To capture the atmosphere of a Civil War battle, sound plays a big part, from the roar of musketry and low booming of cannons in the distance, to bugle signals cutting through the noise.
“Then cheer, boys, cheer, raise a joyous shout!”
In Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) we are using a wide variety of sounds and music, that was heard on the 19th century battle field. As a small independent team of developers, creating a believable world of sounds is challenging, but with help from very talented professional volunteers and some ingenuity, the sound of a 19th century battle field is coming to life.
When playing the battles in The Civil War (1861-1865) first you will hear the marching sounds of the formations of troops, the clanking of artillery being towed to position and flapping of the flags in wind. While marching, the musicians in the brigade occasionally play drum and fife music to cheer up the boys, including catchy tunes like Bonnie Blue Flag or Frog in the Well.
Creating these sounds required some field time and marching drills equipped with microphones. Some fellow joggers did look a bit curious when they ran past my “recording studio”, marching up and down a gravel lane, mud and puddles, 110 steps per minute – the quick time marching cadence used by troops in the Civil War. The same drills were carried out with double quick time and running. With some audio editing trickery, these drills were transformed into formation of hundreds men marching – and the artillery limber wheels rolling were originally a stroller, where the “artillery crew” was having her nap.
The drum and fife recordings are played by Wasel and his crew. A reenactment drummer, Wasel knows how the instruments should sound, and also the troops that would have played them. Getting the sound right required some practice in imperfection.
March to the Sound of the Guns.
Once the troops get in contact with the enemy, a roar of musketry will take over, with the booms and bangs of artillery firing and shells exploding around the formations. The troops would shout and cheer anxiously, while performing their duties under fire.
When we started creating the sound engine, we wanted to add the effect of distance to it. The sounds that travel long distances – firing of muskets, guns, shell explosions – sound very different depending on how far the source is. So, for these sounds we added a distance that changes the played sounds from clear shots and cracks to low booming and popping. Also the time the sound takes to travel is taken into account. To get the weapon sounds right, we used reenactment videos for reference, adding some “oomph”, as the weapon sounds a bit different when firing live ammunition.
Sound the Retreat!
In the maelstrom of battle, directing the troops is difficult. The officers’ shouts of orders are not heard through the constant fire. Before the radio was invented, musical instruments were used to carry orders, as were couriers and messengers, and during Civil War wig-wag flags and field telegraph. The instrument used during the Civil War was bugle. The use of drums for this purpose was already in the past, as bugle sound cuts through the noise and carries farther. The kind people at National Field Music School gave us historical advice about the use of instruments in the battle field – thanks Don!
Alan Tolbert, a musician and a reenactment infantry bugler, recorded the historical bugle signals heard in the game. He really knows his bugle business, and this brings a very cool historical touch to the game. In this making of video Alan explains all things bugle, as he was recording the signals for us:
During the summer we have been working on the AI for Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) battles, and Peter upgraded the artistic looks of the battle UI. The battle layer is soon fully implemented, and focus is turning to the campaign game play and features. Before diving into what the campaign will bring, we will release some more information about the battles, including more game play footage.
Gen’l. Ilja Varha,