Asbjoern Andersen


Anthem is an excellent-sounding new release from BioWare, and in this exclusive A Sound Effect interview, SFX Supervisor Michael Kent discusses the aesthetic direction for the game, and how they designed the sounds of the different flying exosuits called Javelins. He also shares their strategy for keeping the mix clear amid chaotic conflicts - and the sound tools and synths they used to design Anthem’s sound:
Written by Jennifer Walden, images courtesy of BioWare
Please share:
 

BioWare’s newest release Anthem – out on PC via Origin, Xbox One, and PS4 — is a third-person shooter that mixes the beauty of fantasy-genre biomes with the destructiveness of sci-fi/future-tech weaponry. According to BioWare, Anthem takes place on “a world left unfinished by the gods, where a shadowy faction threatens all of humankind. The only thing that stands between these villains and the ancient technology they covet are the Freelancers.”

A Freelancer’s mode of transportation and means of attack is provided by an exosuit called a Javelin. Players can choose between four classes of Javelins; each has its own unique abilities, attacks, and defenses — all modifiable to suit a player’s tastes. The different classes of Javelins work best in conjunction with one another, so players have the option to team-up in co-operative multiplayer mode. Prefer to fly solo? Anthem also offers a single-player option.

Here, Michael Kent, SFX Supervisor at BioWare discusses the aesthetic direction for Anthem and how they designed the different Javelins. He talks about their strategy for keeping the mix clear amid chaotic conflicts. Kent also shares insight on the sound tools and synths they used while designing Anthem’s sound.

Video Thumbnail

Sonically, how does the direction for sound on Anthem compare to games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age?

A man in a hoodie smiles gently.Michael Kent (MK): For Anthem, we wanted to create something that was in between our two existing franchises Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Mass Effect is a very sci-fi centered sonic experience, while the Dragon Age experience is fantasy. For Anthem, the sound is a hybrid of fantasy, realism and sci-fi. We wanted the game to sound exciting and visceral and be grounded in the universe the players are in. Working within a sci-fantasy world, there are fewer rules. We’re able to pull from a range of genres, styles and sources of inspiration.

 

There is so much going on visually and the combat is intense — tons of enemies coming at you at once. How did that influence your use of sound in the game?

We built signal-based mixers that activate on player actions and intensify the player’s experience while cleaning up the mix.

MK: The biggest thing for us was to give each faction or enemy class distinctive sonic representation on the battlefield. Also, because things can get really chaotic, we wanted to make sure the player’s actions — as well as any threat to the player — were front and center. We built signal-based mixers that activate on player actions and intensify the player’s experience while cleaning up the mix. With these mixers and Frostbite’s HDR audio priority system, we were able to build a mix that was clear and player-focused.

Let’s look at the different Javelins and their unique abilities. How did you create the sounds for the four classes of Javelins: Ranger, Colossus, Storm, and Interceptor? What are some sonic distinctions/characteristics for each class?

MK: The sounds were created from Foley, field recordings, and synthesis palettes that we made for each individual suit class.

For the Ranger, we went for a ballistic “Marvel” sound vibe.

The Colossus is like our “dump truck.” We literally went to a junkyard and smashed metal around to create a lot of the sounds for this suit.

The Storm is our tech/mage class. We wanted this suit to sound cleaner and more sci-fi than the Ranger or Colossus. Its abilities are very much a combo of fantasy and sci-fi, a combo of clean tech sounds and synthesis.

The Interceptor is our sci-fi ninja! So, for this class we used very clean, quick, punchy sounds. Again, a combination of synthesis and clean tech sounds.

Video Thumbnail

Watch nearly 20 minutes of Anthem gameplay footage


What are some sounds that the Javelins share?

MK: The Javelins don’t share any sounds. We built a system that handles all the Javelin audio, and we switched out content for each class.

 

Each class of Javelin has special abilities, but there are similarities. For example, Ranger has Venom Darts, Colossus has Acid Spitter, and the Interceptor has Acid Bomb. All of these are ‘acid’ based attacks. How do you differentiate between them sonically?

