Dev Diary #54: A Sound Plan
Welcome to another Dev Diary from the Audio Department! Now that Northern Lords is out in the world, we can share some behind the scenes on what went on during development for the Flavourpack.
We are going to talk about Field recording, The Sound design of the Event Images, some 1.3 patch updates, and of course, the music from Andreas Waldetoft.
So if that is your cup of tea (or mead), then be our guest and follow along in this Dev Diary!
We decided early on in the production that we wanted genuine ambiences for the event backgrounds, which meant that source recordings were required.
The recordings were conducted over a span of two days in a cold desolate “Vik” (Bay area) in the west coast called Onsala as it is currently known (Coming from “Odin’s Sala” which translates to “The Halls of Odin” in Viking times) Which is my home area where I grew up.
First of all, is preparation, what do you need for the recording session, and how light do you need to travel? (You don’t want to carry an entire audio studio on your back if you are tracking through forests and fields. Light is fast, and your back will thank you).
I ended up using two handheld recorders, some lightweight stands, and an Ambisonic Microphone
(a 4-way microphone array that captures audio in all directions, not unlike a VR camera, but for audio)
That way I can position the location in post-production, and not worry if I did or didn’t capture something outside the audibility of a regular microphone.
During the pandemic, there were minimal planes, cars, or any activity for that matter, which made it ideal for recording audio. it was just me, nature, and my recorders.
Placing yourself among Vikings wasn’t hard at all, and at times almost serene. Listening to the waves roll in on the shores is something quite special and I highly recommend it, if you can spare the time.
After the field recording was concluded, the source material was processed and implemented to be the backgrounds for the event images that appear in the Northern Lords Pack.
Each event image has a unique evolving loop that places you right in the center of the area. Whether it is out on the windy ocean, the stone pebbled shore, or in a pigstye prison!
Videos of the different event images in the game during development:
All of these are crafted in our sound design tools and then “performed” by Fmod.
It can scatter the birds you hear, the insects that pass you by, or how windy the ocean is. All to make each event appearance as unique as possible, while still being in the same “space”.
As part of the 1.3 update patch, winter now affects the map, and so does the audio, as shown in Dev Diary #49: A cold Embrace. Have a look at how the Winter sprawls with heavy snowstorms, and how the audible townspeople disappear from the outside and into the hearths and the warmth.
We also updated the ambience system to a procedural system. That we Call the
Map Ambience System. (Highly technical terminology at play here)
It is driven by the game camera, that scans the terrain of all visible provinces, determines what amount of a specific terrain type the camera can see at any point in time, and generates a percentage value that then gets translated into a Fmod parameter that is connected to the Master Ambience Event.
All this fancy talk boils down to, rather than us having us placing hundreds of audio emitters on the map at strategic locations (we did, and let me tell you, that is labor-intensive!) The game tells the audio middleware (Fmod) what to play, when, where and how much.
And now, over to Andreas, our Senior Music Composer!
Hi all, Andreas Waldetoft here,
I’m glad to be talking about the music that we wrote for the Northern Lords
In this Flavourpack, we recorded authentic old instruments from the time era, like the lovely Mungiga (translates to Mouth-Harp or Jaw-Harp) different kind of flutes, Swedish bagpipes, fiddles such as a Keyed Fiddle and Hardanger Fiddle, a Throat singer and not to forget a Viking Choir singing in Norse.
Recording anything in a pandemic is not an easy feat, especially with varying amounts of lockdown, for example, Kalabalik, our medieval session musicians and skalds for hire, did a fantastic job recording themselves from a home setting. Below are some images of the instruments that made an appearance in the score:
Picture 1: Mouth Harps
Picture 2: Closeup Nyckelharpa
Picture 3: Overview of some of the live instruments included in the soundtrack
Picture 4: Studio Deepwods, Also known as my composing lair
We are all so happy and grateful for the result and prove that music can be done anywhere, and what matters is that the soul of the music is there.
What you as the player will hear are Three new mood tracks called Drakkar, Scandinavia, and The Feast and One new cue track called The Raid.
The nifty thing with our music system is that both Scandinavia and The Raid have different versions that vary between themselves, so there will be variations that play intermittently during a game-session.
That is all from us in the Audio Department, until next time!