ESO Zenimax Audio Team AMA Transcript

Transcript of the ESO Zenimax Audio Team AMA on Reddit on June 17, 2014. Audio/sound questions were answered by members of the ESO Audio team.

Members of the Zenimax Audio Team on Reddit

1. Daveybinkers1

Grats on being one of the few bright spots in this game! What do you study in school to prepare you for a job in your field?

Hey Davey! Thanks so much for the question. I went to NYU to study music technology ( Within that program I learned about a wide array of stuff: acoustics, DSP, electronic music, audio for video. – /u/ZOS_BrianBrockett

Hi man, glad you dig the audio! I studied sound record technology at UMass Lowell. It gave me a good foundation for audio in general, not just sound design, which is a great way to get your start in audio in general. – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

Well, funny enough, I studied writing and linguistics in school. But, I have been producing electronic music for ten years or so now and learned how to do sound design in the streets. I always wanted to work in games, just wasn’t sure where I’d end up, and audio was the best fit in the end. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

Hey Davey! Glad you enjoy our work! So, there’s really no exact, sure-fire program to land a job in this field, but there many things you can study. Audio engineering, recording arts, sound design, music theory, etc. are all great things to start off with. Other than that it is just listening and practicing your skills as much as possible! – /u/ZOS_MattConway

2. OMEGACorruption

Awesome works with the game overall. The bgm is what I really love about ESO. Will we ever get a album of ESO’s bgm for sale? I would really like to hear the Dolmen bgm on repeat while at school and work or a ten hour long version.

Thanks…gladja like the music. 🙂 The OST is available on iTunes and amazon and maybe some other places as well. –/u/ZOS_BradDerrick

3. CitrusLikeAnOrange

As someone who is trying like hell to get into game audio, what kind of tips do you guys have to break into the industry? I’m always wary of showing up at the studio, resume and demo reel in hand, but is this a viable way of getting to meet people?

Hey Citrus! The best bit of advice I could give to you is that you should try to get involved in networking groups and just try to make as much contact with folks in the industry as you can. Like a whole lot of industries, it is often who you know. Having a great reel and resume is great once you get networking. – /u/ZOS_BrianBrockett

Well, you know, definitely don’t hesitate to apply for positions and get your stuff in front of people. You have a reel, so that’s going to be a major component. I always recommend to people who are getting started to take existing trailers for games or films, rip the audio out and redo it, that is a great way to show your skills. Outside of that, you need to just meet game developers. Look for local meetups in your area, go to conferences. The truth is, having the talent and drive is one thing, but nothing can replace making connections and getting to know people already in the industry. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

Step 1: Don’t give up. Took me about 5 years before I got my first break. Before that I was working in live sound and broadcasting doing audio in radio then moving to television. Step 2: Though showing up at the studio might be strange, most places that have a lot of studios in the area have meet ups. Do a search in your area. Boston is where I am originally from, and every month there was a meet up for game devs and people who are just interested in the industry. It was a good chance to meet and talk to people Step 3: work on your skills non-stop. Get some videos, strip out the audio and do your own work! Look for some forums where people like you are trying to get into the industry IE programers and designers who are working on a game and need some audio help. Offer your services Step 4: Don’t give up. Seriously, the gaming industry can be a tough egg to crack, and audio is even tougher. Keep at it, keep your skills up and eventually you will get your break! – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

Exactly what Josh said. Though, I will add that you definitely practice, practice, practice and critically listen to everything around you, good-sounding games and movies, etc. Take what you gather from those things and try to reproduce the sounds or make them even better. Tweak knobs, destroy sounds and make (good) mistakes! There are no rules on how to design sound per se, but there are always things you will learn on your way. Stay hungry and ambitious! – /u/ZOS_MattConway

4. Dimillian

How the steps/horse steps sound are mapped to the ground? Do you have a grid and each tiles have a sound for player/horse/monster step associated with it?

So for this, we worked with our programmer closely to get the tech all sorted out. Basically, we mapped different sounds to the different terrain textures/paints (e.g. mud, snow, dirt). For the fixtures in the game, they all get "flagged" as different surfaces depending on what they are made of. The game detects when the character model(s) "touch" a surface, determines the type and triggers the appropriate sound. A fairly complex system under the hood, but simple in the implementation. – /u/ZOS_MattConway

We determine the steps in 2 places. First we look at what kind of "monster" is doing the stepping, for example a horse. We then look at what it is the "monster" is stepping on. We can label different ground, and fixtures with a material type. For example, dirt, stone, wood, whatever it may be. So if you are a horse stepping on dirt, the audio engine says "ok, we have a horse….stepping on dirt…play that sound" That’s the simple answer, there’s a lot more that goes into it depending on different animations for example to call for different kinds of footsteps ( think walking or running ), hope that helps! – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

5. kulthax

What other music or artist has inspired you the most when creating the wonderful soundtrack for The Elder Scrolls online?

