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A mature, story-driven, turn-based strategy game steeped in viking culture, by three game industry veterans.
A mature, story-driven, turn-based strategy game steeped in viking culture, by three game industry veterans.
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20,042 backers pledged $723,886 to help bring this project to life.

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The Banner Saga: Factions is live!

Posted by Stoic (Creator)

A time of reckoning is upon us. All of us at Stoic are proud to announce, after burning the midnight oil for many moons, that beta has ended for The Banner Saga: Factions and soft launch is today!

What does that mean? In industry terms, soft launch is a short period in which a game is finished and complete, but released to a limited public.

Also, it is a thank you to our generous and wonderful backers to get a head start on the release build of the game. Your progress is being saved this week and carries over for the official launch.

There are some special perks available this week only, and every backer has a special green jade stone shown on your combat emblem that is exclusive to backers and early access players that are yours forever.

From Feb 18th - Feb 24th Factions will be available exclusively to backers. The current characters, stats and rankings have been wiped for the last time and the game is essentially now LIVE, along with a fully functional tutorial. Later in the week we’ll be holding the first tournament exclusively for backers.

Factions will be released to the public on Feb 25th. If you’ve been waiting for beta to end before trying the game, this is your week.

With Factions’ launch, we’ve effectively worked out the thick and thin of combat and we’re soon on to travel and conversation outlined in the previous update, and thus, the single player campaign. Consider this the first major milestone on the road to success!

From all of us here at Stoic, Skal!

WANT TO GET IN FACTIONS BUT HAVEN'T YET?

If you haven't been added to Factions yet but would like to get involved, you're always welcome. Please head to our forums and create an account using the same email address as your kickstarter account. That's all you need to do, and we'll send out keys and instructions on how to get the client on a regular basis (they won't arrive instantly!)

ALSO NOTE:

Crests will be uploaded in the single player game (we may add it in Factions earlier than that, but not immediately).

Single Player Progress

Posted by Stoic (Creator)
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Hello! I’m Alex, the creative director and it’s about time we updated you on some progress. Let’s get back to what most of you are interested in: the single player saga.

With Factions wrapping up shortly we have a very confident handle on the combat. We’ve mentioned it before: combat in Factions is combat in The Banner Saga single player game. We hope that you guys like being able to jump in and try it for yourself instead of just reading about what it will be like. That system was, by far, the most complicated and risky part of the game and we’re nearly finished with it, aside from the enemy units that we haven’t released yet. That’s a great feeling.

Moving on! Game development is often thought of as one big whole- you’ve got story, level design, gameplay, art, features, dialogue, combat, so on and so forth. All of this naturally generates a series of dependencies. For example, you have to do concept art and story outlines before you can do animation and dialogue, and prototype gameplay before a final combat system. We’re well past pre-production now, and deep into the meat of production. So let’s talk about what that means.

Please keep in mind that we're basically showing everything- the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of this is polished and complete, other things are very rough and some might even look amateurish. Rest assured the final product will be as polished as Factions is now. It's all part of the process.

From a top-down view, we have three key systems that interact with each other to create the core experience of the game: travel, conversation and combat. We’ve talked a lot about combat, but what about conversation, travel and the branching storyline that ties everything together?

Travel
Playing through the game means transitioning between all of these systems. Traveling across the land happens in two ways: you’ll shift between a world map and side-scrolling travel with an emphasis on your caravan, the people following you. Some of the following images are pulled directly from our high-level design docs; quick sketches used when proving out the ideas. They clearly don’t represent final art!

Lots of games have world maps that let you roam a continent, discovering locations and giving the sense of a larger world. We wanted to capture that feeling, but with the sense of urgency and hardship that comes with thousands of people marching across a huge landscape. In The Banner Saga you don’t have the luxury of mucking around. Time plays an integral factor, and traveling plays a huge part in the decisions you make.

