Game Audio Field Report #2: Happy Birthday Marvel Heroes!

  • May 9, 2015
  • By Somatone Interactive

June marks the first anniversary of the public release of Marvel Heroes, so what better time to recount the time I’ve put into the game? It has been nearly 2 years since I first set foot in the Gazillion building, so here it goes…

What started as a short, 3-month effort to help fill in for an exiting member of the early audio team, has grown into 2 years of audio support across much of the project. It began as focusing simply on environment content creation and integration, but as the need for ongoing internal technical support continued, I wound up at my desk there, working directly as a member of the team for over a year, and continue to make regular visits for patch updates. As you can imagine, working with an IP like Marvel, on the scale of a full blown MMO, means a ton of research into a long-established universe. I’m pretty regularly researching whole new worlds, heroes, villains, or plot line history to influence how to best approach any audio work I will be getting into.

Gazillion is a studio full of people who grew up on Marvel comics, shows and movies, and have a stronger enthusiasm with the story and characters than nearly any game I’ve ever been a part of. Many of the people I’m surrounded by have landed their dream job, to work within the Marvel Universe, under the direction of Diablo creator, David Brevik.

In the beginning, the task was explained to me as simple: open a level map, sprinkle a few SFX in, save, close, move on. Pretty much an isolated and routine process. As the game evolved, as well as my involvement in the project, things began to get much more complicated, and much more fun. With great responsibility comes great need to meet and rely on all other areas in the development process, including: getting to know the VFX team, to collaborate on the most effective ways to play environmental audio; the environment artists, to keep updated on the end-less number of destructible game objects coming down the pipe; the animation team, to stay on top of which heroes need their footsteps and body falls tagged for sound, and the character modeling team, ’cause they just do really cool work, and I want to see what’s new in the ‘com-ing soon’ department.

I’ve also had the absolute luxury of working beside a fantastic and experienced audio lead, as well as a dedicated audio programmer (a rarity for audio teams). If a technical issue pops up that is beyond my understanding, or not a standard tool in Unreal, we can make it work, or build custom tech needed to get the results we expect. I have more than a few times reached a point of, “nope, can’t be done” and then, with the close collaboration of such an awesome group of people, we find the perfect solution.

Unlike much of what I’ve done over the years at Somatone, including several other stretches of working on site with development teams, this has been an opportunity to get plugged into the pipeline at a much deeper level. This experience enabled me to get familiar with the architecture of a large project, learn new proprietary tools, memorize an endless web of cheat commands, and help shape how audio functions in a game of this scope. Being injected directly into the team means I’ve had my fair share of long days, late nights, and developing a very close relationship with the coffee machine. But it also means that I can be relied upon to navigate not only the sprawling Unreal project hierarchy, scripts, and Kismet sequences, but to quickly make additions or tweaks to the Wwise project, without the constant need to bother the audio lead, or programmers. Even after leaving the full time on site work, I can return each month as an external technical resource to push out the next round of improvements and additions. With high expectations and short deadlines, it helps to have a working knowledge of all the ins and outs of the project, so I can hit the ground running each time I return. Here’s to Marvel Heroes 2015!