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Creative Assembly’s Richard Beddow talks on the increasing specialisation in audio roles

Every month, the team at Creative Assembly debunks some common dev role myths… This month, Richard Beddow, Total War audio director, talks on the advances required to bring Three Kingdoms to life.

Our business has evolved and is still evolving. As we move forward, embracing and supporting the games-as-a-service model, we continue with the big trend that has been happening on Total War audio – one of refined specialisation.

Gone are the days of the lone sound designer who assumed all roles of game audio in a team. As the UK’s largest triple-A studio, we now rely on super specialised and talented audio practitioners, experts and masters of their crafts.

Our latest release, Total War: Three Kingdoms, presented new challenges across the audio team at Creative Assembly, as it’s the first time the series has travelled to China. Our large core internal team consisted of nine sound designers, four dialogue engineers, three programmers, a music designer and an audio director.

Musically, taking the opportunity of the game’s beautiful setting, we extended our systems to allow for both a wider dynamic palette with the music, while at the same time adding more granularity to enhance immersion. This resulted in arguably one of our most colourful musical experiences in a Total War title to date.

The soundtrack blends the essential elements of Chinese music into a cinematic package supporting the modern feel of the game, having been recorded with some of the UK’s finest session musicians, Chinese music specialists and orchestras. Working with a large pool of actors and the Chinese community we delivered characterful performances, aiming for them to be sensitive to modern day portrayals of ethnic cultures. In addition to this, we created an enhanced group vocalisation system to simulate large scale warfare.

“Recorded with some of the UK’s finest session musicians, Chinese music specialists and orchestras.”

 

The sound designers grappled with the challenge of enhancing a traditional setting with a sense of the fantastical, yet without it feeling superimposed or fake. The depth and scope of titles like Three Kingdoms have seen our sound designers focus on obtaining high resolution assets for maximum tweakablity, growing custom asset libraries for original content and furthering our mix and technical efforts to produce dynamic, adaptive and clear mixes.

Technological development moves along at a frenetic speed and offers us new ways to deliver things that we couldn’t have easily done in the past. These have been vital for improving our own efficiencies, quality and getting better returns on our investments. Many games now directly embrace great audio technologies, such as custom in-house audio engines, implementation tools or advanced third-party solutions – such as our investment in the Wwise platform [Audiokinectic’s cross-platform audio authoring tool and sound engine].

Wwise, coupled with our internal audio tool development, has helped us transform the sonic landscape of Total War giving us extensive control and ease of implementation of our audio. Outside of the game environment, for asset production, we are embracing new workflows and tools to improve the speed of operation, plus offering a wider array of sonic choices to multiple project teams. We are able to make extensive use of templates and software with custom scripting and additional plugins like Serum, Morph and Envy.

One hope for the future is that we see more commercial audio plugin developers embracing game audio technology and provide wider choices in the tools/plugins that we can use, such as those used outside of the game environment. This will all help us raise that quality bar even further.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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