One of the initial goals in designing audio for Elite: Dangerous was to help explain how different activities in the game relate together. Therefore, similar sounds are often repeated during comparable activities. The subconscious mind is always making connections and repetition facilitates comprehension of interlocking system:
The repeated sounds in hint at a progression towards the pay-off which occurs much later. Obviously, it doesn't come together without a reward, which happens when selling the data and hearing the same sound most pronounced. For explorers, out in the vast expanses of our simulated galaxy, selling data could take months! Such a delayed reward made it extra important that the audio for scanning, feels as rewarding (if not more so) as selling the data.
The Planet map in Elite: Dangerous has been iterated upon many times. The latest edition (linked in the video below) features additional audio by Ross Stack who extended seamlessly on my original treatment when entering into planetary views. It sounds and looks great Ross!
Complex interfaces (such as the galaxy- and planet maps), not unlike the ships in Elite: Dangerous, organically respond to interactions.
The following video "shows" an interactive "easter egg" hidden in Elite: Dangerous. The sounds responding to movement and zoom of the camera are a homage to Vangelis and Ridley Scott.
Sound design in Blade Runner specifically (Peter Pennell, Bud Alper, Graham V. Hartstone, and Gerry Humphreys) and in Star Wars, Alien, 2001 and Space 1999 has been very influential in the interface-audio design of Elite: Dangerous. The visuals and the setting presented an opportunity to explore mechanical, melodic, slightly strained, organic and analogue sounding audio design.
Our interface animations are strenuous and mechanical. The audio is an interpretation of the in-game universe and its internal logic. There are plausible reasons for how technology might have evolved for space-faring generations: The technology would have to be robust, reliable, easy to maintain and build around redundancy and interchangeable parts. Ships and their internals built to resist compression, expansion, radiation and the constant wear and tear resulting from dramatic temperature changes. Derived, it made sense that robust space-capable ships would not reach for hyper sophisticated technology; Not unlike current air- and space-craft rather relying on proven concepts.
Audio reflects a way of thinking about our in-game universe which is mirrored everywhere; In the efforts of ship modellers, the ui team and most of the game design principles. The act of combat itself, using pitch and roll, requires true "effort". Elite: Dangerous, in many ways, presents a frontier universe, nothing is gained easy and similarly we have strived for authenticity in our presentations.
Creatively; We chose analogue gear, fm synthesis and distortions to express "low-tech" and oragnic sounding audio. Such audio provides further context for the interface visuals and conveys the feel of the game and setting. An added bonus is that it also reflects a method of study and observation of the universe. Duncan MacKinnon provided many assets (tones, distortions, short beeps and repetitive effects) as a basis and those are used throughout the interface and ui audio design.
With Ross and Duncan's involvement, UI audio in Elite: Dangerous truly has been a co-operative effort!
With: Head of Audio: Jim Croft | Audio Lead: Joe Hogan | Audio Designers: Matthew Florianz, Duncan MacKinnon | Audio Coders: Stephen Hollis, Daniel Murray, Daniel Varela | Music: Erasmus Talbot
Recorded looking through the cockpit roof of a slow spinning Eagle. Highlights dynamic environment ambiences for outpost, star, galaxy background radiation and planet as objects come into view. Additional audio includes ship flyby, gui notifications and ship internal cockpit ambiences.
Head of Audio: Jim Croft | Audio Lead: Joe Hogan | Audio Designers: Matthew Florianz, Duncan McKinnon | Audio Coders: Stephen Hollis, Daniel Murray, Daniel Varela.
A commanders puts new engine upgrades to the test. Some of the boost-audio and all ship-stress elements have been created by Joe Hogan. Source: youtu.be
Using a lot of in-game examples, Sr. Audio Designer Matthew Florianz, delivers an in-depth look into the making of the audio for Elite: Dangerous. Source: CTRL500.com
Elite Dangerous: Horizons teaser. Took over work on this from Jim, who had already prepared use of nasa radio chatter, musical direction and implemented a detailed first pass.
Creation and implementation of gui sound effects.
Creation and implementation of weapons.
Creation and implementation of ships.
Creation and implementation of physics sounds.
Foley and object recording.
Trailer mixes (5.1) and mastering.