Planet Zoo Image of Lions resting as they overlook a beautiful park
Planet Zoo

PLATFORM
Management, Simulation, Park Builder
DURATION
2017/2018
ROLE
Principal Audio Designer / Project Audio Lead
DEV/PUB
Frontier Developments
PLATFORM
Personal Computer
Planet Zoo Audio Team.
Planet Zoo Audio Team.

In-Engine Tools - Emitter weighting and animation sound triggering
In-Engine Tools - Emitter weighting and animation sound triggering.

GDC Vault - How Distance Has Shaped The Sound Of Our Games (subscriber area)
GDC Vault - How Distance Has Shaped The Sound Of Our Games (subscribers area)

The challenge of creating a soundscape for Planet Zoo is that animals are usually quiet. While researching and visiting zoo's, our recordings would mostly capture the sound of humans, water features and birds. On one particularly revealing recording, a Rhino was chasing Giraffes and the animals passing close to the camera were kicking up a mighty dust cloud and also ... almost quiet! The footfall, grunts and vocalisations were barely noticeable over the sound of wind and people reacting.

"Quite"-interesting:
To make the quite interesting, the audio team recorded hyper-realistic Foley, footfalls, breathing and movement textures in our own pits. In most cases, this source material (created for all animals and surfaces) provides the necessary audio layers for an animal's presence. It also allowed sound designers to source vocalisation for key moments only, reducing reliance on often scares recordings.

To avoid a loudness war with such delicate Foley work, audio-code identifies when the camera moves inside an enclosure. Location informed data drives a Wwise implementation that can thin out the sounds of crowds, transport rides and ambiences to keep those quiet sounds focused and subtle. Player relevant feedback, such as direct crowd reactions, is retained in the mix. This is important for animals can get stressed from noise and players need to create enclosures with quiet areas so animals can retreat too them. Ray-casts are used to identify if areas are indeed quiet and the mix is presented accordingly.

That is our solution to stay close to the experience of an actual zoo, keep player relevant information front and centre in the mix and also present a delicate, hyper-realistic close-up of animals, full of interesting sonic detail.

Location and behaviourally correct park wide animal vocalisation
When implementing audio, sound designers have classified the rankings of vocalisations and a code side voice management system will prioritise these accordingly. A hero-emitter is used for specific, important animal calls and these park-wide emitters produce a background soundscape that is informative to animal behaviour. The player can always react to what they hear, even if they can't directly see it.

Audio triggered animation
It was a challenge to represent animal behaviour because of how quiet they are in most situations, but not always so. An animal walking around is generally not trying to get attention, but when walking towards food, they get excited. In both situations the game will use the same base animation for the animals, but the context is different.

Audio, ai and animation have worked closely together to present the right amount of vocalisations for behaviours. When an animal spots food and audio code has identified its behaviour, it will start layering in "excited" sounds. Using call-back's, the animation system is informed of this behaviour and animation partials are triggered to visualise the vocalisations. Using this system, animals can sound more excited as they walk towards food while animation doesn't need to add additional (costly) walk-to-food variations.

A similar system is also used for "chatting" Primate's or howling wolves. Audio keeps track of multiple animals, comparing their behaviours (and motivations) and adding layers of excitement to trigger the right sounds, at the right interval.

It was one of our very first experiments with audio triggered animations and a successful close collaboration with the animation, game and ai teams.


Real-Time Obstruction and Reverb in a player generated open-world
A short introduction to real-time obstruction and environment filtering in Planet Zoo's large open- and player created-environments.

Planet Zoo features a dynamic (fast moving) player controlled camera and user generated content. Terrain, objects and environments can be freely manipulated and changed. To emphasize those changes; Early reflection, occlusion, filtering of environmental audio and weather are informed by the position of the camera and by ray-casting against the surrounding environment in real-time. It is a performant system (as opposed to fully simulating propagation) that is designed to emphasize the changes made by a player.

Planet Zoo Image of Lions resting as they overlook a beautiful park
Jurassic World Evolution

PLATFORM
Management, Simulation, Park Builder, IP Game
DURATION
2016/2017
ROLE
Principal Audio Designer / Project Audio Lead
DEV/PUB
Frontier Developments
PLATFORM
Personal Computer, Xbox, Playstation
Jurassic World Evolution Audio Team
Members of the Jurassic World Evolution audio team include: Head of Audio Jim Croft, Lead Audio Designer Matthew Florianz, Senior Audio Designers Duncan Mackinnon, James Stant, and Dylan Vadamootoo, Technical Audio Designer Stephen Hollis, Lead Audio Programmer Will Augar, Senior Audio Programmer Ian Hawkins, Audio Programmer Jon Ashby, Audio Test Engineer Sam Doyle, Audio QAs Robin McGovern and Christopher Jackson, Additional Audio Designer Pablo Cañas Llorente, Music & VO Supervisor Janesta Boudreau, and Composer Jeremiah Pena.

Fundamental Frequencies of a T. rex call
Forensic analysis of the film T. rex call: Rorschach like patterns indicative of reversing/copy/pasting has been used to extend source sounds. Some pitch shifting (very mild) and possibly time-stretching. Calls have different samples for attacks and tails but the same core "tonal roar" is used throughout.

Fundamental Frequencies of a T. rex call
The frequency analysis of the T. rex's 1995 roar reveals its musicality. Note the G fundamental with Octaves and 5ths.

Recording Jeff Goldblum
Recording Jeff Goldblum at Side in London, with Rich Newbold, Game Driector of JWE2.

A sound Effect in-depth audio interview highlighting the challenges of working with and creating audio for a game depicting a world famous franchise:
A sound Effect in-depth audio interview highlighting the challenges of working with and creating audio for a game depicting a world famous franchise:

Run Fast, Sound Great - An audio tech deepdive, exploring the voice managment system in Jurassic Wold Evolution, that keeps player relevant information front and center in the mix.

