Sound is a core feature of computer games and it’s integral to the gaming experience. Here’s four key pointers in terms of game development and working with sound……
1. Sound and Context in Computer Games
Sound design for video games is a discipline that draws together sequencing, sampling and sound processing, as well as the mind-set to use them creatively. If you’re not sure what that means in practice, picture this scene…..
It’s a fairly typical moment in a Battlefield 4 multiplayer match. You’re in a stand-off with another player and they’re lording it over you from a better vantage point on the second floor of a building. It’s not looking good, but in a moment of resourcefulness you chuck a grenade into a basement window, and cackle with glee as he’s buried beneath a hundred tons of crumbling bricks and masonry.
This is a very different experience for both players from a sensory perspective. For you it’s mostly a feast for the eyes as you stand back and admire your handiwork; for the poor sod on the wrong side of the exchange, the moment comes to them mainly through the sonic backdrop – the initial blast, the sound of support structures creaking beneath their feet, rubble falling, all leading up to the moment when the ground collapses from beneath them.
2. The Sound and the Shape
Such events are built on hundreds of beautifully engineered elements – physics systems, scripting, animation and so on – working in tandem with each other, and great sound design plays a crucial role in knitting it all together. Everything from the basso thump of the grenade blast to the strained screech of creaking joists lends weight and texture to what’s going on in the game environment.
There are lots of sound files out there that you can access to get the effect you are looking for in during the game development process. But if you need to create a specific sound, audio producers resort to the sacred art of foley – taking sounds from the everyday world and adapting them to your creative purposes. When sourcing a sample for the sound of footsteps on stone, for example, the sound-designer of TGC’s Journey found a hacky-sack fit for his purposes. And as the Evil Within’s Masahiro Izumi illustrates, even the contents of your fridge could be the makings of a good horror soundtrack.
3. Sourcing Sounds
So a knack for sourcing sounds from unlikely places is an essential part of any sound designer’s skillset. But due to the emergent nature of game environments, it’s not enough to simply plonk a sound into a game and hope that it’ll suit every context. For example, if you’re the unfortunate soul on the second floor of a building and a grenade goes off in the basement, it’s going to sound considerably more bassy emanating up through two floors than it would be if you were in the same room. And if you were higher up still it would have to be pitched even lower.
Just thinking of the sheer number of variables that can arise is enough to make anyone’s head spin, and in each case a sample has to be created to match the context. As a result, audio producers have to be able to process sounds in many different ways, tailoring them to any given context that could arise.
4. Sound it Out
If you want to put your creativity to good use in sound design for video games, both the diploma programme Music Production for Games and the Higher Certificate in Game Development offered by Pulse College will teach you the skills and techniques necessary to work in this area.
We offer a creative space equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and software, backed by the guidance and expertise of a number of industry veterans. Through collaborative and independent projects, workshops and lectures, we aim to encourage our students to produce outstanding work in sound design.
Check out our next open event to tour the campus and speak with our tutors![openday]