Dark, serious, evil, bold, badass, gory, medieval… These were some of the keywords we got thrown in our lap when we started working on the sounds, music and voices for Blightbound, a game for PC, Xbox and Playstation, developed by Ronimo Games and Published by Devolver Digital.

The blood in our veins started pumping like a Barbarian in rage mode! This was going to be an awesome project, with lots of room for us as soundteam to come up with a unique style. A style that is worlds apart from the former projects we collaborated on with Ronimo, such as the way-over-the-top soundtrack from Awesomenauts and the cheerful, magical Swords and Soldiers franchise. Something new and fresh, and something dark and rotten at the same time… Count us in!

The fun thing when working with Ronimo is the amount of freedom we get for the approach we take on the audio-design process. We are always allowed the time to try lots of different things, experiment, and share ideas with them. This open way of working proves to be very beneficial to the creativity and originality of our work. For ambitious projects such as Blightbound this is essential.

So, what is Blightbound in a nutshell?
The official statement says it all:

“Blightbound is a multiplayer dungeon crawler that tasks three heroes to venture down from their mountain refuge to face the abominations of the Blight - a mysterious and corrupting fog that enshrouds the land. 
Explore handcrafted dungeons, fight a terrifying cadre of mystical and monstrous enemies, grab valuable loot and recover fallen heroes to expand your roster of available warriors. Each player will fulfill a specific role on the team - warrior, assassin, or mage - to overcome colossal bosses and solve clever puzzles.”

When we start working on the audio for a game, there are two important matters to be considered. First of all there is, of course, the art direction. What should the audio convey? What is the atmosphere of the game, what world is there to be put into sound? What adventure is the player about to set out on? Will it be full of stealth or action? Will it be scary, absurd, serious, tongue-in-cheek?
Second is more practical: what function do the music and sound effects have? Is it mainly for the atmosphere, should it adapt to changes in the gameplay and if yes, how should this be addressed in a convincing and technically feasible way?

We usually start with the first: to set the mood. Ronimo provided us with some artwork and their own enthusiastic visions and plans. And thankfully Ronimo’s ideas are never the bland run-of-the-mill type of ideas, but rather distinct and rich with detail, which immediately puts some gears in our heads in motion.

Of course we also start doing research. To see and hear what’s already out there in terms of dungeon crawlers with ‘undead-skeleton-scary-zombie’-like creatures and a dark atmosphere overall. There are many, of course, and we want to know what sets them apart from each other in terms of audio. And what is good about them. And what is not.

Roughly, there is a startup period in which the steps are as follows:
- Research
- Music-search (inspiration)
- Playing games that have a similar mood and genre
- Experimenting with (linear) audio under game captures - just trying out different things, also, or especially the unlikely.

Theme music

We started exploring the darker sides of our musical talents and discovered that darkness came quite naturally to us. Here you can listen to the theme music we created for the game.



For the ingame tracks we used quite a few synths from our collection, including older, more unstable ones, to provide the soundtrack with a haunting atmosphere.
Blightbound is about fighting monsters, of course, but it is also about lurking danger, about dark atmospheres that give you chills.
The music should, of course, seamlessly adapt to these different situations. To accommodate that, we created three versions of each track which can be cross-faded in between to be able to match the action on-screen very quickly.
You can listen to two examples of this below, each of them in three flavours of mood: a slow, brooding one, a mild action one and a heavy battle one.


Sound Design – Creating sounds from scratch using synthesis

During the early stages of the design-process, we took the opportunity to create a lot of the sounds from scratch, using our hardware synthesizers.
Some of these synthesizers are named after the ancient Greek gods of darkness, and are perfect companions for creating the sounds that will fit the game!

A small list of gear you will hear when playing Fresh:
Dreadbox Abyss, Erebus & Nyx (that Reverb!), Behringer Model D, Nord Lead A1, Soma Laboratory Lyra 8, Meris Polymoon, Elektron Octatrack, Analog Rytm & Analog Four, Yamaha VL70m played with wind controller and Several Eurorack modules

The unstable oscillators in some of these analog synthesizers make sure there is an organic, almost ‘alive’ sound that just breathes atmosphere.
In the atmospheric sounds that are placed in each section of the maps players can venture through, players can hear stabs of bass notes, reverberated and echoed away in the distance. A known trick to create these kind of ‘dark’ stabs is to slightly detune 2 oscillators (for example 2 saw-waveforms) on a synthesizer so they start to be slightly dissonant/detuned and out of phase with each other, resulting in an organic, detuned sound effect that is very fitting for the atmosphere of the game. For this we mainly used the Dreadbox Abyss synthesizer. Putting that synth into mono-unison mode and detuning the oscillators you can literally unleash darkness upon the world!

