Cocoon Game Audio Asbjoern Andersen


Indie game studio Geometric Interactive – founded by former Playdead employees Jeppe Carlsen (lead gameplay designer of LIMBO and INSIDE) and Jakob Schmid – released a truly unique 'worlds within worlds' puzzle game called COCOON. The player takes on the role of a beetle who can collect mysterious orbs. Each orb contains a new world, provides the player with a unique ability, and can be used to power mechanisms to solve puzzles.

Here, Audio Director/Composer Jakob Schmid and Sound Designer Julian Lentz talk about using only synthesized sounds for the game, creating unique custom software synthesizers for the generative music system, designing different alien worlds, and much more.


Interview by Jennifer Walden, photos courtesy of Annapurna Interactive; Geometric Interactive; Jakob Schmid
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COCOON is a unique indie puzzle game in which the player (taking on the persona of a beetle) explores worlds within worlds. These worlds are contained within beautiful glowing orbs. The player enters the orb, and finds other orbs, which contain a new worlds. These orbs also give the player unique abilities and help to power machines to solve puzzles. When the player reaches the end of each orb’s world, they battle a boss. Overcoming this foe gives the player a new ability for the orb.

COCOON was developed by Denmark-based game studio Geometric Interactive, co-founded by Jeppe Carlsen – the lead gameplay designer of other indie favorites LIMBO and INSIDE – and Audio Director/Composer Jakob Schmid, who also worked on INSIDE. Schmid received the 2013 Independent Games Festival award for ‘Excellence in Audio’ for his sound work on Carlsen’s game 140.

Here, Schmid and Sound Designer Julian Lentz talk about using only sythesized sounds for COCOON and the challenge they faced in taking that approach, how they created the sounds for the orbs, and the worlds within the orbs, how the generative music system was designed using custom built synthesizers, how they utilized FMOD, and much more!



COCOON | Reveal Trailer


COCOON | Reveal Trailer

Can you describe your overall aesthetic for the sound of COCOON? What were some of the adjectives or keywords you used to help guide your choices for sound?

Cocoon_sound-01

‘Cocoon’ Audio Director/Composer Jakob Schmid

Jakob Schmid (JS): Our main keyword for the sound production was “synthetic.”

From the beginning, I wanted to make a generative soundtrack for the game based on software synthesizers. For a puzzle game where the player might take arbitrarily long “thinking breaks,” I thought it would be important that the music didn’t have distracting loops. I liked the idea that every play session could have a somewhat unique soundtrack.

With that idea in mind, I thought about what sound design aesthetic could fit the very synthetic sound of the generative music. I was watching the original Dragon Ball series from the 1980s, and I noticed that a lot of the sound effects were clearly made with synthesizers. It worked well, even though it sounded artificial.

I also had quite a lot of experience with using synthesis for sound design from the game 140 that COCOON director Jeppe Carlsen and I released back in 2013.

Finally, I thought synthetic sound effects could fit Erwin’s worlds, which to me felt both alive and synthetically created at the same time.

 

Cocoon_sound-03

What went into the sounds for the Orbs themselves? (Each one has its own power and helps to solve the puzzles – how did you reinforce that with sound?)

Cocoon_sound-06

‘Cocoon’ Sound Designer Julian Lentz

Julian Lentz (JL): The powers you unlock for each of the orbs in the game are all inherited from the abilities of the different guardians. After you have defeated a guardian, its powers essentially become tied to the orb. It was essential for us to sonically convey this relationship between orb-guardian and orb-ability.

To achieve this aural link, most often the sound design language from the boss fight was established first and then transformed into something that had a lesser weight and could fit with the size of the orb and the ability graphics.

The ability for the red orb – that allows you to access otherwise invisible paths – is a granular interpretation of the first guardian generating its crystal trap. The crystalline characteristic of this sound was made in Ableton Live by feeding white noise into the built-in Spectral Resonator effect, followed by a very long chain of different types of effect processing. I achieved the whirlpool-like movement of the ability by dragging my crystal-like sounds into Sound Particles, where I simulated movement and Doppler effect.

 

Cocoon_sound-07

What went into the sound inside each Orb? (Such as the environmental sounds? And the overall characteristics of the sounds in each of those environments – like the puzzle feedback sounds?)

