Interview with Cyril

Audio Interview with Cyril Saint Girons


When did you start working on the audio for Spore?

I started working on the audio for Spore as an engineer in January 2007. Before that I was developing the tool the Spore ended up using for its procedural audio in the R & D group at EA Redwood Shores.

How big is the audio team, and how is it composed?

We have a good sized audio team: an audio director (Kent Jolly), lead engineer (Justin Graham), a producer (Peter Swearengen), 2 sound designers (Mike Cormier and Chris Seifert), and 2 engineers (Rajesh Ajjanagadde and I). We also had the pleasure of working with sound designers Andrew Lackey, Aaron McLeran, and Geoff Garnett.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when working on the audio and anthems for Spore?

Personally, I was working on the procedural audio system. Getting that system up and running was quite an effort. The biggest challenge with creating the anthem composer was determining what kind of controls were needed to provide enough options to musically inclined players while keeping them intuitive for others.

When you started working on Spore the 5 phases were already known. Did you have a lot of freedom to determine the atmosphere of the different phases yourself?

As an audio engineer I mostly did what I could to help the sound designers create the atmosphere they were going for.

Was Simlish the inspiration for the creature language in Spore? How was the creature language in Spore created?

I think simlish was definitely an influence for the voices of all of the sentient beings in Spore. However, the creatures from creature game are mostly created from animal recordings which were actually done on location at various zoos and animal sanctuaries.

What were the obstacles in allowing the music to be created randomly?

The procedural audio system allowed a lot of freedom for the audio designers but that sometimes came at the cost of performance. So we had to determine what kinds of approaches would work for what the sound designers were trying to do. It was cool to see patterns of procedural music composition evolve with the project.

Sound designer Chris Seifert's audio setup

Can you provide some hints and tips on how to make music with the editor?

We tried to design the music editor to be accessible to people with various backgrounds in music. There is definitely no right way to do it.

For example, with melodies, you might just want to cycle through random melodies until you find something you like, tinker with the number of notes, or if you are up to it mess with the pitch and duration. One thing I recommend is playing with the mix as you are editing so that you can filter out things you don't want hear.

Are there any plans to allow players to create their own voice recordings in the procedural voice editor?

There are no current plans to create a procedural voice editor.

Some sounds in the game sound very natural, did you use real recordings or was it all digital/synthesized sounds?

Almost all of the voice and ambience sounds are from recordings. The music is a mix, I believe, although a lot of the ambient music and instruments were produced by Brian Eno.

Are there any audio-related prototypes you'd be willing to share with the Spore community?

Most of the prototypes were created for an in house tool which may make it hard to share. (i.e. I need to check if we can release it.) However, this tool was based off of the open source project Pd, which I highly recommend checking out if you are interested in procedural music.

Of all phases in Spore, what phase � with a focus on the audio � was the most fun to work on and are you the most satisfied with?

Working on the city music editor for the civilization and space phases was pretty exciting, since we were able to add a musical component to the creativity of Spore. As a player I am also really satisfied with the editors, since they each have a cool and distinct atmosphere and are all highly reactive to input.

Do you have audio "bloopers" that you want to share? Or anecdotes from the audio production?

From Michael Cormier: Just before Kent took this picture, we recorded an incredibly, mistrustful leopard. When I got a chance to record this bobcat purring, I was a little tentative about getting too close until the trainer said, "c'mon, how many times are you gonna get hugged by a bobcat?" Michael

Click here to hear the leopard audio clip recorded at the zoo.

Does the team work with Spectrasonics (sonic texture developers) in the creation of the music for Spore?

We do not. We use in house tools for the procedural audio and some other third party tools (mainly ProTools) for sound design.

Can you highlight some of the inspirations for the music in Spore? What were the audio benchmarks you wanted to parallel or supersede?

I think Brian Eno's work with ambient music was a clear inspiration for the music in the project. The fact that he worked on the project was really incredible.

But Kent would really be a better person to answer this since it was mostly his vision. I was personally inspired by Electroplankton, as it showed me that a game purely based on music composition could actually be a lot of fun.

Could you take us through a macro view of developing the audio for a phase in Spore, from start to finish?

Every phase was pretty different and presented challenges both technically and artistically. I think this is especially noticeable with music as each level has a totally different approach.

For example, the music in cell game is very busy, in creature game the music is much sparser and mostly used to give game play feedback, and in civ game the music is totally user controlled.

Are there any future plans for the audio in Spore that you can tell us about?

We have some ideas about what we could do next, but it is still a bit too early to discuss.

To see Cyril's anthem creation tutorial movie, click here.