How to create an interesting game setting? Level Four: Sound Noise Effects

    Even before researchers at Waterloo University of Canada conducted a study and found out how the sound and noise components of gameplay affect players, arcade machine manufacturers realized that the more interesting a slot machine sounds, the more visitors it attracts. In times of severe shortage of RAM, when games were placed on floppy disks, and sounds were compressed by the most incredible methods, developers at all costs tried to create minimal audio effects. Even if at the same time they had to sacrifice the quality of the graphics.

    Today, sound and noise components are one of the main components of any video game. Without them, it is impossible to make the game universe reliable, which means to entice the player and immerse him in a state of flow. In this article we will look at how sounds can affect the setting, gameplay and psyche of a player.

    Sound components of screensavers, trailers and logos

    Spectacular animated logos of developers and publishers are the first thing a user sees when launching an application. The more epic the logo and sound will be, the more likely it is that the player will remember the name of the company, and in the future will pay attention to the products of this particular developer. The use of screensavers has both a peculiar PR element and practical meaning: animated logos enable the player to check whether everything is in order with the audio and video components before the start of the game.

    There are several approaches to voicing animated logos:

    1. Create a melody and sound and noise components that will accompany the company logo in any game. Thus, the player from the first seconds will find out who is its developer, and will always associate the sounds of the logo with the emotions received during the gameplay.

    2. Adapt the logo and sound design for each project. This approach allows you to immerse the player in the selected setting from the first seconds, but it is expensive.

    The sounds of in-game screensavers and trailers are also very important. Together they convey the mood of the game, designate the setting and contribute to the immersion of the players. Sound effects should fully correspond to the gaming atmosphere, as well as impress the viewer. Sound designer Andrew Lucky, who created most of the audio effects for the trailer for Sparta: War of Empires, used live recorded sounds to convey the dynamics of a fierce battle between two armies:

    Sounds of the interface and menu

    The game interface can be divided into external (the main menu where you can select the save file, set the game difficulty settings, graphics and sound parameters) and internal (the list of skills, inventory, experience settings window, and so on).
    In a previous article, we talked about diegetic and extradihegetic music. This classification is also applicable to sound and noise components of an interface. At the same time, it would seem that the apparent extradihegetic sounding of the external menu sometimes successfully poses as a dietetic one. Such a disguise is characteristic of transdyegetic sounds that simultaneously play a functional role and are related to the game world.

    The external interface is often characterized by extradihegetic sounds: clicks of switching menu buttons, background music and some audio effects taken from the gameplay.

    High-quality voice acting of the menu is usually aimed at immersing the player in the atmosphere of the chosen setting. For example, in the game Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, when switching between menu items, clicks are heard, similar to pressing the keys of an old-style typewriter. The gloomy atmosphere of what is happening is forced not only by means of disturbing music, but also by the sound of rain.

    Moreover, in some games (made primarily in the FPS genre), the immersion technique in the game process is already used in the external menu. In Mass Effect 2, the interface is designed in the style of a monitor located directly on board the Normandy. All sounds, as well as background noise contribute to the feeling of immersion and the identification of the player with the main character.

    A similar technique is implemented in Metro: Last Light, where even when viewing the menu, the player feels himself the main character standing next to the trolley. The sounds that the player hears at the same time - button clicks, the hum of the motor - are trans-diabetic.

    In most cases, the internal interface is represented by diegetic sounds and is modeled so that the player perceives it as part of the game world. At Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, the internal menu is styled like a Holmes notebook. When switching between tabs, the player hears turning pages, and when closing, the sound of a slamming book is heard.

    Sounds and background noises of the external and internal interfaces should correspond to the setting and at the same time be unobtrusive. It is also worth considering the following: a certain type of sound must be tied to the appropriate action so that the player can find the desired button with his eyes closed.

    Sounds in gameplay

    Depending on the genre of the game, the sound engineer can pursue various goals in working with sounds and background noise: to frighten the player, tell him some game details, and convince him of the realism of what is happening. You can show the user the authenticity and volume of the game universe with the help of a number of such sound effects:

    Character sounds. The player hears breathing, a heartbeat, the sound of footsteps and the rustling of the main character's clothes. This allows you to show not only the physical or psychological state of the protagonist, but also to achieve the maximum merger of the player with him.

    Sounds of objects with which the character interacts. This category includes the ringing of weapons, the roar of the machine on which the character is riding, the crack of the wall that he has just broken through with his forehead.
    Sounds of other characters and objects with which they interact. This is the cries of monsters, the noise of footsteps, the roar of cannon shots and so on.