With that in mind, you’ll have a specific goal as part of the story, and the world map is where you’ll plot a course toward that goal and make high-level decisions. Deciding which towns and territory to pass though and whether to make a straight shot for your destination or a safer, more roundabout route will have a huge effect on the events that occur along the way. You carry news with you that others have not heard, and how you use that knowledge also impacts the story. In addition, the world is not an unoccupied land mass peppered with friendly villages. There are contested territories and different factions who have different opinions of each other. Negotiating these problems is part of travel.

At key points along the path events will occur that are out of your control and have world-wide effects. How you react to them, and the path you forge in response, are part of your story.

When major events happen, or you’ve taken an action like setting up camp or entering a town or city, the world map transition into the side-scrolling mode shown in the trailer, called exploration. This is a big part of gameplay! Here you can see the size and mood of your caravan, how many people are traveling with you, and get a better view of the world around you. Exploration will introduce you to the stark beauty of the world around you, and better immerse you in the environment.

In exploration, you’ll be able to interact directly with your camp or a city to talk with characters in your caravan, enter buildings if you’re in a city, rest for specific amounts of time and adjust how you’re traveling. The city in Factions is a working example of how exploration will work.

The decisions you make along the way have an effect on how you are traveling. Your speed is a combination of factors, and you’ll need to manage the caravan’s endurance, morale, size and supplies to stay out of trouble.

Endurance inevitably decreases as you travel. The only way to restore it is to rest, but that costs time. Morale comes and goes based on your actions, how successful you are in combat, and how much the caravan agrees with your actions. Mobility is dictated entirely by the size of your caravan - the fewer people are traveling with you, the faster you can go. Of course, this also means the fewer people that may survive. Lastly, supplies amplify all of these other factors. Go too long without finding food or medicine and everything else will deteriorate quickly.

Events
This brings us to events. If you’ve ever played King of Dragon Pass, you’ll be familiar with this sort of system. As you travel, the game notices how you are doing in each of your travel stats. If you’re within a certain threshold, you may trigger an event.

Usually, events arise without warning, and are related to what is happening around you. You’ll have to react to them in the way you think best for everyone. If you’re low on supplies your caravan may try to revolt. If you’re high on morale, you may end up with a camp full of rowdy drunken revelers. However, don’t fear when an event pops up, they’re just as often positive experiences as they are negative, and may be crucial in keeping your caravan healthy and happy.

Even more importantly, don’t think that events are one-time deals. The decision you make this time may cause a new event to arise later. Just because you’ve resolved a problem for now doesn’t mean it won’t come back to haunt you further down the road. Events can be related to the area you’re traveling in, the decisions you’ve made in the past, the state of your caravan or pre-determined events along the way, and can affect everything from your caravan’s stats to which characters in your party live or die.

We’ve now written dozens of events, some of which can be several parts long. Multiple playthroughs can feel wildly different.

Events, however, are just the tip of the backdrop to a broader story.

A quick note, you may have noticed that our design documents are being housed in google docs. Stuff like this is not uncommon for game studios - google is the easiest way to create cloud-saved documents and spreadsheets that can be easily shared and edited with other developers across the world and easily converted into pdf files. Not many better options on the market.

Conversation
The main focus of the game has always been a deep and personal story. The things that are happening in the world may be out of your control, but you always have a choice in how you react to them, and the main way you do this is through dialogue.

Traveling and events feed back into conversation. At key events and in camp, you’ll talk to characters in a more personal point of view. Instead of describing what has happened in narration like an event, conversations become closer and more personal. The Banner Saga is primarily a dialogue-driven story.

Coming from a history with BioWare, we’ve familiar with how to create branching story. Where we differ is in the idea that every line needs to be something that the player has chosen. Instead, we provide a choice of what to say when there is an important decision to make, instead of filling dialogue with false choices that loop back to the same place and have no bearing on the conversation.

The conversation toolset has been detailed out in the design doc and allows us a range of options to create fairly dynamic-looking conversations that give a personal touch to what is usually dry text. The animated portraits you see in the proving grounds are part of this system! As we’ve mentioned before, we’re using every part of the buffalo. Almost everything you see in Factions is content made for the single player game.

