'Sup, internet. I'm writing to tell you a bit about what went into the sounds of a beautiful little game called Journey. I was the sound designer on the project, working with ThatGameCompany part-time start-to-finish for several years from my office at SCEA Santa Monica, just a few blocks away from them. People seem to really love the game, and I figured there are too many stories in these sounds for the world to never know, so I thought I'd share them with you in this archive of industry love, Gamasutra.
Beware, though: spoilers lurk below
The singing in the game is of four types: a light quick button press for a "coo", a hard quick press for a "chirp", a reasonably-held press for a "call", and a long-held press for a large "shout".
They are a combination of re-pitched and processed birds, along with musical elements provided by composer Austin Wintory himself. Austin made musical parts for each type to compliment the score in each of the levels, and when close to another player, there are falling variations from your character, and rising variations from your companion.
The buried vocal is Lisbeth Scott, the singer of the final credits track, who is also the main element of the angelic white ancestor figures.
We considered mapping different calls to different buttons or the D-pad, and even a sort of wah-wah to the right analog stick, but one button was just better -- like the simplicity of the one button in Shadow of the Colossus. The call mechanic is more context- and distance-based in that game, and we wanted to give more control for co-op expression, but I'd still consider Shadow of the Colossus very much an inspiration.
Living Sand and Cloth
Most of the sand sounds were recorded in my room at Sony, in a low 3' x 3' cardboard box filled with dirty sand I got from Venice Beach. The sand waterfalls in the game were made by pouring the sand from a couple feet high into the box, filling my room with dust. (Are there long-term health effects?)
There are large sand waterfalls made from a lot of sand poured from a recycling bin, and there are small, thin versions made by pouring sand through a poster tube. For the large ones there is a washed-out distant perspective layer and a brighter, rumblier layer when you get close.
The walking and running sand steps were a combination of jabbing the sand with my fingers, cloth sounds, and recordings made on an early research trip to Pismo Beach with Thatgamecompany. The steep sand climbing footsteps are mostly the socked feet of art lead Matt Nava on a steep Pismo dune. Left steps were distinguished from right steps for a back-and-forth sound.
The footsteps on stone came from a hacky sack that sits on TGC designer Nick Clark's desk. The footsteps on metal were made by tapping the side panel of a PC case held loosely against the grated shelf of a mini-fridge.
All of the player's main robe movement sounds are from a military jacket that got me through Chicago winters -- a gift from a girlfriend. The standing-up-in-sand sound was that jacket half-buried in sand, lifted out of the sandbox. The sounds of walking through a sand waterfall are scoops of sand tossed at the jacket. For standing under a waterfall, it's the sound of sand poured on it.