Well obviously all of Jeremy Soule’s work on other TES titles. 🙂 Other game OSTs I can’t get enough of are Red Dead Redemption & The Last of Us…those two have a kind of intimacy and "sneak up on you" kind of beauty and emotional impact that I was trying to capture in our OST. Smaller ensembles, at times barely-there textures…not only do those kinds of things lend themselves to not wearing out their welcome, but you can really draw the listener into personal moments… Okay, that’s starting to sound pretentious. I also listen to a lot of Pig Destroyer, but thankfully I managed to keep that out of the OST. 🙂 – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

6. dulfy

What is the hardest sound effect you had to make for ESO in terms of complexity, setup, or just length?

Hey dlufy! Great question! While there were many challenges, for me personally, it was the sound design for the Dark Anchors. There are so many moving parts with that system that it was really challenging to deliver the audio experience that we intended to. There are animations, visual effects, monsters, weather changes, music etc. Basically, almost every type of audio-generating object in the game. In the end, we feel like it all came together pretty well though! – /u/ZOS_MattConway

One of my big projects for the game was doing the UI, and I have to say that every single sound for that is the hardest sound I have had to do for the game. I don’t think there is any other area of the game that is as subjective as UI. At first, I just tried to please Brad (my director), Paul Sage (You all probably know who he is :)), and Chris Strasz (Lead UI Designer), but that was driving me crazy as they all would want something a little bit different. Eventually I just started doing whatever felt right to me, and then changing the things that people didn’t like. Turns out that UI is now my favorite thing to do. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

ESO has tons of different abilities that do tons of different things. Player abilities, monster abilities, Boss abilities. Some do straight one shot impacts, some are loops, some are procs, some are passives that get triggered, some are projectiles, some trigger other effects and so on. So when setting up abilities it was a bit of a fun challenge trying to figure out how they all worked and how to implement the sound based off that – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

7. Lastobeth

Is the system designed to play certain tracks in certain zones or in response to certain situations? I love the soundtrack in this game but sometimes find that music might play at an inappropriate situation (something chirpy while I am in combat, for instance). If the selection of music is random, do you intend to map it to certain events more closely in the future? Finally, and on a side note, can you please set it so NPCs who are playing the lute and singing in taverns sing ‘Beauty of Dawn’ sometimes. That would be fun!

Well, you certainly shouldn’t be hearing happy fun music during combat…I’ve never seen that myself but nothing’s impossible. To answer your question kinda TL;DR style, the musical choices are based on an intersection of where you are and what is happening to you at any given time – location vs. state. So if you’re in a particular area, you’ll have a "jukebox" of music to choose from depending on whether you’re at peace, or in danger, or in combat, etc. And yes, I would like to achieve tighter sync between what’s happening onscreen and what’s coming out of your speakers. But <insert standard excuse about composing for non-linear gameplay> it can be tough, since we never really know what the player is going to do next. We can make some educated guesses, but if the player runs up to some POI, and we fire off some epic fanfare…then the player goes "ah, screw it, i’ma run over here and rifle through my inventory"…while some UberEpic track plays out…yeah, those moments can happen. 🙂 Beauty of Dawn…I love that thing. That was actually the first track Malukah did for us, as a promotional thing. We ended up using it on the credits screen (and throwing it on the OST as well), so it is in game, just not in the manner you were hoping. 🙂 –/u/ZOS_BradDerrick

8. Dimillian

How many variant to you have in term of sound effects for player foot step? Do you have different sound effects for light/medium/heavy armor? Male/Female character?

We have different footsteps depending on the size of the character, as well as specific ones for certain monsters. We have different ones for walking, sprinting and stealth for all of them as well. We have a lot hehe. The armor you hear when walking is an additive that plays along with the footsteps. So when looking to see what kind material you are standing on, we are also looking at what you are wearing and play layers of sound on top of the footsteps. We have different armor sounds for movement depending if you are walking, jumping, dodge roll, and so on. – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

9. dresdenologist

What’s the thought process behind being able to translate what a designer/dev describes for a recurring major NPC character into a sound or voiceover that does justice to them? I’ve always found it a curious challenge for the sound guys to bring out the flavor of a character through proper voiceover, since that’s become more popular in games, and there’s probably a thin line between a character being seen as cheesy and awful as opposed to iconic and charming. I’d be interested if you could use Razum-dar as an example, as he’s one of my favorite NPC characters in ESO to interact with.

