Exclusive Interview with the Audio Team of "Alan Wake"
Alan Wake is definitely one of my favorite games of 2010, both for the game itself and for the sound of it, which is really detailed and interesting from start to end. The game was just re-released via Xbox Live’s “Games On Demand”, complete with all eight episodes (6 from the boxed game plus 2 from DLC), so there’s no a better time to revisit the amazing audio experience of the game. Below is a long interview I had with the team behind the sound of the game:
- Mark Yeend – Publishing Audio Director (Head of Audio, Microsoft Game Studios)
- Peter Hajba – Sound Designer (Remedy Entertainment)
- Michael Schwendler – Sound Designer (Dynamedion GbR)
- Peter Comley – Sound Designer (Freelance, did Wake as a contract for Microsoft Game Studios)
- Alan Rankin – Supervising Sound Designer (Associate Creative Director of Soundelux DMG)
- Petri Alanko – Composer & Music Producer (Freelance, did Wake as a contract for Remedy)
DS: How early did you guys started to work in the game? How was your relationship with the rest of the development teams from the beginning?
Mark Yeend: I first met the Remedy guys in June of 2009, at the point when the project was turning a corner from a very long incubation to serious production. It was time to execute on the promise. Remedy had already done some audio work before I came on board, of course; especially making some very cool trailers and demos, developing the original score with composer Petri Alanko and developing the characters with voice director Navid Khonsari. It was great to work with Remedy because they knew what they wanted; they had established their creative vision for the game, they just needed my help filling in the details at a high level of quality. Remedy and MGS both work with great passion, so naturally we had some heated debates. But everyone is also very professional and we were all working toward the same end-goal, so there was a bedrock of trust under every argument.
DS: How did you approach the audio direction of the game, working with the different partners in sound design?
Mark Yeend: I looked at my role as the hub of a wheel of extremely talented contributors. With a strong guiding concept and an expert team, all I had to do was communicate clearly. I was simply interpreting and augmenting Remedy’s creative vision, so that it would really sing. Remedy had entrusted their VO direction to Navid and their original music to Petri – both incredible talents in their fields. I knew those parts were going to click, so I focused on Sound Design. I hired Soundelux DMG for enemies, big in-game moments and cinematics, and used Microsoft Game Studios’ Soundlab team for ambiences and a ton of other really important in-game moments. I also hired Michael Schwendler from Dynamedion in Germany for more on-site manpower and expertise with implementation, and he really exceeded my highest hopes. He put his life in Frankfurt on hold for seven months to live in freezing-ass Helsinki for this game! Together, we advocated a really wide dynamic range, to make it more like films and create enough headroom to really startle the player, and I think we achieved that.
From Helsinki to Hollywood to New York to Redmond, WA … this game was truly a global production. Honestly, making a game is hard even when everyone is in the same building! It took a ton of effort from everyone.
I spent a couple of days down in LA early-on (plus a lot of emails and phone calls later), with Alan Rankin at Soundelux DMG, describing the function of game elements – enemy types, light and dark iconography in sound, where the evil comes from, how the plot would dictate the vocal processing – things like that. Funny thing: two months later, Alan got an Oscar nomination for his work on Star Trek, and I felt suddenly ridiculous for “directing” him! He’s a real star, and a wonderful guy. I learned a lot from Alan.
Basically, I love to empower people and watch them succeed. I want their ideas, talent, and passion, and I want them to own the results and own their success. People are sometimes surprised by that – like “What? You’re not going to tell me what to do? You’re the audio director.” I say, “No. I will not micromanage you. I will guide you, advise you, keep you from stumbling, but I hired you because of what you can bring. Now bring it!” More often than not, that approach really works. It certainly did on Alan Wake.
The audio reviews have been simply incredible (IGN gave it a 9.0 and GamingTrend said it should win game audio of the year), which is really gratifying. In fact, I’m so proud of the Wake audio teams that I have asked them to contribute to this interview in their own words…
DS: Did you guys had external references or influences (books, films, other games, etc) to create the sonic world of “Alan Wake”?
Alan Rankin: I happen to be a big fan of the horror genre so my influences run deep and wide; from the movies “Poltergeist”, “The Exorcist” “Aliens” to Stephen King’s vast repertoire of writings and movies to games like the “Silent Hill” and “Resident Evil” series. I felt that to convey the sense of dread that the real world that Alan knew was transforming into something gone horribly wrong, we had to create sounds that still had anchors in the real world.
