Asbjoern Andersen


Ori and The Blind Forest is an impressive new game developed by Moon Studios and published by Microsoft for the Xbox One and PC – and it sounds absolutely spectacular. The game has been four years in the making, and I got the chance to have a talk with Sound Designer Andrew Lackey, who’s Audio Director and Lead Sound Designer on the game.

Read on to hear the sound team’s creative vision for the game’s audio, how they tackled the massive mix, Andrew’s favorite sounds – and how they were made.

Check out the launch trailer for Ori And The Blind Forest below:

Video Thumbnail
Hi Andrew, congrats on a fantastic-sounding game! What’s been your role on the project, and who else is on the sound team?

Thank you! It’s been an incredibly gratifying project. I’ve been in love with it for a long time, and it’s amazing to see players enjoy it as mush as I do. I am the Audio Director and Lead Sound Designer. Gareth Coker is the composer. Beau Jimenez, Geoff Garnett and Kristi Knupp are the sound designer/implementors. Plus we had very strong support from the engineering team on the game. Gennadiy, Willem, Arie, David and Arthur all playing huge roles writing tools, systems and advanced implementation. Eric Braa and Aeralie Brighton were our super talented voice talent. Dan Smith and Boyd Post at Microsoft really helped us to elevate tech and schedule issues, and got behind our sonic approach.
 

The game has been in development for four years. What have been some of the major milestones, in terms of the game’s audio?

The game was more of a slow march to completion rather than milestone driven. The major wins along the way were proving our cinematic aesthetic and tech on the interactive cutscenes, getting Ori’s platforming sounds dialed in, designing Kuro, defining the voices of Spirit Tree, Sein and Gumo, filling out the game with deep depth of field ambiences, enemies, UI… and Mixing it… mixing it was huge.
 

What’s been your overall vision for Ori’s sound design? And if you were to sum up the sound of the Blind Forest, what are some of the key sonic components?

Ori is a mix and refinement of many genre’s both in film and gaming. It’s beautiful, poignant, and suspended in time as much as it is exhilarating, fun and challenging. To do all those things well I knew we needed to create an expansive sound in the aesthetics, mix and density. We needed to be nearly silent at times and we needed to rip peoples heads off with terror at times. We needed to be hyper-realistic/naturalistic and psychologically spooky.

We needed the kind of detail in foley that draws people in very close to subtle action to create empathy with characters, but we also needed to saturate people’s senses to drive them to escape.

 
We needed the kind of detail in foley that draws people in very close to subtle action to create empathy with characters, but we also needed to saturate people’s senses to drive them to escape. In short, my aim was to create a highly dynamic and fitting sonic world for Nibel and all of this environments, characters and events, but also stretch as far as we could the peaks and valleys of dynamics, detail, humor, spookiness, naturalism etc.
 

The game genre has been described as ‘Metroidvania‘ – is this mix of genres something that’s influenced how you’ve approached the sound too?

Probably the most important aspect of the game is getting the platforming to feel fun and responsive.

We went for a light and agile feel for Ori, but you’ll also notice it’s very tactile.

We went for a light and agile feel for Ori, but you’ll also notice it’s very tactile. Wood sounds like wood, rock sounds like rock when you latch on, slide down or climb up walls. The textures end up making more of the meat of the sounds, as opposed to the impact of a foot for instance. Ori is mass-less, but Ori’s energy is real. So we focused on how Ori’s energy would affect the elements.

Beyond that, adventuring is key as well so we really wanted the player to feel the shifts in ambiences, moods, levels of hostility, creepiness, as the player moves through the world.
 

How does the game’s soundscape evolve as the player progresses through the game?

I’m very proud of the mix for Ori. There is a significant amount of sound that changes with environments and sequences throughout the game. This goes back to my earlier comment about stretching the aesthetic, density and dynamic range. If the moment is chill, relaxed and peaceful. We took that about as far as we could with the mix and sound design.

When it was time to get big, we were able to ramp up to epic scale.
 

The game has a natural progression much like a film would have so there are major events that happen as part of a 3 act story with a climax and denouement at the end. When it was time to get big, we were able to ramp up to epic scale.
 

What are some of your favorite sounds in the game?

The game is full of meaningful sounds…I’ll give you two.