With so many characters in the game, that’s definitely a challenge. From John Cleese as Cadwell all the way down to "Town Soldier" with two lines of dialog, obviously we have to make choices about how much time to invest in each one. The more important / recurring the character, the more time is spent meeting with writers & content designers to see what they want out of the VO, then that’s applied to casting, then all that is taken to the VO sessions where it’s imparted to the actors. Then we get multiple readings of the lines and bring ’em all home to decide which ones work best. It’s not a perfect process – obviously. See the other thread here about Brackenleaf’s voice. 🙂 But with 10,000 speaking roles and 130,000 lines of dialog or whatever we’re up to at this point, we do our best.- /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

10. LonePirate

I absolutely LOVE the sound effect that accompanies the Silver Bolts skill. In fact, the sound of the skill firing is half the fun for me. Not only that but the sound is so distinctive that I can easily identify it when someone in a zerg uses it. How was the effect created and is it based on anything, such as a crossbow?

For this one, I actually used a lot of different source. Here’s a short list: weapon handling, trap sounds, ladder sounds, crossbow sounds, arrow sounds, whooshes, metal cable twirls Just to give you a quick idea of how I approached this one, at first I tried to keep it literal. After putting something together quickly, I realized from looking at it in game a few more times, that it was an opportunity to make something a little flashier sounding, something a bit more identifiable. So I scrapped what I had, started from scratch and that’s basically what I came up with. – /u/ZOS_BrianBrockett

11. Datsyukia

Hi guys, I love the music in this game– it’s one of the few MMOs that I keep the music and sound on 100% of the time. I have a few questions: 1) Will we ever get more /lute and /flute songs?? 2) Are there any plans to add to the dungeon music? The music in Coldharbour was good but super repetitive. 3) Any plans to import the music from Morrowind or Skyrim?

Thanks a bunch. No seriously – thanks for not turning it off. 🙂 At the beginning of this game, that was one of my mission statements, as it were: get people to NOT turn of the OST in favor of Rammstein or whatever. 🙂 Yes, more /lute & /flute…I would love to do that! I’m working on the post-launch plan for music & SFX right now, and hoping to fit some of that in there. Ditto for the dungeon / coldharbour music. More variety is always a good thing. Oh shart – the Morrowin & Skyrim part… While we didn’t import tracks wholesale into the ESO soundtrack, if you listen carefully, a number of themes from Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim do work their way into the pieces in ESO. It was fun to use those themes as musical material to riff on, and I’m always tickled when players pick up on that. Yes, I said "tickled". – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

12. b92303008

TES games have always had wonderful music, so has ESO. The existing music in ESO is already amazing and I enjoy it so much that sometimes I just launch the game and simply listen to the background music while I am working on other things. But to be honest, I was expecting more before launch. I was expecting various styles of background songs in different zones and in/out of combat. So my question is if you are going to add more background music to the current and future content, for example, more exotic background music in Alik’s dessert and more peaceful ones in Glenumbra.

Thanks…glad you like the music enough to want more. 🙂 Yeah, I hear ya – variety. With a world as big as this one, the ideal of having race-specific music (or other fine-grained types of delineation) would necessitate a heyoooge amount of music at launch. So we (okay, I, that’s on me) decided it would be better to have "Tamriel-esque" music that worked in lots of places and could be reusable and fitting all over the world. But yes, now that we’re post-launch, I aim to continue to add music to the game – a little bit with each update, so you might not even notice – to flesh things out and add more variety./u/ZOS_BradDerrick

13. 1000Bunnies

What was the most fun set of sounds to design and/or compose with your team?

I really enjoyed doing the sounds for the crafting windows. The spoken words for the runes, all of the success/failure sounds, that was a lot of fun. Another thing I really enjoy is ambience. I did most of the world ambience (along with Matt Conway.), and really enjoy putting all of that together. Wind, animal noises, water, streams, all that sort of thing. We were lucky to have a great programmer, so the tool to put down the ambience was even super enjoyable to use. It’s kind of like an MSPaint for sound. You have a top down view of the zone, and you choose your sounds which have particular colors applied to them and you draw them down onto the map. Ambience days are pretty relaxing. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

For me, it was the different storm audio as well as the Dark Anchor. That stuff was super-complicated, but super-fun to work on and design. There were so many sounds that I/we made that were fun to make that it is really hard to nail down just one! – /u/ZOS_MattConway

The Daedric Portals were a lot of fun, I also had a lot of fun updating the staffs. It’s one of those sounds you know people are gonna hear over and over and over again so though it’s a bit stressful, it’s also tons of fun! – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

14. Lastobeth

Who worked on the sound effect for when you collect runes? That pop is so satisfying, what inspired you? It’s my favourite sound effect in the game.

That was me, thanks! <print screen….print….tape on wall>

I think the thing that inspired me the most about the sound in general was knowing how often people would be doing the action, and how cool it is in game to be walking around and go "OH RUNE!!!" I wanted the sound to reflect the awesomeness of getting a rune.

I took a short rock scrape, and added a short sword "ring" sound ( think when you hit a sword with something how it rings out for a few seconds). But the part that really sells the sound is that I blended them with a low freq. "pop" that helps fill in the sound and gives a nice blend of low to high freq. It settles nice.

