Path of Exile_sound Asbjoern Andersen


Looking for game audio inspiration? Hear about the creative work that goes into shaping the sound of Grinding Gear Games's free-to-play action RPG Path of Exile - complete with in-game examples. A big thanks to the audio team for letting us share this on the A Sound Effect blog!
Written by Kane Bennett, Dominic Downing, Patricia Prilli Sunandar, Javier Chalcoff, and Michael Collier at Grinding Gear Games, and republished with their kind permission.
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Whether it’s a simple voice line from Zana or the chime of an Exalted Orb drop, the iconic sounds of Path of Exile bring the gritty world of Wraeclast to life. Today, the Grinding Gear Games sound design team shares some of their thoughts and inspirations behind the audio of recently added skills, mechanics and NPCs:


Hello Exiles!

I’m Kane and I’m the Audio Lead on Path of Exile. The audio department at GGG is now 5 sound designers strong (including myself), and ‘the maestro’ Kamil handling everything to do with music. I feel privileged to have sound designers on my team that are all very talented and it’s great to be able to show off some of the work that we’ve been doing in recent times. We love hearing feedback from players and regularly check the forums and reddit for your thoughts. So here’s a chance for us to give you some insight into our thought process while designing sounds and audio experiences for Path of Exile.

Dominic Downing – Sound Designer:

 

Exsanguinate

Gritty, dark, and disturbing. Those have always been common themes in my design process and I feel as if my sound design finds its place nicely in the world of Wraeclast.

I used a mixture of slime, liquids, some earthy cracks, and crunches paired with some duct tape recordings of rips, twists, and tears mixed together with all kinds of audio processing and added synthesis to create the sounds you hear in-game.

With that in mind, when I saw the visuals for Exsanguinate I was excited to get to work. I used a mixture of slime, liquids, some earthy cracks, and crunches paired with some duct tape recordings of rips, twists, and tears mixed together with all kinds of audio processing and added synthesis to create the sounds you hear in-game. I went through a similar process when making the audio for Corrupting Fever which is a skill that pairs nicely with Exsanguinate and together they sound horrifically satisfying.



Path of Exile game audio - EXSANGUINATE


Splitting Steel

Another skill I loved working on was Splitting Steel. This skill could be the closest we will get to guns in Wraeclast so I made the most of the opportunity and designed the audio to be as impactful and threatening as possible. This involved using recordings of real guns layered with huge metallic impacts and explosions to exaggerate it as much as I could.
Throughout my everyday life, I often hear sounds that catch my attention and excite me. If I can experience those same feelings through my work for Path of Exile then that is when I know those sounds are game-ready.



Path of Exile game audio - SPLITTING STEEL


Patricia Prilli Sunandar – Sound Designer:

 

Reap

Over the two and a half years of designing sounds at GGG, I’ve learned to imagine sounds in my head quickly when I first see the visuals of a given asset. To me, the thought process behind the sound of a player skill is about creating a distinct and immediately recognisable sound. When I saw the animation and effects for Reap, I wanted to blend together metallic swinging sounds with gore to match the bloody visuals.

I subtly added the sound of squashed tomatoes and yoghurt with a plunger to create a gory layer to it

There are wooden spears being thrown, airy whooshes, and two handed swords swinging to create a base layer for the scythe. Then I subtly added the sound of squashed tomatoes and yoghurt with a plunger to create a gory layer to it. For the buff sound, I used a reverse reverb on a heavy metal door closing sound and then layered that with some pitched down watery splashes to suit the aesthetic.



Path of Exile game audio - REAP


Maven Astrolabe

I used a simpler approach when designing sounds for the Maven Astrolabe Map Device. I gathered some audio which I had previously designed for the Maven boss encounter as a starting point. Then I blended it with mechanical sounds of rotating gears and metal, and a subtle boom as the celestial animation expands.



Path of Exile game audio - MAVEN ASTROLABE


Javier Chalcoff – Sound Designer:

 

Outer Ring

Stepping out of the Ultimatum ring puts you in a situation where you are risking losing it all. Trying to give the player a sense of “danger” and to signal they are doing something wrong, I made the first sound like a cinematic impact blended with screams. On the countdown I used a heartbeat, and a sound of knocking on wood that would increase in volume and pitch on each second to add a sense of pressure, urging you to return to the ring.



Path of Exile game audio - OUTER RING


Vaal Orb Void Sphere

With the Vaal being so thematically tied to sacrifice and death, I wanted the player to feel that they were using a Vaal skill that had those components infused in it. To express that I used a blend of screams and incoherent mumbling as core sounds, that later I shaped, processed and synthesized to generate the vacuum, shockwaves and details from it.



Path of Exile game audio - VAAL ORB VOID SPHERE


Michael Collier – Sound Designer:

 

Relic of the Pact

The explosions for Blood Sacrament (Relic of the Pact) change in size depending on how much life you’ve reserved channeling the skill, so we needed a small, medium and large explosion. In the example video, you can hear that the small explosion is a bit squishier, while the larger explosion has some low end crunch.

Most of the high end gore here consists of things like, squished chicken, sloshing water and slime going through tubes. The low end is a little bit of live explosives, and dropped stones to add the crunch and movement.

I spent a bit more time on the channeling sound (which is funny because from what I’ve seen, the optimal way to play the skill involves next to no channeling time). I thought it would be cool to blend together a heart beat, the sound of moving water (similar to what you might hear when you put your hands over your ears and listen to your own blood moving), and some quiet creature noises to add to the unsettling nature of the Vaal atmosphere.



Path of Exile game audio - RELIC OF THE PACT


Kane Bennett – Audio Lead:

 

Ultimatum

For Ultimatum, we needed key gameplay audio cues for the core league mechanics. One of the first elements I worked on was the time stop mechanics.

It’s important that we make the most of these unique gameplay mechanics with audio, to help make encounters feel satisfying and cohesive

Making it feel like you are being sucked out of combat for a moment, then you make your decision before being thrown back into the fray. I blended ghostly voices and drones to use as ambience during the selection menu sequence, then reduced and filtered gameplay sounds during this time to add to the impact of it all coming back in after your choice is made. It’s important that we make the most of these unique gameplay mechanics with audio, to help make encounters feel satisfying and cohesive.



Path of Exile game audio - ULTIMATUM


Maven fight

Another example of this is from the Maven fight in Echoes of the Atlas. These larger scale boss fights really need clear audio cues to signal certain things to the player, and to help provide context to different effects. The memory game effects here are a good example of this. Also, Patricia’s audio on the nuke beam is very satisfying and telegraphs “certain death” quite nicely!



Path of Exile game audio - Maven GameplayV3


Heist

Lastly, I wanted to mention Heist. That release really showed how much passion our team has for what we do. On the dialogue side alone, I worked on around 3,800 files of dialogue that were used as final in-game assets, this includes the various NPCs and the monsters. I really wanted to make these encounters feel unique and give monsters a bit more personality with audio. Of course, spamming dialogue isn’t fun, so I used a bunch of cooldowns and limitations on monster dialogue during implementation. I was very proud of what we accomplished there and it showed us how we can look at pushing things further for monster uniqueness going forward.



Path of Exile game audio - HeistV2


A big thanks to the Grinding Gear Games audio team for letting us share this story on the sound for Path of Exile!

 

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