Posted date / 7.13.16
Hey everyone - Chris ‘Joppa’ Perkins here to take a deeper look at the music and sound design of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
I became passionate about music in MMOs during my days playing Everquest. One of my earliest memories was running through the “newbie” area outside the gates of Freeport and hearing the music in that area for the first time. That music fueled the creation of many characters, and actually made me excited to explore more of the world - all from a single track.
It was a dream of mine, not only to work on these kind of games, but perhaps one day to compose the music for them, which would hopefully have the lasting effect on others as the music in my favorite MMOs had on me. That dream became a reality when I joined the Pantheon team as the music composer in 2014. Now, as the Creative Director, music composition and sound design is still one of my chief roles, and I take it very seriously.
The role of Creative Director comes with many duties, and as such I have not had the time to compose new music for Pantheon recently - but if you would like a small sample of the musical score you will be hearing in game, please visit our Soundcloud page and enjoy!
When I think about the sonic landscape of Pantheon, my goal has always been to find ways to use audio to achieve new heights of authentic immersion. I want to talk about 3 specific ways I hope to achieve this:
The concept behind ‘soundscapes’ is to compose iconic theme songs for major areas of the game world (major starting cities, for example), and then compose smaller, reminiscent versions of that theme to use at certain points throughout the world when we want to remind players of something, or clue them in to possible story content.
An example would be, you create a Human in the city of Thronefast and spend your first 8 levels pretty close to the city, returning often to sell and train. By the time you leave Thronefast’s vicinity, you will be familiar with its musical theme. Now, you have traveled several zones away and you see a group of massive, ancient pillars standing strangely in an open field. As you approach, music begins to play. You have not heard this particular track yet, but there is something strangely familiar about it. Then you begin to recognize echoes of Thronefast’s theme in the music, and you realize that this group of pillars has something to do with Thronefast’s ancient past, so you start looking for clues…
This naturally ties in to our Perception System - the goal of this system is to reward players with quest and story content through exploration. You see the group of pillars in the distance, you are intrigued by them so you go to them, you arrive and music begins to play which is very reminiscent to the musical theme of Thronefast (you may even get a Perception message that alerts you to this, if your Perception skill is high enough), you begin looking around and notice a figure standing by one of the pillars. She calls out to you, “Where are you from, stranger?” and you begin a conversation with her about Thronefast’s past.
The idea of Soundscapes is to use the iconic musical themes of the game to draw you in to story and point-of-interest related content around the game world. But, speaking of Perception...
Another area where we are excited to use audio as a means of immersion is with Perception hints and triggers. I’m not able to go into much detail just yet, but a few simple examples will impart the sense of how this could work. The simplest way would be: you get a Perception message that says, “An odd noise coming from inside…” With that perception message may come a 3-5 second audio clip where the player can actually hear the odd noise, simply for the sake of immersion.
However, we may also design more complicated scenarios where hearing and discerning audio cues may be the key to progression with certain quests. It’s one thing to peer through a dark window and read, “A faint whisper..?” It’s another thing to peer through a dark window and actually hear whispering, and what you hear in the whispering is a clue of what to do next! (With triggers like this, we will work out a way for players to replay the whispering if case they miss it the first time, or need to refer back to it later).
The last thing we’ll discuss in this newsletter is a little idea I call Sonic Torque. The premise is simple - as players level up, they are used to the power (and maybe the visuals) of their abilities getting bigger and better. But the way the abilities sound never changes. In Pantheon, we want to experiment with more powerful abilities having a more formidable sonic imprint. The Frail Healing of a Cleric at level 1 should not sound the same as Relentless Life at level 50! More on this coming later…
I hope you have enjoyed this brief look into the different ways we are
aiming to leverage the music and sound design of Pantheon to create deeply
immersive gameplay experiences. I am more excited than ever to be part of this
amazing team at Visionary Realms, making the game that many of us have wanted
for such a long time. While you wait, visit our Soundcloud and immerse yourself
in the music of Pantheon - and as for us, we will keep working hard to make this
game a reality - can’t wait to see you in Terminus!