I really like the connection between Ori and the Spirit Tree, and one sound in particular felt really great in connecting them. In the Attack cutscene when the Ori’s are communing with the Spirit Tree (before Kuro attacks) there is an ahhh sound that could almost be mistaken for a music element. I wanted to do sort of an hom chant kind of spiritual harmony thing there. I took some recordings of myself and my daughters and used the Windows app Paul Stretch to create this effect. Then I did the same thing with Eric Braa’s voice for Spirit Tree on some breathing he did. Those sounds became the basis for a lot of other sounds in the game.

The other example was really serendipitous. We just happened to be working on the game’s opening scene Prologue with the Storm and the Ori leaf journey. I wasn’t in love with the lightning material I had in my library (it’s so overused), plus I was a little grumpy that the visuals kept changing. We also had significant technical challenges completing that scene because of frame rate issues. I was about at my wits end, and this gnarly lightning storm came through our area.
We always have our field recording rigs ready, and we grab them as soon as a storm comes. On that day, we recorded some of the best lightning I’ve ever heard recorded.

On that day, we recorded some of the best lightning I’ve ever heard recorded. It scared the bleep out of us, but the mics just soaked it all up.

It scared the bleep out of us, but the mics just soaked it all up. No rain, just raw enormous thunder. If you know me… I LOVE recording my own sounds.
Lightning is one of those sounds that is very distinctive from one strike to another. They worked perfectly, and they sound sooo fresh and unique for the game..because they are.

 

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

 
  • Drones & Moods Strange Moods Play Track 69+ sounds included, 65 mins total $10 $7.50

    Whether you seek eerie ambiences, mysterious chatter, or a bassy sweetener, Strange Moods has you covered. In this collection, you’ll find over an hour of perfectly-loopable, atmospheric audio. Inspired by such games as Limbo, No Man’s Sky, and Badlands, all 69 files are high-quality 96kHz/24bit WAV files and drag and drop ready.

    25 %
    OFF
    Ends 1504224000
  • Nature & Countryside High Desert Ambiences 1: Essentials Play Track 10+ sounds included, 94 mins total $29 $14.50

    In High Desert Ambiences 1 – Essentials, get the desolately beautiful sounds of the American Southwest as the sun brings to life the songs of desert wildlife. This collection features sounds that will make you fall in love with the desert with the trickling of distant rivers, smooth cricket chirps, echoey caws from ravens so close you can hear the details in their wings flaps, snorts from a cautious yet curious mule deer, choruses of birds at dawn, and much more. Most recordings are well over 4 minutes, with one half-hour night-time track that will make you want to take out your tent immediately. For lush, peaceful nature sounds from the heart of the American Southwest, here’s High Desert Ambiences 1 – Essentials.

    2% for the Planet:
    Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause. I view it as an “artist royalty” for the planet!

    One Year Anniversary Sale: 

    • A huge THANK YOU to all customers who purchased my sound libraries this past year! Sale ends Monday 8/21.

    KEY FEATURES:
    • Featured on Designing Sound: “Our Favorite Sounds of 2016
    • Desert dawn and evening choruses
    • Distant flowing river, songbirds, and insects
    • Ravens soaring and squawking in a stark and resonant valley
    • Lengthy night-time cricket chorus
    • Partially audible and ultrasonic bat clicks up to 70kHz
    • Ghostly distant animal calls
    • Mule deer warning snorts and jumping movement
    • Files ranging from 31 seconds to 30 minutes
    • Rio Grande dawn chorus along the Texas/Mexico river border
    • Locations: Near Marfa, Texas (in a mountain valley at an altitude of 6,000 ft) and Big Bend National Park along the Rio Grande River, Texas/Mexico border.
    • These desert ambiences are extremely quiet, so I have included descriptive markers to signal interesting events in an otherwise featureless waveform. These markers can be read in programs such as RX, Reaper, and Soundminer. The markers are also included as .txt files in the sound files folder.

    ambiences_markers

    GEAR USED:
    Sennheiser MKH 50/30 MS pair
    Mid/Side recordings decoded to LR stereo
    Sound Devices 702
    Rycote AG MS Blimp
    Need more than the essentials? Listen to High Desert Ambiences 2 – Dawn and Morning Choruses ($79, 94 stereo WAVs, 20 GB, 4 hours 47 min, 192 kHz / 24-bit).
    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1503360000
  • Basketball Game Ultra is a huge sound effects library for, well, basketball. It includes both an international match field recording (with over 5,000 people attending the game) and isolated sounds of backboard hoops, basket swish nets, metal bars, shoe squeaks and dribbles on various hard surfaces, as well as other related sounds – all performed by a professional basketball player in indoor and outdoor courts as well as inside the studio.

