How game developers make the best sounds

How game developers make the best sounds


– Have you noticed that everything sounds better in video games? Chopping down trees,
(chopping) (thud) drinking wine,
(glass clinks) ripping paintings off walls. (tearing sound) In the Outer Worlds, looting the entire inventory off a corpse can sound like this. (rustling) Oh ho, we’re gonna call that The Sound from now on. It is viscerally satisfying to me. Listening to it makes me want to know how did Obsidian create The Sound, and can I make a sound of my own?
(clicking) We’ll get there. First, let’s talk about what The Sound is actually doing in the game. It’s a gathering sound, and a gathering sound’s job is to say, “Hey, you completed an
interaction with a virtual world, “and you have been rewarded.” Imagine if you tried to loot a body and it sounded like (blows raspberry). That ain’t right. In games where looting
is a central mechanic, as it is in The Outer
Worlds or Monster Hunter, the sound needs to be juicy. Can I say juicy? – [woman off screen] Absolutely not. – Shit. – So even if it’s subconscious, (cloth rustling) the sound designer and the developer want you to really enjoy gathering things and putting them in your inventory. – This is Hallie Boyd. She is a sound design grad student, and she says that sound design is one of the ways that developers can emphasize what’s important in a game and what should feel
important to you, the player. That’s why in a loot
shooter like Borderlands, when you open a locker (hiss, creak, metal clanking), it sounds like a big, gosh darn deal. Sound effects also need to
fit the game’s aesthetic. That’s why Stardew Valley
(pop) uses gentle popping sounds
(pop) to represent picking vegetables, instead of the sound of me literally wrenching a carrot from the earth. Outer Worlds, on the other hand, is striving for a stylish kind of realism. (fire crackling) So, if I want to make my own video game sound effects, I’ve gotta figure out
what’s important to me. Well, let’s take something that I do everyday at work, opening my laptop. (BLARING NOISE) I want opening my laptop
to invoke the feeling of opening a chest in Zelda,
(Zelda chest jingle) but I also want it to be semi-realistic, (clap) like that, that was a good sound. It should be exciting and juicy, again. While opening a laptop in real life is a near soundless and
depressing experience, this is fiction now, so I have a license to exaggerate. The sound is my inspiration (clanking), so let’s figure out
how the sound was made. – Most video games start with foley, just like in movies, right. (ding) You sit in a recording studio and you hit stuff against stuff for a really long time. Everything starts with that, no matter what you’re gonna end up with. – Basically, what you’re looking for are objects that have sort of some dynamicism to them, so… – This is Justin Bell,
(doorbell dings) the audio director at Obsidian. I spoke with him and his
colleague Renzo Heredia and got them to spill the beans on what makes good sounds good, assuming there are beans involved at all. – Name any item and we probably have some sort of variation of it. – It’s junk, that’s what it is. – Basically junk. It’s the stuff you throw away that you’re like, “I don’t need this.” Talk to an audio person,
and they’re probably like, “Simone, actually, can we grab that?” – But all of this junk is valuable, because sound engineers
like Renzo can use it to evoke a gun,
(gun chamber clicking) or a bottle of pills or
a rattling spaceship. – And then, you’re also looking for things that are sort of resonant. You know, if I tap on this (tapping), you could tell that it’s a cardboard box. So, when you’re going around your house, or your office or whatever,
looking for objects, tap them, shake them, rattle them, and if they make a sound that seems pleasing, go for those. – So what stuff was Obsidian using when they made the sound? I asked Hallie to make an educated guess as to what’s in the sound, and then I brought her ideas to Justin and Renzo to confirm. – What you were hearing
was sort of a mix of the sounds that were contained within the marauder dead body container, as well as the initial looting sound of grabbing the body and then
rifling through the clothes. (thud) (rifling) There’s different components to the sound. If I were to sort of break down grabbing this mint box in slow motion, there’s the moment that
your hand touches the thing. That’s sort of the
initial part of the sound. This is kind of, It’s kinda dark, but if you imagine that there’s a body there,
(laughing) and you’re going through their stuff, you’re gonna be rifling
through their clothes, so that’s what that would be. – There was material used that was sharp. (blade scraping) I don’t know how close it is to a real sword, but we have a metal sword
as part of our objects, and that was one of the things I used. I had a drawer shelf and a sword and then like other things. I brought a metal spatula. I would drag all three
and just try and get, like ching (metal scraping), something like that to happen. It was a lot of door materials, like door hinges, knobs. I took out chains, cause
chains were a little, they’re a little too high-pitched. But anything metal that was a good little satisfying shake, I brought that for ammo. – All of these components correspond to different things that you can loot from this poor, dead marauder. They need to sound
satisfying on their own, but also when they’re all played together, and that comes down to the mix. Sound designers manipulate
these recordings to get their desired effect. They also balance the
volume levels of each sound, so that your eardrums don’t get blasted when you’re trying to have (ding) a Satisfying Gaming Experience. – When you play that