Pete Comley: I took my first cue from Remedy’s influences, the most obvious one being Twin Peaks. That in turn got me thinking about David Lynch and his use of sound in general… his seeming obsession with strange drones coming from dark places, steam radiators that seem inhabited with great menace, light bulbs that buzz like alien radio transmissions, and so forth. His focus is always on sounds that are interesting but a little “off”, like they are coming from some hidden side of reality just outside of our normal perceptions. Right away it was obvious that there was a lot of opportunity to decorate the world of Alan Wake with sounds in this kind of tradition, so I got to work collecting and creating sounds that seemed to fit that idea, while keeping in mind the specific needs of Alan Wake’s level designs and story. In addition to that I think I gave Remedy several hundred ambient loops, some of which they requested and some of which I created for them to use at their own discretion, everything from evil tornado loops to abstract tones to strange fluorescent light bulb hums… much of it inspired by early Lynch films like Blue Velvet and Eraserhead. Other films I thought of on this project include Se7en and the first Alien movie – both include richly detailed soundscapes that serve the larger story and mood. As for games, Dead Space was a huge inspiration to me as well, though Alan Wake was already pretty far into development by the time it was released.
Mark Yeend: It was a real treat to visit Helsinki and see the Remedy bookshelves lined with all the influences I had suspected! From David Lynch films to Northern Exposure to The Twilight Zone to The Shining – these guys were very focused in researching their aesthetic. This made it easy to inspire and give specific direction to the various production teams. I remember one of the comments Sam Lake and Saku Lehtinen told me: it was important to be “pulpy” and wear their influences on their sleeves, so the player is in on the jokes. It’s an approach that really works. It adds another layer of context for the player, and also adds a bit of quirky humor.
DS: How was the main character approached in terms of sound? How were his lonely/dark view and aesthetics reflected on sound design?
Mark Yeend: I wanted to exaggerate the differences between sane and insane. I thought that would be scarier and also represent what’s in Alan’s head – a bit schizophrenic. There’s a stark divide between the mundane reality of Alan’s waking world, and his blurry, swooshy flashes of confusion and hallucination. That’s basically my direction to the teams: make the everyday stuff really boring, and make anything from his subconscious really fantastical. Exaggerate that contrast. And the story and visual effects really inspired and supported that.
Michael Schwendler: For me the focus on the sound design in Alan Wake was on the ambient side. In my opinion the ambience is creating the basic mood of a game – and especially in a psychological thriller game – is of great importance. I tried to create ambient tracks that reflect the current state that Alan is in. Sometimes we have pretty strong contrasts in the game – especially in the beginning of the game, when Alan is not quite sure if all these weird things around him are just a result of his imagination or real. Bright Falls is a good example, at daytime a normal, cozy place but at night time, when the Dark Presence has taken over, it changes to a lonely scary mood. I wanted to make the ambient tracks somehow real but on the other hand they needed some kind of weirdness. I wanted to transmit Alan’s confusion to the player through the soundscape. Giving the listener something he is familiar with but with a new touch that leaves him uncertain.
Peter Hajba: Alan Wake’s emotions were primarily conveyed via the music in the game, composed by the very talented Petri Alanko. When outdoors, the ambient soundscape mainly consists of natural sounds, but some unnatural elements have subtly been added there. When bad things start happening, the soundscape takes a bigger turn towards the unnatural.
DS: And what about the light? This one plays a significantly role in the game, being the main weapon. How was your process with it?
Mark Yeend: This was a challenge, because it was the exact opposite of what audiences are used to hearing in horror films. It’s somewhat easier to make electrical tones scarier and natural tones less scary, but we needed to do the reverse of that. When the player hears anything electrical we needed them to be attracted to it, because it means there might be light nearby, which is safe. When no electricity or light was available, like out in the woods, we had to make it more scary, so we would emphasize some creepy wind or an offscreen twig-snap, or the super-cool whispers in quad. Sometimes we would mix in a layer of enemy sounds with the nature sounds – the nature sounds had to give you the creeps.
Peter Hajba: Not only light is the main weapon, but it also means safety. This was reflected in the sound design. The Safe Haven lights emit a soothing tone when they are on and the player is in the area of the cone. When Wake boosts his flashlight against the enemies, there is a powerful beam-like sound. The sound is abstract and unnatural, but then, so is the event itself. The sound itself is a combination of an old CRT screen sounds and fluorescent light buzz; sounds which people tend to associate with lights – which normally don’t make any sound at all.
