Dev Diary #63 - AudioRead full forum post
Hi! My name is Franco Freda, and I’m Head of Audio at Paradox Interactive.
Today I’m excited to talk to you about Victoria 3 and some of the work we’ve been doing for the soundscape of our most anticipated title yet!
As you all know, a video game takes a long time to be made, and it goes through multiple development stages, from pre-production all the way to release. Depending on the scope of the project, it will involve dozens of different disciplines through its pre-release life cycle: Game Design, Programming, 3D Art, 2D Art, QA, and UI/UX… just to name a few.
There’s a general misconception that “Audio comes last”, and while this is typically at least partly true, (when it certainly needs to wait for some other assets to be done to add sound to them for instance, or when it comes to the final mix) a project as big and ambitious as Victoria 3 has had several internal “last” stages where systems and content have been considered “done”, only to be refined and polished, several times before you get to see it on your game libraries.
For us in the Audio team, this means that we have been constantly evolving our way of approaching all the different aspects of the game several times in the last few years, every time thinking that we had it! Only to realize we could do it better.
This amount of iteration and passion has made it possible to bring you an experience we truly hope you’ll enjoy as much as we have while building it.
Paradox Games always have had great soundtracks. We know how much our fans love it, and how much of a central part of “setting the right atmosphere” they play. For Victoria 3 we teamed up with some of our most trusted partners to come up with a soundtrack that truly captures the style and feel of the era.
I’m talking about Håkan Glänte, Audinity (Yannick Suß and Robin Birner), and our own Andreas Waldetoft. The result is over 2 hours of music that will help you feel right in the middle of the 19th century.
Some of this music you can already listen to by searching for it on all major digital streaming platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Music, or Youtube.
The rest includes a complete remaster, with new live performance recordings for the Victoria 2 Soundtrack, which will be given for free to all pre-orders as a bonus.
Last but not least and for the first time ever, we are bringing forward a new concept for our Music Manager handling that we call the “Music Density System”. The result of this system is a delicate balance between 3 components:
“Moods” or “underscore”, will carry the music feeling for extended periods of time in a more adaptive fashion, with random and unpredictable sections that connect seamlessly and extend the duration of a piece in a less distracting way.
“Waits” or “silence segments”, for the world map to shine through and facilitate focus and concentration while you're strategizing what to do next, and, of course…
“Themes”, the most memorable and recognizable music pieces that will accompany you throughout your play-throughs and act as the musical banner for Victoria 3.
Music System Cycle
Many scenarios that Victoria 3 will offer you to take action on are going to be presented in the form of Event Pictures. Art has done an amazing job in portraying them more alive than ever, with a super cool parallax effect, that gave us an incredible opportunity for sound design. For these scenarios, we wanted to shift the player’s attention to this little window to the world as much as possible, and this of course starts with the mix, making the rest of the soundscape dynamically reduce their presence, as they are welcomed by a Music Stinger (a short musical segment) that precedes a combination of sounds that are related to the images portrayed within.
Diegetic and Extradiegetic sound elements are combined to give the correct feedback according to the type of event you’re presented with, and set up the stage for decision-making!
Anatomy of an Event Picture Audio Trigger
The first consideration to be had when building the UI sounds for a game such as this one is to make sure to approach it from a systemic perspective. This way, all sounds that are produced by the interface should convey certain information to the player as soon as they are heard and hopefully provide some guidance on what to do about them. The most important aspects are urgency, type, and importance.
Another aspect we considered for Victoria 3’s UI mix is “Balance”, which means positioning the sound based on the area of the screen to which the sounds are being connected.
Another aspect of the UI that has been enhanced via Audio has to do with the several VFX elements that are visible on the screen directly on the Map. This also acts as positional audio that captures the player's attention.
Master Ambient System
One of the most significant areas of development for Audio regarding Victoria 3 has to do with our new Master Ambient System. This, in a nutshell, is a scanner system connected to the camera that translates the province data visible below and translates this information into parameters before feeding it to our audio middleware FMOD, so that it can mix the sounds of the terrain in real-time and give the most accurate representation of ambient sounds possible.
This system works in the horizontal axis as well as the vertical axis, blending airy, windy tones when the camera is far away from the ground, as well as ocean sounds, forests, deserts, tundra, etc. when the opposite is true.
The fact that this system is driven in real-time means that should the province data change for whatever reason by the player’s interaction or anything, in particular, this new information will automatically be translated to the system and reflected with accurate sound.
Logically, the system also recognizes hubs and other layers of information that will, instead of creating an ambient bed, place 3d sound emitters on top of cities, industry hubs, and military structures.
One more thing surrounding the game’s mix and also for the first time ever…! As a player, you’ll be given the option to fine-tune the mix before the audio’s endpoint, with a few profiles specifically designed by us for the most common scenarios: Headphones, TV, and Night Mode, among others.
This project has been an incredibly fun ride leading up to release and involved many sound designers, audio leads and directors, composers, and producers, who all contributed with their best ideas and skills to create a sound atmosphere that would be worthy of the kind of project this is. Countless work hours, recording, editing and planning, implementing, debugging, and testing. People and locations across multiple countries… all coming together to make this all for you, our fans.
We want to thank you for your support and look forward to hearing your thoughts!