Michael Kent, Audio Director for Dragon Age: Inquisition talks about the inspiration behind the game’s soundtrack.
The game features a vast, multi-region open world to explore, and a rich story full of dynamic choices that will shape the world around you.
Can’t wait until November 21st? We sat down with Michael Kent, Audio Director for Dragon Age: Inquisition, to chat about the inspiration behind the game’s soundtrack.
Want even more DAI audio? Scroll down to listen to the world premiere of the Dragon Age: Inquisition title theme.
Q: What were some of the inspirations behind the audio in Dragon Age: Inquisition?
A: Early on in the project we set out to redefine the audio for the Dragon Age series. We started by reviewing the last two games and came up with a top 10 “do’s and don’ts” list. We also spent some time figuring out what sets Inquisition apart from the other two games. We decided that we wanted the game to sound very dynamic, where the audio was always moving and changing, lots of highs and lows, loud and quiet moments.
The goal was to inform the player of the impact and worth of their actions through aural feedback when interacting with the world. By making the world believable and captivating through audio, this will help completely immerse the player as they explore the Dragon Age world.
Why does the audio in video games matter?
Audio is 50% of the experience when playing a video game. Audio provides emotion, and also helps tell the story. Audio is what immerses the player in the game.
How does a video game soundtrack begin to take shape?
Early on in the process we start to define different aspects of audio for the game. We wanted the music for Dragon Age: Inquisition to be sweeping, thematic, and emotional. We then had to decide what the major themes for the game were, and define them emotionally. Once we have an idea of what we want, we then look for a composer who can deliver what we are looking for.
What did you listen to in order to get into the right frame of mind to build the Inquisition soundtrack?
A lot of Trevor Morris, who composed the score for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Trevor is excellent at writing strong themes and delivering epic music, so early on I knew I wanted him to score Inquisition. He was the perfect fit!
How did you get started working in video games?
I’ve been doing audio-related stuff for a long time. Tinkering with samplers and synths since the mid-90s. In 2003 I went to the VFS sound design program, and through this I got a job as an intern at BioWare and have been making games here ever since!
In general, what makes a powerful video game soundtrack?
I think what makes a powerful soundtrack is strong themes. If you look at movies like Star Wars, they had very strong and memorable themes. Everyone knows Darth Vader’s theme.
Having music play when appropriate is very important, and too much music can numb the players’ emotions, so it’s really important to find a balance. Less is more with music to get as much emotional impact as you can.
What types of emotions are you hoping to invoke with the audio in Dragon Age: Inquisition?
Basically we want to drive whatever emotion we are trying to deliver as a game as a whole. Whether it’s happy, sad, powerful, or spooky, we need to support these with audio.
Is there anything surprising about how you created some of the sound effects or audio in Dragon Age: Inquisition? Any anecdotes about having to be creative?
I think setting a vision early on with guidelines helps the creative process as a whole. When creating the sound for something, I like to write down the different aspects of what it is I’m trying to create and go from there. Iteration is key in honing in on what you are trying to achieve. Talking with the writers and visual artist is also very important in delivering a well-balanced experience.
Creating your source early on for the game is very important to locking down the sonic scape of the game. For Dragon Age: Inquisition we made a very large source library early on using the guidelines we set out in the audio vision. This was fundamental in creating a cohesive audio experience for a game as large in scope as Inquisition. It’s like prepping before cooking and having all your ingredients ready on hand. Ensures a consistent style between sound designers.
Become the Inquisitor and lead your group of legendary warriors across Thedas in Dragon Age: Inquisition, launching November 21st.