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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 4 of 5 Next

Setting the mood

Sound concept work can also aid in defining and refining the general mood or tone of a game. Using another example from Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, the city of New York itself is transformed over the course of the game from the bastion of metropolitan life into a war-torn, apocalyptic hell.

I chose to chronicle this change via sound concepting, as I felt it would help me develop the varied ambiences for the game and also give the rest of the team an idea of the overall direction. As with other concepting work the first thing to do is ask lots and lots of questions:

What's our neighborhood like? (rich and quiet, country setting, suburban, frozen tundra, etc.) In our example, it's Manhattan: busy, bustling metropolis.

What is the nature of this apocalypse? (nuclear weapons, war, alien invasion, etc.) We've got a good ol' alien invasion here, but the invasion itself is a slow subtle process, not a War of the Worlds type of attack.

How does the sound of our initial state compare to the end state, and what is the sound of one becoming the other? Manhattan transforms into an alien apocalypse...

When setting the mood across game states, one method I employ is to create a simple chart detailing the key characteristic sounds of each stage of the game, how they blend, and when new types of sounds are introduced (see figure 3). This creates a map which can then be used to design sound components, play them against each other, tweak their parameters, and add new elements. Through experimentation, the sound for each game segment is developed and manipulated to transition between these various states.

Figure 3: The sound chart

Once I created this map, and checked out the concept art we had for the various stages in the game, I began compiling and designing some of the elements I had sketched out in my chart. To fully convey the transformation of the city from "normal" to "infected," I took the art I had received and made a movie crossfading between the various states of the city, which I then scored with my audio concepts (see figure 4).

Figure 4: The environmental change sound concept movie

This concept not only gave me a sense of how the audio tone might change throughout the game, but it also provided the rest of the team with an idea of how the game's design and visuals would be reflected through the audio. This transformation from what we expect in a Spider-Man game to something completely unique and foreign was very important to the game, and very important for the team to understand early.

Using my sound concept, which in turn used early visual concepts, we were able to give the team an idea of just where this game was heading. These exercises played an important role in energizing the team about the project and keeping them informed and excited about our direction.

This is perhaps one of the most interesting effects and benefits of sound concept work: the impact it has on other members of the team. So much of pre-production content is visual only, and adding the extra dimension of audio to pre-production concepts can provide the team with a unified vision of the game's direction and design during the early stages of development. The result is that the team better understands the game's direction early, and gets more enthusiastic about the project in the process.

A secondary result is that the team also becomes more interested in the sound of their game. On Web of Shadows, once we began creating and sharing our sound concepts, I noticed a dramatic increase in interest in regards to sound. I was approached by numerous artists and designers with requests to create more sound concepts.

Ostensibly, they wanted their ideas to seem more polished by adding sound, but these concepts each contributed in some way to the game's audio design by giving me the opportunity to focus on developing and shaping what would become many of the important elements within the game.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

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