Welcome to the next entry of our dev diaries. This one is all about the sound and music that will help Stellaris become a galaxy worth exploring. Stellaris is the first project from Paradox where we have had a dedicated Audio department in-house and we hope that it will be something that our players will notice.
Hi, my name is Andreas Waldetoft aka Jazzhole and I am the music composer here at Paradox.
When I got hold off the news that we were doing Stellaris. I excitedly and immediately started thinking on what kind of direction to go with the music. I can remember myself as a young kid in the 80’s sitting in my room reading comics and listening to my father's records. That included a lot of Vangelis and Mike Oldfield which ended up being two of the biggest inspirations for the sound of Stellaris soundtrack. The idea of the music for Stellaris is getting back to that feeling I had as a kid, the feeling of infinite possibilities and what might be out there among the stars and galaxies.
There was a lot of experimentation before we found the right vibe for the music. But I always wanted to blend the otherworldly sounds of synths with the organic sound of an orchestra and ethnic instruments, to create a soundscape that would feel right at home in Stellaris. To make the feeling of exploration and journey across the galaxy I decided to not make the music too static and ambient. I wanted melody and a beat to push us forward to the unknown, sometimes with odd time signatures to really emphasize that push.
I hope you will enjoy the direction we took with the music, and I really hope to write music for Stellaris for years to come.
Hi, My name is Björn Iversen aka Metal King and I’m the Audio Director here at Paradox and I have been responsible to create a stellar soundscape for Stellaris.
Where we start with the sound design?
It’s a challenge to work with Sci-Fi from a sound designer’s perspective since basically everyone will always compare your work to the great classics such as Star Wars. Star Trek, Starcraft, Mass Effects and much more. For this project I asked around a lot in the team to try get hold on what kind of “sound” they wanted Stellaris to have. After getting a grip on what kind of soundscape my colleagues wanted (or what they think they wanted) I started to create audio assets with their reference in my mind but also added with “my touche” to the overall sound design.
I went through a lot of different sound effects in our archives and as well going around the office and hitting every locker, desk, door or anything I could find that I think would sound awesome. I even started recording our elevators in the old office when they went up and down. I also started looking into different VST synthesis (basically digital synths) that could do awesome sound effects or really weird effects.
After finding the “neat-sound” resources I loaded them into my program and started modulating them all with various effects. For inspiration to create these assets I did some research to see how the audio team did when they created all their iconic sound effects for the original Star Trek. It was really inspiring to see how you could also create your own assets with help of simple tools.
You're able to find a .zip file attached to this post that contains some audio samples on the sound design if you want to listen.
Something that was important for us from the beginning was to emphasize the feeling of the galaxy being vast and full of wonders, so I really wanted to create a deep soundscape. Since you can zoom in really close to ships or zoom out to get a better view of the entire system I wanted there to be a sound effect for ships when you zoom in on them, for example to hear their engine hum or if you’re admiring the planets you would hear the planet’s own “hum”. But having great background audio is also important for creating a big soundscape (even if there is no sound in space!) so I created several layers for the background ambient for our solar system. This was to create a background that feels like it is always moving, but wouldn’t take too much of your attention.
Usually the hardest sound effects to create, especially in a strategy game, since it is the sound effects players will hear the most of throughout the game. Therefore it was important for us to create as many various “click” SFX we could so the player won’t get tired of them. From the beginning I started out with only “digital” created audio resource that I mixed and tweaked with different effects, but later on I started to record several “organic” sound sources to get the right sound. I actually made a longer session of recording a kazoo, which was not well received in the office..
After many iterations we came up with a style of GUI sound effects that is hybrid between digital and recorded audio sources that we’re pleased with. Try to guess what we have recorded to achieve desired sound!
Even if we wanted to create a deep soundscape you got to have a little more punch/action to some of the sound effects to give more life and what better opportunity when you’re in a space battle! Considering the subtle ambience, there was no question that the weapons sound effects should sound big and take space! It was also important that the sound for the weapons would change depending on the distance from the battle (remember, deep soundscape!) so if you are watching a encounter far away the weapons doesn’t sound clear, are kind of muddy and with echo but it’s a opposite experience when you zoom in closer to the encounter. Then you can hear much more of the details from each weapon type.
But it is easy to forget that the sound effects needs to be consistent with the overall feeling so we didn’t want to go too “Michael Bay” on the sound effects (or just only a few times).
We wanted to give VIR, our dear advisor, a bigger presence for the player so we had auditions for the role before hiring a VO artist to bring more life to VIR. It is a perhaps a first for a PDS game to have VO at all. Except for teaching you how to play the game, VIR will also keep you updated throughout the game to make it easier for you to run your empire. VIR will notify you if your Pops are short on food or that one of your Science Ships has completed its survey.
This was a short summary for the music and sound design in Stellaris, we could ramble on forever about the audio, but hope that you enjoyed some of the samples!
Next entry will be an interesting one when the Project Lead speaks about Stellaris.