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Lionhead Studios The multi-player-focused Fable: Legends is the latest iteration of the popular franchise Gearing Up For Games

With its continuing success, thanks to the critically acclaimed Fable series, John Broomhall talks to Lionhead sound supervisor Steve Brown about the studio’s new facilities and the future of audio for games.

MICROSOFT’S superstar development house, Lionhead Studios, is the creative force behind the widely renowned Fable series, beloved of a vast army of fans the world over. Heading up audio design

and production for this hugely respected ‘quad-A’ team is Steve Brown, who’s been thinking about, and planning for the future of Fable’s sonic experience, as well as putting in place an in-house infrastructure to service other incubation projects. This is timely, of course,

given the recent advent of Microsoft’s brand new games console, Xbox One, which ushers in an exciting period for its ‘first-party’ studios who effectively set the standards for next-gen videogame sound. Brown explains: “The Xbox

One offers an amazing power- house of game audio grunt for developers to use in realising

26 February 2014

audio experiences they previously could only dream about. With an exponential increase of CPU power and run-time memory available, the traditional restrictions of game audio have been well and truly lifted. “This power has the

potential to affect all areas of audio – there are the obvious things like more speech, music, and sound design content – plus many more variants; but we can also have much more complex playback behaviours, together with an increased use of real-time plug-ins and effects including more detailed acoustic simulations of spaces using reverb, occlusion, and obstruction systems (not to mention the addition of 7.1 real-time surround mixing, providing yet more creative opportunities for player immersion). “It’s incredibly exciting and

certainly a time for innovation. Given the opportunity this new chapter affords us, the temptation to go wild and bring out all the bells and whistles just because we can is quite a pull,” he laughs. “But actually it’s more crucial than ever that we focus primarily on creating great content and think about what the game actually needs – ensuring that the requirements of game-play feedback, narrative, immersion, and a clear and game-play focused mix are delivered to the player – that’s more important than anything fancy going on under the hood.”

CREATING A LEGEND As well as undertaking audio management duties for the recently announced new iteration in the Fable series – the multi-player-focused Fable: Legends – Brown is also responsible for audio

servicing of game ideas being incubated in Lionhead's ‘IP factory’. Looking to bring the internal audio head count up to a total of seven (as well as working with numerous third-party audio services vendors around the globe), he is determined to have a proactive rather than reactive audio department. Brown adds: “With Fable:

Legends we’re designing something that’s very innovative from a game-play perspective, with plentiful numbers of heroes, creatures, and quests – all with fully- fledged Fable mechanics. Plus we have a new style of play offered by allowing one player of a quintet to play the Villain, setting traps and directing the other four’s enemies, ‘RTS’ style. The need for the audio team to be involved in the early stages of prototyping is really important to help iterate the right feel to

Steve Brown

the characters. Helping prove out and influence game-play as it’s being created rather than sound designing around a fait accompli is crucial. “Something I think helps

with this is assigning sound designer ownership to each area of the game, whether that

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