An Interview with the Sledgehammer Games Audio Team
What is the Sledgehammer Games Sound?
DS: In our experience, the final mix in many games can sometimes be heavy and loud because the world has so many sounds. You don’t know what the player will focus on – so the tendency is to put sounds on absolutely everything. We decided we wanted a clean and focused mix where you aren’t necessarily hearing everything, just the important things. It’s difficult to balance, but we’ve done a lot of work to realize that clean and focused mix, and we are proud of what we have achieved.
What advice do you have for someone interest in sound design?
If I were to expand on that a little, I would suggest two steps. Step one is to learn what sounds good by training your ears. Early in my career I spent a ton of time just listening. I listened to anything and everything until I was confident I knew what “good” sounded like. Step two is to figure out how to make that. The second step is a lifelong journey.
MC: Biggest advice I can give is there are no rules. Well there’s game engine rules and sound theory, but when it comes to being creative throw your preconceived ideas out the window and experiment.
How do you take real world sounds and transform them to future or historic sounds?
DS: Well that’s the job. Like a chef gathering ingredients, the job of a sound designer is to first go out and get great recordings. Then you need to have the ears and know-how to combine those ingredients [recordings] to get that “delicious” final product.
MC: It’s a little bit of muscle memory. We also do a lot of experimentation. DS: A lot of people think that, but it’s actually the opposite. With Advanced Warfare because things didn’t exist, we had a lot of flexibility. MC: We didn’t have to convince anybody.
What adjustments are made to support gameplay needs?
For Campaign, the sounds are creating the world, telling a story, and helping produce an emotional cinematic experience. Like how loud footsteps are or the sound of the hit marker. That hit marker sound isn’t even remotely a real-world sound, but absolutely necessary to get in-game feedback which is critical to Multiplayer. The adjustments we make for Campaign and Multiplayer make the job interesting. We have to tackle problems and create sounds for both scenarios.
What are some things you tried that didn’t work or some stuff you stumbled on to?
DS: Nothing works until it does. For the Advanced Warfare Warbird, I couldn’t figure out the sound. I started out super future-y, then I tried literal helicopters; neither worked. Then, everything just worked, and I was like yes, I hear it. You would never know the base layer sound of that future looking helicopter is a subway, but that ended up being just the thing to make it work.
MC: I work through experimentation, like Dave. I rendered that out, then listened and made notes on what worked and what didn’t. Then I leaned into what I liked to find that final sound.
Jan 28, 2020 at 21:46