“Gameplay first” is one of the core values at Blizzard Entertainment. So, naturally and however challenging, the audio team behind Overwatch decided to set an ambitious "Play by Sound" objective towards directing and influencing gameplay, rather than simply enhancing gameplay, via audio. In partnership with Dolby Atmos and Audiokinetic, the Overwatch audio team developed the game with the Dolby Atmos Binaural Mixer plug-in and Wwise.
During Audiokinetic's Wwise Tour, Project Audio Director Scott Lawlor, and Senior Software Engineer 2 Tomas Neumann, presented their work. The considerations, successes and lessons learnt are demonstrated in a series of very educational Wwise Tour videos from the event. However, just to give you a better idea of what their target goals actually meant, we’d like you to note that what the Overwatch audio team managed to achieve has made it truly possible to play Overwatch with the monitors turned off!
Introduction - Audio in Overwatch
The session starts with an introduction and an overview regarding the audio team involved. In this video, they present Overwatch with a short trailer and some interesting stats and facts about the game.
- They’ve based their Wwise project organization in the Master-Mixer and Actor-Mixer Hierarchies by positioning type (2D/3D), routing, and other high level properties shared across a large number of assets (instead of, for example, creating Work Units per character).
- They’ve shown how Wwise Events are triggered from TED, Blizzard’s game editor, and how other types of properties like priorities, obstruction and occlusion, room reverbs, and more are also set in the game editor.
- Tomas (Audio Programmer) goes over how Wwise’s SoundBanks and streamed files integrate with Blizzard’s asset management pipeline.
Finally, Scott (Audio Director) describes the “Play by sound” objective which they set early in the project, and how they divided their focus into five pillars:
- Hero VO
- A clear mix
- Pinpoint accuracy
- Gameplay information
- Pavlovian response
Informative Hero VO
In this video, Scott and Tomas present their (pretty impressive) prototyping workflow using Reaper for rapid post processing and Wwise. They also go over the pillars of their stimulus driven voice system and how criteria are selected at runtime by the server to provide the best dialogue lines for each client. Tomas presents in detail the server authentication system in action by showing three videos of the same stimulus seen via three different characters.
- Stimulus driven
- Criteria selection
- Server authentication
- Fast prototyping and audio post processing workflow with Reaper and Wwise
- Wwise Integration
A Clear Mix
In this video, Walter Murch’s “Dense Clarity, Clear Density” is referenced as their inspiration for their mix approach.
They talk about how they tried HDR Audio but ended up designing a system that always “hears” what is important for the player at any given moment:
- Who is the player's greatest threat?
- Who are they looking at?
- Who is looking at them?
- Who is shooting their weapon nearby? And, so on.
This video explains in detail the dynamic mixing system used, with concrete values and RTPC curves on various properties. It also presents in-game examples via a series of video captures.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog and in the meantime, let us know if you'd like to be invited to the next series of Wwise Tour game audio presentations.