A Modular Creature Design System


I’ve been working on a game project on and off over the past year and a part of the design is of relevance to this month’s theme — animals. The gameplay revolves around creatures of various kinds — some good, some evil, some tiny, some large. I had to conjure a vocalisation system that achieved the following technical and design criteria:

  • Actions by the user would directly affect the state (and sound) of the creature
  • The player must be able to perceive some sort of emotive response from the creature
  • A modular system which would work for various creature types and characters
  • With mobile devices being the primary target, it had to be simple, effective and portable
  • Low CPU and memory usage, which translates to maximising the design capabilities of the system with little DSP and few samples

Design Considerations:

As with most people, I’ve found creature/animal vocalisations easier to design when using material that consists of either human or animal vocal sounds. It is easier for players (or the audience) to make visual and mental connections if they find something remotely similar to reality. It was important for me to make the resulting design as close to what animals sound like.

I collected sounds that matched the above criteria and then shortlisted them based on recording quality (to ensure maximum quality after subjecting them to DSP mangling), character (sounds that created an image or an emotion in my mind) and frequency content (important when grouping sounds together).

‘Emotion’ is tough to parametrise or quantify. It is a loose descriptive and can mean different things to different people. Instead of going after specifics, I put down a list of questions to help me made decisions:

  • What size does the sound convey? (the relative size of the animal)
  • Is it irritating, menacing, timid or defensive? (dogs were a good reference for this)
  • Does the sound convey speed and energy? (this is related to the previous question)
  • Is there enough content to make the creature expressive and not boring? (player-creature encounters were expected to last a few minutes)
  • Is the sound distinctive enough? (it is easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of perfection)

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A Few Independent Animal Sound Libraries To Check Out

Animal Sound Design and Recording Month is coming to a close so we thought it would be neat to do a roundup of just a few of the indie SFX libraries out there that have great animal recordings.

(Disclaimer: I sourced suggestions from the Twitter community and my own experience so this list is not intended be comprehensive, simply a few strong suggestions. If you feel there is a fantastic library that we left off this list; please post it in the comments!)

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The Carpetbagger Blog Talks to Steve Boeddeker and Randy Thom

The Carpetbagger, a New York Times blog dedicated to the film awards season we are now in the flush of, has spoken to Steve Boeddeker and Randy Thom at Skywalker Sound.

“Before there was a here here, I was here,” said Randy Thom, the director of sound design at Skywalker Sound, part of George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch complex outside of San Francisco. “It used to be called Sprocket Systems, in the earliest days, and it became Skywalker Sound in the mid ’80s,” said Mr. Thom, who first worked with the company on “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Randy talks a little bit about the history of the Ranch and Skywalker Sound, and there’s a 5 minute video that includes interviews with both Steve and Randy.

Check it out here.




Whoosh Review


GUI3D_02In the last year, we’ve all been happy to see the slow emergence of software tools designed explicitly for sound design. The fine folks over at Tonsturm are the latest to release one such tool under the moniker Melted Sounds. Whoosh is a Reaktor based plug-in for designing, as implied by its name, complex and varied motion elements and pass-bys. The basic idea behind the tool is similar to a post here on Designing Sound by Charles Deenen, which was later built into a Kyma patch by Jean-Edouard Miclot. Whoosh simplifies the process of setting up this kind of processing chain yourself. If you’ve got Reaktor, you simply load the ensemble. The source material included with tool comes from some of the best independent sound effects libraries out there. Seriously, the list is hard to ignore. Sounds have been licensed from: Chuck Russom, Colin Hart, Tim Prebble, Jean-Edouard Miclot, Michael Raphael, Mikkel Nielsen, and Frank Bry…not to mention sounds from Tonsturm itself. It’s safe to assume that it sounds good…even if I weren’t about to tell you exactly that. Ultimately, deciding if it is a worthy addition to your toolbox is something we each have to decide individually. There are a lot of tools out there, and we all have our priorities. So, a review should be about its potential impact on workflow. Does it allow you a depth of control similar to Charles’ process at a comparable (or improved) speed?

Let’s take a look at what Whoosh can do.

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Gordon Hempton on Designing Rain and Thunderstorms

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gordon has followed up his last post on rain and thunder with a look at how to make use of those recordings. All around us we witness the…

All Those Important Little Touches…

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sometimes selling the story isn’t about how cool that weapon sounds, how intimidating the monster vocal is, or how eerie the wind feels. Sometimes, the sounds that are…


Glitchmachines release Polygon

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Polygon is a new sampler plugin designed to facilitate the creation of stunning composite sound effects. Co-developed by Ivo Ivanov and Thomas Hennebert, Polygon was conceived from the…

SoundSelf: Sound Design-Oriented Gaming Experience

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

SoundSelf is trailed as an interactive and meditated experience in which gamers use their voice, actually their chanting voice, to navigate through the gaming environment. Wired Magazine has an interview…