How does Jorvik sound?

In a game the 3D art, animations and lighting effects are at the front of the stage. But in the background, there is something that makes worlds truly come to life: the music and sounds.

Today we’re putting the spotlight on a part of the in-game storytelling that usually works from the sidelines. We’re digging into the magical world of in-game music and sound design.

Axel Bellinder does most of his work in the music studio at Star Stable Headquarters. He’s been a part of the sounds of Jorvik ever since the very first Starshine Legacy games. As Music & Sound Director at Star Stable he composes and produces most of the original music and sound design in Star Stable Online.

Music scores are iconic to longtime Star Stable players, hearing them will bring us right back to the rich fields of Silverglade or the icy mists in The Valley Of The Hidden Dinosaur. 

“Star Stable is an adventure, and I’m always searching for music with an air of adventure. I strive for every area to have it’s own sound. All the score music really has to match the ambience of the location and environment – if it’s dramatic, cozy, adventurous or magical – that will set the tone. For example, Jorvik City has a bit of a more orchestral electric hybrid sound to give it a bit of a city pulse, compared to The Valley Of The Hidden Dinosaur, where I went all in with the epic adventure feel.”

Besides score music, there are less bombastic sounds that make up for a lot of the storytelling and everyday Jorvik experience in Star Stable. These are the background sounds, ambience sounds of nature and animals. As well as all the sounds that are triggered when something happens, like a stone that falls over, or all those little sounds you expect from your horse while riding around. 

“We have a huge sound library to pick and choose from. But it’s a mix! Some of the horse sounds for example, we’ve actually recorded ourselves at a stable,” Axel says.

Another sound layer in games are the feedback sounds – sound effects triggered by an action, like clicking on a button or finishing a quest. Basically, any kind of sound in-game that you can think of, Axel has been a part of in some way or another. 

“I want it to feel as if it’s all designed with the player being the hero of their own movie – and that the sounds, music and all other effects strengthen the stories told and all the actions and emotions the player is going through. Sometimes it doesn’t need much … some subtle piano tones can add a lot of suspense. In the latest quest lines we made the different disciplines work together nicely, Story, Art Animation and Sound,” Axel explains.

As for most creators, it’s hard for Axel to point at work he’s really happy with, much easier to poke at the things he wish he could have another go at. So, what would he do over, if he could?

“I would definitely make the dialogue sounds differently today. It’s very hard to speak a gibberish language, and especially the longer sentences can come off as unintended ironic. Short expressive sounds work better. I was part of the early recordings for the CD Rom games, and since then we’ve added voices a few times, usually just using people from the team. I think that just adding a short dialogue sound to show the character’s mood, and then just have the rest of the dialogue be silent would be a better way of doing it in the future,” says Axel.

If you dream of one day working with music and sound production in the gaming industry, what would be Axel’s words of advice?

“First I assume that you’re already into composing music or creating sound designing. And then, look at what the common game engines use. Wise and FMod are both free softwares that you can practice on to learn how interactive sounds work. It’s important to stop thinking in a linear way, you will never have full control of the user’s sound experience, since it changes all the time depending on what the player choses to do. Sounds and music have to work together in seemingly random ways and at the same time hopefully give an illusion that it was all orchestrated in the exact way the user experiences it. Join Game Jams and work together with game devs for fun and to learn!”

“Also, expect a lot of disappointments and rejections on your path. If you’re passionate about what you do, don’t give up and take as many opportunities as you can, to learn and develop along the way. It sounds like such a cliché coming from someone who is already in the business, but not giving up is actually an important piece of the puzzle.”