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Darkness Revealed Update 37 - How to Create Effective Videogame Audio (Part 1)

Hello, everyone! How's it going?

In the next couple updates we'll wrap up our talk on sound design for project Last Dive. Before that, though, some important news. As you may have noticed, Pixel Cows has a new face! We've been on the road for almost 8 years now. Since our first days working in a garage, a lot has happened! We will soon be telling a little bit of that story and show how our new logo reflects that. As well as giving you guys an exclusive look into how we're rebuilding our branding.

For now, let's talk sound a little bit more! On the last update we showed how we create and perfect sound effects here at Pixel Cows. Today we'll dive a little deeper. Let's get going!

"Game Sounds" versus "Interface Sounds"

First off, we're gonna focus on SFX's creation from a game design point of view. You have probably noticed that Last Dive uses a semi-realistic approach for sound design. When Dave jumps, you don't hear a "boing!" sound as is common in more cartoonish games. Instead, you hear Dave's leathery clothing moving, and the sound of moving water.

But making stuff sound realistic doesn't attend to all game design needs. When players go out of their way to collect coins, they need a reward. It's not satisfying enough to hear the the clanks of Dave's metalic gloves touching the coins. Check the video on the left.

We then added the "coin being computed" sound (check the video on the right). It's not perfect, but man, what a difference, isn't it?

The coins are an abstract concept in this game. It's not expected that the player thinks that Dave is actually finding coins. He's not reacting as a real diver would: "Oh my, who put these shiny, perfectly-aligned coins here? I'll be filthy rich when I leave this place!" No. The coins don't exist in Dave's world. They are there for the player. There is a great tolerance for its audiovisual cues being more abstract than realistic. Their goal is to be satisfying, while only reasonable feasible. That's where the "semi" in "semi-realistic" becomes more clear. The coin sounds are interface sounds - just disguised so that they don't stand off too much.

The Secret Collectible (obviously temporary name) is another good example. There's a "realistic" sound is when Dave collects it. But then there's a satisfying interface sound as it's computed. Players must feel that they found something important.

Note that the computing sound has no intention of being part of that scene. It doesn't exist in Dave's world. It's there only for the player. Besides, it helps making the game more "juicy". Juiciness is a quality that a game has when interacting with it feels good. A combination of many small effects, animations and sounds can make a game feel "juicy". We'll certainly dive further into juiciness in some future update :)

To finish up this topic here's one last example of gameplay response, this time related to the HP hud. Can you spot the "realistic" versus the "interface" sounds?

That's it for today guys! Next, week we'll show the last part of our sound effects production. For now, let us know what you think of the sounds we created in this update. We'd love to hear! We are always hanging out on Twitter and Facebook, so feel free to say hello. Or, if you want to receive these updates complete and before everyone else, sign up for our Golden Chest

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