MK: Great question. I was literally commenting about how much acid is in this game the other day!

When you have multiple designers making sounds for different Javelins using the same source audio, you’re naturally going to get unique sounds that all fit within the same universe.

It was challenging to create all the different permutations of elements without making them sound the same. Throughout the project, we created and curated the Anthem sound library, which is where audio designers could go and grab source to make new content. When you have multiple designers making sounds for different Javelins using the same source audio, you’re naturally going to get unique sounds that all fit within the same universe. We’d also get creative with what we used to get interesting sounds — everything from yogurt to frying bacon.

 

Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

Latest releases:  
  • World Sounds Airport Soundscapes Play Track 100+ sounds included, 386 mins total $50 $29

    Welcome to A Sound Effect where you can find the largest and most diverse airport sound effects library in the world! This constantly updated library has nearly 6 hours of high-quality recorded sounds from 15 different airports. With over 24GB of professionally edited audio, you'll have the best sounds to work with for your project.

    Featured airports in this library:

    • Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, Greece
    • Changi Airport Singapore
    • Chiang Mai International Airport, Thailand
    • George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston, USA
    • Hamad International Airport, Qatar
    • Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
    • Incheon International Airport Seoul, South Korea
    • John F. Kennedy Airport New York City, USA
    • Larnaca International Airport, Cyprus
    • Ngurah Rai International Airport Denpasar, Indonesia
    • Noi Bai International Airport Hanoi, Vietnam
    • Penang International Airport, Malaysia
    • Roberts International Airport Liberia, Costa Rica
    • Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok, Thailand
    • Tom Bradley International Airport Los Angeles, USA

    Our library has lush sounds from bustling international airports with thousands of passengers to smaller regional airports with less activity.

    We've captured audio from all areas of these airports. You'll hear sounds from departure halls, arrival halls, inside private lounges, bathrooms, security check with rolling suitcases, beeping sounds from the security scanners, announcements in different languages and passengers waiting at the gates to board the aircraft.

    42 %
    OFF
    Ends 1560981600
    Add to cart
  • City Life Sounds & Ambiences Of London Vol 2 Play Track 101 sounds included, 330 mins total $60 $45

    Following the success of WW Audio's, 'Sound & Ambiences Of London' – here is Volume 2, with even more interesting and useable files for your theatre or film projects.

    Consisting of 101 great, and sometime eclectic recordings from the English capital, and over 10GB in size, this is a library every sound designer needs in their arsenal. It comes with detailed file names plus Soundminer, ID3 v2.3.0 and RIFF INFO metadata embedded.

    In total, this library gets you  5.5 hours of atmospheric London sounds!

    Sounds captured at famous London locations and landmarks, including:

    Bow Bells – Two amazing, over 10 minute recordings from the belfry at St Mary Le Bow Church  • The famous crossing outside Abbey Road Studios, made famous by The Beatles • Stunning overhead plane recordings coming into land at Heathrow airport • Christmas Markets • Crowds outside Buckingham Palace before and after the changing of the guard • Various emergency vehicle sirens • Various markets both internal and external, quiet and busy • Tube train journeys • London Underground ambiences • Various Parks • Great sounding famous London pub ambiences • Train stations • Room tones, including the infamous possible Newgate Prison Cell in the cellar of the Viaduct Tavern Pub • Churches • Crowds in some of London's most popular and obscure streets • General traffic sounds • North, South, East and West London locations • Hotels • London Aquatic Centre • The Royal Exchange • St Bartholomew's Hospital Grounds • Scrooge's Counting House Location • The Tower of London • The River Thames from Execution Dock • Pudding Lane – the location of the start of the Great Fire of London • Various Gardens • Underground car park • Tower Bridge • And much more – check out the complete file list below

    25 %
    OFF
    Ends 1559253600
    Add to cart
  • Environments Singapore City Soundscapes Play Track 122 sounds included, 327 mins total From: $20

    Welcome to A Sound Effect's first ever Singapore Sound Effects library!