sound, you want people to crave hearing that sound some more. – But, there’s something else that makes these individual sounds really nice to hear together. – Each of those sounds
that I laid our for you, they each occupy a different place on the audible spectrum. The bodily impact (punch) is very low-end. The cloth movement
(rustling) is a little more mid-range. The knife against metal
(metal scraping) is more high-mid, so sort of in that little in-between zone. The metal jingling
(jingling) is very much is the high end. Something you may notice about that is that’s exactly how we mix music. We carve out a place for the drums, and for the bass, and for the guitar and for the vocals, when we EQ music. – So, let’s break down
what I want to happen when I open my laptop in
this video game of life. Just like looting the body, the first layer of the sound is my hand touching the laptop. Maybe there’s some kind of creak to indicate the hinges working, and I think like a hiss of air when the laptop opens,
and something to indicate that it’s an electronic object, like clicking sound, or
keys or something digital. To make this fun slash hard for me, I’m going to try to make this sound only with stuff I can find in my office, which is sort of what
Justin and Renzo did, except they have a huge junk room. – I could give you some suggestions for when you do your foley pass. – The first rule of sound design is to get a completely soundless room and a really good mic, but Justin had some final advice. – Think about the relationship of your ear to the object, and that should sort
of be the relationship of the microphone to your object, because if you go right up to
the mic (loud crackling), versus (quiet crackling), sounds different, right? – [Host] Yeah. – What you’re hearing and what drew you to this object is how you were listening to it initially, so you wanna record that same perspective, that same distance from your ear, if that makes sense. – Okay, now it’s time to
use everything I’ve learned to make a sound of my own. We are going to run all
over the offices of Vox Media to look for dynamic and resonant objects that I can use to make a new sound for opening my laptop. So, as we discussed, we are looking for a contact sound, an electronic or key tapping sound to evoke what you do with a laptop, a creak for the hinges, and then maybe some kind of bwam or hiss for when the laptop opens. So, that’s what I’m looking for. Okay. (gasps) You know I love this. Can I take these? – [Pat] Yeah.
(click) – Here’s my bag. Got any questions, Brian, from your elders, your wise elders who are doing hard work here? (grunts) (whirring) Ooh, wait, oh. Try it again. (whirring) (unsticking noise) Ew. (sticky noise) (sticky noise) I kind of like that. Is that a good contact sound? (creaking) That’s real good.
(creaking) I could kind of see this being clicky, if I manipulate it. (rattles) You’re making a face that’s like, no. (fizzing) All right, I’m gonna
chug the rest of this, and then we’re gonna go to the VO room. (pluck)
– Ooh. (laughing) (pluck)
– Uh. Wow, you hear that noise? – Yeah, I heard it. (peeling) (tapping) This is actually probably, somebody just vomited
and turned off the video, because I’m grabbing a
hairy lint roller (laughs). I’m gonna take this.
(clicking) Is there anyone in here? Oh, hell yeah, okay. (whooshing) – [Pat} What does it
sound Like if you drag that? (squeaking) – Really, fucking good! (banging) Hmm. (banging) I said I was going to
record all of these sounds in our VO room with the good mic, some of these I’m probably
just gonna have to use what I record with this. – [Pat] Simone, you look like you’re absolutely rolling right now.
(clanking) (laughing) – I am.
(rumbling) (spray) (click) I’m gonna take this. (spray)
(click) So I think if I
(spray) take a couple of those
(spray) and then layer them on top of each other, I can get a prolongated, prolongated, elongated hiss. Okay, so we have a hiss now, which is the cleaner. We’ve got some different rattly things and some things that I
think might be clicky. We’ve got the creaky chair. There’s gotta be, Oh my God, how does that happen? – We need something to sort of say that the OS is alive, some sort of chime. (bong) – If you don’t listen to the bang, but just listen to the (bang). (blows raspberry) (strumming) – I don’t know. It’s your video. (laughing) – Sound design is so, so
important to video games, and it’s also quite literally invisible, (echo-y) because it’s sounds. Going through this process
of picking objects, and recording them and thinking about them makes me appreciate experts
like Justin and Renzo even more than I already did, because just one second of sound takes so much thought. I had an excellent time
making the sound today. I hope it turns out okay. I think it will. I don’t know yet, but it doesn’t matter, because even though I don’t
have Renzo’s experience or Hallie’s sound design education, what I did have was a lot of fun. (peeling & creaking) (distorted guitar) (clicking) (faint laughing) Wow. That was powerful. So, I think if you would like to go out and make a sound of your own, you absolutely should. The best way to learn something is to practice doing it. Maybe don’t show anyone what you’ve done on your YouTube channel.
(laughing) Thanks everyone for watching. Go out, make noise, have fun. (jazz music) – For all we know, maybe, Simone, you’ll decide to be a sound designer, and you will kick so much butt at it. – [Simone] Gonna quit my job (laughing), after I make this video. – It sounds like you’re
stepping on tiny mice. (laughing) – Give me some direction. (popping) (laughing)

