Dr Greg Turner
Published on 12 October 2015
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Benjamin Loomes is a man who makes his living from sound. He’s a classically-trained musician, composer, sound designer, and on top of that has a huge passion for role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. Given his diverse background, Ben saw a need for sound design for role-playing games. He reasoned that people wouldn’t watch a movie without sound effects or music, or play a video game on mute, so why would they play role-playing games without sound?
The seed was planted for Syrinscape, a sound player app that provides ambient background sounds and music to table-top, role-playing games.
Benjamin and his team wanted an app that would deliver exceptional sound quality seamlessly across platforms like tablet, mobile, and desktop. The app would create ambience by playing SoundSets, chosen in advance of game play by the Game Master. SoundSets are curated groups of four to five original music pieces and up to 200 sound effects, intended to enhance a specific scene or encounter, like battling a dragon or entering a medieval town. The app should be unobtrusive, so the controls had to be simple and easy to click during a game, and it would generate new combinations of sounds and music constantly, stopping only when the Game Master made a change.
An earlier version of Syrinscape had been attempted by another developer, but was unsuccessful because the technology that was chosen couldn’t keep up with the demands for high sound quality. Ben’s team made the tough, but right decision to drop the technology and start over with a new platform, but because of the time already lost on that version, the Syrinscape team wanted something quickly, and trusted IC to get it right.
The Syrinscape project is right up our alley: a really innovative idea that depends on the right technology, challenges our experience and skills, and with the gaming angle, fulfils our thirst for a little bit of geekery. Working with sound and creating something that fulfilled Benjamin’s vision was a unique challenge. The sound requirements were complex – real time with surround sound capability, lots of layers of reverb, and mobile/multi-platform functionality – but because of our background in innovation, and previous experience with sound design and real time environments, we were up for the task.
There’s a pretty big world of technology to choose from, but making the right choice the first time was really important, especially because of the time constraints. We decided to use Unity3D, traditionally a video game engine. Although an unconventional choice for IC, Unity is the perfect technology to build Syrinscape because it can handle rich sound, and it works across platforms.
A sound player app of Syrinscape’s calibre has never been made before. The IC knew the best technology to deliver what Benjamin hoped to achieve when he dreamed up Syrinscape, and we did the work quickly. In the six weeks following the initial meeting with Benjamin, we chose and tested the technology, built the system, added the SoundSets, built the ecommerce and website, and launched.
In the time since launch, Syrinscape has received great reviews, it's become the official audio companion to Pathfinder, there are over 3500 registered users, and Android and iPad apps have launched on the app stores. We're currently working on an editor version, which will allow people to create their own SoundSets, as well as a sci-fi version with a new library of SoundSets.
Praises come from the mouth of the inventor himself:
Aw shucks, Ben.
We’re incredibly proud that we were innovative and agile enough to build a great app that stands well ahead of its peers, and that’s worthy of our client’s creativity and imagination. If you have a big idea and want to talk about how to make it real, we’d love to chat.