Introduction

Sound plays a big part in how a game can be realistic and believable. Similar to Films and TV shows, the use of high quality sound is equally important as good visuals and game play mechanics. This is because it is one of the main techniques of recreating a natural environment which in most cases one of the main goals for a game. In terms of using sound to create a convincing situation within a game there are two separate techniques that are used for different purposes. Impressionable sound and expressive sound are used alongside each other to give a representation as to how the player should perceive what is going on within the story.

Impressionable and Expressive Sound

Impressionable sound is used in games to help simulate a real world environment. Therefore the sound effects used are more realistic and should describe what is happening within the shot. Ideally, the sound should represent the action so that the visuals wouldn’t be needed for a player to recognise what is happening. This would give a good representation as to what is happening and would give the player a good perception of how the game is playing out. Since impressionable sounds are used to represent something that is real, and would happen in real life, this technique is mainly based on non fictional events. For example the sound of a door slamming or someone screaming would be impressionable as it is something that would be heard in reality.

Opposing impressionable, expressive sound is used to emphasise something within the scene that is fictional. This means that any sounds that are implemented that wouldn’t be made in real life would fall under this group. Therefore there are many examples of sounds that could be included that are used in this technique. The use of music is one of the biggest parts of expressive sound since it adds a sense of emotion within the shot. Music is often used to help the player know how they should perceive what is happening at that point. The timbre of the track is the main variable that allows the player to do this since the pitch or the intensity gives this feeling. Expressive sound is great for showing emotion and themes since it adds something to the scene that impressionable sound and visuals cannot replicate in the same way. For example, actions like punches and kicks can be emphasised to suit the atmosphere within the scene. The players character could be shown as a powerful individual by having a louder “thud” sound when the action is done. Again this emphasis would not have been possible without the use of expressive sound.

Both techniques are equally important since they add a huge amount of detail to the situation and players perception of the game. I think that the games that implement and use these techniques to a good standard are at advantage since it is great way to give more information and add to what is being given with the visuals. Not only this but they also have the option to emphasise something within the story which can be used to show the significance of an action or sequence of events.

Indie Game Sound Case Studies

For this task we were asked to create case studies that would show how impressionable and expressive sound is used in two separate games. The games chosen would need to be 2D based and developed by an indie studio. They would also need to be contemporary (made within the last 10 years) so that we could find accurate and reliable evidence from research. To suit the type of studies that we were going to be carrying out, we were informed that the two games could not be similar so that each study would not be based on the same information.

I chose to research Undertale and Ronin. Both games are 2D and were made within the last two years. I felt that these two particular games would be interesting to compare and contrast since they are very different, despite being developed and released within a few months of each other. Undertale is a game that is heavily based around pixel art and uses the same format throughout the entire game, however Ronin is mainly based on vector art. Although this isn’t directly connected to sound I think that the art format can affect the sounds used since they are normally of a similar style.

Undertale Audio Analysis

After watching this video – Undertale (Pacifist Run, No Commentary) Part 1 – A New Home , I quickly noticed that the sound being used was very expressive. Just seconds into the game play I could tell that the developers intentions were to use certain music and sound effects to make the player feel a certain way. I think that this is very effective since the game is pixel art based, therefore if the sound choice was impressionistic, I think the game still wouldn’t be realistic, therefore could seem boring.

What style of sound is used? (Are the sounds impressionistic, expressive or a mix of both?)

Overall Undertale is heavily loaded with expressive sound. In my opinion, this is because the game uses a pixel art format, which to some players isn’t the best art format to use for a game. Although there is a large collection of people that enjoy the use of pixel art since it installs nostalgia and an old feel to the game, I think that the developers needed to adapt to have more people become interested in the game. If only impressionable sound was used, I think that the game could become boring very quickly. Not only because there would be many silent points in the game, but I think that certain parts of the game would not be suitable for impressionable sound. Normally, impressionable sound relies on very distinct movements so that the player can notice and connect a movement to a sound. However in Undertale, the movements are not distinct which would make it difficult for the player to make this connection. This in turn would also make the game very boring and tedious.

To match the pixel art format, Undertale uses and array of samples and synths that are inspired by the kind of music that would be found in a game from 90’s, however I feel as if it has been adapted to suit the interests of the target audience. The style of the music and sound effects are very similar to those used in the 16-bit era. They also have a very chiptune feel which adds to the nostalgia of the game.

