Ori and the Will of the Wisps

I’m very proud to have lead my team at Formosa Group – Interactive in the end-to-end audio production for Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Formosa was brought onboard quite late in the production cycle and was faced with the challenge of providing a significantly improved and updated audio experience for the sequel of a cherished award-wining game.

We were in constant contact with the game developers, working together (virtually) as a fully integrated remote audio department. For my part I was the effective Audio Director, in the end responsible for all aspects of audio, but substantively provided the creative and technical direction from concept to shipping. I lead a team of leads, designers, and implementers, providing direction and expertise where needed. I was also the voice over director, coordinating between the narrative team and our VO department, directing the voice talent, and driving the creative realization for each character.

While almost every Formosa team member contributed to the production, the core team was relatively small for a project of this size and time-frame, so we all had to wear many hats in order to get the job done. Between myself and my two leads (Guy Whitmore and Alexander Leeman Johnson), we were thoroughly hands-on every system and stage of production. Below are a few examples of some of the tangible elements that I worked on.

For this trailer I provided some of the creepy ambience, the giant Sandworm sequence, and the pre-mix session.

This was the announce trailer for E3 2019. The major intent was to show off the fact that the game features a number of boss battles. We started off with a slower introduction sequence, building the tension with creepy ambience and music, and then transitioned to a rhythmic montage of action shots. After this sustained intensity, we break into a welcome respite with Ori and Ku soaring in the sky and the date reveal.

For this sequence I created all the creature design, environment interactions, and “danger sound” gameplay elements.

The vast majority of Ori has music as the focal point in the soundscape. This sequence was one of the few places where we really wanted the SFX to drive the narrative. Because the gameplay and narrative in this section revolves around being as quiet as possible, the challenge was how to portray this without sounding boring! I focused the mix on the ambience in the beginning to set the stage, and then concentrated on really close-perspective foley and vocalizations of Shriek. I wanted you to feel her stony breath up close. All of Ori’s sounds and interactions with the world were also increased so every audible move you made would send a bit of panic down your spine. We wanted to reinforce the terror of this deadly game of cat & mouse with a reactive “danger sound” system that ramps up the tremolo strings and other anxiety-inducing sound elements based on how close you are to being found, and summarily killed.

For this cutscene I did everything that you hear except for the ambience.

For this cinematic the two main focuses were Shriek and the entity of light called Seir. This is a good example of the creative challenge we had with a number of elements and characters in Ori: how to create a sonic design for magic and energy that sounded organic and never sci-fi. For Seir and the other wisps, I created multi-layered synthesizer and sampler patches which I performed to the action on screen. The sound sources were always organic and natural in origin, like water, fire, wind, etc. and then processed to add the magical, otherworldly feel.

Here’s an article on asoundeffect.com that is a more in-depth interview with me, Alex, and Guy about the sound for Ori and the Will of the Wisps.