Now that the Romans are being released, we want to give you all a chance to hear from some of the volunteer developers. We previously interviewed the 3d Design team, which you can read here. Today, we are speaking with many of the people behind the Music, Vocals and the Overview Trailer of the Romans.
Vladan Stančić (WeRFury): My name is Vladan Stančić, I'm 25-years-old, and I'm from Serbia. I'm a student, and I'm working to pay for my studies. I played Age of Empires 2 and 3 for years. I found AoEO when the game released. When the game became free to play, I downloaded and started to play. I played too much and I really liked the game at that time but it was really hard to play for free users. In my free time I compose music, and that really helps me express my feelings etc. I went to college for IT (mostly programming like software engineering, testing, etc). I really like composing and I'm trying to stay on that course and make a living from it. [Andy’s Note: Vladan composed much of the Romans soundtrack and generously threw himself at sound engineering for the Unit vocals, which was a massive undertaking.]
Eamon (Chaos): Hello fellow fans of Age of Empires Online! My name is Eamon, living in the UK, and I am a member of the Project Celeste Roman Restoration Team. I primarily focus on texturing and 3D modelling but also join in with some rigging, animating, music, sound and other game related works. [Andy’s Note: Eamon does almost everything and is a bottomless pit of energy. Without him, there would be no Romans in 2021, let alone next week. And I’m not sure if any of our seasonal events over the last year or so would have had new 3d models. He’s everywhere except when it is time to take credit in public.]
Jeinx: My name Jeinx … I like movies and cheeseburgers, and I voice the Centurion and Cretan Bowmen. I started playing AOEO shortly after OG release, and first played the series with AOEII, but AOEO captured my heart.
Max v.R.: I guess most of you would know me by now, but I’m Max, formally known under the name "Happy Smurf." I played AoEO on the original server, and I joined Celeste after its first year and joined the team a year later. And since then, it has been a long time since I actually played a quest .At the beginning of the Roman development I friendly insisted on getting an Aquilifer into the game. It started as a little joke but grew into an actual unit by replacing an existing unit from the original developers. [Andy’s note: the Decanus, who was the fifth possible Officer Unit, about whom we know very little and likely was cut by the original Devs.] So I couldn’t have felt better when Andy asked me to do the Aquilifer’s vocals. Since this unit started as a joke, we also turned his vocals into a joke: He can and will only use a single word he understands: “Roma!” So I recorded him saying “Roma!” over 100 different ways. The second unit i did was the Engineer. After all of those Romas, it felt like a relieve to use some actual words.
Phillus: Hey there, I'm a 22-year-old dude from Germany, who had the difficult task to become up to 50 years older by voicing the Pontifex! In addition to the old lad, the Eques got my voice as well. I've been playing Age games since my childhood! Starting with AoE2, I've played every single Age game (excluding the mobile game) since their release and I've enjoyed both AoE3 and AoEO the most.
Taz: My name is Taz, I'm a 2nd year comp sci student. I've been playing age games since I was 12-years-old, around the time that Age of Empires Online first came out and I've been a part of the project Celeste community since 2017. I voice the Scorpio with Zawnius and the Scout.
Paul Graydon (Zawnius): Hey, I’m Zawnius, I’m a 22-year-old French-American engineering student currently living and studying in France. I’m specializing in computer science and will soon leave for Japan for a double degree. I discovered the RTS genre and the AoE franchise when my father gave me his Age of Empires II CD when I was 7- or 8-years-old, and I was instantly hooked. I voice three Roman units: the pompous Decurion, the bickering Scorpio (along with Taz) and the big, bad, bearded Gallic Horseman!
Jan Zapletal (YetAnotherYoutuber): I’m Jan Zapletal, and I have a youtube channel YetAnotherYoutuber, which is the name I go by online most of the time (or its acronym, Yay). I have been playing AoEO on and off for two years now, but I have been playing other Age games ever since my childhood, starting with AoE2, which helped me learn English in some way, through Age of Mythology which is my all-time favorite for its soundtrack and introducing me to mythology in a fun way, through Age of Empires 3 which I liked even more than AoE2, and now to AoEO. I am the voice of the roman spearman.
