How do you handle working on a project solo, creating new SFX and also deal with a feisty and loud celebrity? John Broomhall finds out from Codemasters’ audio expert Jethro Dunn
TELL US ABOUT THE GAME AND ITS AUDIO CHALLENGES
Micro Machines World Series is an evolution of the MM formula. We expanded on the popular Battle Mode with large multiplayer arenas and FPS-style game modes like capture the flag. The action is FPS but the top- down view is more like a MOBA. Audio plays a key role helping the player understand what’s happening, especially when things get chaotic.
The audio was basically down to me with some dialogue and music composition support and 30 per cent of an audio programmer’s time to address low level stuff. Music was challenging because match lengths could be between two and 20 minutes - bespoke music would have been expensive and probably overkill, therefore the MCPS per-game licence (all the library music you can eat for £5K – all platforms) was a no-brainer. However, I couldn’t leave out layered music entirely, so our in-house composer Mark Willott produced a cool reboot of the original MM music in three layers.
Celebrities can be difficult but he was a true pro. He came in, did the business, shook the walls down
Jethro Dunn, Codemasters
The amount of audio detail is very high for a mid-priced title. World Series has 35 per cent more sound effects than Flashpoint: Red River though produced and implemented by one person in one year. We wrote our own Wwise integration for Unity to provide a few features we wanted. We made some cool game design and UI tools that enabled me to do most of the hook-up which increased implementation and iteration speed.
HOW DID YOU OBTAIN SOURCE SOUND?
The physics audio is all matchbox-scale toy cars recorded rolling, skidding and colliding with the surfaces you see in-game. I borrowed some of my son’s toy cars and raided Codies Campus and my home for objects to drive them on. I recorded slow and fast rolls and skids plus collisions on 60 surfaces as well as real collisions and movement.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH BRIAN BLESSED?
Brian was awesome. Celebrities can be difficult but he was a true pro. He came in, did the business, shook the walls down, terrorised the staff and entertained us all. When showing him around, he barged into an important- looking meeting shouting ‘don’t listen to them!’
HOW WAS IT WORKING SOLO?
The danger is losing objectivity and spending too much time hacking away at a bad idea. Feature-creep can affect you exponentially. I always placeholder things first – get the tech working, prove the concept then spend time on the assets. I try to be clear about what can be delivered in the timescale, so that I don’t give myself more work than I can handle.
Having people I can ask for opinions or advice around helps, even though they’re on different projects. For me, mixing is the biggest thing. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when mixing a project of this size – 37 engines, 60 weapons, 31 tracks, six game modes, five languages and three different listener configurations is a lot for one person to keep track of (whilst simultaneously bug-fixing).
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PLEASED WITH?
I’m pleased with the level of detail. Little things like when you get sucked into the gravity well. Or when you launch a nitrous tank missile at a burning opponent you get a different vfx and sfx (it’s the sample I hate the most because it’s so over used: Sound Ideas 6015_28. I used it just to troll myself!). I even used personal pet-hate tropes – tinnitus and heart beats. But they work. Sometimes, the most obvious sound is the right sound after all.
John Broomhall is a game audio specialist creating and directing music, sound and dialogue www.johnbroomhall.co.uk