DS: Another important aspects are the different enemies, the ways they can die, etc. What were the sound decisions for “the Taken” and the “Dark Presence”?
Mark Yeend: Remedy designers were very clear about how the enemy sound design should support the game design hierarchy of enemies. And Soundelux pulled it off in a really unique-sounding way. There are vocalizations from both Soundelux and Remedy in the final game. It’s a straightforward structure, but it does not sound cliché like some horror movies – it’s really fresh. I’ll let Alan and Peter H. describe the approach.
Alan Rankin: Even though we did use “creature” type fx, Brad Beaumont was very clever in how he incorporated human vocal sounds as the basis for the Taken vocals. You’re not just fighting monsters in the game; you’re dealing with real people who just happen to be possessed by some kind of evil presence bent on your destruction. There were 3 basic Taken types we designed sounds for; Assault, Ranged, and Flankers. The Assault class were heavy, lumbering body types that we felt needed to sound a little slower and dumber than the others so we gave him a more lower-pitched growling vocal character than the other 2. The Ranged attacker was kind of like a regular guy, so we made his vocals a little more active and medium-ranged in relative pitch. You can hear a bit more enunciation in his delivery. The Flanker character was the quickest moving of the 3, so we thought he should have a more breathy quality in his vocals; a little more phlegm and gargle in his breathing when he ran toward you helped to differentiate him from the other 2 types of Taken.
Brad (Beaumont) and I initially conceived that the Dark Presence should be more demon-like in character, but Remedy had the idea that it should be more Banshee-scream like; which in the end was a much better fit for the types of movement and situations that you encountered with the Dark Presence. When it flew through the air in the cinematics, it incorporated nicely with the design elements of flight. When it possessed objects, its other-worldly character allowed the natural sounds inherent in that object to come through. A bulldozer still sounded like a bulldozer, just a possessed, evil dangerous one.
Peter Hajba: The longer and more deeply the Taken have been possessed, the more incomprehensible they become. Whatever has been taken by the Dark Presence is essentially destroyed. This was reflected in the Takens’ voices. They uttered some comprehensible phrases, but the most common, generic voices for the most frequent events (attacks, damage, death) were made very generic and incomprehensible. Not only because of the way the Dark Presence works, but also because it helps avoid the sounds getting repetitive. Many of the sound effects were produced by the talented team at Soundelux. They are great at producing sounds for abstract events that nobody really knows what they should sound like before you actually hear the sound.
DS: There are also several dark and quiet scenarios. How you dealt with that kind of moments? How was the work on the sound of the ambiences?
Mark Yeend: I gave two fundamental directions: exaggerate the dynamic range, and exaggerate the difference between mundane and surreal. We started with incredible original source audio from Pete Comley’s field recordings and processed drones (he’s amazing at that), and the sounds were implemented with subtlety and artistry by Michael S. and Peter H. I love the Wake ambiences!
Michael Schwender: Everyone how is into sound design knows how hard it can be to create an ambient track for quiet scenarios. If it’s quiet, what is supposed to create a sound? My idea was to create ambient tracks that are very subtle, they should sound “real”, not too supernatural but somehow the listener must feel that something is wrong. They should have an effect on your sub consciousness. I tried to achieve this by using very common samples e.g crowds, people chatting … and processed them with plugins, mainly reverbs, delays and filters to give them a bit of weird touch. Another way to create tension was to add low frequency drones into the mix, a very common thing, but it works. In addition to the ambient loops I used a bunch of so called “one-shot” sounds. These are single SFX e.g. of something falling on the ground or a wood creak. These sounds get triggered randomly (random volume, panning and timing between the sounds) around the player or have been placed into the level at certain points. By using these one-shot sounds it is possible to spice up the (otherwise monotonous) ambient track and it makes the world come alive.
Pete Comley: I think my most audible contribution to the sound of Alan Wake is the birds, which you mostly hear in the quieter moments when you’re exploring the game world. I invested some research time identifying bird species that were plausible for the game’s Pacific Northwest setting, but which fit the emotional mood. I divided those birds into day and night varieties, with the daytime birds sounding more idyllic and relaxing, while the night birds sound more threatening and ominous. Some of the birds are original and some are library, but they were all custom-fit to the mood of Alan Wake. I applied convolution reverb of dense forests, old barns, and caves to make them sound even more foreboding. Some artistic license was taken, of course, as it’s not realistic that you’d hear all these owls and loons and so forth at such short intervals, but it fits the iconic horror style that Remedy was going for. They actually used those bird sounds about five times more than I expected them to, but I’m glad they liked them!
