Music, sound design, audio integration

Evasion is a fast paced, high octane, futuristic newtopian 1v1 sport where the players have to capture the Spark and use parkour to move through te level as efficiently as possible to evade their opponents and conquer Holofields to obtain the most territory.

The goal for evasion is to evoke the adrenaline and rush felt during heavy focus in sports. The goal for the audio is to emphasise this positive stress and focus, without being to stressful or dark. The audio adapts to the different stages of a round of gameplay, to provide sound ques used as gameplay element and to emphasise the flow of the game .

The project has currently been put on hold, but plans to further develop it are on the table.

Adaptive music design

Other arena-based fast paced 'sportslike' games such as Rocket League, often use (EDM) pop songs to reach the same type of goals for the emotional impact as Evasions soundtrack aims to do. These pop songs however, are not adaptive and don't react to the game. For this project we wanted to make an adaptive style EDM pop soundtrack that reacts to the flow of the game. Creating a non-linear track that sounds like a pop song in a genre I was very unfamiliar with proved to be a tough challenge.

My initial approach was to follow my standard workflow and design a nonlinear audio system first, to then create music for this system. The system I designed was a horizontal based re-sequencer using quantised transitions. I decided against using other transition techniques, such as crossfading or stinger based transitioning to try and uphold the illusion of the audio being one linear track. A few vertical layers can fade in and out based on certain transition parameters.

Even though the adaption worked well, the track just didn't achieve the same impact of the linear EDM reference tracks. So we decided to start over and first make the track to later fit it into the adaptive system I had created. This resulted in a more impactful track, but also proved to be a lot of work.

Stressful not distressful

There is only a small line between positive and negative stress. Positive stress being the type of stress that causes players to feel themselves and gain focus and negative stress being feeling overwhelmed and having nowhere to go. Creating a soundtrack that is exiting but not tense, proved to be a difficult task. Bellow I listed some of the iteration and different ideas I went through during conceptualisation.

One of the first concepts I created already had much of the sound of the world, but was to dark and not euphoric enough:

A happier concept lacked in intensity:

Finally the concept demo for the eventual soundtrack was created:

One speakerset for two players

The current version of the game is to be played on one pc with 2 monitors over one set of speakers. Speakers are used over headphones to involve the spectating public as well. This created a huge obstacle in the sound designing. Not only is directional sound hard to implement when both players and all spectators are listening to the same set of speakers, aspects that require localisation such as player movement can't be localised for 2 players at once.

For a solution I first turned to a splitscreen type of audio setup, however in a splitscreen setup all views can be seen by anyone. When a player can't see the perspective of the other player, it feels unnatural to hear the other players character sounds as well as his/her own. Naturally in the future Evasion should be played from multiple computers, but for now a solution was needed. After lots of experimentation the best solutions turned out to be to first of all put more emphasis on the music and non relative sounds and secondly to lower the volume of most 3d player sounds. The more constant sounds that provided the least information to players, such as basic footstep sounds have the lowest amplitude. More important sounds to give information to players and sounds that don't need to be played constantly such as jumppads have a higher amplitude.

Evasion has been made in collaboration with: Josien Vos: Tech Art & Environments. Tom Slootbeek: game designer, producer. Marlon Sijnesael: programmer. Melvin van Berkel: animator, secondary environment artist. Frank Rombouts: freelance concept artist.