JL: The different worlds you warp into are vastly different from each other, both in terms of biome, color, and mood.

The contrast when warping from one world to another is visually strong, and brings a really nice sense of constant spatial fluctuation when playing. It was a goal of mine from early on to make these transitions, which are a crucial part of the game, feel like you are in a very different place once a warp is complete. I spent a substantial amount of time trying to add tactility and believability to the environment sounds of the different worlds. The graphics of COCOON are oftentimes abstract, to say the least, and I wanted the sound to go in another direction, adding to the game a more well-textured and sensory aspect, that I felt was otherwise missing.

Imperfections and fluctuations were often added to sounds that had to resemble something natural.

Achieving this was oftentimes a challenge due to our dogma of only using synthesis for sound generation, due to the perfectionism of synthetic timbres quickly dragging towards an unreal and unnatural feeling. Imperfections and fluctuations were often added to sounds that had to resemble something natural. I wrote some custom Max For Live devices that helped me with these fluctuations, for example, a non-musical oriented arpeggiator that allowed me to add imperfections to timing and a wind generating synthesizer that utilizes an unstable LFO.

I think the result of this work linked the sound design to a kind of eerie, subconscious effect, where it tries badly to sound authentic but never really achieves it fully.

 

Cocoon_sound-08

Which puzzles were the most challenging sonically? Why? Can you talk about your approach to the sound of those puzzles? Also, what was your favorite puzzle sonically? Which one stands out to you?

JL: In the game, there are some prism-shaped switches that you can hit by firing energy bullets at them. Visually, they stand out from the rest of the geometry, as their “unlit” look makes them resemble a black hole.


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…they should sound alien and with physics-bending qualities.

We tried a large range of directions to go in, with the main keyword being that they should sound alien and with physics-bending qualities. The struggle we faced boiled down to the fact that the player will often hit these targets frequently and in rapid succession. In game audio, I find this to often be a challenge, to find the balance of making a sound feel exciting and iconic, whilst not being overpowering in the mix when often repeatedly played.

 

Cocoon_sound-09

What were your biggest technical challenges in terms of sound on COCOON? Can you talk about your solutions for overcoming those hurdles?

JL: I find the giant gates opening in COCOON very satisfying. They are the culmination of several events and puzzles leading up to it and represent unlocking a new type of area of a world. The gates are these huge metal walls that each open in a very interesting and complex manner, with lots of small distinct animations adding up and becoming one of the coolest gate openings I’ve seen in video games.

COCOON audio interview with Jakob Schmid and Erwin Kho:

 

Want to learn more about the world of COCOON? Check out Patrick Klepek’s interview with lead audio director Jakob Schmid and lead art director Erwin Kho below:


…the biggest hurdle throughout production has got to be the constant efforts needed to transform a synthesizer…into something non-musical and noise-like.

Each of the smaller metallic movements needed to have sound, so a great deal of time went into designing metallic sound variants. Ableton Live has a built-in physical modeling effect called Corpus that was probably one of the most used effects throughout the entire sound design across the audio team. It allows you to create some very interesting and detailed metallic timbres.

I think the biggest hurdle throughout production has got to be the constant efforts needed to transform a synthesizer, which very often comes in the shape of a musical key instrument, into something non-musical and noise-like. Synplant (version 1) was introduced to me by our other sound designer, Mikkel Anttila, when he joined the sound team, and it was an eye opener for me. That synth in particular is probably one of the most competent pieces of software for creating complex, weird, and non-tonal synth sounds.

I was also constantly using frequency shifters and vocoders (often with noise as a carrier) as a way of turning something too perfect and tonal into something more noisy and non-musical.

 

Cocoon_sound-05

Did you use middleware? Or, did you have proprietary tools created specifically for this game? What was helpful about going in that direction? Can you talk about the benefits of that choice?

JS: We use the audio middleware FMOD Studio for all sound in the game, which we used to set up music and sound effects. The game code can communicate with FMOD using events and parameters, that then start and modify sound effects and music elements.

For the music, I developed four software synthesizers in C++, designed to run in real-time as FMOD plugins. They were custom-designed for the game; some of them are based on standard synthesis methods, and some of them use new forms of synthesis. I wrote a subtractive MiniMoog-inspired synthesizer for playing bass tones and arpeggios, and a granular synthesizer that generated soft pads that would serve as a foundation for the other instruments. Both of these have arpeggiators, that can be used to generate patterns and random sequences in a set key and scale.

developed four software synthesizers in C++, designed to run in real-time as FMOD plugins.