There are many little one-off vignettes that stick out in my mind that are not central to the main action… In Stucky’s lumber yard, the tongs on a log mover spin for no reason as Alan walks by them. It last about two seconds and many players won’t even notice it, but really tried to polish that one moment and make it a tad non-literal and eerie. That moment is followed by a log de-limbing machine which chugs ominously as its jaws open and close, and the player has the option of deactivating it (which, as I recall, doesn’t actually win you anything). I think I made that out of some slowed-down rock crushing machines. The machine does not sound like its real-world counterpart would, but it was hand-massaged to sound like a harbinger of impending doom. Another subliminal moment like that is when the door of the elevator to the Bright Falls dam opens at the top. Listen carefully and it’s not just a door opening, it sounds a bit like a yawning ghost. Many of the sounds in Alan Wake that would normally be well-served by an entirely literal effect often have a subliminal layer or tweak to them. Details like that are what made this project so much fun to work on.
DS: How much field recording did you need for making this experience as real as possible? Any special story about the sound collecting process?
Mark Yeend: Pete Comley is the most dedicated and fanatical audio collector and expeditioner I know. He really put his heart in to field recording for Wake, just like I knew he would.
Pete Comley: I did quite a bit of field recording. Fortunately for Remedy, I’m an avid hiker as well as a nature sound recordist, and there are vast areas of protected wilderness in Washington State for me to roam. All the water and forest “hush” you sounds you hear in the game, and some of the bird and wildlife sounds, are derived from the real Pacific Northwest landscape that inspired it. I went on at least three backpacking trips with audio gear specifically for this game, spread out over two years. Some of the places I went to are among the quietest environments left in the USA. Natural quiet is a critically endangered resource, and recording nature without man-made sound in the background may soon become literally impossible, everywhere on the planet. I learned about these issues back in the 90s, when I attended several nature recording workshops taught by Gordon Hempton, a true legend of the field, experience which really helped me immensely when it came to this project. I am nowhere near as good as Gordon is at nature recording, but without his help I’d still be vainly trying to record birds in the city park next to the freeway.
Here’s a special story for you… some of the recording was done very late at night in environments very similar to the ones Alan Wake tromps through, far in the woodsy backcountry. I had to keep reminding myself that there were no such things as “the Taken” when I heard the sound of elk crackling through the underbrush in the moonlit darkness (or even worse, total darkness). Making this game scared the daylights out of me more than once since I feel like I live where it takes place. Even the building I work in feels like a corporate office anomaly dropped into the middle of a town like Bright Falls, so a trip out to the parking lot at 2am on a foggy moonlit night was all I needed for inspiration on those late work nights.
On one occasion we brought the natural world to us. A few of the owls you hear in the game were actually recorded in the studio. For a donation to a bird rehabilitation center that cares for injured raptors that cannot be returned the wild, we were able to arrange a short recording session. The biggest star of that day was a little barn owl who makes the most wonderful screeching sounds I’ve ever heard… you can hear him all over Alan Wake. We also got some wing flaps from a bald eagle that we used for the ubiquitous crows that fly away as Alan approaches them.
Alan Rankin: Since Alan Wake is situated in the present day real world; it was relatively easy to find sounds for the everyday objects like doors or wood movement. At Soundelux, we recorded original Foley for all of the Taken characters movements and for the cinematics. Brad recorded a ton of vocals that we used for a lot of the Taken and Dark Presence fx.
DS: You guys achieved a really deep and dark atmosphere. How was the relationship between the music and sfx team to create the tension/scary elements of the game?
Mark Yeend: The composer is Petri Alanko, and he’s amazing (and Finnish). He worked for years (literally) with co-director Saku Lehtinen at Remedy to develop themes and moods to fit the characters and scenarios. He mixed all the tracks himself. All I had to do was make sure the sound designers listened to his score before and during their work, to get inspiration. The music evokes every nuance of the story, and conveys some really complicated grown-up emotions. It’s a very special musical work. Seriously, buy the soundtrack CD today! Here’s a few words from Petri:
Petri Alanko: Working with Remedy, I was given quite a few restrictions. I was given stylistic boundaries, but I never felt I was holding myself back. Instead, I enjoyed the “you could go THERE, but avoid THAT” definitions. A lot of ideas were born from the boundaries themselves. I felt sometimes I was pushing my luck with some of the bolder themes because the origins of the game being more on the subtler side, but Remedy liked it. There were some recursive edits and a few revisions, but it was rare when I had to alter orchestral motifs. The edits were mostly weight-related, the size of the orchestra.