In most atmospheric soundlayers you can hear these stabs, layers of bass notes, magic swirls, synthesized impacts, and synthesized screams: They all work together to create an immersive, unique sounding palette of sounds when combined with real-world recordings such as wind and birds.
The sounds of the screaming creatures in the background of the mountain levels have been made with synthesizers as well, using peak resonance and low filter cutoff frequencies, to really make the filter ‘sing’. We recorded long hardware jams, which we then later cut up into bits that we could use and process for the game.

By combining real-world recordings with synthesized elements and carefully matching the volumes and EQ, we tried to create an ambience that is not too abstract, but also not too much like a real-world ambience.
It needed to represent the overall darkness in the game, and suck players into the environment.

Example of what all these ambience elements combined sound like in the game.

Sound Design – Creating sounds from real world recordings

When we first sat down with Ronimo Games to talk about the project, and how we would approach the sound design process, it quickly became clear that a big important factor in the game would be that melee and magic combat should feel powerful and with impact.

Of course there are many sound effect libraries available in which we could find all we’d ever need, but it’s less custom, tailor made and mostly already heavy processed sounds. So to get the sounds we wanted we did a lot of our own Foley recordings, which is always a lot of fun to do!
We took out a toolbox along with some different materials to hit and abuse, and started recording impacts, armor rattles, knife shimmers, shield impacts and such.
By combining and layering these with library sound effects and then processing both together, we had a flexible solution that makes sure the players will hear a lot of original sound content in the game, with a nice custom touch.

When doing Foley recordings or when recording real-world sounds,  it’s a lot of fun to (ab)use those recordings for different purposes and especially for objects or things that don’t exist in the real word.
An example of this are the sounds of the shaking movements when the maggots inflate in Blightbound before they explode.
You wouldn’t recognize it as such when playing the game, but for this we recorded the sound of rubbing our hand against the wet rubbers of the opening of a washing machine.
In daily life you’ll often encounter a lot of sounds that will make you think; “hey that’s an interesting sound, I could use it for that thing in the project I’m working on”, in this case it occurred when cleaning the rubbers of the opening of the washing machine. With some processing and layering with other sounds you can create a new sound that fits the action or animation of an object in the game.

How the sounds of the shaking Maggots were made.

Implementing sounds, and keeping things dynamic
The implementation of sound effects is done using Ronimo’s own development engine. The big advantage of this, is that Ronimo involves us in the development of the parameters we want to have available to us in the ‘Soundtool’. The main foundation for these functions was already laid down for Awesomenauts and Swords & Soldiers 2, but in the beginning of this new project we could lay down our wishes for additions, and Ronimo provided a solution and fix for most of the things we wanted to get into the soundtool.

To prevent the sounds becoming stale and static, we use a system that utilizes  pitch-variation, attenuation, choosing from multiple sounds out of a list for an event (a ‘Soundgroup’), a priority system, minimum-time-between triggering of the same sound etc.
Combining all those parameters in the right way when implementing character/interactable sound effects and ambience sounds, makes sure that the sound will come alive, and they feel like they belong in the world.

The ambience sound effects for instance, are build up out of a lot of different one-shot sound effects and looping sfx layers, which are  partly located from objects and animations in the game-world (you’ll hear a humming sound when getting close to mana-shrines, crackling fires, torches, falling debris and rocks in caves etc) and partly these sounds are played from a list of randomly chosen sfx with random timing, panning, pitch, volume and such.
It’s little things like this that make the world sound convincing.

Creating & processing enemy voices

Like working together on previous games, we also asked our friend Lani Minella this time to record voice lines, in this case for two characters for BlightBound.

Lani is a well known California based voice actress with many years of experience in character voice recordings. She has a network of voice talent and she helped us with the casting of all the other voice talents for all the characters and creatures in Blightbound (see the credits for all the great voice talents of Blightbound).
Lani is a true master when it comes to variety of voices.

We wanted Lani to record the character voice of the boss enemy, called Iron Maiden. The description of this enemy is: a fleshy shell containing the wailing souls of thousands of inmates, fused together in endless suffering. Uh…ok!

So we asked her to record many different voices. Different in tone, age, emotion etc. We edited them all and gave them an unique sound each and finally combining all these voices, resulting into the scary voice of this enemy boss.

Hear the voice of Iron Maiden: 

Finally all sound effects, voices and music were balanced to get a pleasing mix and we’re very happy with the end result.

Release trailer of Blightbound


After the game was released we decided to release the soundtrack on all streaming platforms and also on a glorious vinyl release;
3x 180g vinyl records including all music from the game plus six additional remixes all packed in a folding cover beautifully designed by Ronimo Games.

Watch a promo of the vinyl release here:

You can listen to the full soundtrack here. Enjoy!