    Explore Singapore as you've never heard it before! This massive library includes ambisonic sounds recorded with the new Zoom H3 VR, binaural recordings with the Soundman OKM II Rock Studio and stereo soundscapes recorded with the Zoom F8n, DPA 4060 and several LOM microphones.

    The diversity of Singapore makes this library unique with lush sounds from busy highways, crowded food markets/ hawker centers in many different languages, neighborhood basketball games at night, skateparks, horse races, city rain sounds, the countries super efficient underground train station (MRT), and even loud military fighter jets and helicopters.

    Perhaps you're wanting nature sounds? No problem! This library features sounds from a variety of cicadas recorded at night and birds from the famous Javan Mynah near Mount Faber.

    With nearly six hours of recordings throughout Singapore, we suggest reviewing the metadata and discovering sounds you may not have expected!

    The library is available in 3 variations: A Stereo, AmbiX and special bundle featuring both Stereo and AmbiX files at a big discount.

  • Human The Counting Voice Play Track 167 sounds included $30

    A man with a neutral English accent counts from zero to one hundred. Then counts in hundreds to one thousand. Then counts in thousands to ten thousand. Using the various files you can concatenate the files to read any number between 0-10,999 (and beyond if you fancy some creative editing).

    Useful for all sorts of games, apps and many other projects.

    Add to cart
  • Add to cart

Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

Did you do any fun field recordings for Anthem? How did those sounds work into the design?

MK: We did a fresh weapon shoot for this game in L.A. with the DICE team to get some new weapons recordings. We also recorded a lot of Foley in-studio, at our houses and in the field, as well as a bunch of environment recordings. We also worked with some outside vendors to provide libraries specific to Anthem to help us get unique audio across the game.

A giant molten beast towers over the soldiers.

Any favorite sound tools (plug-ins, software, programs, or outboard gear) you used for designing sounds for Anthem? Can you share examples of how you used them?

MK: One of our most used tools for sound design is Ableton Live. The ability it gives you to chain effects together so quickly makes designing sounds faster. We designed most of the weapons, creatures and abilities using Ableton.

We used almost all the iZotope plug-ins. RX7 we use a lot to clean up library and recorded assets before we start manipulating and designing new content with them.

Audiority Grainspace – We used this plug-in for a lot of texturing for UI elements to add clean harmonic tails to the sounds.

Xfer Records Serum FX + Auto filters in Ableton – We used these to give movement to our synthesized audio sources. You can chain multiple filters together with LFOs, modulating parameters on each filter to create movement in the sounds you’re processing. We used these effects to create some of the otherworldly sounds you hear in the game.

reFuse Lowender and BOOM Library Enforcer – These were used on many assets to make them feel heavy, large and punchy.

Sonic Academy Kick 2 – This plug-in can make everything from lasers to crazy LFE. It’s extremely versatile.

Native Instruments Reaktor – We used Twisted Tools S-Layer for creating variations of sounds or unique content, as well as their DRON-E for weird ambient textures.

Outboard Gear – There’s a massive amount of modular synths in the game. Some of the modules we liked using the most are:

  • Make Noise DPO – Crazy sounding analog dual oscillator used for making textures
  • Rossum Electro-Music Assimil8or – This is a Eurorack sampler with no aliasing, so it allowed us to resample some of our higher sample rate recordings, then pitch them down and manipulate the sounds further, while preserving the quality.
  • Vintage Synth Lab – Analog Wavefold Mixer – This module is great for adding and sculpting bite into your synth sounds.
  • A circuit-bent Speak & Spell, run through a modular rig – This was used for the Scar mines as well as broken radio processing.
  • SOMA laboratory: LYRA-8 — I got one of these a while ago, and it’s great for making weird textures. We used it for the Shaper tunnel sound design.

Recording Gear — For mics we used the Sanken CO-100k so we could record things at high sample rates to pitch and sculpt later on. We used DPA 4011s, Sennheiser 8040s, as well as the Elektrosluch from LOM. We used mainly the Zoom F8s for recording, as well as the Sound Devices 702T.

Armored warriors traverse to the cave's opening.

 

Anthem uses the Frostbite 3 game engine. Was it a good fit for the sound team?