So, through conversation you’ll make key decisions that have wide-reaching implications throughout every other part of the game. You’ll decide how to handle the most important situations that arise, make decisions that may affects the caravan’s morale, size and supplies, and form a personal connection to the characters traveling in your party.

How exactly do these decisions affect the story?

Creating a real, branching story
Similar to Final Fantasy Tactics or Shining Force, The Banner Saga has a large cast of playable characters; special warriors in your caravan who can also join you in combat. You’ll play primarily make decisions as one character at a time, but as the story unfolds you’ll shift between different main characters, giving a broader sense of what is happening across the land.

Creating branching content can be very time-consuming and difficult. In most stories, even a single branch means instantly doubling your story content, and lots of branching compounds this exponentially.

We have a few things going in our favor in this regard. By having largely text-driven and modular gameplay, we can produce a ton of high-quality content quickly and cheaply. While a standard RPG requires cinematics, voiceovers, 3d art, lighting, scripting and unique animations for each and every event, our advantage is in creating less expensive but vastly larger amounts of content. If you’ve ever wondered why older games like Planescape and Fallout could afford to have deep and rich stories with lots of characters and cool ideas like unique “low intelligence” dialogue while modern games somehow fail to match their predecessors, it’s because they could produce a lot of content quickly and cheaply, and leaves the details to player’s imagination. It’s a tradeoff for modern cinematic presentation, but one that we think is the right decision for The Banner Saga.

Additionally, this style of production lets us iterate the writing up until the last moment. It’s impossible to overstate how important this is. For example, on an RPG with voice-acted dialogue, the writer often gets one chance to get it right before it’s recorded and set in stone. This is not how books and movies are written. Authors edit and rewrite their stories several, sometimes dozens or hundreds of times, and the ability to be agile and make changes to existing parts of the game based on new ideas gives you the best chance to make something exceptional.

That said, it still holds true that branching content is expensive. Our approach to this is that things are happening in the world with or without you, and how you spend your time is important. You may make decisions that slow down your travel, and when you reach different destinations you’ll find them in different states. For example, travel to a city quickly and make it in time to repel a siege, or travel slowly and arrive to find it burned to the ground.

The overarching timeline for the first chapter has been laid out, and Austin Wintory (the composer for The Banner Saga) has already started thinking about the musical arch. Below is the actual timeline for the game, boiled down to the absolutely most vital events in sequence.

As the player, you personally have a lot at stake as well. The fate of innocent people rest on your shoulders, based on the decisions you make. Whether your companions live, die, stay or leave are also in question. We plan to have over a dozen characters important to the story, and each lives or dies based on the players actions, sometimes in ways that are unfair or due to a series of decisions that may have seemed like the right thing at the time.

In this way, the world in The Banner Saga doesn’t change any more than we can change the world around us in real life, but how we experience the world and what we do with our time is what’s important. Though we both arrive at the same destination, your story may be wildly different from mine. Ultimately, though the game is three parts long, and though chapter 2 may start in the same place for everyone, we expect that chapter 3 will end in several different ways (by which I don't mean red, green or blue).

Writing
When writing a branching story, being able to access it, read through it and see the story play out in front of you is extremely important, and that’s something you can’t do in a standard document. In fact, writing a toolset to do it in the client can be prohibitive too. For example, BioWare’s writing tool is very robust, but also heavy and unwieldy and makes it slow to produce content.

I’ve done quite a bit of writing in this format and have used almost every modular writing program I can find, including Inform 7, Choice script, Articy Draft and Twine. While all of these are excellent in their own way, I’ve recently been using a program called Inklewriter which I find exceptional.

I’ve just recently finished creating the full outline in Inklewriter. Not only does it let me quickly “sketch” out the story, but I can quickly play through it and share it with other developers. Here’s an example from the intro of the narrative:

The choices at the end of the paragraph are multiple choice options that advance the story, maintaining all the variables that you can set throughout. At this point we can confidently say that the entire first half of chapter 1 is actually playable through Inklewriter. You can literally sit down and “play” the game, making choices that respond in the exact way they will in the final game. This is an incredibly powerful tool, despite its seemingly simplicity. Again, don’t believe that games are only made with tools that cost a fortune and are complex, even engines are starting to become affordable and user friendly, such as Unity. The best tool for the job is the one that fits your needs.

