Last week, our Audio Team answered some of your questions about what they do! Since there were so many questions, we've split their answers into two parts. Today's post covers Part 2 of the Audio Team Q&A!

6 string or 7 string?

Kane, Audio Lead: Depends if we’re djenting or AC/DCing.
Kamil, Music Director & Composer: Can be even 25 for some ethnic guitars.

Do you mostly work with headphones or speakers? Why?

Kane: Kamil and I have our own mixing rooms, the rest of the sound team are on headphones but some also have speakers setup at their desks for reference/checking. There’s a couple of answers here. Firstly, mixing rooms take up a good deal of space, and space is limited in our premises. Second, collaboration is important and being able to turn to your colleague and discuss an idea is something that is somewhat lost if everyone is in their own isolated booth. I ask the sound team to visit my room to go over their work as often as they can, keeping the conversation going and hearing things in a different light. It’s important that there’s a balance.

Do you still use a digital mixing desk (Pro Tools) to design audio? Or do you go to a studio for some recording and mixing?

Kane: Yes we still use Pro Tools. We have an inhouse recording facility now though, so we are able to get much more expressive performances from actors while they watch animation playback. It’s great!

What's the foley-to-synth ratio for the Skills SFX?

Kane: This is so case dependent that it is difficult to answer. I would just say, the more obscure/magical a skill is, the more there are inorganic elements. Such as, fireball sounds like fire. But what does a chaos projectile sound like? In all cases, we try to minimize the amount of over ‘synthetic’ sounding things and opt to process more organic material in a way to make it work contextually.

Which software is used to edit/eq/filter/record the audio files?

Kane: We are all using Pro Tools currently.

How does the Game handle massive amounts of sounds playing together? Do you have priorities for boss abilities and such?

Kane: There’s various things in play here. First we have a limit set on how many sounds can play at one time (which you can change in your settings - please if your computer allows, set it to high xD). From here we have a priority and a stealing system in FMOD. Depending on how the events are tagged, they will steal a spot from another sound if their priority is high enough and there’s too many sounds playing. Late game, this can become extremely difficult in some situations to handle, and it’s troubling when sounds begin cutting out. We now also use cooldowns on most events, this stops things triggering within a specific amount of time (in milliseconds) and goes a long way to stopping unwanted behavior of sounds.

Why can disabling audio have such a drastic effect on game performance for some players?

Kane: Let me just say, it’s sad for us to see people doing this on an artistic level. However, people playing and enjoying the game is more important, it is their choice how they do so and we are just happy that they are playing our game! This question is likely better answered by our engine department, but I will do my best based on the discussions we’ve had about this. Essentially, disabling any major element of the game would in theory increase your performance. Imagine if you had 0 effects on screen, that would surely increase performance. Audio, like anything in the game, has a performance cost. And just like everything else, by late-game this is exacerbated. Having said all that, we are doing our best to mitigate what issues we can.

How many sound channels can play simultaneously, and how do you prioritize which sounds to cull when the limit is reached?

Kane: 32, 64 and 128 for each respective sound count setting. Once the limit is reached, there is a priority system in FMOD with all events tagged, higher priority events will ‘steal’ a space from a lower one.

What exactly were the technical constraints that caused the fiasco around the shattering/Herald of Ice sound changes back in 2019?

Kane: The intention there was to make the shatter mechanic more dynamic and expressive, with different sized monsters having different shattering sounds. However, upon reflection after the fact, we fell short on the actual sounds themselves and it just didn’t feel as satisfying. The technical constraints from my recollection were that we changed it to a more complex system and the original sound event did not have enough variations, which led to the sound itself cutting or sounding repetitive. However, though technically not ‘right’, the nostalgia and feeling of the original was so ingrained that reverting all these changes proved the right thing to do.

Do all the audio team members use the same daw? If not, how do you manage integration and review between units. If yes, is it reaper? If yes, would you care to shed a little light on you scripts and workflow.

Kane: We all use Pro Tools. We have, on several occasions now, considered moving to Reaper as many devs have and swear they’ll never return to Pro Tools. For us, it is difficult as we are constantly busy and making the change would inevitably slow us down for a little bit. It could still happen though! Regarding reviewing etc, it’s not very often that we are opening each other's sessions unless it is dialogue. The best place to review things is in-game, and that’s typically how I’ll review things with the team.

How do you make reverb so accurate? In Lake of Kalandra, I did not notice any reverb (which makes sense) and in places such as Palace Map (where there are indoors-outdoors), the reverb feedback is really on point. How do you conserve the room width:reverb ratio?

Kane: This really is a matter of tinkering with knobs until it feels good! Each area in the game has an environment setting override where we can assign a mixer snapshot in FMOD. There, we can make changes to the reverb settings.

How do you create spaces for frequencies, and how do you make all sounds audible especially where there are many different sounds overlapping?

Kane: This is one of our biggest challenges. It is very difficult to make things work in a variety of situations. We’ve been mindful of this while developing Path of Exile 2, and have a much more complex mixing system in FMOD. In Path of Exile 1, this was mostly in the sound design itself and levels in-game.

Are the voice recordings in the game now the full recorded quality, or do you have to scale back for game use due to engine limitations? Would you re-record or remix in future from a master if tech changes?

Kane: We record high quality WAV files, using a fantastic microphone through great preamps and convertors into Pro Tools. However, we do need to compress these files for use in the game. Currently, we convert to OGG files. It’s a significant change in file size, of course. It’s very important that the recording and processing chain is super clean and of high quality, so that once compressed, as much fidelity as possible is maintained.