Eventually, as art was rendered, I got closer to the core of the characters and the locations. The spontaneous and honest dialogue between me and Remedy was really valuable. My personal attitude towards composing is that if a customer wants to alter a musical cue, there must be an error in it – I’m happy to fix it like a programmer would fix a bug. I try to find a suitable solution, while maintaining “my signature.” Remedy trusted me in almost every cue. One exception was a cue I honed for three days, which was the opening cue for Alan Wake.
The orchestra team at Dynamedion made a great contribution. The score for Wake was dealing with such delicate emotions that I kept running into problems with every imaginable orchestra sample library. Dynamedion’s orchestrator(s) did a magnificent job, and I only sent one single email of direction: I told them I hoped they would maintain the harmonic character, yet soften and decrease the overall size of the orchestra. I planned to add a lot of electronic stuff in the background, so a slightly smaller string section was required. Perhaps Dynamedion’s most valuable asset was a sense of fragility; the immediate flow of emotions and sonic depth. The flow of emotions as the story arc progressed was very important. Some themes required a continuum from initial notes through the fortissimo to the last dying echoes.
I wanted to avoid daylight happy-joy major themes, mostly because the protagonist was already severely burnt-out in the beginning of the game, and his relationship with his wife was in trouble. This emotional context of a troubled man and a troubled love brought an extra weight to the “surviving the day” aspect. The instrumentation was unusual, though: I used more violas and violins and high piano ostinatos (even though the harmonies were minor) and kept the ambient tracks more in the background. I even EQ’d some of the impulse responses (for Logic’s Space Designer) to increase the feeling of “cold air” or “weak sunlight”.
The in-game visuals and concept art is incredibly detailed and I was inspired by it. The dark themes were rather easy to create – and they come from a true-life experience! For example, the Northridge Quake in 1994: At about 4.20 AM I was in a deep sleep when the rumbling came, so it was rather easy to relate to something unexpected and horrible. I didn’t know it then, but I learned something about music in that earthquake: There’s something profoundly horrifying in certain low frequencies and their combinations.
As for Microsoft, there was a certain “making things happen” aura around every Microsoft representative I met during the last year of development of Alan Wake. Even though they must have been frightened about the fact I was handling the composing, arranging, recording and mixing by myself, they just asked one question: “Will we make it in time?” and that’s it. I felt I was trusted during the progress. I had an excellent guard, though – a true shield: Saku Lehtinen probably put himself into the fire more often than I am even aware of.
The music does portray the psychology at work. Mr. Wake is disturbed, has issues with substances, suffers from depression, writer’s block, and has a short fuse. There is an infidelity issue, feeling misunderstood and isolated, constant feelings of guilt, and a personal mission to find his memories and his wife. Suffice to say, the emotions and relationships are mature and complex. The music had to convey all of that, but in a subjective way. I wanted to steer away from the cliché of “increasing madness within” symptom, i.e. increasing dissonance etc., because it was all about Wake’s view on himself.
Perhaps the most profound musical moment for me was the cue “The Well-lit Room”, in which Wake literally steps over the edge, knowing there’s no turning back. The beginning of the theme is built on his best friend’s surprise of his decision, and from the mid-crescendo onwards it was Wake’s conscious decision put into music and harmony – he is very resolute in that moment.
The instrumentation also thickens as the story gets more tangled and dark. In the beginning of the game there’s not much ambient backgrounds and electronics involved – excluding the nightmare sequence – just to keep it “in this world”. But as Wake’s fears increase, I started adding layers. The deeper and more sinister it gets, the more low-mid and low range frequencies are involved, in such a register rarely encountered in a real-life situation. I wanted to capture the “what the—?” feeling. Deeper in to the nightmare, I used non-instrument instruments: a bowed saw, bowed piano strings, scraped contrabass and piano, E-bowed piano strings and baritone guitar. I would sample and stretch these instruments multiple times, with some of the samples processed so heavily they don’t resemble their origins at all.
