Immersion, the willing suspension of disbelief, and player buy-in are some of the most important aspects in tabletop rpgs, and sometimes the small things can made a world of difference in-game. Syrinscape aids GMs in setting the conditions for immersion that will allow for greater player buy-in by creating fantastic soundscapes and soundtracks for use any campaign in any tabletop gaming system. We sat down with Benjamin Loomes, creator of Syrinscape, at GenCon2015 to find out a bit more about Syrinscape and what it provides GMs.
GeeklyInc: Before we get too far in can you give our readers an idea of what Syrinscape is in your own words:
Benjamin Loomes: Syrinscape is a really beautiful, easy to use application that makes amazing immersive sound effects and music for tabletop games.
G: It seems like a really interesting concept. Where did you get the idea to develop Syrinscape, was there an ‘aha moment’ or was this something you’ve always wanted to create?
BL: Well, I’m a tabletop gamer. I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, just about anything I can do for years and years. I was using sound at the table, movie soundtracks copied off discs, little bits of recording of a certain environment, but it was always a massive hassle and often I played the wrong thing. There are also these ten minute recordings that I would use that loop everything in the same pattern. The ones where the dog sort of woofs at 2:43 and (the players) start to notice that really quickly.
G: We have definitely seen and heard those in use, nothing quite like hearing the same song or chant ten times in an hour.
BL: I started playing around at making longer and longer recordings to avoid that repetition, and eventually I thought “A computer’s got to be able to do this really, really well.” I made my own version and called it Syrinscape. It was great, it picked up the sounds dynamically and randomly, and creates really realistic and immersive environments. I shared that online, and people loved it heaps and heaps and demanded a proper professional version for their iPhones, iPads, on their Androids, macs and PCs. We’ve been able to do that which is really exciting, but it was really just for me. Other people like it too which is pretty cool.
G: It’s definitely an added bonus when stuff you like turns out to be stuff other people like too. Tell us a little about your sound library. Do you record your own audio or is it sourced from other studios?
BL: About 50% of the sounds are created by us internally, and then about 25% is from other voice actors from all around the world. We’re actually collecting sounds here at GenCon, people are coming up and giving their monsters their screams, their pitiful children, so we’ll be able to give to credit them in the app. There’s also a wonderful community online of people who share creative commons sounds. If someone can get to an isolated spot in the jungle with no cars or planes going overhead it’s a real feat, and we’ll use some of those sounds as well. Yeah, a lot of the voice acting is from all over the world.
G: You have to tell us what it’s like recording all these crazy sounds. Have you ever gotten any complaints from the neighbors?
BL: Haha, I don’t know what the neighbors really think, but the stuff that comes out of our studio is absolutely hilarious.
G: About how large is the sound catalog in Syrinscape?
BL: There’s more than 100 locations already in the fantasy player. We have license with Paizo, so we’re actually releasing a pack every two months which supports a whole chapter of an adventure path. We just finished Rise of the Runelords, so you can grab that. If you haven’t played Rise of the Runelords yet, play it. It’s amazing. In that pack the Syrinscape sounds are all set out and ready for that, so you just click through the encounters one by one and all that preparation is done. We’re doing Hell’s Rebels next, and we’ll be releasing simultaneously with Paizo. That’ll be demons and righteous warriors and all this other cool stuff.
G: Outside of the releases every two months for Paizo what does your release schedule look like?
BL: That’s right every two months the big packs come out for a chapter of an adventure path, but in the middle month whole lot of individual locations and individual monsters come out. Some of those come from the adventure packs, but we rerelease them with different background sound. So say there’s a red dragon in the city and there’s women screaming, windows being smashed but when the dragon’s in a dungeon the echo’s and background is completely different. We’ll release them like that and in swamps or sewers or all these different locations, so there’s tons of content coming out every month.
G: Sounds like you’ve amassed quite the library of sounds, do have a favorite?
BL: I think it’s got to be the goblins. One of the first things we ever did for Paizo was record the gobins. The goblins, of course, in Pathfinder are so fantastically full of character, and we got to record the goblin song. We did kind of burn the studio down during the recording, but once I rebuilt it was really great. Recently at PaizoCon Wolfgang Baur, the Kobold-in-chief himself, came and recorded kobold sounds. Now when you click in the kobold lair you’ll hear a lot of Wolfgang yarks and yelps as the kobolds attack you. Actually if people want to hear they can go to syrinscape.com and preview the tracks before they buy anything.
G: A big part of GeeklyInc are the real play podcasts that we record. When we use grids we tend to use Roll20 since our podcasters aren’t in the same location, but the sound system for roll20 is not exactly top of the line. Does Syrinscape have any plans to partner with Roll20 or another similar system?
BL: We’ve actually just done integration with Lone Wolf’s Realm Works campaign managing software. Syrinscape has a remote control you can create a short cut that lets you use the program within the software. If you look on our forums there are also some work around through your preferred voice chat method using a virtual driver, but the next level is definitely having some sort of player interface combined.
G: Getting back to the app itself. How customizable are the tracks within the app? Do users have the ability to change tracks or mute parts of tracks?
BL: Definitely. Every individual aspect of the audio is independently controllable. Parts can be skipped, volume can be changed, but once you’ve got it the way you like it you can save it as a preset. Players can set off individual sounds within a track. It’s all really customizable.
All in all Syrinscape seems like it could be just the tool that GM’s need to create that last bit of realism. GeeklyInc will be downloading the app and running some test trials, so look out for the full review. In the meantime, Syrinscape is available on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android. Check out https://syrinscape.com/ to view and listen to demos.