Meet the team: Jan, Sound Designer
Screeching doors, the thump of a lever that slides into the correct position. A dead enemy falling to the ground. The delightful *ding* of leveling up. The sound of wind bustling through the leaves as your party strolls around, looking for new adventures - sound is an essential ingredient for immersion. But who makes the sounds for MMX, and how? Jan, sound designer and sound engineer, started working for Limbic Entertainment at the beginning of November. He talked to me about the sounds he makes for MMX, and what can be done to keep game sound from getting boring.
Hey Jan, what are you doing at Limbic Entertainment?
I'm responsible for the sound effects in MMX. That means I'm creating all sounds except music. Which includes the atmospheric sounds such as wind, water, and fire, not-so-complex sounds like doors and levers, but also more special and complex sounds, like for example magic objects. There is an exception though: most of the monster sounds were already there when I joined Limbic Entertainment. But I have created the ones that were missing. Also, I am one of the people who are responsible for placing the sounds in the game.
How exactly do you create the sounds?
For the basic stuff, I'm browsing sound archives and use what I can find there. However, I have to work on the sounds I took from the archives in order to make them fit into the game. For the more complex stuff, I work at my studio, where I revamp my finds from the archives with home-made synthesizer sounds.
How did you become a sound designer?
I studied digital media in Dieburg, Germany and majored in sound design. Before that, I was trained to be a sound engineer at the SAE. I've been a musician for a long time, so that's where my interest in music, sounds, and sound engineering comes from.
What kind of music do you make, and can we listen to some of it?
Apart from making music, what do you like to do?
My other passion is gaming, although I don't have so much time for it anymore. I played a lot of RPGs, mainly Baldur's Gate, but also Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls and such. But I also liked Heroes of Might and Magic IV and V very much. Recently I got an X-Box which I currently use for playing Skyrim and XCOM.
What impact does sound design have on a game?
Sound production for computer games has become highly professional nowadays. Sound is critical for immersion; good sound can create an atmosphere that drags you right into the story. For an RPG, it's important that the sound also provides a certain serenity; you need to be able to play it for a long time without your ears getting tired. Therefore, contrast is key. Calm passages, like exploring a level, alternate with dramatic passages, like monster fights. This dramaturgy creates contrasts that keep you from getting bored.
Can you give us an example of what you're working on for MMX?
Sure, these are three sounds I created. “Atmosound” is an atmospheric sound for a rather gloomy place. Then there’s the shimmering sound of a magical object. “Barrier” is a sound you hear when opening a magical barrier.