Saturday, August 27, 2011

Geomancer, I choose you!

After lots of work lately, I finally had some time to start writing a blog post about some of the additional sounds I've done for Heroes Of Newerth.
Though I wrote a Master of Arms blog post, I decided to put it on hold.

A video was filmed when I recorded gunshots, but I have yet to receive the tape from the man who did the video recording. Once I have it, Master of Arms' sound creation blog post will be up.
But lets begin on Geomancer:


Geomancer is a centipede gone horribly wrong; a Frankenstein experiment within the dark-filthy minds of S2's art team. It looks like my previous girlfriend's mother, who terrorized the world with her bad innuendos and harsh language: a purveyor of filth and a master of annoyance!

But back to Geomancer. I got quite lucky with this one, since I got to work in pre-production of the hero (which is quite rare for audio people), and was able to start collecting sounds and plan ahead for how to best bring the hero to life. I knew from the artwork given to me that it was disgusting and scary. So I wanted it to sound disgusting and scary, though not through its abilities, but more through movements and vocals.


A question was asked through twitter by Tedde, of why I decided to have his voice be more like Predator and Behemoth. Well first, it is a slug....snake.....worm.....thingy-that-looks-creepy.
Why should it speak English or any human language? Is it so it can communicate with the hellbourne?

Well, we keep dogs and cats, and though we don't understand the bark or nyan..I mean meow, we can still communicate with them...kind of.
So imagine Geomancer is like Maliken's pet.

The second reason is that Predator and Behemoth were both voiced by a human and not by animals. It honestly doesn't sound that good. When I finally had a chance to work on something where I could do monster sounds, I wanted to make it out of animal sounds rather than human vocals.

Every sound designer knows that vocal designs are the hardest to do, but can be the most rewarding of them all IF you do it right. It is hard to do because you want to make something believable, or sound alive. Though we are subconsciously aware of things like sound, we are especially aware of vocals. We have to be, because it is hard-wired into our brains, so we can communicate and form societies, at least until giant crabs decide to take over the world, or worse.

I spent days looking for three particular sounds I wanted to use: Hisses (high-frequency), barks, snaps, talkative, chirps and so on (mid-frequency), and guttural sounds (low-frequency).

I recorded birds, dogs, cats and went to the zoo to record crocodiles. I used some sound library sounds of seals and various guttural sounds from a sound library called Creatures.

My design philosophy was to create 20 different sounds (this turned into 22, not counting the Taunt sounds) that would randomly play regardless of the action.

They had to be designed into 3 categories: aggressive, meek and hissy.
It was done this way to give the character a wider spectrum of sounds.
Listening to screams for 45 minutes (normal length of a play session) would just wear a person out.

I then created his attack grunts that were short and could sound like a roar.
I also made sure to give some hiss sounds to his movements as he bend his front part down (more about this further down).
I made a decision that he would not say anything when he used any of his spells. He is already too noisy.

All in all, I am quite happy on how his vocals came out, but man was it difficult. It took MANY tries to get it right (in my ears).

Here are some samples of his voice:

Sound Design:


His attacks are of him biting and leaving a small cloud of sand.

I recorded breaking tree bark, celery and apples for the bite, for the sand, I recorded obviously falling sand and also added some small pebbles for some of the attacks:

Bored and walking:

For his walking animations, he walks with his 20 or so feet and slithers a little with his tail.
For his bored animations, he roars.

I recorded a wet towel moving in the sand for his tail movements.
I recorded movements of his feet by shuffling a deck of cards and speeding that up, I also recorded some sounds of me stabbing mud with a stick and layered that a top of the card sounds to give it more life.

For the body sound of the geomancer, I recorded slime sounds by using a can of dog food.
For when he moves his head down, I used the previous vocal sounds that were hissy and had been scrapped because they weren't scary enough for other sounds.
For his bored animations, I just reused the attack grunts and the movement vocals:

Ability 1:

His first ability is him digging into the ground moving to a location where he jumps out and stuns.

I was working on Frost Rider when I was doing this ability and was lucky enough to get some massive ice cubes. I recorded dragging them over solid surfaces, getting a large groan sound.
I also used a bucket made of wood on gravel and recorded the dragging sound that came from that. I combined these two and looped them for his movement in the earth.
Him bursting out of the earth was the sound of a large stone hitting another stone.

The sound ended up being so loud, I heard from the store some miles away that they thought someone was using explosives in the old quarry where I recorded the many sounds for geomancer.
I added some various gravel sounds as well:

Ability 2:

He uses sand that stays static but any fiend that walks through it, are slowed but not hurt by the sand itself.

I was quite puzzled on how I was going to make a loopable sound out of sand that didn't sound like it was doing damage but loud enough. I found a bizarre solution by simply using various sounds of wind gusts picking up sand, and making it loop with a generated signal sound called a Brownian Noise:

Ability 3:

For his third ability, he creates many exploding crystals on the enemies feet that does damage if the character is slow\standing still.

The designers did me a favor by using an explosion sound for this ability; it made me realize that it wouldn't work.
It was way too sharp, too loud and in the consistency of when it would play, it would be extremely annoying. So I decided that since it was crystals, it needed to be musical.

I recorded the sounds of a wine glass chime in various pitches and added an explosion that I had previously recorded of the rocks hitting each other, but I used an FFT equation on it so it became more low frequency and muffled.
This resulted in the sound not jumping out as much as the temporary sound did:

Ability 4:

For his last ability, he summons a crystal field at a location that grows until it explodes and crystallizes anyone who stood in that location.

Jesse, our art director, wanted the sound to be growing through a crystal like sound.

Keeping that in mind, I recorded more wine glass sounds that I increased in volume as it came closer and closer to an explosion. I also recorded a fence down at an elementary school where I live. It has a strange high frequency stress sound that was in turn processed with various plug-ins.

Then I recorded light bulbs and glass bottles breaking for two things: The explosion and to have glass debris.

I collected all the glass debris and put them on a smooth blanket, where I shuffled them around with a glove and recorded the movements that made. I then added a reverb to the sound and reversed it so it had a crystal like building sound to it. By combining this with everything else, I had a sound for when the crystal built.

Then I decided that since this was an ability where lots and lots of other sounds would play from other heroes' abilities, I wouldn't create a massive explosion sound.
Instead it was kept at a minimum, and focused on making it bleed through all the other frequencies by making the explosion more about the crystal debris. So I used the debris I already had, and recorded it falling from a height onto a blanket below:


He falls and crumbles up.

Since he sounded so menacing and scary when he is alive, I decided to make his death to be more ridiculing. I recorded myself screaming and pitched it up, I then used various mud sound for his fall.
I wanted his legs to sound like they were breaking by using the sound of twigs breaking. Then, I wanted the sound of air coming out of him, like it was drained from his body to finally signal that he was dead. So I used a sound from a library that felt like it could come from his body:

Overall, he was an incredible fun challenge to work on and I will consider him a milestone in my own sound work.
If you wanna know more about Geomancer, I suggest you watch the spotlight for the hero:


  1. together with the art team I think you guys have created one beautifully disgusting centipede creature. Loving how he looks and sounds.

  2. Im really impressed. That's really creative thinking! He's a lot of fun to play AND to listen to, so thanks for all the hard work.