In the end it’s about seeing the action in game once the animators are finished, and then hearing the sound in my head and translating that into the real world.

Hope that answers you a bit, thanks again! – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

15. Jaztica

Like the rest of the TES series, ESO’s soundtrack is fairly homogeneous across the world in categories like zone music, delve music, etc. That worked great for prior titles that took place just one race’s homeland each (ex. the Nords, Dark Elves, and the cosmopolitan Cyrodiil), but some of us expected TESO’s music to really develop/reflect these diverse cultures and locations as we discover & explore them – are there any plans to add more composers or otherwise expand the soundtrack in this regard?

I think my ramblings on another post below kind of address this – I agree that more variety / specificity would be a good thing, and I hope to continue to infuse that into the game over time. – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

16. massiva9

Whenever you guys make your sounds, how does QA know to check them? Does the entire QA department just listen to the game, or is there a special group of audio QA? It seems like it would be too much to be tested by anything other than a full department with a game so big. But at the same time, like others said, it seems there have rarely been bugs in the game when it comes to audio when you compare it to other things!

It’s basically a process of

1) get a task to do some audio 2) finish the task and send it to QA

Right now we have 1 dedicated audio QA guy who is fantastic ( props to Casey Coffman!!!! ). He is the one who will find all the little tiny details that we missed like 1 missing footstep tag or something. It’s great having him.

But we also rely on QA as a whole to help us out in finding issues in general.

we also QA our own stuff in weekly playtests where we find issues and provide feedback to each other to polish tasks.

( to be honest, when playtesting, most of the time we are just making fun of each other haha ) – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

17. Brewtifull

Love the soundtrack, its brilliant (major props to you all on that one!), but I would say that aside from the ‘big name’ voice actors the voices in the game tend to be poorly cast in some cases, namely the Brackenleaf in Grahtwood, and a lot of the skeletons in the Keeper of Bones quest (except the first two voice actors you hear in that quest, they were amazing). I know people may complain about the variety of voice actors, but that is excusable because it is such a large game, I just feel that perhaps certain quests require different people to voice the characters; it sounds a little odd to hear a spritely wood elf voice for a grand old tree, or a skeleton that has been dead for thousands of years.

Thanks for the kind words! And yeah…Brackenleaf…see elsewhere. 🙂

It is hard to avoid actor repetition across the game. That was another mission statement of ours way back when – to avoid the pitfall of hearing the same blokes over and over. So we cast almost 100 actors. And we came up with all these kooky actor-> NPC assignment tools to minimize how often April Stewart is next to April Stewart. And we hand-massage as much actor assignment as possible so (not only do the right roles go to the right actors, but) April Steward isn’t over-represented in a zone.

And at the end of the day, some questline will befuddle all of that by having you talk to Laverne (April Stewart), then walk halfway across the zone to talk to Shirley (April Stewart).


(Nothing against April Stewart. She’s amazing.) – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

18. chiefestofcalamaties

I’m a composer myself and really trying to make the jump from short film/commercial/animation stuff into games, so this question is mostly for Brad Derrick. How did you break into the gaming industry and what realistic advice can you give another composer? Is there any place (internet or actual life) that is better to hang out than others to make connections? I appreciate it ! also Matt, Brian, Josh and Bill, Any advice in the audio industry?

I used to live in the Seattle area (probably not helpful) and there were game industry meetings once a month. For audio folks there was/is even a local game audio group that met every once in awhile. Those are the places I met the most folks. Honestly, for me, I actually just started trying to get in touch with people in the industry and trying to meet people through friends in the industry. It took awhile, but I eventually made a great connection, got an interview and then got my first gig working at Turn 10 Studios. As far as advice, the other guys said it best; just keep working on your craft. Listen to as much stuff as you can and take note of what you like or don’t like about. Other than that, always try to be networking. You never know when having a connection will come in handy. – /u/ZOS_BrianBrockett

..and I think if there was any "realistic advice" I might give, it would be "don’t try and be a composer". Now, I don’t mean that in a "go get a Real Job" kind of way. I mean that in a "get a job as a sound designer" kind of way. That’s what I did – my first 5 years or so I didn’t do much music at all. What I did do was hone my sound design and digital audio chops, and work my way up through being and audio lead, all the while doing little bits of music here or there – a marketing trailer here, a couple pieces for some DLC there, until such time when the opportunity arose to do Big Music for a Big Game, people were willing to give me a shot. At that point, it came down to conversations like, "We could hire _______ to do it, or we could have Brad do it…he’s sitting right here, he knows the tools, he knows the game…so why not?" So, my particular solution for "how to become a video game composer" was to work it from the inside out, rather than cold-calling people and handing out demos at E3 or whatever. If you don’t want to be an on-site, in-house, audio director / composer type person, it’s much harder to get in there, I’m afraid…. – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