Additionally, Inklewriter automatically generates a story map based on the content that you hook up, giving an incredibly useful overview of your story. Here’s the actual layout for the first half of the game:

The game begins at the node on the left, and goes down. You can see that when decisions are made, the story branches, and sometimes decisions you make in one place can affect a branch that seems to be on a completely different path.

Throughout this story map, what you can’t see are the huge amounts of critical points where important events take place, the player is making decisions that will last throughout all three games, and characters are joining, leaving or dying while the main plot goes on. Though the story occasionally ties back to itself, important things have changed in between.

Also note that the middle section called Path split ends in three branches. I’ve shown the one branch plays out, but the other two are completely different. From this you can see that the story starts out pretty focused as you learn the game, and in the middle section important events happen, setting the conflict into motion. At this point the player makes some key decisions that dramatically change how this part of the story plays out. You might not even be playing the same character in each of these branches. Layer the variably triggered events on top of that and you’ll get a story that feels very personal and reactive to how you play it.

Even if you don’t intend to use Inklewriter for development, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s an excellent, easy-to-learn tool for story writing. You can help support them, too. In the near future they’ll be releasing Steve Jackson’s adventure book Sorcery! on Inklewriter, which I am hugely anticipating.

Combat
As mentioned earlier, combat has come along better than we had ever imagined. If you’ve played Factions you already have a great idea about how combat is going to feel. What you may not have inferred is how this relates to the single player game.

The biggest addition to the combat in Factions carries over well to the single player game; the horn.

The horn was a major feature we had wanted to implement early on and works beautifully with the current system. Currently, each kill you make adds a star to the horn. These stars can be spent to blow the horn, creating the effect of restoring willpower to your characters during combat. In the single player game different main characters carry different horns, and their effects will be unique to them and compliment their personalities. In this way each character not only has their own stories and motivations, but changes the overall feeling of fighting with their team. We hope to roll this eventually into Factions, as well.

Just as with every other system in the game, your actions in combat will have a broader reach than just the immediate result. Characters in battle do not heal immediately after combat, instead needing time to recover during travel. Characters who are seriously wounded won’t be able to jump right back into combat, instead relying on other fighters on your team who may not be as experienced. Choices you make in conversation and travel can affect how difficult combat is, and your performance in combat can, in turn, influence the caravan’s morale and endurance.

Combat can also be as prominent as you’d like, depending on how you play the game. During combat, the caravan will continue to move. While destroying your enemies ensures victory, you can choose to hold them off long enough for the caravan to escape and you’ll be able to retreat, giving you the choice to play aggressively, defensively or cautiously to minimize the damage you take and your ability to fight another day.

Art production
Aside from design and story, art continues at a breakneck pace. Powerhouse is now deep into the final set of classes, including the primary characters for the single player game, Rook and Juno, featured in the two animation cels and the poster. Below are the next set of base classes, and if you’ve been playing Factions at all you know that these will be promotable into a wide variety of specialized units made to work in unison with all the other characters in the game. Our animation prize-donators Brendan Iribe and Alex Maxwell star as the male Mender and Spearman, respectively.

Powerhouse has now lovingly crafted literally hundreds of these hand-drawn animations and they keep getting progressively better and better. Some of the latest work we’ve been seeing had been absolutely jaw-dropping. Check out a few in the video below:

We’ve also been adding substantial amounts of art to our library of environment pieces that’ll be vital to creating the world. Using these pieces we’ve added the beach, great hall and proving grounds to the variety of playable maps in Factions, and soon we’ll have a full set of particles to bring them to life, like crackling fire, blowing snow and animated wildlife.

Factions
Release of Factions is nigh! At this time we’re looking at roughly a month before the game comes out to the public, and it will be finished and ready for backers to get a head start before then.