Throughout the video that I watched (Undertale (Pacifist Run, No Commentary) Part 1 – A New Home), I noticed that the music and use of sound effects varied depending on the situation and how the player should feel about what is happening. When the character was in a peaceful and calm situation, the soundtrack represented these feelings. Since the situation was positive the music changed to a high tone with a slow tempo. However for an intense situation this is completely the opposite. For example in the video, at (5:51) the game cuts into a fight scene and the music changes to a low beat with a very fast and intense speed. This would have been implemented to alert the character that the situation was negative. The sounds used vary from not only the atmosphere that the character is in but also the location. Again the type of sound used would show the character what the emotions should be felt.

Why do you think the creators chose this style?

I think that the creators of Undertale chose this style of sound because it suits the art format that was used in the game. When the gaming industry began, the technology used was one of the main limitations that held back the potential of some games. This caused game developers to find solutions to get around the problem. Two of the biggest solutions that were found and implemented were the use of pixel art and chiptune sound. These two elements quickly became a huge part of the gaming industry since they could be used on the low memory that the games had at that time. Since these were in the small group of options that players had, the pixel art and chiptune format became a very recognisable combination. Therefore I think that the same combination was used in Undertale for this reason.

What effects does this choice of style have?

The use of the chiptune sound style has a huge effect on the playing experience in Undertale. Without it, the game would be boring and could be difficult to follow at times. The sound effects and music used plays a huge role in how the player perceives the game. Atmosphere, emotion, and feeling are all perceived by the use of sound. Since the game is pixel art based, the visuals are sometimes very basic, so it is essential that the sound is powerful enough to convey what is happening in each individual part o  t which is crucial as I feel that they can easily be connected which makes the game easier to play.

What production techniques do you think the creators used to generate this sound?

After doing some research I found that the developer of the game, Toby Fox used FL studio to create the music and a selection of sound effects programmed by MIDI. The majority of the music in Undertale used free sound fonts. This meant that Toby had to create a chiptune feel that would suit what was needed of each part. According to an article on The Sound Architect, Toby created all of the games music before programming any of the mechanics within the game. He said that he done this so that the music would lead the visuals, which worked well since the sound always backed up what was seen on screen.

Why do you think the creators chose these production techniques?

 In the article, I read that Toby was a music composer, therefore I feel that he would have chosen to use these techniques because he was familiar with these type of operating systems. Since he had used these techniques before, it would have been much more time efficient than what it would have been if he chose to use a different software. Also, Toby used many different sound fonts so it is is possible that he could have used these before, making the process easier overall. Another reason why I think that he chose these techniques was that he knew exactly how to get the effects that he wanted from this software as he had used these before so he would have been able to accomplish the exact effect that he wanted.

What effects does this choice of production techniques have?

I think that Toby made a good decision in using these techniques for the production of the sound. Not only does it work well in the fact that it is expressive enough to keep the game interesting, but it also adds to the strong retro theme that the game has. If a different software was used the sound might not have been accurate to what Toby had planned for which is important since the sound is such a huge part of the game being the foundation for simple visuals.

Explain how these decisions present a creative solution to a problem

The use of chiptune sound alongside the pixel art visuals was a very good solution as to what type of sound should be used. Since the two elements were used so frequently in the older retro games I feel that it is more than suitable for them to be used alongside each other here. I think that if a different type of sound was used here, the players perception of the game could be mixed as it would be hard to know what the developers intentions were as to how the game should be played. I also think that the game would not be as interesting since the sound would not have been as powerful, especially if only impressionable sound was used.

Ronin Audio Analysis

Ronin is very different to Undertale in terms of audio and use of impressionable and expressive sound. This is because it uses both techniques to help the game easier to follow. I think for this type  of game, using both techniques is suitable since there is more high quality visuals than what was seen in Undertale. Movement is much more distinct in this game so I feel that impressionable sound can be used, as well as expressive to emphasise emotion and feeling in the atmosphere. After watching a game play video (RONIN Walkthrough Part 1 No Commentary) I noticed that the game was much less reliant on the sounds used. This is most likely because there are more visuals that need to be followed on screen.

What style of sound is used? (Are the sounds impressionistic, expressive or a mix of both?)

