Pathfinder: Kingmaker Updates - Sound Design and Reddit AMA

Since we last checked, the folks at Owlcat Games have released a couple of new Kickstarter updates for Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Update #8 talks about the game's sound design. We learn about the inspirations behind the game's soundtrack, and more. We also get to listen to the game's main theme composed by Inon Zur, who worked on such RPGs as Icewind Dale II, Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader, and Dragon Age: Origins. Here it is:

And an excerpt from the update itself:

To make our game audio vivid and memorable, first, we've conducted a research of several classic CRPGs and detected the brightest elements of their sound design. For example, Baldur's Gate 2 has great ambient sounds and emotionally charged magic spells while the strongest side of Dragon Age is its vivid dialogues and harsh, brutal combat sounds. And it is impossible to imagine Arcanum: Of Steamworks And Magic Obscura or Divinity: Original Sin without their excellent soundtracks.

Inspired by those games, that many consider classics in cRPG genre, we decided to take those ideas and approaches and make them fit for the modern game, but still very familiar and a bit nostalgic. On this basis, we created our sound document, which defined general aesthetics of the audio for Pathfinder: Kingmaker.

To start our work we had to set a mood for the whole game, and the best approach to this is to write a musical theme that represents this mood. We started our extensive creative research for the theme with the "Anvil of Crom" track by Basil Poledouris.

This musical composition proved to be an excellent reference - just like the events of Kingmaker module, the movie "Conan the Barbarian" is full of epic battles, intrigues, extreme manifestations of human nature and exploration of strange and inhospitable lands. We wanted to add these kinds of emotions to our game, so the composer Inon Zur wrote for us several beautiful pieces of music, which set the mood and provided the main theme for the Stolen Lands.


We try to avoid static nature sounds. The audio presentation for every location usually consists of several sound layers. Some layers are playing all the time; other depend on the hour of day or night. And a lot of the layers can only be heard if we are nearing some particular place - it can be chirping of various birds, humming of insects, creaking of trees, the rustling of gravel near the rock and so on. Also, we can hear something we can't see, if it is important for the right feeling of location - it can be the howling of a lone hungry wolf in the middle of the night, or distant rumble of an avalanche in the mountains, growl of hiding monster or laughter of playing children. All these sounds can tell us something about the location we are visiting.

Combat sounds have their specific qualities too. There can be more than 10-12 characters fighting against each other on the playing screen - each of them moving, attacking, taking damage, casting spells and commenting actions. Our sound system highlights the noises made by the members of our group: their attacks, hits, voice reactions to important changes (health-bar low, critical hit, fainting or death). This solution is important to the UI as it makes combat scenes understandable and clear. Some actions are so important that their sound will be heard even from a distance, like dealing a mighty blow to your enemy, which knocks him out or tears him into pieces. So even without paying attention to some particular part of the battle, you'll understand you've got one less problem to worry about.

The music in Pathfinder: Kingmaker isn't meant to be too catchy: tracks change each other after a significant pause, which lets the player feel the atmosphere of the location without unneeded distractions. However, if something important is about to happen - like a sudden battle or a cutscene - you will learn about that by a recognizable tune. And this tune is meant to be the signal that warns the player about an incoming situation.

Update #9 is shorter and simply informs us that the game's creative director Alexander Mishulin and narrative designer Chris Avellone will be participating in a Reddit AMA today. Some details:

As you all know, communicating with our community is a pretty big deal to us. We're constantly checking comments, messages and social media to answer as many of your questions as we can, listen to your feedback and make you, the fans, an important part in the creation of our game.

To give you another opportunity to be heard, voice feedback and ask questions, we are hosting an AMA-Session on Reddit (post) on Friday, 16th of June at 11:59am PDT/PST / 7pm GMT / 9pm CET.

Taking part in the AMA will be creative director Alexander Mishulin and narrative designer Chris Avellone. So, if you have any questions about gameplay features and mechanics or storytelling, be sure to stop by and chat with us! Or perhaps you want to know more about why Alexander and Chris are so excited about the Kingmaker Adventure Path, about their tabletop adventures and the characters they play? Save the date and ask them anything!