Path of Exile - The Sound of Sentinels

If you wouldn't mind knowing more about the sound design in Path of Exile, and in particular its latest Sentinel expansion, you should check out this developer blog post focused on the challenges of introducing technologically-advanced enemies into a gritty fantasy game.

Here are the text bits:

We recently asked Dominic, one of our Sound Designers, to share some insights into the process of designing audio for the Sentinel League. Check out the article below if you're looking for a sneak peek into our development process.

Hello! I’m Dominic, one of the audio engineers on the team at GGG. Recently you all would have been enjoying our latest league, Sentinel. I thought I would share a little on the design process from an audio team member’s perspective.

The sound design for Sentinel was a challenge. We aim for a dark and gritty sound in Wraeclast, so how do we make these enigmatic and technologically ancient sentinels fit into that world? The first part was easy. We needed a set of emerging, attack/empower and submerge audio. With the words metallic, ancient and enigmatic in mind, I went straight to using creepy, rusty and warped metal audio recordings. Added effects like distortion, and interesting reverb techniques like a very short reverse reverb (which gives anything a great ghost-like sound), helped give it that familiar Path of Exile sound. The tonal layers were synth-based using a lot of dirty bass sounds and frequency shifting for tonal movement, instead of pitch shifting. To keep everything in theme, I intentionally used a similar workflow for each audio asset in the league and once I had finished the base set audio for the sentinels, this made UI audio a lot easier than expected.

The Sentinel laser beams were the hard part. Are they, “pew-pew!” lasers? No, surely not in Wraeclast! So how do you create a sound that is ‘lasery’ but not too ‘pew-pewy’? Also, how will this laser beam sound not get annoying when mapping for hours? There were many questions like this at the beginning of development. Using a synth, modulating a filter on an oscillator and using other subtractive synthesis techniques to design some synth zappiness along with layering in some organic and close-to-home layers for each of the sentinel beams, I managed to find a middle ground that sounded just right. My solution was to try different variations in-game and play from early act areas to high-tier maps to see that it feels right. Testing in different contexts is very important.

The other challenge was making the overall Sentinel audio not too loud, but not too quiet. You don’t want it to get too spammy but you also need to hear it. How do you do that? The loudness of the sentinels had to be dynamic. Audio for a sentinel mixed for mapping is going to be far too loud for a sentinel in Act 1, and vice versa. There were a few ways we combatted this but the main way to control the loudness of the sentinels was to calculate how many mobs would be attacking you on screen. Depending on the number of mobs attacking you (which usually means they’re playing sounds as well) depends on how loud the sentinels will be. This means that we can have the sentinels not be too loud whilst having them still be audible and getting the right information to the player.

The thing about leagues like these is that it is helping us improve overall audio on Path of Exile but especially for Path of Exile 2. We can really focus on making the best experience for the players. By designing audio with purpose, thinking about audio in all aspects of gameplay and coming up with solutions to create a better and dynamic mix, the future of Path of Exile audio is sounding (and performing) great!

And as a bonus, you can find the patch notes for the game's latest minor update over here.