The Creation of FINAL FANTASY XIV: Shadowbringers – Episode Five: Spawning the Sounds (CC)
Of course for FFXIV, I typically make and edit my own music and sound, so when I see the sounds being applied to whatever visual element is necessary, these elements may fit really wonderfully, but I have to make sure that it tugs at my heartstrings, and has an emotive element. There is a really good expression in Japanese that I don’t know the English for but it’s basically when something ‘grabs at your heart’ and that is the determining factor whenever I output my work. My name is Masayoshi Soken and I am in charge of the production of everything sound related for FFXIV. The music is one of my primary focuses, along with audio features within the game, promotional videos, and recently we’ve also started doing an increased number of concert series, so I’m in charge of wrangling that. Not to forget the original soundtracks either! My name is Go Kinuya, and I’m one of the sound designers on FINAL FANTASY XIV. I primarily work on creating sound effects, and designing specifications for additional sound playback, as well as making sure the production of different sound elements are on track. I’m also involved in debugging and things like that. When it came to depicting the overwhelming light in Shadowbringers we thought about how the flood of light is permeating everything and threatening the realm, we needed to think about how to create a sense of light that has expanded and grown too large. It’s oppressive, bearing down on all the people living in the world and making them feel uncertain, so we had to think about how to convey that with sounds. For example, with any sort of environmental sound we tried to go for effects that weren’t simply sparkly or pretty, but rather conveyed a sense of pressure, something that is overwhelming and creates unease. And in order to achieve that, one of the things we did was deliberately emphasising some of the lower ranges of the tones that we used, which created a feeling of suffocation within the sound design. We took a different approach than before to designing the sound to depict Light. For the music, we incorporated several elements that bring a sense of contrast. Firstly, if you listen to the vocal lines in some of the songs you’ll notice that
some of them make use of male vocals, while others make use of female ones. Another aspect we looked at were the chords of the songs, whether they’re major or minor. For example, “Shadowbringers” starts out in a minor key but ends in a major key – for that one in particular, there’s lyrics involved that explain why there’s that shift and it might be interesting for you to look at. Speaking about the “Shadowbringers” theme and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” specifically, the former is in a minor key and the latter is in a major one. That’s another example of us distinctly placing that contrast. If you listen closely, both of the songs start out very similarly in their intros, and we wanted to convey the idea that we all started from the same place and went our own ways from there. Nobody came into the world planning to cause conflict or oppression. We all share roots and we wanted the music to reflect that. In terms of how to depict the Sin Eaters – when we first introduced the Sin Eaters to our players, across the board, the game designers wanted to make sure it was suitably shocking. From a sound perspective we wanted to make sure our effects were very grotesque, while the music was ominous and scary. But at the same time, we didn’t want it to be one-dimensional and only focused on horror elements – we also wanted it to have a sense of melancholy and sadness, because if you consider who these Sin Eaters were before turning, it’s really sad. One of the things I tried was to incorporate a female voice weaving this sad, melancholic song. The instruction we received regarding the sound in the scene where Tesleen is stabbed was basically “pretty vomit”, which resulted in the person assigned to applying the sound being understandably confused! Well, in the end we were able to figure out a solution that seemed to work best for everyone, but I do remember there were quite a few tricky areas when working on it. For Amaurot, there’s so many different noises going on, it’s almost saturated in sound. as it’s the final dungeon of the main scenario, we needed to have the music building the anticipation, but in the background, there’s so much going on, too – there’s objects falling behind you, there’s explosions, there’s people fleeing in panic – all of these need sounds and then on top of that there’s also the vocal narration ringing out, so you’d need to be able to hear that. Oh, and battles; whenever your player character fights a monster, you need sound for that as well. The entire environment is saturated. There’s a lot of pieces to consider: the planet is breaking apart, the stars are falling, there’s large magical beasts in the air, buildings are crumbling, meteors are plummeting to the ground, and none of these are little, insignificant things! All of these are large occurrences in terms of sound volume. If we simply started adding sounds at a volume that is normally expected, it would just be a complete cacophony throughout. The Sound team supports this by considering