So far we've given you quite a bit of insight into how our levels are developed visually from start to finish. There is, however, one final element that greatly contributes to the atmosphere of our beautiful maps: audio. Once our level designers have finished building and scripting a map, and our VFX artists have gone through to make sure everything is appropriately shiny, it's finally time to implement sound.
When a map is ready for sound, my first step is to generate an audio asset list for our talented sound designer, Afshin Toufighian. It is during this process that I decide which environment pieces and effects will require an audio element and which areas of the map will require their own stereo ambient sound waves.
Unlike mono sound waves, stereo sound waves utilize both your left and right speakers to create one sound, and as such are not spatialized. This means that they don't seem to come from any one direction in particular, which makes them useful for establishing an ambient backdrop to a given area. Most indoor maps like Siphon Site D only require one stereo sound spanning the entire level. In contrast, outdoor maps like Nimbus Reach can have a variety of environmental settings that each require their own stereo sound.
With Nimbus Reach, we wanted the starting area near the main cores to sound windy and devoid of wildlife. As we imagined the player approaching the forest area towards the back of the level, we wanted the sound of wind to fade out as the sounds of wildlife faded in. Of course if the player were to approach the waterfalls and rivers on the sides of the map, we wanted the sound of rushing waters to fade in. You can see how this was achieved below.
Yep, with circles. Mystery solved.
Here you can see I've placed a stereo sound wave on each side of Nimbus Reach. The inner and outer blue circles surrounding each sound indicate its minimum and maximum attenuation, respectively. When inside the inner minimum attenuation circle, the player will hear that sound at full volume. As the player leaves the minimum attenuation circle, the sound's volume will dynamically fade out as the player approaches the maximum attenuation circle, beyond which the sound will no longer be audible. By fine tuning these attenuation values, I am able to make these stereo ambient sounds fade in and out as the player traverses the level, giving the sounds a sense of 3D placement.
After the stereo sounds are in place, it's time to start adding in mono sounds for singular environment details. Mono sound waves only utilize one speaker channel, so I set them to be spatialized. This means a player standing near the sound will hear it travel from speaker to speaker as the they turn their camera and experience a direct audible link to where the sound is coming from. In Nimbus Reach, I've implemented mono sounds for things like rustling grass, glowing plants, and single crickets chirping throughout the level.
All my single crickets, chirp your hands up.
The Big Picture
When used together, mono and stereo sound waves can create a complete and convincing soundscape for the player to experience. For example, while the water areas in Nimbus Reach do have a stereo water sound encompassing them, each individual waterfall also has a mono sound associated with it as well. These mono sounds communicate to the player's ears that each waterfall is indeed making its own sound, while the stereo sound communicates the reverberations of water sounds a player should expect to hear that close to the base of a few waterfalls. To put it simply, the stereo sounds function as my broad brushes, while the mono sounds function as my detail brushes.
The finished product can look a little messy...
It’s ART, okay?!
...but we think it sounds pretty good. You don't have to take our word for it though. Check out the video at the top of the post for a tour through Nimbus Reach and hear for yourself!
The random winners of our previous blogs are:
Enemy Tiers: Holliewood
Enemy Tiers: xFuNz
The Concept Art Process: MyGoldfish
The Concept Art Process: Alih789
What did you think of the ambient sound process? Tell us in the comments below, and you could win a pre-alpha code for Dungeon Defenders II! You have a full week to leave a comment. We’ll pick TWO random posters and reveal the winners next week. Don’t have a forum account? It takes less than a minute to join the community!