The great thing about audio in general is that a lot of skills can be applied to other disciplines, not just gaming. I got my start doing live sound for bands, and then broadcasting ( radio and then TV ). Gaming has always been a passion of mine, so I just kept working on the craft while making a living in other areas and finally got my break. Best word of advise is to just keep at it, keep getting better, keep networking. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s how it works in this biz. My break was kind of "strange" I knew I really wanted to work in the gaming industry, and an opportunity came up to work at Turbine as an associate producer. Though I wasn’t doing actual sound design, I was working with the audio team in helping with asset pipelines and things like that. This is how I get my foot in the door, I then got the opportunity to work at Seven45 studios which was a chance to jump in on the audio team creating assets. So turbine was my foot in the door, and Seven45 was my break into the audio biz. – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

19. SoundsNStuff

What happened to all the animal farts?

I can speak to the farts. So, we had the fart, which is a library sound, funny enough called something like Horse_Fart_01, and we gave it a very, very low "chance to play," I think at one point setting it to like .1 percent chance to play.

We wanted it to be a bit of an "easter egg" sorta deal, something you would hear every once in a while and not be sure you heard it at all. But, then, you know, we introduced mounts, and everyone was wandering around on a horse constantly. We saw a thread pop up, either here, or on the internal forums talking about the horse farts during beta and knew that it was time to take them out of the game before Matt Firor showed up at one of our doors. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

20. Sigtric

My favorite sounds in the game are from the rain storms, and most specifically the thunder. Is this just a very high quality recording of a real storm or is some audio sorcery at work here?

‘preciate it! Yeah, we worked really hard on that whole system and we think it came out really well! Mainly, it was audio sorcery (I like that term btw :)), but it was also a mix of field-recorded audio as well as carefully-selected library sounds. The main thing we strove for was making good decisions on the choice of sounds, along with the implementation and execution of those sounds into the system so that they all worked together dynamically and created an immersive experience.

To get a little more detailed on the whole thing, first of all I absolutely loved the thunder storm audio in Red Dead Redemption so I used that as a starting point (as well did our artists). From there, our programmers built the system. There are varying degrees of "intensity" (light/medium/heavy) for each storm type (rain, snow, ash, etc.) so we dynamically change the audio based on that parameter. Additionally, the lightning strikes come in two forms. Distant (out on the horizon) and close-up (big flash). We have different sounds for each type and they play off of the visual cues. Finally, there is a little more sorcery done with the overall audio mix as storms roll in…we suppress the wildlife audio (birds, crickets, etc.) using our sweet dynamic mixing in Wwise and a few other things.

It was a great system to work on. Really glad you enjoy the experience! – /u/ZOS_MattConway

21. DevonWeeks

Is there any chance that you might get your lovely tavern folk singer to do some instructional videos on how to play the songs she sings in game? Or, even sheet music or tab would be awesome. I’d love to have that for gaming get togethers and tabletop nights!Come to think of it, what are the chances of releasing a collection of songs from ES, a sort of Elder Scrolls "fake book" or even scores? I see a leather-bound copy of "Tavern Songs of Tamriel" in my future.

Hm…that’s a pretty neat idea. I think we’d have to see if Malukah was up for that…and she’s a busy, busy lady. 🙂 I wouldn’t mind seeing those things as lore books in-game (if IRL books aren’t an option). But that’s just me wishing for things as a player. IN NO WAY DID I JUST PROMISE THAT. 😉 – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

22. TheOtherBrotherGrimm

I have a question regarding horse hoofsteps and how they are categorized. It seems like it isn’t mapped to the footstep slider in audio, the way I like my sounds set up the horse sounds can be a bit overpowering. Have you guys been looking at this? I know a few people on this sub have had similar issues.

Yea. That was a bug and is fixed. In a coming update the sprinting footsteps will be mapped to the footstep slider.

I also did a pass on horse steps in general to polish them and make them blend better between each other. Basically after hearing them for awhile, we decided that depending on what material you are walking on it was too literal of a sound. Meaning, stone sounded only like stone, and dirt only like dirt ( right now you are thinking "duh, that’s how it should be!!" ) But it was too literal and too jarring when walking from stone to dirt and stone to dirt. So I reworked the steps to blend together a lot better. So when going from stone to dirt, you can still tell the difference but it will be much more subtle and thus less jarring. – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

23. chiefestofcalamaties

I’m also curious what kind of plug ins or variables are used/brought into account to change the way something sounds in regards to distance or environment. (inside a cave or outside in a forest, 10 meters or 25 away etc) I’m sure there are a ton but what are some common ones? Do you have any favorite EQ’s ? and do you guys have a preferred DAW (or is there an industry standard)? I would assume Pro Tools?

