Sunday, November 26, 2006

Weapon Foleys

I was just watching some gameplay videos of Hellgate: London. You can find them at Hellgate has been one of the games I'm most looking forward to for a long time now, but there's one thing about the videos that disappoints me somewhat: the sounds. Some of the weapon sounds are good, but many are weak and uncompelling.

Truth is, I'm not sure what there is to say about this subject, because I would think most concerns would be fairly obvious, but here's a ramble anyway.

There are two parts to the sound of most weapons: launch/swing and impact.

Just focusing on the impact sounds: In gameplay trailer 3, the ammo of the first gun shown sounds like weak or distant firecrackers. The fire-jet weapon sounds like a soft aerosol. The rebound-splash weapon sounds decent in that the explosions have a "thud" quality providing a feeling of true impact, but it is still unexciting. The sword with a shock effect seems to create only a shock sound with the sword's impact being completely nullified. And so on.

When making weapon foleys, there must be a feeling of violence/force. That feeling should be related to, but not entirely dependent upon, the weapon's appearance and animation. If the sound doesn't provide excitement by itself, when you close your eyes and it's not associated with any immediate cause, don't think it will become exciting once added to a visual event, because it won't.

So, for example, here's how I would change those sounds in trailer 3: In addition to the popping gunpowder sound of the first gun, there's should a sound of those bullets exploding flesh apart (a dull, wet sound). The fire-jet should be mostly fire crackling and roaring, with only a touch of the aerosol effect. The rebound shot should have some sound when the shot rebounds, and the explosions should have a searing sound added to the gunpowder pops. The sword should be heard in addition to its shock effect.

If a weapon has any sort of elemental or magical effect, be it fire, electricity or dark energy, the sound of that energy alone is not enough...there must be a sound representing what that energy is doing to the enemy body. The sound of hitting someone with a ball of fire should sound different than turning on my gas stove. The sound of bashing someone with an electrically-charged warhammer should be different than simply turning on an old buzzing TV.

Even if you're making a new fantastic sort of weapon, the sound of impact is important. If your weapon launches a screaming spectre at your foe, make a sound to represent its dissolution into or passing through the enemy's body.

The sound of the launch/swing is also important, of course, because it is a sound more immediate to the player's avatar; it more represents the character's actions. In his movies, John Woo demonstrates the powerful impact of guns cocking and clicking. Sounds of exertion are great. If I'm bringing a warhammer crashing down on the enemy's head, it's much more immersive if, instead of merely hearing the impact, I hear my character shouting or grunting with violent exertion. The tension of a taught bowstring adds emotional tension for the player.

Anyway, hopefully Flagship will revamp a lot of their sound effects to make Hellgate a much more immersive game. As demonstrated by those scenes in war films where the sound drops out or the music takes over, sounds play a huge role in how we perceive visual events. Nuances of sound lead to nuances of emotional appeal and interpretation.

1 comment:

  1. You left several things out that we also consider when making weapon sounds.

    Coordination with rumble or vibration to give the player some 'kick' feedback

    Use of the subwoofer in 5.1 and low-frequency sound for some weapons

    How the sound reacts to environment (tinny ringing when shooting your chain gun in a tight concrete hallway)

    After sounds of reloading and shell casings bouncing down the stairs

    Variability of sounds to stop them from sounding repetitive

    Effects of things like heat on the weapon so you might get pinging or hissing as the weapon heats up

    Thats just the audio portion - lots of things contribute to the 'feel' of the weapon in the visuals.


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