We also have the benefit of using Frostbite’s HDR system for audio, which is a pretty sophisticated way to prioritize what you are hearing.

MK: This is an excellent engine for us as the sound design capabilities are endless. The fact that you can easily attach to any parameter in the game is amazing. It allows us to support the game design with the sonic detail it deserves. We also have the benefit of using Frostbite’s HDR system for audio, which is a pretty sophisticated way to prioritize what you are hearing.

Otherworldy bug-like soldiers congregate in a firey, smoky cave.

What are you most proud of in terms of sound on Anthem?

MK: A few things stand out for me. Definitely the exosuits and the fact that we achieved our goal of making each one sound different. From flying to fighting, so many intricate details were woven into the sound design for these suits.

Also, I’m proud of the score; it is one of the best we’ve had in a BioWare game. It reacts to the player’s actions and makes them feel more heroic every step of the way.

I’m also really satisfied with the final mix of this game. It’s tight, punchy and exciting, and I can’t wait for people to experience it.

 

A big thanks to Michael Kent for giving us a look at the exciting sound of Anthem – and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

Please share this:


 


 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
  • Bicycles Retro Bicycle Play Track 29 sounds included, 12 mins total $19

    A 1960’s styled bicycle riding around at a leisurely pace, wobbling to stay straight, walking along the sidewalk or being handled and chucked to the curb. Squeaky brakes, loud gears, and clumsy metal give this bike nostalgic character.

    Add to cart
  • Drones & Moods Tibetan Crystal Singing Bowls Play Track 93 sounds included, 43 mins total $20

    Tibetan Singing Bowls – The ancient brain entrainment methodology for healing and meditation. Tibetan Singing Bowls have been used for centuries for healing and meditation purposes. They create a range of sounds to restore the normal vibratory frequencies of diseased and out-of-harmony parts of the body, mind and soul. They are also used for sound baths, which is when participants lay on the floor and let the waves of sound from the Tibetan Singing Bowls wash over them.

    9 total bowls were recorded. Notes C, D, D#, E, F, G, A, A one octave up and B. A variety of bowl sizes were used from 8 to 12 inches.

    Add to cart
  • Want some excellent cartoony sound effects? BOOM to the rescue!

    We sought out and recorded the most obscure toys, instruments and, uhm – for the lack of a better word – “objects” to give you more than 3.000 boings, bleeps, farts, thwacks, squishes and squeaks in over 500 files, in short: we recorded any sound your animated-character-loving-heart could ever desire. All files contain extensive metadata to provide you with the fastest and easiest workflow possible. Each file contains multiple variations of a sound to guarantee you and your audience a non-repetitive SFX experience.

    Want to have an old-timer car honk its horn sternly at passers-by, before the tires screech off into the horizon? Your protagonist jumps off of a cliff by the sea and – suddenly in the air – we hear the tide roll back and she smacks on to the ground? Or your hero slips on a banana, swoops into a kitchen, metal crashes, bins rattle bins and, epic climax-style, the stove explodes! Don't worry about how that sounds. BOOM TOONS! SFX are here. We've got you covered.

    BOOM TOONS! SFX is the complete package so that you can focus on your stories and characters. You have all the sounds you could possibly need at your fingertips, ready for you to use whenever you want that spark, that glitter or that long arm fart which transforms your visually appealing cartoon into a complete and fun experience.

    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • World Sounds Airport Soundscapes Play Track 100+ sounds included, 386 mins total $50 $29

    Welcome to A Sound Effect where you can find the largest and most diverse airport sound effects library in the world! This constantly updated library has nearly 6 hours of high-quality recorded sounds from 15 different airports. With over 24GB of professionally edited audio, you'll have the best sounds to work with for your project.

    Featured airports in this library:

    • Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, Greece
    • Changi Airport Singapore
    • Chiang Mai International Airport, Thailand
    • George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston, USA
    • Hamad International Airport, Qatar
    • Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
    • Incheon International Airport Seoul, South Korea
    • John F. Kennedy Airport New York City, USA
    • Larnaca International Airport, Cyprus
    • Ngurah Rai International Airport Denpasar, Indonesia
    • Noi Bai International Airport Hanoi, Vietnam
    • Penang International Airport, Malaysia
    • Roberts International Airport Liberia, Costa Rica
    • Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok, Thailand
    • Tom Bradley International Airport Los Angeles, USA

    Our library has lush sounds from bustling international airports with thousands of passengers to smaller regional airports with less activity.