Another plugin was a new type of FM synthesizer that generates sound using a large set of operators and allows for interpolation between different timbres. We used it for atonal musical drones with a high degree of timbral variation. I also wrote a new type of synthesizer designed to simulate the sound of wind and rain, which also found musical use for mysterious atonal “dripping” sounds.

The synthesizer plugins worked for generating most of the ambient music in the game, and had the immediate benefit of being loop-free. It also had the interesting side effect of each player having a somewhat unique soundtrack for their game session.

 

Cocoon_sound-04

Can you talk about your approach to music, and how you use music in the game to reinforce the action?

JS: I divided the game into three types of scenarios that each had a specific musical approach.

First, we had “themes,” which were short non-looping musical vignettes that were triggered at important moments in the game, such as entering a new world, opening one of the big gates, unlocking an ability, beating a boss, etc. They were produced as grand New Age-style synthesizer themes that fill out the entire soundscape.

I always tried to set up the generative music to take long breaks and not play all the time.

Secondly, we had generative “ambient music,” which plays during most of the puzzle gameplay. It was designed to be in the background and not take up too much space in the soundscape. I always tried to set up the generative music to take long breaks and not play all the time. I think this gives a feeling of the soundtrack being alive and accompanying the player, and makes for a more balanced audio experience.

Thirdly, we had “boss music,” which was usually a hybrid of generative music that was continuously modified by the movement and actions of the bosses, creating a sort of “accompaniment” for the boss fight, combined with pre-produced clips for important actions of the boss, for maximum dramatic effect.

 

Cocoon_sound-02

What are you most proud of in terms of your sound work on COCOON?

JS: I’m very proud that we followed through on our concept of synthesizing every single sound in the game. When we hired our amazing sound designers, Julian Lentz and Mikkel Anttila, they took this concept and ran with it; they synthesized footsteps, rain, thunder, alien creatures, and mechanical devices with both a high degree of realism and detail, as well as an unreal sci-fi quality that I’m very fond of. The end result was way better than I would have thought possible.

…I managed to make generative music plugins that actually run on computers and consoles around the world…

I’m also personally very happy with the fact that I managed to make generative music plugins that actually run on computers and consoles around the world, generating different notes and timbres for every play session. It is very satisfying to think that my little music machines are playing for all those people, even if they don’t notice that the music is generated.

 

A big thanks to Jakob Schmid and Julian Lentz for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the sound of COCOON and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

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    Mattia Cellotto’s extraordinary sound libraries are some of the most popular releases in independent sound effects – and here’s your chance to get them all at a nice discount. Here’s what’s you get:

    NEW: CATACLYSM is a collection more than 1400 sounds in 400+ files of recorded, synthesized and designed sounds created to support important destructive moments and add a stronger sense of extreme consequence to any sound.

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    ANIMAL HYPERREALISM VOL II is a library containing themed animal sounds & vocalisations, from real to designed creatures totaling more than 2000 individual sounds in 283 files.

    ANIMAL HYPERREALISM VOL III is a library containing sounds themed animal vocalisations, from real to designed creatures totaling more than 1700 individual sounds in 279 files.

    METAMORPHOSIS is a huge collection of recorded source, synthesized material and hybrid sounds – more than 2300 sounds total.

    GLACIER ICE is a library containing over 300 high quality sounds of ice cracking, breaking, shattering in various sizes of blocks – recorded entirely in the Italian Alps over the course of two winters.

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    WATER VOLUMES delivers you over 300 sounds of natural hot-springs, bubbles, and liquids of various densities boiling under the effect of dry ice.

    METAL GROANS AND SLAMS is a library for which metal was kicked, hammered, bowed and… induced to vibrate through feedback loops?! The collection features 346 unique sounds recorded through field trips in US, UK and Italy.

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  • Every sound of clothes you need for a classic scene is in this library: walk, run, jump, fight, pat, rustle, etc. I used eight different types of material and recorded each action with a lot of detail and making sure I gave you a lot of variety.