Are there any plans to replace or update FMOD, if you're still using that? It seemed to cause some issues a few leagues back, none for me this league. Are there any constraints to FMOD that impact sound design, as I imagine tech is advancing, for example I conjecture live control of things like sustain or multi-stage blended effects?

Kane: Here and now, we are sticking with FMOD. If we were to change to Wwise, it would be a massive undertaking. Not only implementing the middleware but also getting all the sounds out of FMOD and into Wwise. Also, FMOD is great. We are in touch with the team over there and they have accommodated us on a variety of improvements specific to us. Yes, we’ve had issues. But only because we were updating our FMOD version to a new major version, to access new features and this caused some problems. Those are behind us now though!

If the composer Kamil is part of the Q&A, what went into the thought process that got us the sharp sting in Twisted Illusions?

Kamil: When I read about the Strange Voice for the first time, twisted, illusion, mirror and so on became key words which had direct reflection in the palette of instruments. Almost atonal tremolo on string instruments, scraping metal or detuned sound of high pitched electric guitar are some of them and I guess one of them is the one you had in mind. Those types of sounds are a regular part of my template for Path of Exile.

What was the inspiration behind the Templar Court music? How did you come up with the lyrics the choir sings in the Templar Court?

Kamil: Choir in “Templar Court” is based on a virtual instrument and uses vowels and meaningless micro phrases, although the final result of combination might make an impression of actual lyrics, which is quite a common technique which I and other composers use for writing for virtual choir. Speaking of general inspiration, the choir felt like a natural choice for Templar’s order, but also electric cello and some more industrial drones together with the sound of anvil complimented the choir.

Which are the classical music instrument libraries at Kamil disposal at this moment?

Kamil: I would say pretty much everything considering the type of instruments. Speaking of libraries, there are so many, but the majority comes from Spitfire Audio.

Do you plan to implement dynamic mixing of separate but harmonically homogeneous instruments, according to the events happening at the game?

Kamil: Technique which you referred to, called Vertical Remixing, currently is not part of the plan for the majority of content (this might change), while instead there will be more Horizontal slicing for smaller segments, to add more control.

How long does it take to make the league trailer music? How many people are dedicated to that area of ​​sound and music?

Kamil: Depends on video/script revisions and type of trailer. For instance, the music for “Legion” took me around 4 days, while a couple of trailers needed more than two weeks. For music, I had been responsible exclusively until “Lake of Kalandra” where MichaelC worked on that one

How do you make sure ambient music and sound don't sound repetitive?

Kamil: There is no certainty, as players spend countless hours in the same levels, therefore music will get repetitive eventually. There is always a balance between trying to make music blend well to avoid too much attention (which usually leads to that feeling of repetitiveness) and writing catchy music. Certain dose of randomness and reduction of rhythmic elements are also useful.

That’s actually something which I aim to improve in Path of Exile 2 music.

Where do you find such talented voice actors? For Sound Designer or music producer, people apply for a job or get contacted via business mail after being acquaintanced with their work. When looking for a voice actor, you are looking for someone very specific to fill a certain role. Where do you find these people?

Kane: Jeremy, our Voice Director, helps us with all casting and actor coordination. He will approach voicing agencies who will then get back to us with auditions from various actors, then it’s a matter of picking an actor that’s right for the role.

How many voice actors would you guess have actually been involved in Path of Exile? Is there one guy or gal responsible for like 50% of all monster screams and shrieks in the game, and then with a varied but less frequently used cast of people for the voiced npcs and bosses and such?

Kane: I do a lot of monsters and bosses myself (especially on Path of Exile 2) and the rest of the team also get involved from time to time. For actual casted voices, we try to keep this varied to avoid anything feeling too samey.

Can we have more sound options in game, such as the ability to turn off the sound of charges (particularly losing them)?

Kane: I know this is an issue, and one that bugs me too when playing. On the one hand, it communicates important info and needs to be heard, but it’s also quite oppressive. We’ve experimented and not yet found the right solution, but it is something I want to address.

Can we have a Zana voicemail message?

Kane: “Hello, you’ve reached Zana. If you’re still sane, leave a message after the beep.” That good?
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Grinding Gear Games
Good stuff!
Wow. These are the real technical questions :D
IGN: JerleSteelChampion/JerleRuthlessAgain
Harvest is the BEST league EVER. Deterministic crafting ftw.
How will POE2 and POE coexist?
Kane: I know this is an issue, and one that bugs me too when playing. On the one hand, it communicates important info and needs to be heard, but it’s also quite oppressive. We’ve experimented and not yet found the right solution, but it is something I want to address.

I know not letting customization helps the brand identity be stronger, but I'd love to have some ability to change the charge sounds. Could even sell silent charges MTX as well, lol.
At first I was a bit sad my questions were not answered but reading the questions that have been answered here as well as in Part 1, they're leagues more in-depth & technical than what I had come up with, so now very happy to read all the answers.

It feels amazing to know that POE community has people who are not only passionate about the audio bits of the game, they are also very deep into the technical knowledge of sound production.
Didn't answer my question about audio cues, I guess you guys really do not care about improving the visual clarity problem at all.
Thank you all for replying ♥
I mean...I would totally play with sounds on (loot filter included) if I was allowed to remove graphic effects like shadows, but I can't! So removing audio is literally the only option we have LOL

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