Audio and Music in Godus
We're very close but sadly these last few minutes are the most intense part of the roller coaster yet.
These last few weeks we have been contacted by a multitude of composers and musicians who wish to contribute to GODUS. This is amazing and we are extremely honoured by the support shown by musicians around the world. One particular person we want to call out is Harry Waters, known for playing in The Harry Waters Band and Pink Floyd amongst many others. In fact, several of the more mature veterans at 22cans have a soft spot for Roger Waters (Harry's father), who was a founding member of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd, serving as bassist and co-lead vocalist. We will be exploring how we can collaborate with Harry on the soundtrack for GODUS, it could be in the form of a bonus track on the soundtrack or it could be something else - regardless it's exciting to see so many creative people wanting to contribute. So we're a happy bunch. You can find out more on this website; http://www.harrywaters.co.uk.
Now let's hear from our in-house sound designer Jack Attridge;
With sound we have the power to really support an experience and to immerse an audience. Because the audience doesn't consciously notice the sound when playing a game or watching a film, a lot of opportunities arise where sound can really steer someone's emotions. I noticed this when I was young and playing Doom on the original PlayStation. It was virtually the same game as the Windows version, but the soundscape was entirely different. The PlayStation version was darker, more of a horror, and higher quality. The Windows version had a heavy metal vibe almost. With the soundtracks being the only main differentiating factor, I would play the games in two entirely different ways. That is the power of sound design.
With GODUS, getting the tone right can be very delicate. When you consider the concept art and the early prototype it can be very tempting to reinforce the tone with something cartoony or bubbly. On the other hand it would be jarring to go all the way south and create a very grim soundscape that takes the power of gods and air of biblical times very seriously. Unsurprisingly, it is finding a middle ground. By not going too expressive with sounds, and knowing when to move between light-hearted, and serious moods without too much of a dramatic and distracting change, the audio can play nicely against the visual style.
In terms of aesthetic sensibility, it requires some maturity to say "No, we're not going to do some wacky new-wave audio style to stand out from the crowd", because as tempting as it is to do something really outside of the box, if it doesn't support the experience, it's worthless. It may seem like an obvious choice on the other hand to cite something like Lord of the Rings for a fitting soundscape. If you consider the tone of the film during the Shire, it's very humble and light-hearted. As the film progresses into fear of peril however, the tone is much more serious, but not in a way that feels alien to the world of the film. That kind of diversity is what we're going for.
When it comes to your followers who walk around in your worlds in the (currently) thousands, they don't have a huge amount as visual detail and their character comes through in them united as a civilization. Using audio I have the opportunity of giving them more personality on an individual level. As you move your gaze across the world you may just catch the odd mutter of a follower here and there, and before long you will start to hear the nattering of a whole community of believers. Through their vocalisations I hope to inject tons of characterisation into each of them, so that you can really grow a connection to them. As a game designer and sound designer, with the amount of time you spend nurturing the growth of your following I don't necessarily want their deaths to be seen as cannon fodder. Despite the number of followers, I really want to aim for the loss of each follower to be an event, and for this to take it's toll when battles are concerned, let alone a humble elderly fellow in your home-land who has built many homes and had many children before knocking on god's door. A voice can go a long way to support this. I hope to get some dialogue in the prototype when we release it to you guys, so you can get a vibe for the personalities.
Perspective is something that audio will explore and reinforce quite dramatically. As a god you will be moving the camera not just across the landscape but further and closer away from it: One moment you can be up in the clouds, and another moment getting up close to see a couple of followers building a house. So when this perspective changes we want the audio to emphasise the scale: When I'm higher up from the ground I want to hear echoes of voices through the valleys, and when I'm closer and want to hear a followers footsteps. As I move across the landscape I only want to hear what is important to me at that time. So making sure I am only hearing the clear details of what I am looking at allows me to digest what I am looking at, and then hearing the distant actions what is off-screen.
We've stated that the single player experience of tending to your home-land is one that is therapeutic and of a gentle pace. In contrast to this, multiplayer battles start out calm, grow towards tension, and then scale up to epic, apocalyptic conflicts. This diversity adds variety in gameplay, and the juxtaposition of these different emotional states reinforce each other. To reflect this with the audio, there will be big changes musically to convey mood and drama, but the other audio elements during these phases will also support this. Followers aren't going to sound merry if battle is looming, and outright scared in the middle of a fight. You may hear some sheep in a field during the peaceful times, but when there are more pressing matters, sounds like this would make light of the serious tone. The mix of the game will adapt to sculpt a soundscape that reinforces the narrative in your game world at any time.
How about giving tactile feedback? As you are able to incrementally change the shape of land and the use of god miracles by changing the sensitivity with which you move your mouse or your touch, We can use sound to really give a constant feeling of feedback. As you start to stretch out land, we can use a variety of sound textures from rock sliding to grass flattening and mix them together as you change the velocity of your movement, and then these sounds can change in pitch as you alternate speed also to give an immersive effect. As you start to swirl up a hurricane you will hear it form as progressively as you have cast the miracle. Sound responding to game parameters this way will help the outcome of your input seem as organic as possible.
Before I was a game designer I entered the industry as a sound designer. Reason being I originally took a film degree with the hope of becoming a game designer as I felt there were unique storytelling tools that I could translate into the medium I was most passionate about: video games. The concept of sound design was very appealing to me, and i've found it very rewarding to design with sound in mind. Good players of competitive games will often rely on sound more than they realise for strategic information, and so the more this is taken into account when designing the game, the better. There is a strong assumption that one shouldn't rely on sound to convey a game mechanic because it is common to play games with the sound off, and whilst this is a good rule to go by, I feel as long as we treat sound as secondary gameplay feedback, the longer it will be perceived as a non-integral part of the experience. Take all of this with a pinch of salt naturally, but in my view, sound is 50% of the experience, and if you wouldn't watch a film on mute, why would you play a game this way? I think all games deserve your undivided attention.
I really look forward to being able to take you guys along with me as the audio develops for the game. I love what we are doing with Kickstarter, and that we could potentially offer the most honest insight into game development there has ever been publicly. When you finally get to play GODUS however, just enjoy the experience, and hopefully you'll never think about the audio once.
We are very close and remember we have acorns as add-ons, and much much more.