    Clothing: Bomber jacket with zipper, Denim Shirt, Harrington jacket, Hawaiian shirt, Puffer jacket, Tuxedo, Windbreaker, Wool jacket

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  • Get ready for an immersive and thrilling gaming experience Sci-Fi Voices Volume 02 Big Battle Robot. This pack includes over 1090 high-quality, futuristic words and phrases that will bring your gameplay to life.

    With the Big Battle Robot Mech guiding you every step of the way, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the action.Whether you’re maneuvering through dangerous terrain or giving commands, the battle mech robot’s powerful, commanding voice will keep you on track.

    The voice lines range from authoritative to helpful, giving your in-game character the personality it deserves. Whether you need to issue orders for an attack, warn your crew members of threats, or provide information on the state of the mission, the MBig Battle Robot Voice Sound Pack has the perfect sound to suit your needs.

    Here are some example phrases to give you an idea of what’s included in the pack:

    My systems are always prepared for the next fight 

    My programming demands your destruction 

    Strategy remarkable 

    Your tactics are predictable. I know your every move 

    Your weapons are nothing compared to mine 

    Victory is inevitable I am programmed for greatness 

    Outcome outstanding 

    My thirst for victory is unquenchable 

    I”ve seen a lot in my time lets see if I”ve still got it 

    My weapons are at the cutting edge of technology 

    My advanced weaponry and fighting spirit make me a force to be reckoned with 

    My abilities are not up to the challenge 

    I”ll protect the team and ensure their safety 

    I may be old but I still have a lot of fight left in me 

    I am not equipped to handle this type of challenge 

    A robot with a thirst for victory always pushing for greatness 

    Good job!

    Closing Application 

    For a detailed listing of the words and phrases, take a look at the soundlist PDF document.

     

    All sounds are provided in 44,1khz/16bit and 48kHz/24bit

     

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Environments & Ambiences Future Dystopia Play Track 626 sounds included, 142 mins total $44.95

    The sounds of a dark tomorrow… are here!

    Orbital Emitter is proud to present our first World Building Sound-Set, FUTURE DYSTOPIA!
    Future Dystopia is a meticulously crafted collection of audio atmospheres and sonic elements that can be used in any film, tv or streaming show, music production, game development, YouTube content creation and more!
    Future Dystopia embodies the dark yet intense world of cyberpunk sci-fi by providing everything you need to create vibrant environments, detailed locales and dynamic scenes.
    But the best thing about this sound-set is that you can create these rich and imaginative scifi soundscapes in a fraction of the time it takes using traditional methods!
    Our curated atmospheres and elements can be combined, dissected, and quickly customized so that you can achieve great results to rival any Hollywood production! And the diversity of our sounds means you can build audio scenes for urban districts, space stations, industrial sites, abandoned locales, power stations, vehicles and more, FAST!
    Simply drop a few of our audio files into any NLE or DAW and hear how quickly your scenes will come to life! And with our sound-sets, all of our sounds are organized, clearly titled and contains metadata for each audio file.

    Future Dystopia – our World Building Sound-Set is made up of 626 sounds across 151 WAV audio files. There are 54 atmospheres, 67 Elements, 7 foundation sounds, 12 speech sets and 11 vehicle builds… Our sound-files are 24bit/96k stereo (that can be folded to mono if desired.)
    Every sound in Future Dystopia is 100% original and created to help transport your audience to another world!
    Order now and receive our 19 page e-guide that explains how to get the most out of this sound-set absolutely FREE.

    SPECIAL NOTE: To celebrate the release of this brand new sound-set, we are offering a 25% OFF for a limited time!
    We hope you enjoy Future Dystopia our first world building sound-set!

     

    Quick note about the download:

    Please note that the Future Dystopia Sound-Set is 5.4GB when uncompressed. To make delivery more streamlined, we have compressed this file to the “.zip” format.
    Because Windows users might have issues opening a “.zip” file over 4GB, we have included a “.rar” version of the file so Windows users can avoid any issues.

    TLDR: If you are on a Mac computer, just open the “.zip” file and for Windows users, open the “.rar” file.