    We've captured audio from all areas of these airports. You'll hear sounds from departure halls, arrival halls, inside private lounges, bathrooms, security check with rolling suitcases, beeping sounds from the security scanners, announcements in different languages and passengers waiting at the gates to board the aircraft.

    42 %
    OFF
    Ends 1560981600
  • City Life Sounds & Ambiences Of London Vol 2 Play Track 101 sounds included, 330 mins total $60 $45

    Following the success of WW Audio's, 'Sound & Ambiences Of London' – here is Volume 2, with even more interesting and useable files for your theatre or film projects.

    Consisting of 101 great, and sometime eclectic recordings from the English capital, and over 10GB in size, this is a library every sound designer needs in their arsenal. It comes with detailed file names plus Soundminer, ID3 v2.3.0 and RIFF INFO metadata embedded.

    In total, this library gets you  5.5 hours of atmospheric London sounds!

    Sounds captured at famous London locations and landmarks, including:

    Bow Bells – Two amazing, over 10 minute recordings from the belfry at St Mary Le Bow Church  • The famous crossing outside Abbey Road Studios, made famous by The Beatles • Stunning overhead plane recordings coming into land at Heathrow airport • Christmas Markets • Crowds outside Buckingham Palace before and after the changing of the guard • Various emergency vehicle sirens • Various markets both internal and external, quiet and busy • Tube train journeys • London Underground ambiences • Various Parks • Great sounding famous London pub ambiences • Train stations • Room tones, including the infamous possible Newgate Prison Cell in the cellar of the Viaduct Tavern Pub • Churches • Crowds in some of London's most popular and obscure streets • General traffic sounds • North, South, East and West London locations • Hotels • London Aquatic Centre • The Royal Exchange • St Bartholomew's Hospital Grounds • Scrooge's Counting House Location • The Tower of London • The River Thames from Execution Dock • Pudding Lane – the location of the start of the Great Fire of London • Various Gardens • Underground car park • Tower Bridge • And much more – check out the complete file list below

    25 %
    OFF
    Ends 1559253600
  • Environments Singapore City Soundscapes Play Track 122 sounds included, 327 mins total From: $20

    Welcome to A Sound Effect's first ever Singapore Sound Effects library!

    Explore Singapore as you've never heard it before! This massive library includes ambisonic sounds recorded with the new Zoom H3 VR, binaural recordings with the Soundman OKM II Rock Studio and stereo soundscapes recorded with the Zoom F8n, DPA 4060 and several LOM microphones.

    The diversity of Singapore makes this library unique with lush sounds from busy highways, crowded food markets/ hawker centers in many different languages, neighborhood basketball games at night, skateparks, horse races, city rain sounds, the countries super efficient underground train station (MRT), and even loud military fighter jets and helicopters.

    Perhaps you're wanting nature sounds? No problem! This library features sounds from a variety of cicadas recorded at night and birds from the famous Javan Mynah near Mount Faber.

    With nearly six hours of recordings throughout Singapore, we suggest reviewing the metadata and discovering sounds you may not have expected!

    The library is available in 3 variations: A Stereo, AmbiX and special bundle featuring both Stereo and AmbiX files at a big discount.

  • Human The Counting Voice Play Track 167 sounds included $30

    A man with a neutral English accent counts from zero to one hundred. Then counts in hundreds to one thousand. Then counts in thousands to ten thousand. Using the various files you can concatenate the files to read any number between 0-10,999 (and beyond if you fancy some creative editing).

    Useful for all sorts of games, apps and many other projects.

 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER:
 
The A Sound Effect newsletter gets you a wealth of exclusive stories and insights
+ free sounds with every issue:
 
Subscribe here for free SFX with every issue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.