    Οur aim with this collection is to give you choices to:

    • Create realistic soundscapes of world class basketball games or other sports events
    • Design from scratch your own unique sound frames
    • Foley the character in your audiovisual production

Introducing SOUNDLISTER - the place to find audio professionals:
 
Are you an audio professional? Or are you looking for audio pros for you project?
Be sure to check out Soundlister - you'll find 100s of audio professionals there already.
Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

The game also features an astonishing soundtrack – how did you strike a balance between the music and sound design? And what’s the interplay like between the two?

Gareth had a tremendous feel for the game that I sync’d with immediately. I’m not sure if he influenced me or I influenced him, but we just got each other without a whole lot of arm wrestling. We both work with a lot of restraint and a big picture mentality. We respect that players don’t need or want to be prodded along with unnecessarily busy sound. They enjoy depth, detail, lusciousness and subtlety just as much as huge climatic moments.

The sequence starting in Prologue when Ori is walking through brambles is a good example. We get very quiet there before the huge climax at the end of Prologue (the opening cinematic). Then Gareth’s music in Sunken Glades to start game play has a very ‘relax, chill out and enjoy the forest atmosphere’ vibe. That could have easily gone the way of adventure music to drive the player a bit.

That wouldn’t have been a bad choice necessarily, but had he started with higher energy adventure music there we wouldn’t have been able to establish the sound effects for the ambiences, Ori’s movements, the UI and other interactive sounds as clearly. For the player this is a little playground space of sorts. In a sense we suspended time here so the players could hang around a little and feel safe to play.

Video Thumbnail

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the game’s soundtrack

 
We also threw suggestions at each other pretty regularly. And again, I got to mix this game, which really allow me to push fx, voice and music in and out of focus in ways that give the player a lot of different sonic feels.
 

From a technical standpoint, how did you go about implementing the sounds for the game?

Wabi Sabi Sound was fully integrated as the sound team. We co-owned implementation with the programmers but the division of labor evolved over time. All of the tuning and mixing was our domain.
 

What’s been the biggest challenge in getting the sound right for the game?

Because the game wasn’t scoped 4 years ago to be the long, open, complex game that it became, we were under scoped on tools pretty significantly. The game was done in Unity 4, but shipped using a branch of the Unity 5 beta engine. It was a fairly dicey ordeal, but we really needed some of the new tools. We did not use a 3rd party audio tool, which in retrospect would have been the right choice. We ended up writing a lot of tech to supplement what we had. The game being full 5.1 surround, tightly mixed, with DSP was a gnarly challenge that we pulled off with great thanks to Moon’s amazing tech team.
 

From the teasers I’ve seen for the game, it looks like you’re doing some voices too?

Yes…haha…I’ve done tons of creatures over the years, so Gumo (humorous Gollum-like character) was pretty fun. I’m also doing Ori and Naru. Naru was a bit of a stretch, but we ended up being very minimal with her. I love doing voices especially as part of my design.
 

Video Thumbnail

Andrew Lackey, beavering away on the sound for the Gollum-like Gumo character

 

Response to the game has been phenomenal across the board. Did you know you were onto something special with this one?

The team collaboration on Ori was incredible. I really can’t say enough about it. Everyone was deeply invested, everyone spoke up about things they liked or didn’t and everyone did their best to integrate the ‘team’ feedback.

The team collaboration on Ori was incredible. I really can’t say enough about it.

I’ve been involved with a lot of projects, and I’ve never seen a team interaction function so well. It wasn’t always perfect and there were plenty of fierce disagreements, but everyone kept the game success at the heart of everything.

A LOT of love and talent has gone into this game by a great many people. I could feel it was special from the very beginning. I didn’t know it would be a broad commercial success, but I knew the project was coming from a special place in the hearts of the team that started it.

