Key Release: Inside new audio tool suite Elias Engine - MCV

Key Release: Inside new audio tool suite Elias Engine

We ask Elias Software how it plans to change how composers and developers collaborate
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Elias Software is a new audio team in the industry that has been working on an adapted music rendering engine, named the Elias Engine.

It’s been built to make the music follow the story of the game and adapt to a player’s actions. Head of development Philip Bennefall explains: “We’re trying to avoid the traditional crossfade approach as much as possible.”

He says it’s important that adaptive audio is musically accurate, rather than based purely on crossfades, and the tool suite has been developed with both composers and developers in mind.

Its set of tools consists of two parts, the Elias Engine, which is the runtime component that’s the core of the package and is included in the game itself when distributed. Then there’s the authoring tool, Elias Studio, where composers can arrange their music. It’s a solution that Bennefall says is designed to offer a simplified workflow and be as easy as possible to use for all parties.

“As a composer making your music you will structure it in this tool,” he explains. “So you pull all the different versions of the different tracks and that kind of thing to where they’re supposed to go. And then when your work is done as a composer, you deliver a package to the developers, and that’s basically it.”

We think that every game should be able to have adaptive music in it, regardless of how big the budget or how advanced the game engine is.

Philip Bennefall, Elias Software

The adaptive music works by having a selection of different tracks, as you would in any audio workstation, with each of these tracks having a different version or variation to the original sound. The Elias Engine can then operate in a number of modes depending on the player’s in-game activity. These can include ‘objective’, where the player is heading towards a definite goal, and ‘exploration’.

“Exploration is when you’re going through a vast area where it takes a long time, and you want the music to vary but you don’t necessarily want it to vary in its perceived intensity,” says Bennefall. “So you want it to be different so it doesn’t get boring, but you don’t want it to necessarily be perceived as different.”

The latest version of its Composer Studio, 1.5, features numerous improvements to clear up the tool’s early “rough edges”, and deals with some latency issues. Bennefall says the company is focusing on ensuring all the features currently included with the tool offer stability, rather than throwing in as many features as possible.
But perhaps a key feature of the tool is the ability to edit a project during the game, and then restart it with the
changes implemented.

“There was no coding, nothing like that, because the studio exports an xml document that has all the details, and the engine reads that back in. It’s super easy to update and work as you go.”

Companies to have used Elias’s tools early on include publisher Warner Bros for the Arrowhead-developed Gauntlet. But as CEO and head of music Kristofer Eng says, the firm tool suite isn’t just aimed at large publishers, it is ideal for indies, too.

The company is in the midst of restructuring its licence terms as it looks to make the Elias Engine and Studio more appealing to developers of all sizes. For non-commercial and educational use, the tool is completely free.

“One of the main things about the Elias engine is it’s supposed to be easy to use so that any developer should be able to implement it into a game without any hassle,” says Bennefall.

“It’s lightweight so it works on every platform as well, whether it’s an iOS game, Android or PlayStation 4. Which was also very important because we think that every game should be able to have adaptive music in it, regardless of how big the budget or how advanced the game engine is.”

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