Creating the Dynamic Sound Design of Future Unfolding

Future Unfolding is a game about exploration; you explore a mysterious forest and its surreal dream logic. One of our design goals was to create a world that feels filled with life and reacts to your touch. You can interact with every animal, push through the trees in the forest, dash through grass to destroy it, and move every stone. To make the world feel even more alive and engaging, we created a dynamic sound design.

Choosing an audio framework

After evaluating a few different alternatives, we settled on FMOD Studio because of its built-in support for dynamic audio and multiple platforms. Whenever possible, we used high-level features that can be controlled through FMOD Studio’s graphical user interface for faster iteration of different ideas, instead its low-level API. All sound logic is handled by a custom SoundManager class we wrote in C++.

Adaptive music

The game’s soundtrack and sound effects were composed by the Swedish musicians Thomas Carleberg and Emil Nilsson. They delivered all 14 tracks in different layers, separated by musical instruments. In FMOD Studio we imported each layer into its own Audio Track and defined a custom Intensity parameter that can be controlled from the SoundManager class. At low intensity, only one track would be played, at full intensity all tracks would fade in. The intensity would be turned up or down depending on how close the avatar is to dangerous animals and depending on if they are in an attack state.

The logic of which of the music tracks to play in what situation evolved and changed many times over the development of the game until we found a good pacing that worked with the procedural nature of the world generation. Some tracks are triggered by closeness to animals or special objects. If no other music has priority, one of several generic fallback tracks is played at random. To ensure the music does not feel repetitive, many tracks have additional ambient sound effects that are randomly played on top of them using the Scatterer Sound Module in FMOD Studio.

FMOD Studio: Scatter Sound
Scatter Sound Module in FMOD Studio

Some animals have a special meaning in the game. They all share the same musical theme, but each has its own variation. For some music tracks we use a real-time Lowpass filter when the player avatar walks up on a mountain to illustrate the height difference.

Sound effects

Players will hear certain sound effects over and over again, so it’s important to not make them sound repetitive. For most sound effects we use multiple sound files that FMOD Studio plays back at random using the Multi Sound Module. For example there are 8 distinct sound effects for collecting a special flower.

For less commonly used sound effects, we’re using Volume Modulation and Pitch Modulation in FMOD Studio to add variation. The flapping of a bird would sound unnatural if each flap would sound exactly the same, so the modulation helps to make it sound more natural.

Friendly animals like deer or rabbits emit sound effects that create an ambient music sound scape when layered on top of each other. When the player avatar enters a cave, a global reverb is applied to all sound effects to create a sense of being in a confined space.

Andreas is part of Spaces of Play, the indie studio behind Spirits and Future Unfolding. He’s also running Promoter, a web service for game developers to track press mentions and distribute promo codes.

Related articles