Drowned in sound
It occurs to me that sound is an oftenignored part of games, both in terms of its design and how it effects our experiences. As a budding sound designer, I’ve become attuned to the state of our community’s general attitude to game sound, and it’s pretty shocking. Few reviews comment on sound, and while system specifications for PC games fetishistically list all the parts necessary for superb visual display, they never recommend a soundcard or advise you to use a 5.1 Surround Sound system.
This really hit home when I started playing Alien: Isolation. The game sounds absolutely amazing, from the off-key violin shrieks behind you as you step through doors, daring you to look behind, to the death throes of Sevastopol Station (almost indistinguishable from human screams) and Ripley’s voice spoken intimately close to the mic.
Alien: Isolation is designed to be played in surround sound. This is the way it’s been mixed and edited, with full multidimensionality. The game’s sounds are produced to a cinematic calibre and they require a home cinematic system to be exp experienced properly. So why is this fact om omitted from the system specification on Ste Steam? Why doesn’t it appear on the game’s out outer packaging? How many people are mi missing out? What does this say about the ind industry’s attitude to its sound designers?
As gamers, we appear to regularly for forget that sound plays just as important a ro role as vision in creating the environments we enjoy. System Shock 2 works because you can hear the moans of the mutants in the corridors, but you don’t know where they are, and ditto for Minecraft’s zombies and Creepers. The sound of footsteps creeping up behind you in PT is scary as all hell, and you can’t help but turn around when doors creak and slam shut. Even non-horror games such as Sword & Sworcery, Rome II and Skyrim all use audio to both unify and enrich the gameworld and our experience of it.
With games like Alien: Isolation and PT, we’re just starting to see the results of a modern approach to game sound design. Games are telling us that they can be the forerunners of sound design, pioneers in the drive towards 3D and VR immersion. It’s about time we started listening. Ashleigh Allan Playing games through a surround sound setup is ideal but, like the graphics cards you mention, it’s tech that not everyone can afford. A good alternative is a fine pair of headphones, of course, which just happens to be one of the options available from the SteelSeries kit you’ve landed yourself. In the future, we’ll try to be a bit more mindful of audio content during the review process.
“Alien: Isolation is designed to be played in surround sound, so why isn’t it on the box?”
When are developers going to learn about online launches? I am, of course, referring to DriveClub, which through a staggering combination of mismanagement and weak server infrastructure managed to arrive through the post with basically every feature I’d bought the game for missing in action. Patching it ‘later’ is unacceptable when your whole marketing revolves around driving with friends, and while the singleplayer mode gives an enticing hint at what might have been – and apparently what reviewers reviewed – it simply isn’t good enough.
It’s not the first time we’ve been burned by big promises and terrible launches. Sim City springs to mind, but so does Grand Theft Auto V and the Evolve alpha, for which I wasted over 12GB of bandwidth only to fail to connect to a single game. Yes, it’s ‘only’ an alpha, but it shows exactly how