If you haven’t tried Factions since the last update, there are plenty of things to give a shot. We’ve added friend mode, letting you enter private matches against Steam friends. We’ve updated the promotion system now so that you can hire new recruits at the mead house and upgrade them in the proving grounds. Most units have been rebalanced and fine-tuned to be final. Characters can be renamed. Match resolution now shows you all the achievements and bonuses you’ve earned on each match and each screen has a helpful ? button in the corner which explains how to play the game.

Between now and launch we’ll be adding a proper tutorial, tournament matches and color variations for all the characters.

Once Factions comes out we’ll be on to the other systems - specifically travel and conversation while also working on the AI for computer-controlled enemies.

When is it coming out?
Now that we’re well into 2013 and our estimated date was November last year, many people have been asking when the game will ship. This is a topic that comes up a lot in interviews in relation not just to us but most Kickstarters and honestly, most games in general.

To cut to the chase, we’re currently looking at mid-year for release of the Saga. We’ve said this in a few places but it’s worth repeating - when you scope the game for a certain amount of money and you make 7x that much, there’s no way around it, the game takes longer to make. We’re doing our best to mitigate that, we’re not taking anything like 7x as long. Hopefully with the progress we show in regular updates you’ll agree that we’re using the funding well and making the best decisions for the game.

In the meantime, Factions will continue to be available! As we add new features for the single player game, we intend to release them in Factions so they can be played instead of just told about. For example, one of the first features we’ll be releasing is computer-controlled AI for enemies

We'll keep everyone informed about progress every step of the way. We're going to be contacting the donators who chipped in for the god prizes and items soon. In case you missed the previous announcements, guild crests will be uploaded in the game itself, so please don't worry about missing the deadline (since there isn't one).

See you next time!
Alex

Sound in The Banner Saga

Posted by Stoic (Creator)

Greetings! As you guys know, we do a monthly progress report to keep you up to date on how progress is coming on the game. We'll have the usual progress report coming just next week with lots of progress happening this month on the single player Saga.

Today we have an excellent update from Kpow Audio, who have been doing an astounding job with the sound and audio implementation on the game, which you can already get a good dose of in the Factions beta.

Kpow Audio is Michael Theiler and Peret von Sturmer, working remotely from Sydney, Australia, and what you hear from them are thanks to your support, without which we'd be doing our own foley, and that would not have been pretty. I very highly recommend checking this out even if you don't know much about sound in games. The depth in each branch of game development can be pretty fascinating stuff.

I'll leave it to Michael from Kpow to explain:

Situating an Ambience

When creating ambiences for games (this applies equally to film), I am striving to make them blend into the background, and not mask any important in game sounds. For most ambiences, these are the most important qualities that I am attempting to resolve.

In order to achieve this, I need to firstly focus on the repetition and timing between audio occurrences in the sounds. This means spacing sounds, and adding and removing sound occurrences in my audio sequence. I then work on the frequencies in the sounds, using equalization to mold them into the right sound. Finally, I work on their sound propagation, and the sound of the space in which they are to inhabit. These are the steps necessary to mould sound into something suitable for the space. Just adding reverb is not enough - the sound needs to be purpose built for the space’s reverberation and delay treatment.

Sprinkling Sounds
The first task I need to do to ensure the ambience retreats into the background is to select the correct sounds. The more particular you are about the sounds you choose, the better results you will get. Don’t settle for an slightly inappropriate sound if you know its going to be a lot of work to massage the audio to make it sound right for the space. Often I will find nice long stereo files that contain approximately the right sounds, but they always need some work to be made to fit the particular space I am attempting to create. Usually they will need to be edited, removing anything that pops out and distracts you from the space and time of the location. I say time because often with an ambience the frequency of occurrence of particular sounds is something that needs to be considered. If there is too much happening, the space feels cluttered and busy. Even if you are depicting a busy location such as an outdoor market, or a busy mall, too frequent a bunch of sounds together and you have a mess. This kind of cacophony can be used as an effect, but in games you don’t have control of the player’s orchestration of the world you are creating. Therefore care must be taken to design the sounds in a pleasing, but apparently random manner. These same sensibilities are used when designing a more molecular, procedural ambience - tuning time between ambient audio events is what makes these spaces feel ‘right’. It is something that I learned after doing this for a long while, less is more often than not, more. Keep most things subtle, and let the occasional sound pop out only if it sounds perfect to do so.

