Sound design for a game – How to approach it

How could bravery sound? Any idea about the audio content for this coconut weapon? And what about this frost supernova spell ?
These are realistic question that I was asking to myself in the middle of the creative process.
With this post I’ll do my best to unwind the twisted route that my mind takes while I’m looking for the best possible sound for a certain aspect of the game.

Like every creative process , the first thing to have is an idea. It must be strictly linked to the contest of the game itself and to the contiguous sounds. During the first grade of the idea development I should already have in mind a general shape of the sound that I want to achieve: should it be “in your face” ? should it be bass rich and intimidating or just edgy and high pitched? Once the idea is shaped enough I can take a step forward and try to think how could I achieve the sound that I have in mind. This point is the most critical and the most difficult but, to me, also the most satisfying.

The fact that a sound can be recorded in the real word, generated through synthesis or played, for instance, with an instrument, makes the amount of possibilities endless. Whatever will be the sound source chosen, the good sound designer is the one that can detach his seeing from his hearing, being then able to reach the goal of the desired sound without minding the original source characteristics except for its sound proprieties.

Recording some fire

Recording process

For instance, when I have imagined the sound for a “frost supernova” I thought to recreate the sound of cracking ice recording the amazing sounding paper of a greasy snack bar that i just ate while I was mind-bending for the sound itself and it turned out good! Of course many tries and experimentations are needed during this phase but the end result should be close to the initial idea or maybe an even better evolution of it that came throughout practical experimentation…

The next step is to refine the shape of the sound, signal equalizers and dynamic controllers are used to keep the sound exactly where you want to. Synthesis and layering could also be used to enrich the first take.
And, in the end, it comes the implementation of the sound in the game engine and all the relative tweaking to make it fit perfectly.
Of course if the sound seems a bit “out of place” the previous steps should be reviewed, even the initial idea could be totally reconsidered.

It often happens that the ideas that you think are the best ones in the end are not, it’s important in that case to be aware of it and avoid to be stubborn ending up flipping the fresh bought desk along with the laptop… it’s better to take a nice tea along with a sweet biscuit and restart the creative process from the beginning, this time with a bit more awareness that will probably lead to the perfect result that you were looking for.
Don’t take this words like a bible, every creative guy is different and every creative process is unique but this is, for me, the standard procedure when it comes to create audio content for games.

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