The choice of sound style is very interesting in Ronin. The game uses a mix of both impressionable and expressive sound. Although it uses both techniques I noticed that there is significantly less sound in the game play I watched. I think this is connected to the visuals and what is seen within each shot. Ronin is based on vector art and has a lot of detail on screen, therefore I think the developers made the decision to have less sound to make the game easier to process and follow. I also noticed that the sound is very subtle in that the music is very repetitive and that the ambient and foley sound stands out from the other parts of audio. I think this was done to emphasise the movements of and around the character since this would be the main focus.

Why do you think the creators chose this style?

I think that the creators chose to use this style of sound as it helps the game be easily processed by the player. Since the game has very rich visuals and requires the player to find their way through the environment on each level I think it is important that the game isn’t confusing which is why I think they made the decision to have less sound. For example there could easily be sound for every aspect of the shot, however the majority of the sound is made by something that effects the character or by the music.

What effects does this choice of style have?

Although there isn’t a huge amount of sound design in Ronin, I still think it plays a big part in how the game is perceived by the player. Since there is both impressionable and expressive sound, I think that the game is much easier to follow than what it would be if there were only one technique used out of the two. In particular, I think that the expressive sound was implemented very well since it gave the effect that the player needs to play with stealth which is an important part of the game.

What production techniques do you think the creators used to generate this sound?

After doing research, I couldn’t find any information as to how the developers of the game produced the sound or what kind of software was used. However after watching more in game footage I think that a lot of the sound effects, specifically the ambient sound was sampled from online resources. This is because the sounds that have been included seem very generic and could have easily been found online. The music is also very repetitive and could have have therefore been sampled in places.

Why do you think the creators chose these production techniques?

Overall I think that these techniques would have been used as they suit what was needed of the sound design within the game. Since the visuals are very rich, and have a high resolution I think that it was important that the sound wasn’t to intense/misleading for the player as the game could become confusing to follow. This is what the developers would have known to avoid since they want the players to get the players to have the best experience from the game.

8 Bit/Foley Sound Dub Task

For this task we were asked to recreate the audio in a small clip from the film, The Princess Bride. We needed to create sound effects using both BFXR and objects for the foley work. BFXR would be used for 8 bit sound effects. The video was a scene showing a sword fight between Inigo Montoya vs. Westley. Throughout the scene there is a very intense atmosphere. The audio was made up of a soundtrack, foley and ambient sound. All of these elements contributed to the tone of the scene since there was so much audio work included.

Starting with the BFXR audio, I watched the video through and chose the 30 seconds of audio that I wanted to recreate. I then noted down the sound effects that I needed to recreate throughout the 30 seconds. This meant that I knew exactly what I needed and that I wouldn’t need to keep referring back to the video whilst creating each sound effect. Here are the audio settings I used for each sound effect. Each one was adapted to suit what was needed so that the sound could be easily recognised and was similar the sound from the original audio of the video.

bfxr-sc-1
Settings for the sword clashing
bfxr-sc-2-swoosh
Settings for the sword swooshing
bfxr-sc-3-step
Settings for the first Step
bfxr-sc-3-step-2
Settings for the second Step
bfxr-sc-4-intense-sfx
Settings for the intense ambient sound

After adding the sound effects to the timeline and syncing them with the footage, here is what the project file looked like. I used six separate layers for the sound as I needed to have more than one sound playing at the same time at some points of the video. I then rendered the sequence into an MP4 format so that it was suitable for online viewing.

timeline-8-bit-dub

Once finishing the 8 bit dub project I moved onto the foley sound section of the task. Overall I found this more difficult as we had to physically record that sound and find objects/resources that would accurately represent what was needed. I also felt that it was more difficult to sync since the foley sound that we had recorded was not the same length as the sounds used in the original audio. Therefore I changed the length in post production so that the audio was more accurate to the original. Here is a screenshot of the timeline.

timeline-foley-dub

How will this task help you to meet the current requirements and parameters of your project? (Explain the purpose of the task. What did you learn? How can you apply this knowledge and experience to future work?)

By doing this task, I have been able to learn about what it takes to be a foley sound designer. I feel that seeing the comparison between the 8 bit and foley versions was very effective since it gave me a good perception of what either option works well for. The overall intention of the task was to allow us to see what processes we would need to go through in order to recreate an audio sequence for a video.I felt that I did a good job since the sounds I created were an accurate representation as to how the original audio was in the video. By doing this I feel much more confident about working with foley sound in the future and know that I will be able to apply what I have learnt to work in future projects.

