The sights and sounds of Skyrim

Bethesda has released a series of videos detailing the sights, sounds and music of its upcoming Elder Scrolls: Skyrim game.

According to audio director Mark Lampert, the world of Skyrim is a massive ecology of cultures, creatures and environments – and everything in it needs a sound.

Sometimes those sounds are made up of a dozen sounds, which in turn are made up of other sounds themselves. And in the end, all of these sounds have to be created and implemented by the audio team – often multiple times.

“It’s more about the project as a whole, you know? If you work on any one individual sound effect and it sounds great in isolation it doesn’t matter that much, because it’s much more about how is this going to work in the entire game. So in a weird way you’re mixing from the day you start,” he explained. 

“It’s not always that we have something in the game and we need a sound for it and I’ll go out and record something for it. That happens, but it’s much more often the case of, ‘Here’s a weird sound, I may use that one day, we should have it in the library – I should just record it now.’ And inevitably in a few weeks you’ll find some spot where you say, ‘I’ve got just the thing!'”

When the time came to begin layering music into Skyrim, Lampert collaborated with longtime Elder Scrolls composer Jeremy Soule to give the composer a sense of how different the game would be from previous entries in the series.

“I just sent Jeremy videos of me walking through the pine forest, walking through the fall forest, here’s the tundra,” said Lampert.

“We wanted the wilderness exploration to be quite a bit more sparse, so the whole system – Mat Krohn, our audio programmer, did a lot of work getting the music engine reworked with new tools for me to play with, to where we can put in all the exploration tracks that you would normally hear.”

Often during gameplay, the music will shift from an aggressive, heroic song to a more ambient track depending on the region the player is currently exploring.

“We call them the ‘palettes,’ because it’s kind of like a color palette, the general vibe or feel for this area. Versus what Jeremy called the ‘narrative’ pieces, which are the more traditional music queues for the game,” he added.

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim will hit store shelves on November 11, 2011.