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The Sound Design of Lucidity – Blurring the Boundaries of Game Audio

November 10, 2009

It was obvious from the very beginning that Lucidity was no ordinary game. Jesse Harlin and I knew that we had the opportunity to do something unusual with the audio. As the game was set in a dream world we wanted the soundtrack to have an ethereal feel to it. So we hit upon the idea of focusing the audio around the music, with sound in the game complementing to and blending with the music.

We tried to blur the lines of where sound design ends and music begins, with Jesse doing a first pass on the majority of the prominent game sounds, from the musical notes of picking up fireflies to the cymbal crash of the exploding bomb. Meanwhile I created some “instruments” for Jesse to use in the music from our sound design library. This included tuned owl calls and frog chirps turned into rhythm sections.

As I was creating the sound effect ambiences I carefully tuned each element in the mix from bird calls to the drone of crickets to match the root note of each level’s music so that they blended to create a single musical soundscape. We also timed all of the sounds related to Sofi in the game to play on a 16th note Grid so they were not only tuned to the music but also in time with the music.

The enemies in the game, such as the hornets, mushrooms and dust bunnies, needed to create a sense of danger to the character, so the sounds we chose were deliberately non musical and not timed to the music to create a sense of dissonance with the Sofi’s dreamlike musical existence.

As you can imagine with our melding of music and sound design the division of labor wasn’t clear cut, as the overall soundtrack of the game ended up as cross over of ideas and work between the two of us.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2009 1:53 pm

    Neat insight. A similar approach was applied to the sound design of Artificial Intelligence (Spierlberg’s film), in which Gary Rydstrom had the score very early on and was able to craft musical sounds on key with the music. But this really sounds like a full collaboration.

  2. Diego permalink
    November 14, 2009 12:27 am

    Cool concept! Wouldn’t the sound be unsynchronized though (specially on lower tempos) if you limit the notes to a 16th note grid? There would be a big delay between the event (i.e. explosion) and the sound (crash cymbal) if there’s a long wait for the next 16th note space in the grid.

    I haven’t play the game yet – SHAME ON ME – that’s why I ask. I will play it though, you needn’t have a doubt about it. I just don’t have a lot of time to play games and I’m not even halfway through the one I’m playing (Assassin’s Creed, it was just 5 bucks on Steam haha, an application I installed whenever you guys started using it :D).

    Thanks for answering! LucasArts rocks!

    • tombible permalink
      November 16, 2009 12:04 pm

      Good question! We did come up against this issue with the beat synced sound effects. If we made the delay too long, sounds would feel badly out of sync with the visuals, too short and we would lose the effect of having sounds playing in time with the music.

      In the end we found that the music with the lowest BPM was 70, so a 16th note grid would give a maximum delay of 0.05 seconds, which seemed to be about the right balance for the game.

  3. November 16, 2009 11:23 am

    tres bon concept et fabuleux jeux que je vais essayer

  4. Mike permalink
    May 4, 2010 3:10 am

    hey i was just wondering if there was a place i could get the soundtrack for Lucidity ?
    its such a great game the soundtrack really enhances the experience.

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