Four months ago I was given the fantastic, but terrifying, offer of creating the sound for Fable Heroes. As a Fable fan it was an opportunity too good to pass up. When I was originally shown the project, it was impossible to hide my surprise; here was a game that was so far away from the Fable I knew and loved, yet so incredibly recognisable! The bright colours and pure happiness of the game brought an instant smile to my face. It was certainly a challenge, and a far cry from the shooter I was working on previously. The best thing for me with Heroes was the creative freedom I was given, allowed to go down any route I saw fit; something very exciting, but also a little daunting.
‘Fable Heroes’ manages to be fresh, new and exciting whilst giving Fable fans the service they deserve. It may be a project that appears to come out of nowhere, but as soon as you pick your puppet and get playing, the love and care that has gone into it is obvious.
When it came to creating the soundscape of Heroes, I wanted to do the same – keep the game within the Fable universe, but create something new and as fun as Heroes turned out to be. The first thought that came to me, and what I held onto throughout my time on the project was – ‘Toy Box’. Its an obvious choice as you take the role of a puppet playing a board game. I decided to keep the sounds as organic as possible, leaving behind anything remotely electronic. The sounds you hear throughout the game are the likes of old fashioned toys and the instruments brought out in school music lessons such as glockenspiels, slide whistles, jews harps, squeaky hammers and cork guns. These are all laid over and interleaved with some altered ‘classic’ Fable sounds.
The process of creating the actual sounds for ‘in game’ came about through editing and manipulating Fable sounds, library sounds and my own recordings, using ProTools and SoundForge as my weapons of choice. Even when using high quality library samples, it is on a very rare occasion that they fit unaltered, so they must be cut, moved, faded, added to others and shifted about to get your desired effect. Layering sounds is also a way to achieve a good result. Reaver’s Gun is a good example of this.
Reaver’s gun is comprised of a top layer cork pop and an actual pistol shot from Fable 3, played underneath simultaneously, so it has that all important fun, toy box sound, but also packs a punch. It was important for me to have that layer of silliness in the weaponry to match the art style and childishness of the menu. Other examples of this are Hammer’s Hammer which squeaks on impact, and Gabriel’s ‘Hammer’ which neighs…
I was later in the project joined by sound designer, West Latta, who took time out of his incredibly hectic schedule to look after the boss fights, creatures and weaponry (his vocal talents can be heard in a few places throughout the game!). West flew over from Ireland to work on the final mix of the game so we commandeered a meeting room for a week with a fancy surround set up, and ate lots of takeaways!
Sometimes, no matter how good the source material and library sounds are, they just don’t fit, which is how one morning I found myself at my parent’s house recording chickens.
Rose is a ‘Silver Link’ or ‘Amber Star’ (depending on who you ask) hybrid chicken, and is the talent behind the brilliant front end ‘Lionhead’ animation. Recording chicken ‘burbling’ proved to be a task easier said than done! We ended up bringing her into the living room to avoid outside noise and waiting patiently while she nosed around, jumping on the furniture to make the right kind of noises. Eventually though she obliged and we got the recording that you hear when you start up the game.
When it came down to getting voices for the characters, originally I tried to pitch up previous Hero voices and make them sound more ‘cute’. This just did not work so I decided to go where often you can find a great pool of talent – the office! This was partly a money saving move, but as the game came out of a Creative day it seemed fitting that it should feature Lionhead’s creative talent. I sent out a plea ‘HEROES NEEDS HEROES’ and spent a day with Jennifer Clixby and Ted Timmins, bringing brave volunteers in to audition. This had to be done in front of a small audience and microphone to ensure they could perform properly and without fear. I got an overwhelming response, and some incredible performances, some of the best coming from Heroes’ very own team! So once I’d gone through the auditions and cast the puppets, one by one I bought the performers up to the mocap studio, stuck a microphone on their head and a boom mic which was named Mary (thanks to Rachel, Heroes’ biggest fan and an ex-Lionhead employee), in their faces, and got them to jump, run and yell to their hearts‘content.
It’s these voices, slightly pitched up in places, that you hear ‘in game’, bringing life and an individual character to each puppet!
Lastly I’d like to talk about the music in the game, which was written by two exceptionally talented men, Robin Beanland and Steve Burke. Myself, Ted, Jen and Russell Shaw (Head of Audio, and composer extraordinaire!) talked with both composers and sent emails back and forth with feedback describing what we wanted Heroes to be, and sure enough, within record time, they both just ‘Got it’ and sent us track upon track of amazing quality. It was the addition of the music that really brought the game well and truly to life and gave us our own musical stamp that fit perfectly with the sound design and art work. They also gave us music that really stuck with you, more often than not you’d hear someone humming pieces around the office!
The Heroes team were an absolutely fantastic bunch to work with. The passion on the team is blatantly obvious, and together we’ve made an AAAwesome project. Keep your eyes, and ears, on this one. It’s really something special.