     

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  • Animal Sound Effects The Animal Symphony – Donkey Play Track 69+ sounds included, 10 mins total $10

    THE ANIMAL SYMPHONY – GOAT & SHEEP
    THE ANIMAL SYMPHONY – CROWING ROOSTER
    THE ANIMAL SYMPHONY – LOVEBIRD
    THE ANIMAL SYMPHONY – WHITE HANDED GIBBON
    THE ANIMAL SYMPHONY – MEERKAT
    THE ANIMAL SYMPHONY – WATUSI

    Product description:

    “The Animal Symphony – Donkey” offers a collection of 69 high-quality audio tracks, each with multiple sounds (between 3 and 6 variations). The audios are organized with an intuitive nomenclature, allowing you to easily swap the different microphone jacks, so you can choose which microphone to use or combine them all. Using two high-end microphones, the Sennheiser MKH 8050 and an EM258 capsule microphone, along with a Zoom H6 recorder for stereo sound, we have captured every detail and nuance of these sounds. Recordings were made at 24-bit and 192kHz/96kHz, ensuring professional clarity and depth.

    This collection offers a wide variety of braying, growling, donkeys eating, etc… these sounds are perfect for adding realism and authenticity to your projects. With multiple takes and variations, this library provides the flexibility needed for any type of production requiring sounds from these animals. All recordings have been carefully edited to eliminate external noises, such as birds, wind or people. Furthermore, thanks to the ultrasonic microphones used, it is guaranteed that whoever decides to lower the tone will continue to obtain frequency richness.

    Ideal applications:

    – Video games: Add realism and depth to the natural environments of your games.
    – Cinema and Documentaries: Enrich your audiovisual productions with authentic sounds.
    – Educational Applications: Use these sounds in educational projects to teach about wildlife and animal behavior.
    – Multimedia Projects: Ideal for any project that seeks to enrich the user’s listening experience.

    Technical details:

    – Total audios: 69 (Each audio contains between 3 and 6 variations)
    – Format: 192kHz – 96kHz/24bit
    – Equipment used: Zoom F6 recorder with Sennheiser MKH 8050 microphone and EM258 capsule microphone, plus a Zoom H6 recorder for stereo sound.

    License:

    The sounds from “The Animal Symphony – Donkey” are available under a royalty-free license, allowing them to be used in multiple projects at no additional costs. You can use these sound effects in your games, trailers, Kickstarter campaigns, and more, as many times as you like.

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  • Ribbiting Sounds for Your Next Project with our “Frogs” sound effects pack!

    This collection of high-quality, professionally recorded sounds captures the unique vocalization of frogs in their natural habitat.

    Ribbits, croaks, and chirps

    Perfect for aquatic or forest environments

    High-quality, 32-bit/192kHz

     

    Get Ready to Make a Splash with Your Next Project!

    15 %
    OFF
    Ends 1719871199
  • Traffic Sound Effects Long Car Pass Bys Play Track 10-40 sounds included, 65 mins total $22

    This small library contains ten exquisite recordings in multiple variances of cars driving through a quiet and expansive landscape along a very long road. You can hear the car approaching from a very far distance, passing by close, and slowly fading away into the distance for a very long time as well. In other words; we capture the car’s journey from afar, stretching on until it disappears over the horizon.

    All recordings are clear and entirely devoid of external noise and human disruptions.

    All these recordings are recorded using two microphone setups: a Double MS Stereo setup and a spaced omnis setup, the latter also providing extended frequency response. This results in four variations for each recording: Stereo, Wide Stereo, Wide AB Stereo, and 5-channel 5.0 surround. The variances between these options range from subtle to more pronounced, offering flexibility for crosscutting within scenes.

    Get more than one hour of unique, royalty-free and notably high quality recordings with this library. Recorded in 24 bit / 96 kHz. Accurately edited and mastered to sound as natural as possible. With an average duration ranging from 40 seconds to 3 1/2 minutes per file. For more detailed descriptions of the recordings within this collection, please refer to the metadata provided in our file lists or listen to the preview montage.

    This library is UCS compliant (universalcategorysystem.com). In this new category system, all files contain extensive metadata like file description, Category & Subcategory. Metadata can be read and processed by the most common audio libraries management tools.

  • All files are recorded 32bit, 192 kHz, with Shure KSM 137, Line Audio Omni1, FEL Clippy XLR EM272, Sonorous Objects SO.3 and JrF C-Series Pro+ microphones, Sound Devices MixPre-6 II & Zoom F3 recorders. Library contains wav files of driving, interior and exterior foley, mechanical and electrical sounds. It is also available in UCS.


   

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