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Sound Concepting: Selling the Game, Creating its Auditory Style
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Sound Concepting: Selling the Game, Creating its Auditory Style

December 16, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next


Prototyping is another area where sound concepts are helpful as design tools. One area we completely ripped out and overhauled in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows was combat.

Early concepts looked into the use of slow-motion to emphasize Spider-Man's super abilities, provide easier transitions between air, ground, and wall combat, and make combat in general more dramatic. Slow motion would be used similarly to bullet time in other games, giving the combat a more dramatic feel by bringing the high action to a manageable pace.

I created a sound concept for slow-motion combat to demonstrate ways which audio would help make combat more dramatic as well. The benefit here was that even though our combat system would be completely redesigned, we had an existing engine and an existing game we could use to demonstrate the sonic enhancements we had in mind.

For this concept, rather than create a completely new audioscape, I had one of our designers capture some combat from Spider-Man 3. I took this footage, and added some sweeteners and effects over it to help convey our ideas for how slow motion combat would affect the game's sound. I then made a movie which played the two versions back to back to give people a more overt sense of how our game would differ (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Combat audio sound concept

My main alterations were the use of a pre-attack "wind-up" sound for combat attacks while in slow-motion, some pitch shifting, a specialized reverb, and a short delay with a moderate feedback tail on the impacts.

While the sound and visuals were never meant to convey how combat would actually be in Web of Shadows, the concept effectively demonstrated to the team some of our ideas as to how we would design and integrate audio into the new combat system once it came online and the Spider-Man 3 combat was completely removed from the game many months later.

While the team was very happy with the slow motion concept and excited to implement it into the game, once we began working on our combat scheme, we found that the constant extreme time dilation actually took away from the game's pacing, so we opted for a much quicker and more subtle slow down, which in turn negated this concept.

Slowing down the gameplay and adding a delay to the mix bus no longer provided the dramatic impact it was initially intended for, and in fact using these elements as often and quickly as time dilation occurred made the entire mix sound muddy and confusing.

However, design elements that were created as a result of these experiments made their way into some of Spider-Man's combat effects. Like any concept work, sound concepts are not cast-in-stone directives, but are subject to change or to be nullified based on internal or external factors. Yet the very act of concepting helped create interesting ideas which we were able to use in ways other than initially intended.

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