Andy P XIII: As a 41-year-old husband and dad, I am one of the old guys. I’ve been playing Age of Empires since 1998 when a buddy on my college dorm floor showed me AoE1. I’ve been clanging around the community ever since and have played AoEO since launch day in 2011. I’ve been a moderator on the official Age forum for about 6 years now, as well. But of all the games, AoEO is my true love.I’ve been behind the scenes with the Romans development from the beginning in late 2018 and had the privilege of helping PF2K and RecoN sort through and design the Roman Unit, Building, and Tech Tree. I have almost no technical skills, but I try to keep pace with everyone else by using my enthusiasm as a blunt instrument. I laid claim on voicing the Villagers very early on, way before we ever announced we were developing the Romans. I also voice the Legionary and the Clinicus. I also took the lead on writing almost all of the 855 lines of our Units, which forced me to step up my rusty high school Latin skills quite a bit.
Jan Zapletal (YetAnotherYoutuber): Not really but I tried to because I have a youtube channel, and I have voice-acted multiple characters in cinematics of warcraft 3, which I felt were sometimes bad or cringe especially when I was voicing females, but quite good on the other occasions when I voiced male characters of fantasy origin, and used audacity to achieve a desired effect.
Paul Graydon (Zawnius): No, this was my first try ever at voice acting, and I must say that I love it and will definitely try to pursue it as a hobby. I was always interested by it and decided to give it a shot after seeing that the dev team needed help for voicing the Romans. The funny thing is that I have a stammer when I speak normally, but not when I’m in character and voicing someone else! It also disappears when I sing, weirdly enough.
Taz: I've done a bunch of regular acting in plays and improvisational theater throughout high school but no voice acting until now.
Phillus: I did experiment with voice acting a little bit in the past, but never really participated in a project the size of the Romans before.
Jeinx: Never acted or voice acted before, but this was a lot of fun, and hope to do it again.
Max v.R.: Never before, but i did some streams.
Andy P XIII: Nothing other than doing a very little bit of acting in high school and college.
PF2K: Other than doing voice impressions with friends and family when we hung out together, not really, no.
Andy P XIII: I make a blanket cave in my walk-in closet. I close the door, sit down on a couple blankets on the floor, and then cover myself like a ghost with a couple. Sometimes my kids hover outside the door and then I let them record whatever they want. Eamon even humored them one day and asked them to record animal noises. Maybe they will one day make it into the game.
Max v.R.: Blankets, cushions, blankets, and more cushions. Hiding myself under my blankets on the couch with the curtains closed. No way my neighbors would see me like a weirdo laying under the blankets on the couch!
Phillus: I've recorded all my voice lines with Audacity, using the "t.bone SC 420 USB desktop-set" as my mic, and, like a true pro, below a massive pile of blankets. The coziest way to get rid of any echoes, I tell ya!
Taz: Being from Canada, I had tons of heavy blankets that I hung over my desktop on my desk. Also layering the desk itself with t-shirts and wrapping the mic's base with a t-shirt helped take out a lot of the echo that Chaos picked out. It's a very warm set up.
Paul Graydon (Zawnius): I originally thought that it would be impossible to record at home in a big, old, creaking, 18th century French countryside house. But then I remembered we had a tiny closet in one of our rooms, where I threw in a chair, my microphone, and my laptop surrounded by a lot of blankets and pillows and a random mattress. It actually ended up working like a charm and was very silent!
Jeinx: Well, I had quite a bit of difficulty any lots of re-recording sessions due to what finally in the 11th hour, turned out to be a mic issue, to which a less expensive mic fixed. But the end setup was basically a hollow cube of blankets between my high bed, and a tall dresser and lamp, with my mic and me inside.
