Soundscapes of Total War: Three Kingdoms

Audio designers who worked on Creative Assembly’s hit Total War: Three Kingdoms wrote a post on Gamasutra on creating the audio for the game.

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According to the developers, they wanted to achieve three things with the sound design: variety, responsiveness and authenticity.

Variety

  • Since Three Kingdoms is the first game in the franchise to feature day and night cycle. So, here’s how the sound design reflects that. In the morning, the player will only hear minimal noise from the settlements. This will change by the afternoon, when the markets are the loudest and most crowded. So you can hear blacksmiths hammering away and merchants selling their goods. Things will get quieter by nightfall.
  • Averall, the game has around  3000 lines of background vocalizations triggered depending on the season, time of day, type of settlement.
  • Wildlife sounds also differ depending on the climate region, season and the time of day.

Responsiveness

  • Based on the actions the player performs, the soundscape changes accordingly. If you have built a school, you will hear children laugh and play. If you have built an Inn, you will hear drunk sounds of the inn regulars.

Authenticity

  • All background vocalizations were performed by native Mandarin speakers. In addition to actual phrases, these include sighs and sounds of yawning which blend in with the rest of the sounds to make the game feel more alive.
  • Lots of research went into accurately representing animal species through sound design.

Gameplay and UI

  • The developers gave distinct sound to Campaign and Battle mode. Battles naturally sound violent and chaotic, while Campaign sounds are inspired by relaxation ambience and autonomous sensory meridian response videos. During rainstorms, for example, you can hear individual raindrops hitting leaves, which adds to the meditative quality of the soundscape.
  • For UI, the audio designers also decided to dial back on the clanking of weaponry that featured prominently in the previous games. Instead, they recorded traditional Chinese instruments.
  • They also recorded sounds associated with the five elements of the Wu Xing philosophy: Earth, Fire, Metal, Water and Wood. When the player clicks elemental skill point buttons, they will hear a corresponding sound.

The sound design of Total War: Three Kingdoms is an excellent example of how much thought and attention to detail is required to create a compelling player experience.

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