100 thoughts on “How game developers make the best sounds

  1. Some day if we ever have fully integrated AR not only could we have customized HUDs but also customized sound effects…. If course if we get any of this under capitalism it's gonna also be super exploitative and serve corporations instead of the people using it.

  2. The hell was that sound though?! If a laptop made that noise I'd think it was possessed by a crippled old man trying to scream for help

  3. Wow, fantastic video! Foley is like the weirdest and the best job! You and pat look like you had A LOT of fun!)😁 unlike brian who is just like:😐

  4. This video was really good. I wish I knew more about this world when I was in school, maybe would have gave it a shot.

  5. Simone is living the dream. I've been interested in sound design since watching the documentaries in the extended lotr and Ben Burt from Star Wars.

  6. Dig this format! Would 100% watch more videos of you breaking down very specific art disciplines in game design, learning about them, and then putting them to use in random ways.

  7. I've thinking about how great the foley in stardew valley is after I watched a video about feedback in video games. Every action in sdv is so satisfying

  8. I really hate the lint roller peeling sound…
    It sounds like you're pouring some sticky slime that have been left unattended for 10 years and it is sticking to the bottom of the container…

  9. Zac the blob man from League of Legends had his blob noises made from a condom full of meat being slapped against the floor. This is a fact that I cannot forget

  10. Polygon employees: Sitting at their desk doing their work.
    Simone & Pat: Comes in and start tapping and touching things trying to find the best Sounds™.
    Polygon employees: ??????

  11. I've always had Foley work as a sort of "what I wanna do when I grow up" when people ask me(I'm 27…) alongside being an author or musician. But seeing this video really cemented it as a thing that deeply satisfies and interests me

  12. i had never really put much thought into how much joy sound design brings me. thank you for bringing this to my attention. HOWEVER, how is there not a download for the laptop opening noise??? share your creations with the world simone

  13. Here are some fun words for fun things in fun sound-design:

    – attack
    – decay
    – sustain
    – release

    – delay

    – echo
    – reverb

    – amplitude
    – pitch
    – stereo

    Source: what?

  14. I was a huge film nerd in high school, and I was an intern at a film studio. One summer I got to work in a foley studio for two weeks and it was hands down the coolest film experience I’ve ever had. It’s even more complex and creative in games, and I just think that is beyond cool.

  15. This was so fun and enjoyable to watch and listen to, thank you, Simone for giving us all moments of pure joy and curiosity.

  16. The recommendation to go and try it yourself is a little ridiculous. Most of us don't have extremely expensive microphones.

  17. Wow, this was so much fun and so informative! Also I love everyone in this video and Simone was so pretty. All around fantastic experience for me

  18. This is so. Damn. Wholesome. What a sweet video.
    I work in orchestra management, do you think they'd let me test sound levels for our recordings like this? Would I get such wholesomely cute interactions with my colleagues?

  19. 11:41 I was half expecting she would say "…the best way to learn something is through Skillshare…"

    Phew, thank goodness.

  20. Ok ngl the end result is actually really good! Simone, you should honestly do Foley for the upcoming videos! You've clearly got some good insight!

  21. I feel like this was an entirely elaborate ploy to cover up that Simone's laptop does sound that sticky and old opening because someone caught it in another video.

  22. I love this video, i find this stuff super interesting. So interesting that Sound Design is what i want do for a career after school

  23. I'm pretty sure that the inventory opening sound in The Outer Worlds is a sampled lamp pull cord. I'm like 90% sure. anyone who's reading this, try pulling up the inventory menu. check it out

  24. simone saying "juicy" and running around polygon’s offices trying to make video games sounds is my main source of serotonin

    thank you, simone

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