At the very last meetings with Remedy, the cue music development was described as an example of modern Requiem of sorts – from initiation to purgatory and beyond. That may be a tad too religious a description, but it holds a truth. From my perspective, it was all about analysis, acquiring the tools and reacting to the reality, whether true or untrue.
Pete Comley: The music is wonderfully lush while still leaving plenty of room for sound effects… anybody in the games industry will tell you that this is unusual. There was enough representative music in the build early enough that I could easily design sounds around it. The restraint of the music team made the job of the SFX people a whole lot easier – that’s a big reason the music and SFX work well in tandem. In fact is often hard to know where the music ends and the sound effects begin, which is to me the hallmark of great psychological horror sound design.
Michael Schwendler: To be honest, when I came into the project the sound team and Petri (the composer) worked apart from each other. But Petri played the game very frequently to keep track with the improvements we made on the audio (SFX) side. Also the Art director gave a lot of direction and feedback (also from the sound department) to Petri. Later on in the project Remedy hired a sound designer only for the implementation of the music (Nicklas Renqvist). As Petri had been working on this title for a long time, we had a lot of music to choose from. A great challenge was to create ambiences that stand out against the musical background tracks. Petri used a lot of synthetic sounds and processed soundscapes which almost sound like an ambient track. In some places we had to decide if we want to create the mood by music or by ambient sound design tracks.
DS: And what about the implementation? How was the engine structured? What kind of audio tools did you use on this game?
Michael Schwendler: Alan Wake is built with a proprietary tool from Remedy called the “WEd” (short for World Editor). Everything from level design to scripting and audio implementation was done within WEd. The audio engine is based on FMOD and the engine structure is similar to it. WEd also contains a “light” Version of the FMOD Designer. Based on a wavebank events need to be created that can be placed into the level or started/stopped via script. The handy thing about WEd is that creating events, placing them into the game world and scripting can be done within one application.
For sound design I used Cubase 4 and a bunch of plugins including Native Instruments, GRM Tools, Waves and Altiverb. To build complex plugin chains I used Native Instruments “Kore 2”, a very creative tool! I used it a lot for the design of the ambient tracks.
Peter Hajba: In Alan Wake we used Firelight Technologies’ FMOD engine (FMOD Designer was not used, however). Most of my sounds were made with Sound Forge and Vegas, using various commercial sound effect libraries, free and commercial audio plugins and ‘homemade’ Foley recordings.
Mark Yeend: Remedy has a subset of FMOD represented in their game editor, which presented some challenges. But Remedy is a super smart team, from programmers to level designers and on, and Peter H. could really work magic within the limitations of the tools. It also helped that the FMOD guys offer really great support, quick responses, and solid suggestions to their users. Once you understand the concepts of how game parameters can adjust sounds during runtime, it’s a cool challenge to get creative and stretch your limitations. Peter H. and Michael S. did all the implementation, which is the final “moment of truth” for how a game sounds.
DS: How did you maintain the aesthetic and mix continuity between cinematics and in-game?
Mark Yeend: Communication, really. I just made sure all the teams we had all over the world could hear each other’s cool stuff, and have access to it as source material. I would talk with Remedy about what Soundelux did, and vice versa. It was very organic – an open collaboration, as much as it could be. Then again, I’m probably the only person that thinks that, because I was the only one consistently talking with everyone else! I remember at one point we took a mix of one scene from Soundelux that sounded great, and compared it to the game mix which was blaring loud at the time (as many games are). It was jarring. We made a global sweep to cut all game assets volume in half and re-build the mix to a more “cinematic” volume level. Looking back that was a risky move, but wise in the end. Michael S. really made that decision turn out OK by cleaning up the game mix to closely match Soundelux’s excellent cinematic work. Now that we’re talking about it, I want to watch all the cinematics end-to-end, just for fun!
Alan Rankin: We used as much of the game-play audio as possible in the cinematics. Sometimes we would sweeten and event or a background to accent a story point or action moment, but for the most part we utilized assets created by us here at Soundelux DMG, Soundlab at Microsoft and Remedy for gameplay. Getting the cinematic mix to play at the same level as the in-game audio is always a challenge, but near the end of the mix cycle, we were able to listen to actual gameplay footage from Remedy that helped us make some critical adjustments to the mix. I don’t feel like the levels match exactly, but I’m very happy overall about how it turned out.