The most downloaded PlayStation Network exclusive game today, and the best PSN exclusive game 2010, Dead Nation is a gruesome M-rated top-down action game placed in an apocalyptic world that has been overrun by a zombie virus. It is also the biggest audio design AriTunes has made in its history, so far (Trine 2 might be even bigger though). Dead Nation features over 8,500 unique audio assets, over hour of music designed to work dynamically in-game and custom made zombie voice overs – the kind of sound & music design you can expect from any AAA titled game. Big stuff. Dead Nation music & audio design has got some really impressive reviews from the press, stating stuff like “greatest use of audio in a videogame“, “Uncomfortably realistic audio” and “greatest use of audio in a videogame“.
Making of Dead Nation Original Soundtrack
Dead Nation original soundtrack reflects the tensions and the horrors of the post-apocalyptic world. It features industrial ambient, rock music and orchestral elements, and it basically keeps you on the edge while you are playing the game, all the time. I wanted the players to feel how twisted the place is, and how the main characters have lost all their hope, but still kick ass against all odds. The biggest achievement of DN soundtrack was that it changes dynamically in-game from different tension levels and locations – it features six different tension phases from non-life threatening situational ambient to the most intensive heart pulsing ‘you’re gonna die now -action music. It also has different music in more boss-music like scenarios and some other unique places like a circus and zombie disco.
Making the original soundtrack was hard at first – I didn’t actually have any straight reference for the music. I really liked the 28 Months Later, Dawn of The Dead Remake and Resident Evil: Afterlife Original soundtracks but they didn’t had much reference to Dead Nation dynamical phases of 4-6 for the high action parts. Then I just decided to just go for it and add as much action-horror, high pulsing themes and all the industrial sh*t I could find to the action parts that I could – it worked out great in the end and turned out to be a really gritty and frightening soundtrack. I’m trying to make it an official soundtrack after summer, but the dynamic format must be changed back to work in a single-track style.
Making of Dead Nation Sound Design
Lets start about thinking of Dead Nation audio assets – over 8,500 unique audio assets, you get the picture when you realize the total length of the sounds are over x hours. And I’m not talking about some basic sounds taken from some sound libraries, no sir. These are custom made sounds for Dead Nation, each one designed to work in-game, mix-matrix and audio design. We got so far in audio design, that we have even had physics sounds for events like “hobo zombie dropping hobo-sack”, “zombie critical hit throat gurgle and blood sounds”, “physics sounds for every physics object in-game” and even “funny clown-like additional sounds for clown zombie dying” (these are actually super hilarious, producer and CEO of Housemarque almost choked of laughing). I’m sure you’ll get the picture.
OK, so there’s a lots of custom made sound effects, so what? Well let me tell you. The biggest achievement that I’m the most proud of all the zombie vocals – custom made in five sound recording sessions, with ‘amateur’ sound actors that “found their true meaning of life” when performing perfect zombie vocals for the game. (note: it is extremely exhausting and HARD to record good zombie vocals, really) These actors included the lead designer and coder of Dead Nation, couple women who had never even played games (who were really great!), game producer, Art Director, and lead singer of rock band called RockMasters and of course me, the voice over director/actor of these sessions. I was the first to record the vocals and show how it was done, and it was really sweaty session – so wet in fact, that after the act everyone wondered what the hell I was doing in the studio. (yes yes, acted like a lunatic like usual) Well… voice actor after another came out of the studio, having the same symptoms as me. Everybody said that acting zombie was probably one of the hardest things they have ever done, except running coopers test in the Finnish army. Anyone wondering why it is so hard – try to yell as loud you can for five minutes and act like you are a hungry, angry and mad zombie running after tasty human flesh. I’m really sorry that I didn’t take any video of the sessions, but maybe I’ll post some audio clips later on…