Hi! Rik here! My company Claynote facilitates music composition and sound design for games, specialising in the design of adaptive music systems. For Antegods, I’m creating adaptive music that’ll accompany the on-screen stonepunk onslaught. But today, I’ll tell you more about the game’s sound effects.
First off, let me tell you that the Antegods setting is a sound designer’s dream. The juxtaposition of an ancient Mayan-like culture and spacefaring is very inspirational. On the one hand, its South-American/Mesoamerican elements elicit the use of acoustic, tribal instruments and organic sounds: hand drums, pan flutes, simple stringed bows for instruments, and general sounds of wood, stone, plant- and wildlife for sound effects. On the other hand its futuristic technology elements call for glitchy, robotic sounds and solemn, desolate ambient drones.
Musically, I want to combine those two worlds into a soundtrack that starts out as a fairly empty ambient backdrop made up of acoustic and forest-like sounds. This adaptive soundtrack will subtly shape itself into a pulsating, tribal stream as the tension of the battle increases.
I’ve made a conscious decision to have the music of Antegods not be too full-on. In a game that revolves around hectic battles, it would be a cliché to make the in-game soundtrack similarly frantic. Although it should accompany the action on-screen, I feel that in this case the music should just be a backdrop for more elaborate and impressive sound effects. While the music speaks to your subconscious, changing from ambient gusts to a driving pulse along with the action, the sound effects should really punch the player in the face. Essentially, they should be the stars of the game’s audio.
Sidenote: Most of the sound effects you’ll hear in this blog post will change before the game is released, but I want to show you the thought process behind designing them.
The first thing I did was dividing all the game elements that need sound effects into different categories that will have individual and recognisable audio ‘personalities’. Most sound effects can be put into clusters that would benefit from having a certain degree of audible cohesion, as if they were family. It helps to identify the sources of these sounds as distinct entities.
The categories in Antegods I’ve (so far) defined broadly are Totems, Natives, Titans and Energy. These categories will be subdivided or split in the future, and they can be cross-classified with other, more functional, categories like ‘weapons’, ‘explosions’ or ‘UI’, but the categorisation I’m talking about today is more about defining the sounds according to diegetic roles.
Totems are the game’s main protagonists. Players control them, so they should sound impressive. Totems are basically large, ancient statues made of stone, but they’re also highly technologically advanced spacecraft.
From this perspective, I wanted to give Totems a good, hefty ‘voice’. They should radiate a heavy sturdiness that says they can’t be f***ed with. I have therefore chosen to incorporate neuro bass sounds in all Totems’ sound effects. Neuro bass is a bass sound used often in musical genres like future bass, dubstep or glitch hop. It has a wild, hard hitting, full-on character and packs quite a punch in the lower end frequency regions. This correlates nicely with the character I want the Totems to convey.
Take the respawn sound, for example. It should say “I’m back in this world now, and I’m not going anywhere. You can’t mess with me!”. The sound effect features a ‘magical’ fade-in, to signify that the Totem is placed into the level from another dimension, and then ends on an in-your-face “BWAAWAAUU” neuro bass sound.
The same goes for the death of a Totem, for which I opted to make the neuro bass sound like it’s being ripped apart, to go with the image on-screen of a Totem exploding:
Natives are the inhabitants of the worlds in which the fights take place. They’re basically innocent bystanders, as their home is turned into an arena for the Gods. Even though they do become part of the fights, by having their settlements taken over by the warring parties, they are still but puny humans.
Their sound effects therefore contain the human and indigenous elements of the game. When a native camp becomes hostile to the player, you should hear the humans yelling at them. The same goes for the obliteration of one of their structures, it should be apparent that it’s the natives’ world that’s being razed to the ground.
At the same time, the natives sounds also represent the natural, tribal characteristics of the game environment. Most sound effects make use of ethnic, acoustic instruments.
When a Native camp is activated (by delivering enough Energy to it), you can hear the humans shouting and a distinct berimbau sound (a Brazilian musical bow):
Same goes for when a Native camp turns hostile towards the player; angry human voices, berimbau, and a menacing synthesizer sound to encapsulate the anger towards the Totem:
And when a Native camp has been shot to pieces, you can hear the humans yelling in pain and the stringed instruments exploding along with the camp itself:
Titans are the battleships of Antegods. They function both as a base as well as an almost invincible attack force, when activated. They are enormous. I mean, Totems are huge compared to the humans that are running around in the worlds, but Titans are bordering on incomprehensibly large. Their sound effects should convey their massive stature and immense power. I’ve chosen to focus on their stone qualities to accomplish this. Every sound they make incorporates the sound of stone slabs grinding over each other, functioning like their voice in the same way the neuro bass sounds are the Totem’s voice.
When a Titan is activated, for example, you can clearly hear the stone scraping like the awakening yawn of the giant, along with a heavenly choir-like sound, since Titans are of course blessed by the Gods.
Also, when a Titan is being damaged, you can hear its stone voice almost screaming in pain and anger:
The collectible blobs of Energy are the currency of the game. With energy, teams can activate and power up their Titans and take over the settlements of the Natives. The Energy has a silk-like quality to it, its consistency is somewhat fluid, sticky and stretchy, like silk from a silkworm or the web of a spider.
Although picking up Energy is a very rewarding action (sometimes it literally is a player’s reward for destroying an opposing Totem that is carrying Energy), I didn’t want it to sound like a non-diegetic achievement ‘pling’. You should be able to feel the wobble of the individual blobs of weird stuff being collected. Here’s a bunch of them in a small playlist:
Energy is also manufactured by Spindle Points, large structures with giant rotating discs, which can be activated by players from both teams. Once set in motion, the Spindle Point will start to generate Energy from thin air and will shut down as soon as it has produced a certain amount of blobs. I tried to make the spinning itself sound like the Energy is magically being torn and pulled into existence.
That’s it for now. In the future, I’ll talk more about Antegods’ music, the adaptive music system, and perhaps altered or newer sound effects (like the new types of Totem or all the plant life that is yet to be implemented).
Antegods is supported by the Dutch Cultural Media Fund, Cultural Industries Fund NL and the MEDIA Programme of the European Union.