Jan Zapletal (YetAnotherYoutuber): My set-up is a desk with a pc, which I have situated by two windows that open a view into the street. The microphone is in front of the keyboard, and I had to utilize a pillow that I held above the microphone when recording the lines, so that the echo bouncing off the walls would not be in the audio file. Other than that the wall behind me has curtains in front of it, and behind those curtains are some shelves and some other things.
PF2K: My setup was basically a thick towel, a thick blanket and a Persian rug and a Blue Snowball microphone, that's it, really!
Vladan Stančić (WeRFury): Well, I can't say, I really like them all, but the best unit and where my magic and ideas were shining is for the Scorpio unit, you will hear, it's a really interesting unit, Taz and Zawnius did a great job! [Andy’s Note: Two soldiers operate the Scorpio, and so we decided to give each of them personalities with some banter back and forth, which brings something a bit new to AoEO unit vocals. They are bickering at each other in Latin, so a lot of it will go over players’ heads, but those are the kind of little details that we love about AoEO.]
Phillus: Definitely the Cretan Bowman. Jeinx' voice fits just so well into the game, that I could listen to Cretan Bowmen dying 24/7. #AgeOfASMR
Eamon (Chaos): All of them, as they all have their own style, and to me that’s how it should be. But I would say the most interesting is the Scorpio and the Primus Pilus as things have been done differently here compared to any other unit in the Age series so far.
Taz: The Pontifex is hands down my favorite unit. Phillus did an amazing job with the idle lines
Max v.R.: I have to say, that would be my good friend Phillus. After speaking with him multiple times on Romans voice chat, it is was an instant laugh salvo when I heard his vocals into the game. But i have to say, lots of thanks to all who helped, because with the vocals we put an extra bit of the community into this great ambitious project.
Paul Graydon (Zawnius): I’m not really someone who has favorites of anything, but if I had to choose I’d go with the Clinicus. I think Andy caught lightning in a bottle with it and delivered a hilarious voice for that squeaky old healer! I’ll also mention Phillus’ raving Pontifex which is just as funny.
Jeinx: The Clinicus. The idea that this old man traversing the battlefield shoving elixirs and concoctions of lord knows what down wounded soldiers’ throats is just great, and the voice fits perfectly.
Andy P XIII: PF2K’s Primus Pilus and Max’s Aquilifer. It was really important to me to try to get as many of the core Roman developers as I could into the vocals. To me, hearing their voices on a unit rightfully puts their signatures on the civ. Along these lines, I always knew that there was only one man who could give the Aquilifer his voice, and another man who could dare speak for the Primus Pilus. We will be hearing from him very shortly in another Developer Spotlight blog.
PF2K: Clinicus - No contest. Hands down the best unit vocals of any unit in any game.
Vladan Stančić (WeRFury): The first time, I joined a Discord channel and was here for months. I was really hyped for Romans, then in an announcement I read a blog about how they needed someone for music composing. I contacted PF2K and asked him to join the team. He asked me have I worked on cinematic music and I answered him: Never. He rejected me the first time haha, then I asked him to send a demo, to try and create a cinematic song. I created it and sent it to him, and he liked it. I joined a channel and I thought they created a bunch of songs, but in reality they had ONE song. I was pissed off haha and I started composing. [Andy’s Note: In our defense, by the time Fury joined us in the summer of 2020, we had been ghosted several times by several people over the course of a year or so. PF2K and Eamon have been in our back pockets for music, but we needed their talents in other areas, especially while we were building out the core playable civ. And to Fury’s credit, once he hit the ground, we quickly realized we didn’t need to find anyone else.]
Vladan Stančić (WeRFury): Well, I've been composing music for 4 years now and I mostly made EDM, Beats, Deep House etc. I was a DJ also but I wasn't experienced in Classical, Cinematic composing, my first time was for AoEO. I play piano only and guitar a little haha.
