Viking Village (Sound Design, Mixing & Composition)
Type: Video Game
Game: Viking Village
Developer: Unity Technologies
Sound Designer, Mixer & Composer: James Foss
Viking Village is a game package manufactured by Unity Technologies, and is available via their Asset Store. The picturesque Medieval atmosphere lends itself to a classical aesthetic and traditional music, however I set myself a challenge of creating a more unsettling, eerie atmosphere and convert this beautiful scene into something more sinister. This was my first attempt at comprehensively sound designing and mixing a scene, and a large part of my focus was on creating an inviting yet realistic sounding environment and user experience.
I avoided the obvious option of some sort of period based, Viking soundtrack and instead used drone tones in order to create music which felt like it was emanating from the very wind and clouds of the scene. I opted for tribal drums to bring out that primal sense of danger associated with Vikings and give a ritualistic quality. I recorded polyrhythmic percussion patterns and experimented with these within FMOD to create an ever-evolving rhythmic bedrock to the experience. In particular the use of polyrhythms within FMOD to create added layers of interactivity is something that I will certainly experiment with more in future.
All sounds and music heard are original and recorded or synthesised by myself. Although the following clips are aimed at highlighting key features of my project and exploring my ideas, each clip is a walkthrough and can be used to get a sense of the whole project at work.
The following clips highlight the descent through the village and down into the lake area. We make our way through the peaceful village with its farm-like, rural atmosphere and down to the murky shores of the lake where a storm is brewing.
My idea was to create a palpable increase in tension as you descend through the still village and down to the waterline, starting with percussion and ambience and ramping up the tension using drones and conveying more volatility and power in the weather system:
Footsteps are key to fully immersing the player in any game; I feel that having a varied, realistic-sounding and responsive footstep system grounds us as players into the narrative and game world.
The Viking Village scene has clear-cut terrains which obviously require footsteps sounds: wood, grass, and dirt (or sand). I decided to create a more realistic system incorporating muddy and shallow water footsteps (for the sea); I wanted the footstep system to respond to the more subtle changes in the terrain, such as when we pass over puddles and muddy patches.
This was key to having an adaptable and realistic footstep system, which you can check out below:
Lake - The lake area of my scene was intentionally more noisy, with blowing winds and clunking machinery. I wanted to convey a heightened sense of open space constructing with the village, and used droning tones that bleed out from the wind and create a mystical aura which I felt the lake represented within this mythological setting.
A storm on the horizon, the sound of distant thunder is triggered upon your arrival at the lake's shore to create an ominous sense of dread, as seen below:
It is important that we transition smoothly between game zones, see below as we go from the lake to the more tranquil village area:
Polyrhythmic Percussion Music:
I had the idea to create an adaptive music system, however one whose variation came from overlapping rhythmic patterns rather the use of melodic instruments, be they traditional or synthesised. The choice of focusing on percussion was obvious (besides my life as a drummer), as I felt it would convey a shamanic quality and accentuate the primitivism of the environment.
A polyrhythm is a pattern which uses multiple, completely varying rhythms simultaneously. In order to avoid a rhythmic car crash, I had to create and record a multitude of percussive loops, ranging from low drums to shakers, which varied widely in nature and time signature, but which in any combination would be perfectly synchronised.
Although you can get a sense of this in all the videos, this clip in particular showcases the way the rhythms subtly seep into each other creating an endlessly adaptable soundtrack for this mystical setting:
One of my favourite aspects of video games is the way sound designers populate the game world with quirky and strange features which make the experience not only more realistic but also give a sense of life and place to the game environment.
For instance, I included the sound of a tavern atmosphere, consisting mainly of chanting and arguments, breaking glass and loud burping (I could only assume what a viking pub trip would entail):
Developer: Unity Technologies
Sound Design & Music: James Foss