an example of some ambience implementation I did using our Uruk songs. This was essentially “faked” to make it feel like there were Uruks inside the buildings partying and having a good time.

Guardians of Middle Earth

Released 2012 on XBLA, PSN

On Guardians I again worked on the voice systems and hook design as well as processed and implemented all of the dialogue. My other significant contributions were in mixing and reverb implementation. This was also the first project I had shipped using Wwise.The unpredictable nature of this game was a challenge. We had moments that would be almost totally silent and others that were super chaotic. In general we kept things pretty sparse when away from the action and then finely tuned falloff curves and panning to feature the sounds we wanted when things got crazy.

Here’s a couple videos that display some of the voice hooks and strategies I used to keep the voices from conflicting with each other.

Character Voice
This video shows some of the moments when character would speak. I took on tuning the priorities, cooldowns and delays so that we minimized voices clashing in a such a chaotic game. We chose to make the voices sound like they were “down there” instead of having them sound 2d/close-perspective. Our goal was to make the player feel like they were watching the battle from above while allowing the Announcer to be more omnipresent.

VIDEO:

Announcer
As with the character voices I also owned the design/processing/implementation for the Announcer voice. Through collaboration with the design team we created the list of significant moments that warranted Announcer comments. I also worked with our programmer to create the cueing system to address the issue of multiple comment-worthy events occurring close together. I used the Wwise basic auto-ducking feature to make sure the announcer was heard above all else.

VIDEO:

Gotham City Impostors

Released 2012 on XBLA, PSN

Gotham City Impostors was an online multiplayer title released in 2012. The game had a lighthearted, fun comic book feel that we supported through the audio as much as possible. I was one of the main sound designers on the project so I took on a good chunk of content creation and implementation throughout. I’ll also note that this was in our pre-Wwise days so the game used Monolith’s proprietary sound engine. Here are some videos that show more specifics of what I worked on.

Weapon – Boarding Party (Parrot Gun)

Just a quick example of one of the weapons I did for GCI. With this gun you would shoot live parrots that latch onto the faces of your enemies to impede their vision. You’ll hear reloads, fire and the yelling parrot projectile sounds.

VIDEO:

Ambience
I owned the ambience on several of the maps and pursued adding life to them since they were actually static. I added things like trains, horns, announcements, leaves rustling, various machines, cars running, crows, birds etc. In most areas there are blends of 2d ambiences with positional loops and one-shots.

VIDEO:


Announcer Voice System
Working our audio programmer and design I helped developed the Announcer callout system that notifies when game events have taken place. There was a mode where you had to pick up a battery and install it in the other teams’ propaganda machine, so we needed the announcer to notify the players as the battery was dropped, picked up etc.

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Lord of the Rings: War In The North

Released 2011 on 360, PS3, PC

I played a support role on War In The North and tackled implementation of world ambience in several of the maps. We were using a proprietary audio engine that used XACT as an interface. The video capture is in stereo but we had quad streaming content in most areas. This was also supplemented with one-shots and other positional loops scattered throughout.

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F.E.A.R. 2 – Reborn DLC

Released 2009 on 360, PS3, PC

For the Reborn DLC I was given ownership over a few of the new levels in addition to what I had covered in the main game. This video shows one of the levels where the player is navigating inside a toppled building. I added metal stress, crashes, alarms, and people screaming to enhance the uneasiness of the scene.

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F.E.A.R. 2

Released 2009 on 360, PS3, PC

F.E.A.R. 2 was my first title as a sound designers. I ended up doing a little bit of everything on the game. Mostly notably:

  • All voice processing and editing
  • Several enemy/creature sounds
  • Powered armor sounds
  • Ambience
  • Character Foley movement

Here is a short video showing a few specific things I worked on.

VIDEO:

Voice Processing (0:00 – 0:27)
Radio voice FX processing.

Abomination (0:27 – 1:45)
General creature sounds. Vocals, breathing and pitter-patter slapping movements.

Powered Armor and Elite Powered Armor (1:45 – 3:18)
Movement sounds.