A Glorious Noise
In a game, sound can (and should) be subtle and not overtly noticeable, such as he chirp of a bird, the leaves rustling on the ground underneath it's perch as the breeze gently brushes them or the traffic a block away from the middle of the park your standing in. The everyday, normal auditory breath and life of the city. Sound is the cornerstone of immersion into another world. We believe this is just as important as the other side of the sound coin.
The other side is the obvious sounds. Sounds that make you feel powerful. The sound of electricity leaving your fingertips. The sound of the air cracking as you emit lasers from your eyes. The sound of your armor powering up. The sound of air rushing past as you plunge headlong through the sky or run at super speed down an open freeway. The grunt of the thug you just punched into next week.
It is also those sounds that scream danger; the rumble of the earth quaking as the giant monster stomping its way through the city, the ticking of the bomb you must defuse before it blows, the roar of the blazing fire that threatens the lives of everyone in the building. You know you won't be the only one out there with powers as well, don't you? These sounds can help identify them as well.
You may ask, "But how do you make the large amount of sounds that go into a game like this?" Good question. Honestly, there are a million ways to make a million sounds. Sound design encompasses foley (recording sounds made by people in a studio), "found" sounds (recordings of objects or things out in the world), sound libraries (pre-done libraries of sounds made specifically for sound design use), synthesized sounds (sounds made electronically), etc. Pretty much anything and everything that creates a sound can and will be used. My personal program of choice is Avid's Pro Tools because I am a recording/mixing engineer, but sound design can (and is) done with a multitude of programs. Whatever sounds we make are then exported to create our own sound library, ready to be utilized in the game.
For example, let's say we need the sound of a giant robot's leg as it is moving. Without graphics we would just use our imagination to guess what sounds we need from a description from the Art and Composition departments. With graphics, we need to match the movement, style and general "feel" of the graphic to customize the sound it may make. We could start with machinery sounds such as hydraulics, boilers, presses, forklifts…anything and everything. We then take that audio and hack, smash, slash, hammer and bend the rules of time and space to mold it into what we want. Then we think about what that thing would sound like hitting the concrete…and water… and dirt…and asphalt and start the process over for each sound while making them as cohesive as possible so that they sound like one thing making all this noise.
These things and so much more make up sound design. It is the icing on the (necessarily) graphics intensive cake. Great sound has become an extremely important and ubiquitous part of modern gaming and we are definitely making a modern game. Things like one sound per power, powersets that are annoyingly loud or jarring, immersion breaking noises and too-often repeated sound events are definitely not on the agenda at MWM. Our goal is to make sounds that players will never tire of hearing and help to realize a living, breathing City of Titans.
-Rob “Revolution” Newton, Sound Design Lead