That kind of depends. If you’re talking about in game, that’s all DSP created by Wwise. Wwise handles both reverb and distance attenuation. In terms of plug ins, if we’re making something that needs to sound distant that won’t rely on Wwise, we’ll use a combination of reverb (Waves IR or Altiverb) as well as various EQ’s. I don’t want to speak for anybody here (we all have our own preference). My preferred is Protools.- /u/ZOS_BrianBrockett

I use Protools a lot, but I also love Reaper – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

for music I use Ableton Live. Here at the studio we make use of Adobe Audition, Reaper, Sound Forge for a lot of what we do. I am mainly working in Reaper these days, I think a lot of us are making that switch. And, as Brian mentioned, pro-tools. EQ: I am a fan of the good ol’ REQ4 from waves, but also like the Fab-Filter ProQ quite a bit. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

Believe it or not, Adobe Audition is GREAT for sound design. The workflow is fantastic allowing you to hop from non-destructive editing to destructive editing. Very fluid (but not always the most stable or supported app, unfortunately). The other DAW I prefer is Reaper, with some Vegas and Sound Forge mixed in. For EQ’s, I will have to go with my trusty Waves REQ. Love the sound and the function of that thing. – /u/ZOS_MattConway

Great question! For the in-game plugs, as Brian mentioned, we used Wwise’s effects (or DSP). We methodically dialed in reverbs and delays to best simulate the different environments within the game. Each time you enter a cave, house, tunnel, etc. the game detects which enviro you are in and applies the DSP to the audio. Additionally, there is a "basic" DSP applied to game in the outdoor areas. It is meant to just "excite" the in-world sounds a bit and give them a little more immersion. It’s easy to go overboard with DSP so we developed a pretty complex system to handle everything (distance to/from source, wet/dry values, origination of the sound, etc.). There were many, many conversations and tech discussions on how best to get this thing in and working without sounding "bad". – /u/ZOS_MattConway

Why take the time to know the ins and outs of Reaper, sound forge and PT when they all seem to be pretty wholly competent?

From a career standpoint, it can never hurt to know more systems, because studios definitely have different workflows. You might be working in Logic at one studio, Pro-Tools at another studio, Reaper at a 3rd, so you’re never going to hurt yourself by learning as much as possible. It’s totally true that, by and large, the differences between DAWS are like apples and other apples, but there are certain things that are done better by certain DAWs, so it’s nice to have them around to make sure you get your sound just how you want it. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

100x yes. The more you know the more you can easily step on to a team and help out right away – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

Really interesting, so you guys are constantly using Wwise to see the different option ? or was that more an end game thing when you implement into the game itself?

Yep, Wwise is our middleware so we use that for everything involving our sounds going in-between our DAW’s into the game (playback behaviors, etc.) As far as when the DSP is applied (if I am reading your question correctly), it happens at runtime so the sounds themselves are "dry" in Wwise and get processed ("wettened") in realtime when you enter a certain environment (cave, stone house, etc.). It’s a sweet, sweet middleware.

24. de_la_Dude

Now on to the question.. do any of you play with the music off?

Brad will beat me up for this, but I tend to play with the music off. I play MOST games with the music off. The soundtrack for our game is amazing, but I’m down in the nitty gritty makin’ fireballs and the like, so I like to listen to that.I was like that well before I started working in games, just listening to sounds in the game world has always been fascinating to me. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

I’m the kind of guy that likes to enjoy the game the way it was created. So I tend to not change the audio settings as much as possible ( in terms of muting different things ). I can’t imagine playing something like Bioshock and not experiencing the amazing music and amazing sounds. But that’s just me 🙂 – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

Being a sound dude first, usually I play games with the music off so I can listen to the audio more clearly. That being said, if it the music is done well, it shouldn’t really be intrusive or dominate in the mix. With our game I think Brad really nailed the music in that it totally accompanies the ambience. Many times (and he could tell ya) I would just take a few minutes, park in the world somewhere and listen to the music ebb and flow with the ambient audio. I will say though, I have to mute it at times when I am working on sounds….so yeah…sorry, Brad. 🙂 – /u/ZOS_MattConway

25. Yshaar

Are you planning on more, varied sounds when doing emotes? I think there could be done some improvements.

Hey, thanks, glad you like our work. As far as more/varied sounds for emotes, we don’t have anything like that in the works right now, but quite likely due to this post there will be a moment in our next meeting where we discuss whether or not to do that. 🙂 – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

Think I just got an email from Brad "do more better emotes" Thanks a lot Yshaar!!! 😉 – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

26. loencn

How was the sound of the deer’s death made in the game?

Haha, awesome question! So we have a herd of deer that roam around outside of the studio. We went out and placed hidden mics all around to record them doing various deer things. However, they didn’t really make much noise other than the occasional branch snap while walking around or grass munch sound when they were eating. We ended up having to resort to the next best thing…donkeys, buffaloes and horses.

