Sound of the Dead: Audio Design in Dead Nation, Sample Track

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It’s been a big month for Dead Nation! We’ve confirmed that online co-op play will be included from day one and also shown off three special zombies – the Mouth, Jumper, and Bombie — in our new “Know Your Enemies” video and there’s still more to come in October.

But one thing we haven’t yet discussed is audio. With Dead Nation, it’s vital that we create a skin-crawling atmosphere; more importantly, the music needs to adapt to the intensity of the on-screen carnage. I thought it would be fun to address some common questions related to Dead Nation’s audio design, everything from the zombie groans to dynamic music to soundtrack inspirations. I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to listen to the sample track below.

Dead Nation: Necropolis


How did you start working with Housemarque?

The first game that I worked on with Housemarque was Super Stardust HD, the original soundtrack and sound design. I was in-house audio director in Frozenbyte Inc. back then and working outsourced. SSHD was a awesome project for me since I’ve grown up with retro arcade games and I got my chance to finally make style of my own.

What was your reaction when Housemarque originally came to you with the Dead Nation concept?

I’m a huge fan of apocalyptic and zombie movies and games, and when I first time heard about making a “really nasty R-rated zombie shooter” I was thrilled! Harri (the creative director) explained me of all the cool things you could do to the zombies and how gory everything would be. If you’re gonna do a great zombie game or a movie, it’s gotta be R-rated! The top-down perspective allows an interesting angle for the game audio design, too. You perceive the big picture of the soundscape much more broadly than in FPS games.

Has the music changed a lot since you took a first pass on it?

My first tracks for the game were a bit too slow and we ended up setting the tempo up to 162bpm for the highest intensity levels. The soundtrack is a mash-up of different genres like industrial, orchestral and ambient. We wanted it to sound dark, gritty, and dynamic so we ended up having six different intensity levels for every dynamic music group. It works really great — the music adapts seamlessly to the in-game events.

How difficult did you find putting together a concept soundtrack for Dead Nation?

It was not an easy task! There was not much reference for the Dead Nation soundtrack, I had to invent almost everything from scratch. The closest resemblance was found in the Dawn of the Dead remake OST, but I still had no reference for the highest intensity levels. The in-game music is almost sound design in some parts, since it doesn’t have much in the way of melody and it relies heavily on dark tones and gritty sounds. Overall, I achieved the feeling that we were after, it does sound unique and it fits in the game atmosphere perfectly.

What can you say about the sound design?

Well, first of all, I have to mention that Dead Nation has a huge amount of sounds. It features over 8000 unique sound files and craploads of near-authentic zombie vocals. The aim of the sound design was to make Dead Nation feel as gory and gritty as it plays — players will have to endure (or enjoy) quite twisted sounds! This is my most ambitious and biggest audio design work so far, I’m hoping players to have just the right feeling while playing.

What is your favorite part of Dead Nation?

I really like the feeling of nailing down the zombies. It just has this realness to it, feels like the zombies are really getting hurt in every way possible! I like the overall atmosphere too, I’m already hooked to the game!

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