Removing anything that pops out is a balancing act. A space is determined by how the sound and its propagation ‘sits’ in the space. We manipulate this with delays and reverberation. If nothing pops out at all, the reverb doesn’t have the material with which to bloom, and therefore describe the space. So I am not trying to get rid of every descriptive sound, I am trying to ensure every sound is right. It sounds the right distance away for the space I am trying to describe, it sounds at the right level (usually low, but not always), it occurs infrequently or frequently enough to be believable.

Frequencies
The next consideration when building an ambience is the frequencies, their relationship, any build-ups of particular frequencies, and the overall mix (which actually comes last). As I mentioned before, I am trying to ensure the ambience sits behind any important close sounds. Every audio building block needs to be eq’d so it plays a background role. Usually the frequencies I am concerned with are the middle frequencies, from around 350Hz to around 2kHz. This varies of course, and I will have chosen audio already that doesn’t contain important information that is loud and overbearing in these frequencies. Also, I am talking by degrees. Everything has these frequencies in them to an extent, I just ensure they are not overwhelming or distracting in any way. After a multitrack of up to 30 channels has been eq’d, usually if an individual channel is solo’d, its surprising how much frequency content has been removed. The overall feel of the ambience needs to be fairly light. If there is too much bass it means when in game you get used to the bass, you start to ignore it, then a bass-heavy weapon or impact or vehicle sound loses its impact as the player has learned to become accustomed to these frequencies, so the contrast is not there. So keeping things well tamed is important.

The final element, often the most time consuming, and probably the most important, is getting the space right for these sounds. They usually need to be pushed back. They often need to be diffuse, and the distance and diffusion usually needs to sound a little more exaggerated than they would in real life in order to create some contrast and depth to your sound design. I like to think of these ambiences as layers. They have depth also - the sounds in them are not from the same distance or perspective - they are from over there, behind that, a block away and behind that hill.

In order to give perspective to these sounds, my setup usually starts at this first example, and morphs from there. I am going to take you through a couple of different mix setups. I use ProTools, so will be describing these techniques using the much maligned behemoth, but these techniques apply equally well to other DAWs.

Spacialisation Setup Number One
The first setup is one I used many times on the ambiences for LA Noire. We didn’t have a procedural system in place for LA Noire, instead we had tracks between 1 min 30 seconds, and three minutes long, that looped, providing the ambience for different locations. There were over 100 different ambience tracks for exteriors and interiors, which faded in and out based on locations.

Once I had chosen the sounds and eq’d them to feel right, I would set up my delay auxiliary channel, and my reverb auxiliary channel. Both the delay and the reverb channel would be set to pre-fader. This way, I can control the apparent distance away that the sound appears, by reducing the amount of direct sound on the sound’s channel. So the signal you hear might be half direct, but all reverb, and some delay, creating a diffuse distant sound.

Automating the send level of the direct to the reverb and to the delay, and automating the reduction of the direct level of the individual tracks leads to a huge amount of variation in perceived distance from the space that the sound has propagated within. It lets me have a version of a sound get louder by having a good amount of direct sound, a little less reverb, and a little delay, therefore sounding closer, but then blooming within the space. Reducing the direct sound and keeping the reverb send up gives the sound a diffuse, more distant quality. Tuning the delay lets you describe the slap off of building, or hillsides, or distant mountains or canyons, or an alley way. This slap is something that quickly clues your ears in to the space around the sound. It may seem a little more crude than a reverb, but it can sound very beautiful, can be instantly evocative, and I believe is a very important ingredient in describing a space.