what aspects of the game content we want to direct the players’ attention to, and evaluate which sounds we want heard louder, or we want to zoom in on, as well as how the volume fades in a three dimensional space, or what is the range of something being heard more loudly. We spent a lot of time going in and refining and adjusting. With any job we add, we want to make sure that the sound design features a unique characteristic – basically, when you hear a certain sound, you automatically associate with a specific job. We would make sure to share this thinking within the team during production. When we were talking designing sound for the Dancer, our initial concept really wanted to focus on glamour and a fancy sense of style. Looking at the concept art for the job, featuring her red outfit and chakram, we felt that it would be appropriate to use sounds that are very musical – instruments basically. Realistically, we wouldn’t be able to play a full song due to how short each job action is, but we were keen to incorporate something musical or instrumental to complement their movements. We captured sound effects for different percussion instruments and edited them so they fit the different steps and moves. For the Gunbreaker, I don’t think there were any sort of constraints. Considering the differences between the two platforms on which these titles were developed, we could never just take the sounds from FFVIII directly and reproduce them in FFXIV, and so we needed to approach it so that we were creating sounds for a gunblade that fits in the world of FFXIV. That being said, the Gunbreaker job is the fourth to fit in the tank role, and each job within the tank category has a distinct sound. We have the Warrior, the Paladin, the Dark Knight, and each of them has a very distinct sound, so I needed to be careful not to overlap any new sounds I may make for the Gunbreaker with the existing tank jobs. For the Warrior, the concept was to have a lot of weight behind each of the sounds that it produced, while for the Dark Knight we went for a more mysterious or creepy, dark feeling. When it came to the Gunbreaker, I noted they would carry swords that are a little skinnier… for the lack of a better word… than the rest of the tank jobs, plus there’s a more mechanical element to it as well. With that in mind, we wanted to convey a sense of speed, suggesting the gunblade is wielded very quickly. Because it’s a gun as well as a blade, we needed to incorporate explosive noises when the gun goes off. So we had the swift, slashing of the blade but also thought about the weight of the explosive sounds when we were doing the sound design. We have staff that handle sound effects for our trailers or cinematics, but for the sound effects of the opening cinematics, we actually work with a post-production studio in Hollywood. It’s been this way since 1.0 And, the member of staff in that studio worked with us for the Shadowbringers opening as well. I told them we needed a sound effect for a little gremlin creature, but they responded saying they didn’t really have ideas. One of the junior members of my team was very frustrated because he didn’t know what to do and he actually came to consult me about it. He told me he was considering simply hiring someone to record the voice in one universal language. I pushed back to my colleague and asked if he could come up with something on his own and he thought long and hard about it, trying quite a few different options, but nothing seemed to work. In the end, as a last-ditch effort, he went home over the weekend, took a hand recorder and went into his closet to discreetly record what he believed a gremlin may sound like, while trying not to disturb the rest of his family at home. It was surprisingly good…! We did modify the voice quite a bit, of course, but it is my colleague’s voice that we used. There’s many elements like that within the game if you listen closely, so if you ever have the free time, try to find something! We’ve recorded quite a few varied foley sounds throughout the different expansions but when it comes to Shadowbringers, one of the most memorable for me is the voice of the Ancients. the Ancients are massive, ethereal beings that don’t really exist… but we didn’t want them to appear scary or overbearing, but rather be quite gentle. That was a lore consideration we had to think about when designing the sound. This is something that one of my colleagues created but… My colleague recorded their own voice and added various effects, raised and lowered the pitch, and though they struggled a bit they ultimately managed to produce the sound we have now. I watched them throughout the whole process and it’s something I remember really fondly. It was a good example of modifying recorded voice. I believe a patch will be coming out soon, so I hope you enjoy these updates that come every three months or so. Keep your ears open to new sounds that arrive in the game and continue to enjoy our content, thank you! Our priority is for the players to have a good experience and, we are continuing work on upcoming content with the same intent. Though today we mainly spoke about Shadowbringers, please know we are still working and our next patches are coming, so I hope players eagerly anticipate what we’ll bring them in the future!