Jurassic World Evolution - Audio Highlights

© 2018 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. Jurassic World, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, Jurassic World Evolution and their respective logos are trademarks of Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. Jurassic World and Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom motion pictures ©2015-2018 Universal Studios, Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures. Licensed by Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.
'PS', 'PlayStation', and 'PS4' are registered trademarks or trademarks of Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.
All other trademarks and copyright are acknowledged as the property of their respective owners.

This audio show-reel highlights the work of the audio team. It has not been endorsed by Frontier Developments or Universal pictures.


Creating and updating audio for an existing IP
A challenge that returns on every project is to understand the right "feel" for audio. A process that is akin to finding the right language for communicating player feedback. When working on an IP - with a well-known sonic and historic identity such as Jurassic Park - this extends to audio, music and v.o. Naturally we embraced this as a pillar for game audio but part of the established "language" also touches on translating intend of the IP holder and audience nostalgia for the sounds they remember the most. All of that happens before we can begin to think about player relevant feedback, memory budgets, technical limitations and mixing.

It is all of equally importance but doesn't always align with the expectations of modern game audio. For example, when the game - for wanting to avoid fatigue - requires variations, nostalgia might lean towards familiar and repetitive sounds.

For the audio team this was a blast of a puzzle to solve: Figuring out what to add, leave alone and update. Senior audio designer Duncan MacKinnon and I spend the first three months on Jurassic World Evolution trying to answer those questions. We experimented with substitution, re-creation, layering and morphing to find a combinations that could add behaviours not seen in the films, yet sounding like a natural extension of the existing sonic signature. When at first we added layers of new recordings to achieve this, we ended up dropping most as it was detracting from the nostalgia requirement when trying to update too much. Instead we ended up relying on techniques that take the original sound as a starting point for adding sweeteners, fx, mastering and creative mixing techniques, such as morphing.

Creating a diegetic framework for audio direction
As production on Jurassic World Evolution began to take shape so did the audio direction. To me the goal of that is to create a framework or "story" that the team can fall back on to make decisions. Examples of this are Ui direction or mixing priorities.

On JW:E the audio direction ended up outlining a diegetic framework. Location is intrinsically linked to the user controlled camera so defining what the camera represents was a first logical step. We could have approached the camera as a "god-like"-figure that requires presence, or perhaps a detached strategic insight, which requires exaggerated audio cues for feedback.

For the purpose of building a cohesive audio soundscape, we needed an answer that could anchor to the flow of gameplay and for that it might be good to explain how the game-loop works on our games.

In strategy and management games that Frontier Developments builds, the game context switches between observing, managing feedback and building accordingly. Sometimes that happens while interacting with the diegetic game-world and sometimes using non-diegetic full screen menu overlays.

To define the camera, I took guidance from the full screen overlays as Ui ties most of the gameplay flow together anyway. Unlike the camera the diegetic crowds, dinosaurs and weather can't be directly controlled, but it can be read as if it is a "living" diegetic Ui.

 The Ui visuals take inspiration from the movie.

The audio story thus goes that Ui overlays are an observation, made from a physical command-room while looking at screens and readouts. This translates to audio direction that while menu screens are active, a hint of a command-room-ambience is present, which becomes encompassing (with bespoke music) when entering full screen overlays. In the control-room-ambience, the beeping of readouts and distant chatter is heard to give those menus an air of presence. It's not necessarily visualised to the player as such, but the impressionistic audio contextualizes the gradual transitions from diegetic and half covering Ui's to full screen overlays.

Depending on how much space a menu occupies on screen (from subtle side-bar, to full screen overlay) more "room reverb" is added to Ui sounds. This is most pronounced when transitioning from diegetic visuals with small menu interfaces, to full screen overlays.

When it rains a muffled layer is heard when browsing those full screen menus and thus the storm is also present where the "command room" is. Even if it isn't accessible to the player in the diegetic world, audio and ui screens link the experiences together.

Hatch Raptor Jurassic World Evolution Skip Button

A similar diegetic approach solved the challenge of skippable cinematics that play when releasing a new dinosaur. The cinematic presentation features bespoke music for each dinosaur and if the player skips this sequence, the camera returns to observing the dinosaur from the previous "command room" perspective. Using the diegetic framework, I suggested we could switch the music from a stereo presentation (non-diegetic) to appear coming from the building to suggest the music was always diegetic. The camera can then "move away" from the music, fading it out.

A single jeep squares off against two large T.rex predators, it is raining, so the radio is probably silent

Vehicles came mid-way through production and I wanted to explore music playing from their location. As vehicles drive from fields and forests to build-up areas, reverbs and reflections change accordingly. A vehicle with music playing from it highlights those transitions and emphasizes the player created environment through music propagation.

The team ran with it, Pablo Cañas Llorente, Janesta Boudreau and James Stant manged to license a surprisingly large and varied playlist. From those efforts a radio station was created and Pablo and James wrote and recorded a Spanish speaking DJ, broadcasting from the far away shore of Costa Rica. This is another example of using "location" to inform audio direction. To emphasise the distance of the islands from the continent and make the broadcast physically feel real, I used game parameters related to storms to filter the radio music. Before a storm hits the island, the radio begins to crackle and break up and as the storm fully engulfs, there's only static left. The storm is part of a larger world in which the radio signal needs to travel through the ether.

In part because of our diegetic informed direction for audio, our work helps underpin the setting and add to world-building in Jurassic World Evolution.

Global Top Sellers on Steam with Jurassic World Evolution in the top spot!

Jurassic World Evolution reaching the Steam global top seller status on the day of release.