The relationship between the direct sound, reverberation and the delay begins to build a picture of the space the sounds are occurring in. But if we stopped here, we would not have all the depth that can be achieved with the next step. I always, and I mean always, set up an equalizer after my reverbs and delays, on the same aux channel. This is hugely important, and is a technique that I have found improves mixes in any circumstance. Once its in, I usually start by carving out some highs and lows, usually shelves, but sometimes, if I need to be a little more brutal, I will use a low pass or high pass filter. With ambiences, I am trying to reduce their weight. I need the frequencies that give the ambiences their heavy, suffocating qualities, for other more important sounds, so these areas need to be tamed. The high frequencies also need to go. Often it can feel like the sparkle is leaving your mix, but very high frequency reverbs are not realistic, and often sound bad after any compression. I tend to avoid this sound in my reverbs unless they are for a specific effect. As I do this, I am often fairly brutal at first, and I am listening to the sounds behind the reverb become unveiled. This is where I create depth. The separation between the reverb and the direct sound, as if they are not in the same plane, but a related parallel plane. This is what gives the mix space. It lets you hear the reverb as support, and lets the main sounds function better.

Once the reverbs are done, I do exactly the same thing to the delay. Often with the delay I am a little more extreme, but I also find here is where I can give the description of space even more value. For example, the fast delay in a wood room sounds different to a glass room. Obvious I know, but here is where I can quickly simulate that sound by eq’ing the delay. For a forest, its going to be pretty dead in the high frequencies - I might dampen everything above 1.2kHz. A quarry is going to be a bit more live, but still not have the higher frequencies very present.

And that’s basically it. I am sending all the tracks to a master bus, which has an overall eq that I might take out a little more bass, and a limiter on it that usually never gets hit, and I record out. Then its a case of bringing that stereo file back in, making it loop seamlessly, and I am done.

Spacialisation Setup Number Two
For The Banner Saga, we are doing a more procedural ambience. I approached this a little differently. There are many different spaces in this game, but one of the more important ones is the opening view of the City of Strand. It is a distant view of a small city. I wanted to create the feeling that the city is alive and populated, audibly so from this distance. As it is a seaside city, I used seagulls as my close perspective sounds, and added wind and sea for the mid-distance. I then used shouting and the sound of anvils being struck for the distant city sounds. This worked out well, but getting the distance on these sounds correct took some time.

To get them sounding right, once I had picked out the sounds, I arranged variations of them sequentially in ProTools. This is procedurally generated content, so I needed lots of individual sounds with which to randomise their playback using FMOD Designer, in order to create the ambience. Once arranged, I setup a convolution reverb on their channel, set to something that approximated the slap and diffusion of being in the narrow streets of a stone and wood city I then sent varying amounts of this to my usual reverb auxiliary channel, but this time I had two delays setup to provide the slaps.

These delays were to give a sense of bouncing off the surrounding mountains. There was a medium delay time of around 300ms, and a longer one around 600ms. Once setup the length of delay meant you could hear that these were facsimiles of the sound repeated exactly (despite some eq), so I needed to add another reverb after the delays (on each delays channel), to wash out the delays a little. This started to sound right, but was still a little heavy sounding for the distance, so I went a little harder on the eq’s, with my final settings including some shelving of -16dB at 130Hz and below, and a low pass at 18kHz. I then also have some cutting at 990 Hz of around 10dB and also at 6.5 kHz of around 7dB.

The eq’s on both delays are similar but have some differences - for example the eq on delay 2 has some boosting in the high frequencies as shown in the second eq image.

The delay aux channels levels are also both set fairly low, around -18 to -19, so they are only contributing their character subtly to the mix - it’s not a huge effect, despite being necessary for the sound

The main reverb is a convolution reverb, with an Impulse Response that mimics the sound of a block party, it has some diffusion, as well as some hard surfaces slapping.

