The next in our series of developer interviews is Andrew, our audio engineer. He's been with us for five years and is a veteran of the Grinding Gear Games team. We sat down with him and discussed his history with Path of Exile and much more

Hi Andrew! Thanks for taking part in the interview! Could you please introduce yourself and let us know a little bit about your history and background with audio?


Hey! I'm the resident audio engineer at GGG. I started working with audio when I was in highschool, something to help with recording music I was writing at the time. That led me to discover electronic music, which I started writing and performing around Auckland. After doing that as an amateur I decided to take audio a tad more seriously and studied at SAE for my diploma.

After that I worked for a short time at a tech startup, but was lucky enough to be hired by GGG after emailing them on a whim.

Could you please tell us about your current role at Grinding Gear Games and what an average work day is like for you?


My current job involves pretty much start to finish of your average audio pipeline. I'll take new assets and assess what audio, if any, will need to be created. After creating audio I'll also be the person to implement that into the game.

On top of that I work with programmers to improve technical aspects of audio, such as the tools we use, or the tech in game used to propagate audio.

It can be surprising what you have to learn day to day on the job, there are new challenges every day.

How did you end up working at Grinding Gear Games?


Like I mentioned earlier I emailed GGG on a whim, after a few emails and a meeting or two I completed an audio test that the lads seemed to be happy with. A big part of this was right place right time.

You've been with us for five years and started at a time when the Grinding Gear Games team was still quite small. Are you able to give us any insight as to how the audio side of Path of Exile has developed over that time?


It's been a big journey from where we started to where we are now. We originally had a simple audio engine and tools that made it fairly hard to implement audio in a way I was happy with. We also had a tiny amount of source material to work with. Slowly, over time, we've improved this beyond anything I would have hoped for.

Are there any in game sound effects that you're most proud of?


Off the top of my head… I quite like the way the Lunaris Temple ambient turned out, some of the Dominus and Shaper skill effects. Oh! Also the Acton's Nightmare music, I really enjoyed making that.

Is there a method to achieving a balance between sound effects that make an action more compelling while not being too distracting during gameplay?


Generally, I try to do a bit of playtesting to find these issues. It's a really hard balance to hit, not to mention it's also fairly subjective. I always try to consider what is most practically important to the player. Damage, both to and from monsters, and of course loot. So long as that remains audible and satisfying most other aspects of audio fall in line.

Are there any subtle but important sound effects in the game that players may not have noticed?


Probably not, if it's important I'd definitely want players to notice what's happening. Though there is a ton of unimportant audio that players might not have noticed, the rattle of different armour types for instance.

Audio can be odd, in that, when you improve something subtle a player might not know what's actually improved. We've had emails complimenting the improvements of art/graphics in an area, where the only thing to change was audio.

Of course that goes the other way too, something subtly bad or too repetitive can frustrate players. Which affects their experience without being able to say why.

What is the most challenging element of designing sound for Path of Exile?


While this is something that changes day to day, at the moment my biggest challenge is trying to get the most out of our new audio engine. It's given us limitless options, so we just need to figure out how we're going to take advantage of that.

Are there any games or movies that have inspired your design mentality towards Path of Exile's sound?


Obviously Diablo 2 has a big influence on the audio in our game. Beyond that I take inspiration from a little of everything. I've always got an ear out when playing games or watching films/TV.

The most recent example of something that really inspired me was in an episode of Luke Cage I saw over the weekend (No spoilers, promise). Some of the combat sounds were brilliantly satisfying, you could really hear the time someone put into designing those sounds!

Do you have any advice for aspiring audio engineers?


Keep learning, and be willing to learn skills that aren't exactly in your specialty.

What can Path of Exile players look forward to in terms of sound design in upcoming content?


Something I'm fairly excited about is improving the ambient tracks of the entire game. Some recently implemented tech will allow us to create ambiences that aren't just a static repeating stereo track, but a multi-layered event that changes depending on the environment around you.
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Grinding Gear Games
nice
The sound and music etc are the only respectable things I've you know actually liked. The stuff like performance etc yeah that's terrible but one day.

One fucking day it will be fixed.

IGN: I_NO
Hey there, thanks for reaching out. We recommend reading through any game's EULA, and utilizing any option to turn music off if the game includes that option, or mute the game audio.
Last edited by I_NO on Oct 4, 2016, 1:46:51 AM
Thank you but still, give us any information com'on! new skills plsssssssss
I'd like to know how come 5 years passed and there's still no sound for looting and putting flasks in the inventory? Kappa.

Also, it seems like there might be a severe performance impact when a lot of actions happen simultaneously (for example high APS builds) and disabling sounds improves the situation. What can you tell us about that? Can we expect improvement in the field, or at least the ability to completely disable sounds without disabling the Loot Filter sounds?
He seems like the chillest dude ever, I want to have a beer with him now.
Hopefully the sound of slushing as your character is running through water puddles and shallow shoreline waters is implemented sooner than later along with relevant footstep sounds depending on the footwear your character has equipped.
When game developers ignore the criticism that would improve their game, the game fails.
Just because a game receives a great amount of praise vs. only a small amount of criticism
does not mean to call it a day and make a foolish misplaced assumption that it is perfect.
(me)
Last edited by HeavyMetalGear on Oct 4, 2016, 2:08:11 AM
The sounds in this game are done well. It's usually easy to tell when something important has happened, the hit sounds and inventory sounds are satisfying, and the ambient sounds really bring Wraeclast to life. Like that ambient bird sound in broken bridge and peninsula. I love that one. I keep wondering what bird it is or how the sound was made.

/salute

Thank you for a job well done!
I play softcore, solo self-found.
-----Currently: Ice Trap Saboteur in Heist-----
Compassion is never weakness.

Gloriosa, Generosa. Always.
This is great but what we really need is client performance team and balnce team insight as pretty much the entire community cant stand either of these two issues.
ProbablyGettingNerfed - L100 Occultist
Vinktarded - L100 Pathfinder
New music, New theme ^^
New sound enginner :)
Enjoy Legacy!!!!

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