A year at Daedalic..
It has been a long while since my last blog update and so I have quite a bit of catching up to do here.
Since my last post on recording in the townships I have migrated to the north and found a new home in Germany's wettest cities, the lovely Hamburg.
In July 2017 I had received a job offer to take over as the in-house Sound Designer, something I didn't expect to come out of the blue like this opportunity did.
So there I was, packing my bags and bidding farewell to the mother city to venture into the unknown.
Arriving in Hamburg was very exciting and fortunately we had a family friend living there who could accommodate me for a couple of days. I didn't think that he would become my landlord but a couple of days later I moved into a flat that had just been made available- just my luck!
I started work in August and not too long after I got in the swing of my new job I took a trip down to Cologne for my first GAMESCOM trip.
The awesome thing about the trip was that I was part of the South African team of game developers that received an "all expenses paid" pass for the duration of the conference so I didn't just see some of my south african game dev friends at the event but I also got to walk around the business area and do some networking with indie developers from all over the world.
The experience of walking through the giant exhibition halls filled with game enthusiasts was terrific and I am very thankful for the time that I got to spend playtesting upcoming games that hadn't been released yet. I also got to attend some talks and workshops at the DEVCOM which was the developers conference that lead up to the big main event and before the Cologne Messehallen opened its doors to the public. Here I met some cool people from the European game industry which was great!
Coming back from Gamescom I witnessed the next interesting thing to happen to me - an internship of a young female sound designer was about to start here at Daedalic - something that had been in the works for half a year and which became a reality only a month after I had started!
Being very unprepared with the task of managing people straight after I had just started this new job myself, I embraced the opportunity with the hope that it would be a fun collaboration.
Mathilde, who turned out to not only share the same musical tastes and interests but who was also a very competent, fun and energetic sound designer, made the next 6 months fly by as we spent our time finishing off the remaining two parts of the interactive novel The Pillars of the Earth, an interactive novel that Daedalic had already been working on for a couple of years. I got to do a lot of Foley and make interesting ambiences for the scenes that took place in Medieval England and Mathilde was a huge help in cutting the work load in half.
In one of my first couple of weeks in Hamburg I took my recording gear and went into an old church tower in the center of Hamburg were I recorded a whole bunch of creaks and ambient sounds that I ended up using for a lot of the game's sound fx. (picture above)
My favourite part of working on this series was creating the ambiences. In particular I really enjoyed creating the water mill ambience in Book 2 when Jack and Aliena sat under the willow tree and the only thing you heard was the sound of birds, leaves and a stream gently turning the wheel of a water mill. nearby.
We had a couple of limitations which were mostly on the side of the game's engine that we used which cost us a bit of extra time - applying Reverb to all the dialogue lines manually and rendering out thousands of lines which often had to be renamed too! There was no dynamic mixing system present so we had to make sure to mix all the sound fx and ambiences before bringing them into the game. Moving forward I would recommend using a more flexible system in terms of audio mixing that allows us sound designers to apply dynamic processing on the different sound elements. Pillars of the Earth would have done well with some Auto-ducking for example as we had a couple of places in the game were the music swelled up to a very loud section, masking some of the other sounds and voices.
But all in all I am happy about how we managed to pull through in the end and the amazing product that we can now stand behind.
Pillars of the Earth won "Best Sound" at the German Developers Awards! So proud! Us at the prize ceremony (picture below)
The winter, which was the coldest winter I had experienced in a while, went by in a flurry and as spring approached so did the end of the Pillars journey. Mathilde's internship was almost over too but she would stay long enough to help me get the ball rolling on another big project - State of Mind.
Being more of an afterthought, State of Mind's sound at the beginning of 2018 was still very rudimentary; the soundtrack and voice overs had been recorded and produced already but the soundscape was still very barebone when we were pulled onto the project.
Our task was to fill out this cyberpunk/futuristic world with sound fx and ambiences. We were very excited about the chance to work with a completely different sonic palette as we were so used to creating medieval sounds during the last half year. State of Mind had some beautiful cutscenes that desperately needed sound so we set out to breath life into the game. Having two separate worlds that needed to feel very different from each other had to reflect not just in the visuals and the music but also in the choice of sounds we used. Dystopia needed to sound old, grimey and malfunctioning were as Utopia relied mainly on the lush, meditative soundtrack and only a few minimalist sounds to create the desired contrast.
We had a very tight schedule for this sound pass and in the end I am happy that we managed to get the amount of sounds in that we did. I am glad we even got to design some custom footsteps for the game, something that was left more of an afterthought but which helped give each character more life in their environment.
Right now I am working on a project that I cannot talk about...yet. I get to do a lot of interesting sound design on it so I am happy with the kind of game that we are making. We are also using Audio Kinetic's Wwise for this current project which is very exciting for me as I can do a lot of the mixing techniques that Pillars and State of Mind didn't support.
When I get the green for posting some screenshots I will be sure to be back with the next update.