Eamon (Chaos): I started with music and voice cover's around 2004 I was big into grime and wanted to learn how to make music, I started remixing first in fl studies and adding very bad voice over with audacity. Over the years I would like to say I got better but it really kicked of when I studied game design at collage, I had to make my own music and sound effects. I would share some older stuff but listening back through it now ill save you ears. But as the years want on I focused more on art and animation and that side sort of got rusty until I offered to help PF2K with the roman music as people kept ghosting so I started with some music for the winter and Halloween events to get the vibe for the style, and just last year updated the winter again as the style was still not right. I then got 2 tracks done for the Romans when Fury came in and offered to do the rest, being so busy with the core civ work I was more than happy to sit back and return to the art.
Vladan Stančić (WeRFury): When I joined Project Celeste, I created the first track for several hours, but after that I was struggling to make a song for days, weeks, for some even months. The process is complicated, I scrapped 10+ songs, melodies but I worked hard to create a good and catchy song. Sometimes, for a track I need several hours, sometimes a few months, depending from song to song.
Eamon (Chaos): This is tricky, you first need to understand what the theme and vibe is of the game then translate that into a music form by researching plenty of time listening to original songs if there are any and other songs for similar styles of games, films etc and get a feel for the tempo, the instruments, the chords etc. and if you starting from nothing good luck its going to take a lot of time with trail and error when you start making music. But even with all that research its going to be again trail and error, some songs could take days, weeks, month even.
Vladan Stančić (WeRFury): Mix and master, to create a catchy melody, but the hardest part was to get a vibe for the game, scenery also, gameplay to be chill and happy, this was really hard for me, believe me.
Eamon (Chaos): Getting started, there is countless methods to even start a music score, for example go with the melody first or try the percussion and get some nice drums on, or chorus first with some female vocal overlays in there. It is really an open book as to what angle to start and after days you could say no this is not working lets try again.
Vladan Stančić (WeRFury): Well, I was in contact with Eamon and I experienced vocal editing, but never like this. From the start, editing it was really hard for both Eamon and me. We couldn't find a solution in the beginning, but after some time we found a solution, for us it was "Eureka" haha. I have 60+ hours of work on just editing vocals, 600+ vocal lines were edited and we scrapped a lot from that, believe me haha. [Andy’s Note: We didn’t keep track of this exactly, but I would guess that to finalize our 855 Roman lines, Vladan and Eamon had to cut through perhaps 10,000 individual takes. Every unit required countless takes, retakes, and often entire units were scrapped. This project was massive. Sometimes you don’t keep track of your time because you don’t want to know how much of it you flushed away.]
Eamon (Chaos): Edits, edit, edits and think I mentioned edits? Fury [Vladan] saved me a lot of time getting the lines cleaned and enhanced from each person’s takes, then I would take the files and edit further while testing them in the game. This could takes ages, in and out of the game like a yo-yo doing fine tunes like edit the tempo, adjust the pitch, remove some base, amp the sounds etc. Then after each take was edited and tested I would update the list and return with any that made the game or needed a redo and then start this process all over again until all sounded just right for each unit in the game. And how many hours this took or how many files edited you ask? I never want to know…
Mandy: I distinctly remember begging my internet-paranoid parents for their credit cards so I could buy the premium Greek civilization when the game released. Despite my pleading I was met with a resounding "No." and a "what if they steal our credit card information!?" And here I am still, 10 years later, 24-years-old playing my old tunes. I love playing Age of Empires Online, more than any other AoE game and I'm happy that I was here to participate in the project. I've played all of the big titles and found myself (heretically) enjoying the third title the most besides AoEO. There's just something about cannons making enemies turn into stiff ragdolls and building parts fly off that just make it fun for me. Other than that, I'm all about Warhammer but for the reader's sake I best stop there if you like your ears intact!
Mandy: Frankly the only thing I can remember is offering my "technical expertise" for one of their seasonal events (The Summer Solstice 2020 event). Much to the delight of the team (or so I tell myself), I've also made a bunch of memes here and there, which I think this community is completely starved for, so if anyone's looking to start-up their YT or twitch career, this is the place to do it right now!