    Sounds of the world. These include any noise that occurs without the participation of the character: birds singing, the sound of opening hatches or elevator doors, crackling electricity and more.

    Depending on the chosen genre and setting, sound noises perform various functions:

    Informative. There is a small episode in Limbo, in which you need to get through a dark cave to get an accomplishment and find a secret level. In this case, the player can only be guided by the sounds: the steps of the character, the effects of jumping, splashing water.
    Signal. Good game designers usually warn the player of imminent danger. In addition, with the help of signals, you can notify about a crowded inventory or a successfully completed action.

    Recognition. When a player clicks on the building of barracks in the game "Rules of War", he hears the clatter of boots and a soldier’s song, and when he clicks on the motorized infantry plant, the roar of motors.
    Immersive and atmospheric. The brighter the player’s emotions, the more he plunges into the selected setting.
    A commercial. Some sounds have already become cult, so their use in projects causes a stir not only among regular players, but also attracts new ones. For example, the sound of a lightsaber slicing through the air, or a slight hiss accompanying the appearance of an Alien, is quite recognizable.

    At the start of working with sound, it is necessary to draw up a design document in which it will be written what this or that character or object is and what sound can correspond to it. At the same time, not only every game genre, but also a single game has its own characteristics, which should be taken into account when working with audio effects. For shooters, the accuracy of the atmosphere of the battle is important. Sound engineers approach this task in different ways: some carry out field recording with real weapons, while others use sound libraries and mixing. Even realistic sounds are usually processed to give a cinematic effect. As you know, the noise of gunfire and explosions that we hear in movie theaters is different from the one that rattles on the battlefield.

    In strategies, the importance of sounds is extremely high: they serve to convey the setting and often perform an informative function. Therefore, it is important to make the audio sequence not only reliable, but also recognizable: according to the sound accompanying one or another action, the player must quickly navigate the playing space.

    Horror usually focuses on atmospheric. To create the necessary surroundings in the games of this genre, a huge role is played by the sounds of the surrounding world, as well as other characters. As a rule, the necessary frightening effects are achieved by mixing several different sounds or changing the tone of the sound.

    To create a high-quality sound and noise design of the game, you need to consider:

    Genre and setting. Shots of the Beretta 3032 Tomcat pistol at Alan Wake, Battlefield and Silent Hill will sound completely different.
    Zoning and adaptability. Footsteps in a desert, city or jungle may not sound the same. If the hero shoots in the tunnel, then the player must hear an echo.
    Variability. In real life, it’s hard to close the door several times with the same sound. To prevent unnatural monotony from cutting the ear, a set of sounds is usually recorded that later vary or randomize.
    Dynamism. For the sounds of even the most fantastic universes, the Doppler effect is applicable, and the volume of the shot always varies depending on how far from the player it sounded.

    Compatibility The sound may be ideal separately, but accompanied by other effects, lose their splendor and functionality. The sound engineer needs to present a general picture of the action in order to understand how to achieve sound harmony and avoid noise chaos.
    The psychology of perception. If the phone rings, the person responds with a reflex: pick up the phone. Some sounds cause discomfort and a desire to leave as soon as possible: a bone crunch, a dog growling. Others, such as a baby’s cry, a woman’s scream or a sharp crunch, can attract attention and encourage them to meet their source. The volume and tonality of the sound may vary depending on the tasks, however, it is important to understand what emotions and associations the audio effect will cause the player.

    In-game sounds are often able to tell a story no worse, and sometimes more expressively, than the visuals. Silent Hills: Playable Teaser (PT) uses many tricks to help the player experience the game world and understand its history.

    The character is represented by the noise of steps, but if you listen carefully, you can find a similarity between the sound of the tread and the heartbeat. The atmosphere is pumped up by the sounds in the house: the creak of stairs and floorboards, the sound of rain pounding through the windows, the roar of electric lamps. At the same time, frightening moments are based on the principles of distortion and inconsistency: a woman is crying behind the door, but the timbre of her voice is unnaturally low. The attention of the player is attracted by the cry of the child, but emits its monster-shaped embryo.

    In this mini-game, the contrast between the reliability of the sound and the unreliability of its source is interesting.
    The climax of the scene of the murder of a woman, told with the help of only sounds. Without any graphic or textual explanation, the player understands what happened in the room.

    Thus, the sounds and noises in video games perform many functions, without which it is impossible to imagine full-fledged gameplay. In addition, the audio component serves as an additional narrative tool that can not only display and enhance the setting, but also completely change the emotional perception of the gaming reality.

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