 

Please share this:


 

A big thanks to Andrew Lackey for the story behind the sound for the game! Find out more about Ori and the Blind Forest here, and visit the Wabi Sabi Sound page here.
 


 
 
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:
 
  • Rock / Stone Ringing Rocks Play Track 500+ sounds included, 27 mins total

    Ringing Rocks has the chiming, beautiful tones of an ancient boulder field. As hammers strike stone, the powerful clangs resonate like church bells and bring to life a natural sonic wonder. Plus, you receive many types of melodic tones, hammering rhythms, grinding metallic stone, resonant scrapes, and much more. If you need rocks unlike any you’ve heard before, listen to Ringing Rocks.

    2% for the Planet:
    Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause. I view it as an “artist royalty” for the planet!

    One Year Anniversary Sale: 

    • A huge THANK YOU to all customers who purchased my sound libraries this past year! Sale ends Monday 8/21.


    Key Features:
    • Featured on Designing Sound: “Our Favorite Sounds of 2016
    • 237 files, 500+ natural chime and bell-like rock sounds
    • Captured in 192 kHz for exquisite detail and sound designing potential
    • Location: Near Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania
    • A small hammer, medium sledgehammer, and crowbar were used to create a variety of timbres
    • Audio files with single rock strikes alone
    • Audio files with many sequential, varying strikes
    • Resonant scraping of hammers on rock for tactile textures that are perfect source material for rich metallic drones
    How It’s Made
    Read the full story of these mysterious rocks on the – A Sound Effect Blog!
    Gear Used:
    Sennheiser MKH 50/30 MS pair
    Mid/Side recordings decoded to LR stereo
    Sound Devices 702
    Rycote AG MS Blimp
    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1503360000
  • Animals & Creatures High Desert Hummingbirds Play Track 290+ sounds included, Approx. 30 min total mins total

    Get the stunningly detailed sounds of one of nature’s tiniest aerial acrobats flapping and fluttering in one of the quietest outdoor places in the continental United States. With their ultrasonic chirps, mesmerizing flight abilities and evolution-exhibiting beaks, this library captures the sounds of these rarely heard creatures from a mere two inches away.

    2% for the Planet:
    Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause. I view it as an “artist royalty” for the planet!

    One Year Anniversary Sale: 

    • A huge THANK YOU to all customers who purchased my sound libraries this past year! Sale ends Monday 8/21.

    Key Features:
    • 255 clean sounds of hummingbirds recorded in the resonant mountains of west Texas
    • 35 sounds of hummingbirds with other songbirds
    • Humming, buzzing, popping, fluttering, and purring drones
    • Wing slaps and wing contact movement
    • Ferocious territorial dogfights
    • Laser-like chirps
    • Ultrasonic chirps up to 30kHz
    • Wild vocalizations
    • Swift fly-bys, whooshes, and dive bombs
    • Multiple species with a variety of fundamental “hum” frequencies
    • Categorized into high, mid, bass, and sub-bass hummingbirds
    • Clips ranging from solo hummingbirds to six-bird feeding frenzies
    • Microphones placed 6-8 inches from hummingbird feeder with flybys as close as 2-3 inches
    • HD videos at 60 fps
    How It’s Made: 
    Get the full story behind the High Desert Hummingbirds SFX library on the – A Sound Effect Blog
    National Museum of Wildlife Art:
    Recordings from this library are featured as part of Iridescence: John Gould’s Hummingbirds at the Nation Museum of Wildlife Art.

    GEAR:
    • Sennheiser MKH 50/30 MS pair
    • Mid/Side recordings decoded to LR stereo
    • Rycote AG MS Blimp
    • Sound Devices 702
    • GoPro Hero4
    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1503360000
  • The Cyborg Collection features a wide assortment of over 3000 Sci-Fi sound effects ranging from small user interfaces to massive robots.

    Everything from simple droids to powerful plasma rifles and futuristic transformations are included in this 3.2GB library. Check out the track listing here to see the variety of robots, interfaces, weaponry, vehicles and spacecraft included in the collection.

Explore the full, unique collection here
 
 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER + 40 FREE SFX:
Just enter your details below to get the newsletter and free sound effects (soundlist):

Leave a Reply

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

HTML tags are not allowed.