Back to the topic, after the reception for the first trailer of the event, and my growing hunger to make more "professionally" oriented videos, I landed myself a spot to make the trailer for the flagship update release, and am totally looking forward to bragging to my friends/family how I managed to land this trailer on PC gaming journalism sites like IGN or PCgamer. It's a great practice for my skills and considering the generally very high experience level of everyone here it will even serve as a great portfolio just by association to such an epic project like this.
Think about it! No fan revival project for any game ever has managed to achieve something as big as this!
Mandy: It's actually very simple!
One day I was bored out of my mind, watching horrible xXxdankMLGfragxXx videos and told myself "you know what, I bet I could do it!". The first video I made was a (not) hilarious gmod compilation, complete with 20fps, audio that played twice, with a microphone that picked up every electrical appliance in my home, and just generally unfunny jokes which was supposed to be the whole point of the video.
Even though the result was dreadful and I feel ashamed just thinking about it, I was genuinely entertained by the process, and wanted to do more! So I learned new techniques like masking and how
to use a chroma keyer to get a green screen effect for example, or installing more and more software, and finally throwing that microphone in the bin and getting a new one.
It's been 5 years now and I make documentaries, video game reviews, actually funny memes and even trailers for videogames now! I still enjoy it as much as the first day I started and plan to do much more and expand my capabilities!
Lastly, I use Sony Vegas pro for most of my editing, but I am planning to move over to adobe premiere and after effects soon to really ramp up my capabilities!
Mandy: Oh boy it was a bit of a rocky road alright. From stuff going haywire left and right, nonstop crashing because the project was getting too big for its own good, to accidentally deleting half the video while showcasing an early WiP build (thank god for the undo button, the trailer certainly had a dozen challenges going for it.
But the most difficult or rather annoying was the very first issue: I couldn't get the early access build to run to record the videos. I still can't to this day. Nobody knows why and we've spent DAYS troubleshooting to no avail. So instead we had to get another guy (shoutout to Kire) to record the videos and upload them for me, and we needed A LOT of clips done for this. And we're not even talking about the clips we ended up not using and the clips we had to retake over and over because we just couldn't get the timing or the angle right.
You'd think that video editing is as easy as mashing two clips together but it can get convoluted really fast sometimes.
Mandy: It would actually be the feedback I would get after making a preview for the dev members. It was an absolute blast seeing them go "WOWIE, THIS IS AMAZING" which would immediately be followed up by "there's just this one tiny thing I think you should change" and after fixing them the cycle would start anew.
As for the video itself, definitely the bridge crossing, the forest ambush and animating a static picture (the roman boat) for the very first time in photoshop. Also the beat drop at the beginning.
Mandy: This trailer was made in the span of about 3 months, with at least 120+ fulltime hours spent on it. Adding a clip is easy, and takes just two clicks. It's the fine-tuning that takes time.
For example I made a greenscreen effect from the shield that swoops in to transition to a new scene. I had to carefully cut out it's surroundings and then animate every single frame one by one until the
whole animation was finished. That alone took hours and it's an effect that got used around 3 times and lasts for half a second each. But it's little details like that that separate it from a good video to a "Good" video. Sometimes the effect doesn't hit the note just right and I start to tear my hair over it, and sometimes I dread one particular scene and end up finishing it in less than 5 minutes.
There's lots of little bits and details here and there but when I want to intimidate or screw with someone with the process I usually send them a picture like this:
Thank you so much for reading, and we will see you all next time!
Project Celeste Development Team
What do you think about this week's blog? What would you like to see next? Let us know in the comments below!
The Romans are coming on March 15th, 2021! Watch the Overview Trailer.
Project Celeste is completely free and always will be. However, we gladly accept donations for our overhead costs, which are larger than we have budgeted. If you want to support us, you can do so HERE.
Read every Romans related blog HERE.
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By PF2K on Mar 6, 2021 at 5:02 PM
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