We recently caught up with Nikola Nikita Jeremic, a composer and sound designer who has worked on Cyberpunk 2077, Destiny 2, Warhammer 40K and many other projects. Nik has been hard at work on Scathe sound design, creating music and effects for Damage State’s upcoming first-person shooter.
Scathe shares its DNA with some of the most iconic shooter video games in history, drawing from their legacy and building upon them. Nik was kind enough to provide insight into how he brought the weapons in Scathe to life using Weaponiser.
Hi Nik! Scathe is due for release this year, and it looks & sounds amazing – How did you become a part of that project?
I was introduced to Damage State Ltd. studio through Scott Miller and Jeron Moore of Apogee Entertainment. Scott and I worked together on a game called “Graven”, which is a first-person RPG, and I was assigned to the project as a composer. Scott liked my work and suggested me as a composer for Scathe.
Most composers work with indie developers as sound designers to begin with, but it was the opposite for me. I started composing music Scathe, and the Damage State team really liked what I did.
At that time they were looking for a sound designer and I suggested that I could tackle the challenge, as I was really inspired by the game – it’s something that I would play myself, even if I wasn’t involved.
This was a really good opportunity for me to have total control of the sonic aspect of the game (minus the audio programming).
Were you influenced by other games in this genre or did you aim for a new direction?
It’s no secret what games have inspired Scathe, and we’re not hiding the Doom and Quake influence. Scathe is a fast-paced run and gun shooter where you get to annihilate vast amounts of monsters and demons – It is a love letter to those games!
But for the Scathe sound design, we headed in a different direction. the music steers away from the Doom metal style and towards a mix of electronic and organic sounds. It is mostly inspired by Nordic Viking music which is pretty different to what people are used to hearing in this genre.
Scathe also has a bit of a Steampunk influence. Everything wants to kill you, and you have to kill everything else first – the weapons in the game are massive & clunky – they rattle, shake and scream, so most of the sounds tend to stay away from a futuristic sonic pallet in favour of an industrial sound.
The game is action-filled and adrenaline-fuelled. Can you share any tips on how you brought this vibe into the Scathe Sound Design Process?
Because I did both the music and the sound design, I had total control over the soundscape. When I designed the sounds, I had music in mind also, and when I mixed the music, I had sound design in mind.
When I mixed the music, I removed the majority of sub-bass frequencies to leave that space for the SFX. That way, the players can truly feel the massive-sounding world and weapons, even if the music is turned off.
The guns have a lot of saturation and transient processing to make them powerful and percussive, and this helps them to gel with the Viking drums and pulsing bass synths of the soundtrack.
The music drives the action and propels you forwards constantly, and the SFX needed to complement that. But it was important to me and to the team to keep that action even if you turn off the music – shame on you if you do! (laughs)
I’m never normally the composer and sound designer, so the freedom I had on Scathe was really exciting – but with great power comes great responsibility!
Did you face any challenges during the Scathe Sound Design? How did you overcome them?
The main challenge was the mixing of all of these elements and getting them to work together. I am not a skilled audio programmer and we weren’t using any middleware like FMOD or Wwise – instead, all of the sounds were directly implemented into Unreal Engine so the programmers placed the sounds into the game.
To have some control over the mix, I recorded gameplay of a few levels and spotted the sounds to the playthrough footage so I could mix the music, atmospheres and the main character sounds including Foley and guns, then I submitted this footage to the developers.
The only two things that are left to be balanced inside the engine itself are the enemies and objects, depending on the actual distance from the character. The developers handled this and then I sent feedback based on my gameplay as to what I think should be tweaked or not. It wasn’t perfect but it was certainly a helpful workaround!
See our awesome videos from Nik:
For more awesomely hellish content, check out this recent interview with Liam Booth: Sound for Scarehouses