The eq after this just tames some bass and cuts some highs, with some lower mids also scooped. This created the sound I was after. Its a fairly diffuse distant yelling and clanking, with a diffuse echo that sounds like it is carried off by the wind. Its a more high frequency echo, so simulates the effect of bass reduction over distance, and the whole effect, although subtle in its execution, is slightly exaggerated and stylised compared to how the sounds would be in real life.

You can hear how it eventually came out here: http://youtu.be/k9JAepiBpLs

And that’s it. The setups I’ve explained above work in almost all cases, and offer a huge amount of controlled tuning to create most spaces you will need.

Tools
The only thing left is to go through the specific tools used, though as long as you have a good reverb to start with, most DAWs come with everything else you need.

Equality by DMG Audio
This eq is very transparent. It does not provide any colouration, but it is crystal clear, dependable, and very easy use. The display does a great job of showing what it is doing, and it provides a built in frequency analyser which is often handy.

Reverberate by Liquid Sonics
Until Altiverb is released for PC’s, this is the convolution reverb I have settled on. It is infinitely tweakable, which can be a time sink, but it is usually easy to get the sound you want without too much tweaking. I have boosted its functionality by purchasing some IR’s that are great for Post Production. I believe the ‘block party’ preset I used above was from ‘kinetic sound prism’.

Valhalla Room by Valhalla DSP
This is a beautiful sheeny reverb great for User Interface sounds, but can be used for real spaces if you show some restraint. Its also great for music. I used this to smear the long delays on the distance sounds for the city screen in The Banner Saga.

L2007 Limiter by Massey Plugins
All Massey’s plugins are well priced and extremely useful. I love this limiter for its sound, very transparent. Its fast to setup, and always does what I expect.

Delays are usually just the standard ProTools delays. In the above instances I used the Extra Long Delay II.

An important consideration for me is how quickly the tools I use can get me to the sound I want or hear in my head. The above plugins don’t have a particularly coloured sound, so may not be great for anything that requires a lot of character, and they don’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but for my needs they are great in that I can be efficiently setup, and provide the sound I want, fast. I have created templates that have my sessions set up with all the channels, auxiliaries and sends outlined above, ready to go. This lets me sit down and create, rather than jumping constantly from left to right brain states.

The Yuletide Progress report

Posted by Stoic (Creator)

Holiday greetings, backers!

We're happy to throw another log onto the holiday update fire! For our December update, we've got a ton of new features to check out.

Survey results = better game

The previous survey gave us a ton of feedback and we've really taken it to heart and updated the game based on YOUR comments. Check out the full progress report video we made to see everything in action:

The Yuletide update video

In response to your feedback, our full tutorial is in production but we've added help pages to most areas of the game. Friend mode is very nearly done, and we've addressed many players concerns about the end game feeling unfair with a new game mechanic called Pillage! We've also done some extensive balancing of units and all 12 unique characters are ready for launch, can be purchased from the Mead House and promoted in the Proving Grounds.

Please vote for us!

We've been nominated for Most Anticipated Game of the Year on Indie Statik! If you like the way production and beta has been going, please: VOTE HERE. We're in the "Most Anticipated" section. This is also a fine time to vote for Journey, the excellent indie title featuring music composed by Austin Wintory, who has been composing for us thanks to all of you!

Voting ends on Dec 31st, so there's only a week or two left. And thank you so much for helping us out, we truly appreciate it!

Red 5 (makers of Firefall) have been putting together a website for industry videos and filmed us for a feature called Rise of the Indies quite a while ago. They've finished the video off and now have Stoic's feature up and ready for viewing! It was shot on Red cameras, which are the top of the line in the industry and look amazing Check it out: HERE.

Early access now even more accessible

For the holidays, we've put early access on sale! All backers already have access for free but this is a great opportunity to tell friends or anyone who'd be interested in playing over the holiday break. Check the website HERE!

Next year all kinds of things are going down. Keep an eye out for friend mode, AI fights, Tournaments and a short single-player campaign as we work towards completing the full Saga, all free and available early for backers to try.

Have a great holiday!
Alex, Arnie and John

The official Factions video and beta news

Posted by Stoic (Creator)
15 Comments

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