What research activities did you undertake in order to help you create your sounds and dubs? Were these activities effective? What other research activities could you have undertaken? (Remember that observation, experimentation and trial and error are forms of research)

Throughout the task, I carried out research to try and get a better idea of what would have been effective for what was needed. For the 8 bit version, I used the BFXR software to get used to the interface and different effects. This helped me find the different types of sounds that would be needed throughout the 30 second clip. I also looked at similar videos that had be re dubbed to get a better idea of what kind of sounds were used since the chiptune style was completely different from the sound used in the original audio. I felt that this really helped with the task and significantly impacted the final result. For the foley version, I spent time with my group working the props/objects we were given to help us get a better idea as to how we could get the sounds needed that would be accurate to what was in the original audio. The task would have been very difficult to complete, had we not done this.

How will this task help you to plan and organise your work on the current project? (Consider the results of your experiments. What effect did these processes have on the material i.e. the film sequence? How can you use this knowledge in your planning? Were there any problems with either process? How would you factor this into your planning?)

Overall I think this task has helped me realised the amount of time and effort that can go into a foley design and how important it is for a project like making a game. Therefore I think that it is necessary that a significant amount of  time is spent on working with the sound to ensure that it is to a good standard. Furthermore, sound has a big role in terms of giving a foundation for visuals so I think that it is crucial that it is considered in a production plan.

How did you apply your practical skills? Did you learn any new skills during the process?

During the task I used what I had learnt throughout the week to create the sound effects. Particularly for the 8 bit sound, I used my knowledge of BFXR to create the assets that were needed of the task. Without the initial input of how to use this software I would have found the entire task much more difficult. I also used what I knew about Adobe Premier Pro to create the sequence and sync the sound to the footage. Before this week I did not know how to use BFXR at all so I feel that was the biggest learning curve to take away from this task.

How effective were your solutions in solving this audio-based problem? Consider the strengths and weaknesses of your work. How could you improve your sounds and your sound dubs? How do the two results compare?

I think that the work I have completed is to a good standard. I have managed to accurately recreate the original audio from the footage in both Foley and 8 bit. From listening to the sound effects I have made, you can easily recognise each sound and what it is representing within the footage. This was one of the main intentions of doing the task. I think at certain points throughout the two sequences the quality lacks since there are a few silent gaps that could have been filled with other sound effects. However I will keep this in mind for the future. Overall I think that the 8 bit dub is better since, it gives a different view of how the scene could be perceived by the audience which is unique from the foley version.

Here is what I came up with overall from the task. Full permission has been given by the artist to use the music included in one of the videos. soundcloud

8 bit dub with music

foley dub

Social Media Report

This week I posted my work on both Facebook and Twitter using hashtags to try and drive attention to the what I had done. On both platforms I uploaded the 8 bit dub of the scene since I felt this would attract the attention of some readers, or those who were interested in editing and retro like videos. Despite including hashtags on both posts I did not receive any feedback for the work. Next week I am going to plan and save more time to share the posts to people who I know and can trust will give feedback.

Reflection

Working with sound has been very interesting since I have not worked with sound like this before. We worked with both 8 bit and foley sound to recreate and audio sequence for a scene in a film. I felt that I completed this task well. I also carried out two case studies on game sound which I also found interesting since I had never actually focused on the sound aspect of the games before. The work I have done this week is very beneficial since I will be able to use what I have learnt in other aspects of my work and in future projects.

Bibliography:

Mike, S. (2017) Issue navigator. Available at: http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/expressive-sound-design-exs24 (Accessed: 5 February 2017).

Why the music to Undertale is awesome! (2016) Available at: http://www.thesoundarchitect.co.uk/why-the-music-to-undertale-is-awesome/ (Accessed: 5 February 2017).

Novaphyer (2015) Undertale (pacifist run, no commentary) part 1 – A new home. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQY0V2G9gc8 (Accessed: 6 February 2017).

Noire Blue (2015) RONIN Walkthrough part 1 no commentary. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgiDThoqThM (Accessed: 5 February 2017).

Katukaz (2014) Imagine dragons – warriors (league of legends) | 8-Bit Remix by Katukaz SoundCloud.

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