“The end comes soon. We hear drums, drums in the deep…”

We learnt a lot while crafting an audio experience for STASIS and CAYNE.

George Lucas famously said that “sound is ‘half of the film’ experience“. We think that sound is even more important in interactive media and we take great care in building a detailed audio pallet for our players.

When producing the sound for STASIS, we started by watching as many 80s sci-fi and horror films as possible. What we often do is turn off the picture completely and then dissect the background audio atmosphere. Something that you will notice first is that film always has some sort of backtrack playing. Subtle ambient sounds and music is used to prompt the mood of the viewers. They use this to great advantage in horror films where silence replaces the background sound and is as powerful as an orchestral score.

Both STASIS and CAYNE play an ambient ‘back track’ for the entire duration of the game, including over menus and cut scenes. You probably haven’t noticed it, but it is there – subtly piecing everything together. We also include an infrasound layer. This low-frequency sound can apparently cause an emotive response of awe or fear.

We then have scene specific ambience. For instance, a passage in CAYNE may feature mechanical sounds in the far off distance or a garbled PA announcement.

The next layer pertains to scene specific sounds, a whirring fan or a crackling electric fuse.

We’ve found that creating this multi-layer soundscape further immerses and engages the player.

Often with the newer gaming engines, sounds are post processed at runtime. This means that reverb and other special effects are applied while the game is being played. Our games are 2D and we feel that it we would have more control over the sound if we applied the effects prior to adding them into the engine. This is a stylistic choice that we may revisit at a later date.

On top of the soundscape, we then add a musical score that attempts to convey the mood we’re trying to create in this area. This music shouldn’t overpower the events but rather add a rich audio experience to the action unfolding. When we created STASIS we wanted an instantly recognizable melody. Mark Morgan wrote a hauntingly beautiful piece of music which we then based all of our other musical tracks on.

MUSIC OF BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION

This world of DESOLATION gives us the opportunity to create a unique musical score. We plan on creating a fusion of African drum beats, Maasai choirs and the iconic synth sounds of the 80s.

When the game moves into full time production and we start to work with our chosen composer, we’ll bring in the strong melodies and weave them into a beautiful and unique soundtrack.

The trailer music was the first piece we created as an attempt at the rough direction we want to take the musical score. In 2 minutes we travel from the 80s through to the alien sounds of The Penrose, and then end with the wonderfully twisted sounds of a post apocalyptic Africa. While all of these scenes are vastly different in their design, the music brings it all together.

Another music track we did for the making of videos:

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THE WORLD OF DESOLATION

As far back as during the development of STASIS, both Nic and I spent time discussing several ideas for future projects. During these conversations we kept circling back to a vivid post apocalyptic world.

A story revolving around a similar theme to STASIS: family. The idea of two brothers, transported to another world fell beautifully into place in a post apocalyptic African dystopia. This setting was a feature of our original story. It was different, inspiring, and considering our location – achievable! For research, we just had to open the door and step outside.

MARK AND DON

While STASIS focused on the a man’s desire to save his wife and child, BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION will be a story about brothers. A story about love, loss and accepting the errors of the past and moving on.
Creating this dynamic is a challenge, but something that I think that we can achieve.
Just as The Last Of Us showed the connection that a father can have with his daughter, BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION will showcase a brotherly bond.

AFRODORA

Post apocalyptic worlds are the perfect vessel for exploring. The desire to walk through an abandoned city, and the idea of solitude that is obtained by stripping away of societies niceties. A lawless world combined with the anti-hero always makes for compelling stories. However, that sense of danger and exploration has started to wane. How could we create a world where that ‘thing’ over the horizon was new and different? Where the world felt truly alien, but still tangible?

TRIBAL PUNK

Early on we decided that we wanted to show off the incredibly diverse fauna that Africa has to offer. Africa is a rich foundation to draw from and to build on with giraffes towering over the tree tops to herds of elephants leaving wakes of destruction in their paths. We plan on taking local African folktales and myth and twisting it into the social construct of our future apocalypse.

The effects of the Penrose are felt like ripples in time and as such this is reflected in local attire. A mix of technology and necessity is showcased on the daily lives of the local Denizens.

This will make for interesting puzzles and quests that weave through the narrative, and touch on the lives of inhabitants of this place.

POOCH

Pooch is affectionately labeled after the nickname of our Labradoodle, Chelsea. ‘A boy and his dog’ are a strong motif that can be an illustrative bond between two creatures. Now, what if that dog could speak and had a precocious attitude? Like with CAYNE and STASIS, we’re interested in telling personal stories. A motto of ours has always been to write about ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

Pooch, Mark and Don will need each other to survive this harsh place and we know that you will connect with them instantly in a world of desolation.

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Onions have layers (and so do our scenes!)

HOW A SCENE IS ASSEMBLED IN ISOMETRIC

Our games are essentially made up of flat pictures. I believe that removing the concern over the amount of polygons that make up a scene, allows us to add in an inordinate amount of detail into each image.

A 3D model is generated first.

We can also focus on how we compose the environment – having full control over how the player will visually perceive an area.

‘After Effects’ is used to composite the scene

Animated areas can give the scene the illusion of depth, because this is after all a flat picture. Adding motion does however take some planning.

Images are rendered out as animated frames which are then imported into After Effects. In After Effects, stock footage (smoke, fire and other natural elements) is added.

Animated areas are masked out and rendered as separate sprites and layers which are then imported into the game engine.

Animated areas are masked and rendered separately.

Working this way allows us to have a good idea about what the final scenes will look and feel like before it is imported into the engine.

We can iterate quickly to get to a final result that we’re happy with!

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