So yeah, the deer in the game is made up of donkey brays, horse snorts and neighs and the occasional buffalo snort. Oh, and there are some actual real deer breaths/snorts in there as well. 🙂 – /u/ZOS_MattConway

27. SoundsNStuff

I’ve noticed every inch of the game has music. Many "open world" games will instead pepper music in for special events and the like, allowing the ambient sound, combat sounds, and what not paint the "aural picture". What drove this decision?

Yep. Constant vs. Periodic music. We went back and forth and back and forth on this one. There were times during development when the music was periodic and used more sparingly. In fact, that was what I preferred…on paper anyway. But what I ended up finding during playtesting was…unless the music had a reason to start or stop, it felt kind of random, which wasn’t what I wanted – it felt odd to me. Also, the music in Skyrim seems to be your constant companion, so there’s that. 🙂 – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

28. oeshi

My question is if there are plans to add more interesting audio content into dungeons? It would be really awesome to hear a boss lurking around, or yelling in the depths of the dungeon, but not be able to see him yet. You know, kinda get hyped up about an upcoming fight.

We are always looking at ways to improve things moving forward, and we listen to feedback as much as possible to see what the players are looking for. So you can definitely expect more improvements and polish as we move forward. – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

We’re always looking for ways to tie the audio in more closely with the storytelling. Sort of the idea of "show don’t tell," so as we go forward and release more content, and have time to go back to polish older content you’ll definitely start to hear more and more interesting little tidbits of storytelling sound. When you’re getting the 1.0 version of the game out of the door, there is a lot of rush rush rush to get it all done, especially for the audio team at the end of the pipeline. What’s great about working on an MMO is that you can always go back and put in that little detail you didn’t originally have time for. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

29. mrrandom2010

What would you recommend for someone getting into the industry and wanting to move from USA to Toronto for film/games? I’m a composer interested in sound editing/design/ambient music What would be your greatest recommendation? excluding networking/practice (obvious skills to have)

This is a pretty popular question that we’ve answered a few times now, so i might give you the tl:dr version here. 🙂

  1. practice, always practice, i often recommend people take existing trailers, strip the audio out and redo them, this lets you hone your craft, and also have something to show in an interview.

  2. Netwo… oh. 🙂

That’s it really, work on your craft, meet people. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

30. TopAce6

PLEASE PLEASE give me the option to mute mages light, the hissing gets old after 20 days.

Hey TopAce6, this sound has been turned down and will be available in a patch soon! My bad! 🙂 – /u/ZOS_MattConway


About the voice of the Brackenleaf. Is that really intentional or did you guys have to improvise? I like many others feel like it is extremely out of place. What’s the story behind that?

Yeah, that was an, uh, Interesting Artistic Choice that was made. But sometimes you (clearly) need to take off the artiste’s beanie and just give the people what they want. Yeah, we re-recorded those lines. Not sure if they’ve hit Live yet. – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

32. Brenninator

Killing the Rabbits and Squirrels are my favorite sounds in the game! Why is that Josh?

Well, Scott, that would be because for some of the little squealers its my ol’ voice in there, and it brings you immense joy to hear my pained death cries.- /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

Nice question (Scott :P). Little easter egg in the Squirrel death sounds…they are super-high pitched up male human death yells. (Pitch ’em down and see for yourself). For the rabbits, they are actual rabbit screams…which are freaky. 🙂 – /u/ZOS_MattConway

33. Infinite_Ysmir

I wish i could change the voice of my character x) The voice he have really doesnt fit,Anyway thats not my question. And i dont think you take requests. Ive noticed one of my fav male nord voice from skyrim is in eso 😀 (Balgruuf,Ralof,heimskr etc) in eso Shalidor among others. whats his name? is it michael? i think ive read he did the voice of deckard cain also,I may be wrong.

Yeah…you can only set your voice during character creation at this time. :-/ Michael Gough is your man! He’s great. – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

34. LonePirate

Have the multiple languages supported by the game produced any challenges related to the audio and sound design?

<spits drink all over monitors>

Yes. Localizing the voiceover produced "challenges". 🙂 Aside from the kind of obvious ones – time & money – there are a host of little things that have to be dealt with along the away.

The timing of the voiceover has to be consistent across all languages in our game. That is, if the server says "play this line, then wait 10 seconds, then play another line, then wait 2 seconds, then make the thingy explode"…if the German versions of those lines are longer than 10 and 2 seconds, we’ve got problems.

And I don’t know if you know this, but German versions of English words tend to be like Khaaldshdesghskaaslghsghskalsghsaslghhha. That makes them take longer to say out loud. So extra efforts have to be made to translate those lines in such a way that they can be read in under 10 seconds…which often means rewriting the line a bit, rather than just feeding it to google translate. 🙂

Also casting – finding French & German equivalents of our English actors can been kind of challenging. If "Nord Male E" = Crispin Freeman (which, btw, it is), and Nord Male E has been cast for certain roles based on the sound of his voice / accent, then the French & German Nord Male E had better be a pretty close match. Not always as easy as it sounds.

