SiN Episodes Interview: Zound and Muzak

Sound design and music are an integral, but often overlooked, part of games. We sat down with Ritual's long-time audio director Zak Belica to find out more about the things you will hear while playing SiN Episodes. This interview also contains an exclusive first look at the cover art for the SiN Episodes: Emergence soundtrack, so let's dive right in:

Zak Belica
For those new to the community, please introduce yourself, your role and experience at Ritual.

My name is Zak Belica, and I'm the Audio Director here at Ritual Entertainment. What that means is that I'm responsible for everything you hear in Ritual games, including music, sound effects and voiceovers. I've been with Ritual since the original SiN in 1997, and have helped make excellence in audio in our games a top priority.

What would you say has been your proudest achievement to date?

I think that SiN Episodes: Emergence has been my proudest achievement to date. Not only did the team do a fantastic job on the game, but the title gave me a chance to produce some of my most evocative work, both in terms of audio and music.

SiN Episodes' musical score is every bit as character-driven as the game.
How important do you feel game soundtracks and voiceovers are to an overall game?

These are two critical areas of audio that help the player connect in a real way to the events that unfold in-game.

A game's music serves much of the same purpose as film music- to lend emotional impact to scenes and situations that the player might not otherwise perceive. A great example of this is watching a film like Star Wars with the music turned off- it's a completely different experience. With this idea in mind I created a set of strong character and location themes, and made versions of these themes to underscore moods such as 'confrontation' and 'action pursuit'. The use of strong themes also helps the player identify what they're dealing with in the game. So, when the player hears a fast paced action piece melded with Elexis' theme, they know “I'm in Elexis' territory, and she's not happy I'm here.”

Voiceovers are critical to making a character and their actions seem real in a game. If you can make the voice performance convincing to the player, much of the other elements of the game will be convincing as well. One perception problem that I think most gamers have is that computer graphics technology is still catching up with the expressiveness of the human face and body. When you're watching a real actor in a film, they can convey a great deal without saying a word. Add an effective spoken delivery, and the effect can be electrifying. The Source technology used in Sin: Episodes certainly helps with the facial expressiveness of the actors, and combined with good voice acting our aim is to make the SiN gaming experience as much like film as we can.

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