Oh, and sometimes German VO appears in the English client on launch day. Hypothetically. Totally never happened. – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

35. Davadin

A) Sounds are AMAZING. A-MA-ZING, I tell ya. I got my headset on and blast away (I have a 2yr old and I play at night) and every horse gallop and swords clashing is awesome.

B) Voices are GREAT. They add to the depth of the game and other than a few bugs (NPC sounds monotone with no accent, sounds like a temp filler…) it’s very solid.

C) I love the auto-fade-in/-out of the background music once you go in/out of combat. However… can you add the option that instead of fading out when you enter combat, it actually replaces it with "more epic/upbeat/combat-y" music? I’m speaking mostly for PvP – I honestly can’t remember how it works in PvE…

D) My own character…. (1) can you make it so it speaks more, or even better, a customizable moretalk/lesstalk slider? (2) Can you add (even) more variety? When I’m fighting extended battles (raid or PvP), even half a dozen sound effects can get repetitive… either more sound or less chatty….

E) Heavy armor walking. Like other had mentioned, when I walk with 5+ pieces of heavy armor, I want to SOUND like I’m wearing 5+ heavy armor….


PS: Is Kate Beckinsale really voicing Queen Ayrenn?

A) Thank you thank you! 🙂 B) VO is a huge task and (just between you and me and everybody with an internet connection) was added to the game a little later than I would have liked, so I’m pleased we pulled it off as well as we did. C) GAH. You have inadvertently just touched on something we’re trying to deal with right now. It seems you’re under the impression the music fades out for combat in PvP, but in fact it does change to combat music…you just can’t hear it for all the racket. Being the egomanical composer type that I am, I’m trying to get the mix better under control so the music has a chance of being heard. 🙂 D) We went back an forth a bit on player voice in general. Obviously we landed on "less is more", in that the player doesn’t have any dialog. That’s in line with Skyrim, it’s in line with not painting the player into a corner by forcing them to deliver VO in a certain way, and it’s in line with not spending eleventy-billion dollars on player VO. But I’m not sure exactly what you’re wishing for here, since the player’s VO pretty much just consists of combat grunts ‘n’ such. Are you saying you’d like more of them per set, so it’s not just the same 16 or whatever? E) We do some of that – the footsteps and body movements reflect what you’re wearing. Perhaps it’s not enough for you? I just wanted to make sure you don’t sound like a walking trashcan when yer all geared up…. PS) Yes. And I was even allowed to speak to her. – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

A) Much obliged! E) So this was a very difficult sound to "get right". As you can imagine, when recorded, plate armor doesn’t sound that "big". It sounds really small and tinny. We had to actually record things that weren’t armor at all (i.e. car jack stands, giant metal pieces, chains etc.). We liked how it turned out, but I can understand that it doesn’t quite "feel" right when all decked out in heavy armor. We can try and tweak some stuff and see if we can make it sound more stacked though! – /u/ZOS_MattConway

36. DarkestTimeline

Did any of you get to do any VoiceOver work in the game?

Not any voice over work as far as conversational stuff. But, you will find quite a bit of us in certain monsters, or critters in the game. If you go find a rat and kill it, for example, you will hear me. 🙂 A certain lead AVA designer does quite the zombie voice once you shove his mouth full of oranges and mic him up. – /u/ZOS_JoshuaSmith

I don’t think any of us did any actual voices in the game, but at times our voices were used to make sound effects ( processed a lot so it’s hard to hear that it’s one of us ), and animals – /u/ZOS_BillMueller

37. Davadin

OK. The million dollar question. Can we have a music-playing system like the one they have in LOTRO? Which is a mix of emote, audio playing, and player interaction? Impossible? Maybe? For sure next major release?

I was waiting for the million dollar question! Even so, I’ve only got a three dollar answer: "maybe".

That’s been a pet project of mine for awhile – figuring out a way to leverage the existing anims, props, audio tech, etc. into a nice deep player music system. Not only because I think it’d be amazingly fun, but because it might put an end to hearing two players stand next to each other, bust out /lute, and having the resulting tonality cluster-f**k put me in tears. 🙂

So, I won’t say "impossible". I’ll just have to say "maybe". – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

38. SlayerSyrena

Will we ever have the satisfaction of hearing our characters talk?

Hiya! Somewhere down there I touched on player voice for a sec (search "We went back an forth a bit on player voice in general"). I think the answer at this point is: No, the player will continue to be essentially voiceless. There are practical and high-falutin’ reasons for this. Practical: we can get content out faster if we don’t have to voice all the player dialog. High-falutin’: we’re not putting spoken words in the player’s mouth, and by extension forcing characterization on the player. – /u/ZOS_BradDerrick

By Dulfy

MMO guide writer and blogger. Currently playing and covering SWTOR, GW2, and TSW.

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