[GW2] Aural Canvas

ArenaNet has posted another great article from one of the other roles fans hear less about than the glamorous Colin job. I absolutely love that they are releasing articles like this. The people at ArenaNet have such drive and passion, and even the IT guy in charge of the server room was intensely passionate about his role in the company. The sound guys below the noisy server room follow the studio’s energy, and some of their daily routine is shown in a video recently released by ArenaNet. Yet, pragmatically speaking I couldn’t help wondering if they were wasting time with horse clops and smashing glass. Surely, those sounds are out there?

I know there have been plenty of instances where I’ve heard sounds from games in other games and media. I know that the Doom series seems to license its monster sounds to a plethora of cartoons. For many smaller studios, especially those that farm out lots of work, it makes good business sense to pay for already-created sounds that would fit. It would certainly take less time to browse a library of horse clops already formatted for video game delivery than it would be to get the sound from it’s natural state.

ArenaNet, due to the success of the original Guild Wars series and good graces from their publisher, now has the [Valve] time to refine their style. I’ve heard quite a few people liken the studio to “part art college” as ArenaNet spends plenty of resources to create award-winning concept art. Even the modelers and environment artists start out doing simple, yet restrictive tasks, but once they find ArenaNet’s hive-style and polish their own style, they are given more room to add personal touches. After thinking pragmatically about stock sounds possibly being the more efficient route, I thought that perhaps these aural engineers were artists too.

A good example of an engineer as artist is Walter Murch, who is an award-winning film editor. He is known for his work on Apocalypse Now and The Godfather, as well as for the seminal film editing book In the Blink of an Eye. Basically even though his job is extremely mundane in comparison to most “art jobs,” he was so good at his work that he elevated his role to artist. Clearly the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences understood this as they have been giving Academy Awards for Film Editing since the 1930’s. Murch is but one, great example.

I thought that perhaps ArenaNet was giving the sound guys the chance to create their own “painterly” soundscape within Guild Wars 2. If they created their own base sounds, such as chains rattling, glass shattering, or screams of terror, then their own personal touch will be on each and every sound. This personal touch would surely be lost on stock sounds already polished for video game use. I have to admit I had not consciously listened to the sounds when I played Guild Wars 2, but it is likely it was because they fit so well in the gameplay. They were simply just felt. Hopefully the next time I get to play Guild Wars 2, I will be more mindful of the sound finesse. Until that far off time, I’ll just have to enjoy the videos set to come from gamescom and PAX. Hopefully a few fans will be able to record the sound directly.


11 thoughts on “[GW2] Aural Canvas”

  1. One fundamental question : will the wilhelm scream be in Guild Wars 2 ? That could make or break the game, IM(not)HO.

    1. If I remember correctly, the Wilhelm scream was in one of the “Commando” skill videos.

  2. Stock sounds are great, but typically when you try to change them or adapt them, depending on how they were recorded and what they were recorded by, you may not get the desired result. It also depends on how many levels or how much depth the stock sound has (if it has any), so I can easily see (especially after the second video that was released today) why they would want to record their own sounds with their own tools.

  3. It is basically down to creating the “human” touch and making the game feels personal and raw to them, hence, giving back the same energy to the players.

    And of course sounds guys are artist!

  4. Or… they could focus on guilds, chat protocols, crafting, play balance and releasing the game. Just sayin’.

    1. I don’t believe the sound group has anything to do with what you mentioned…so that, in my opinion, seems like an irrelevant comment in relation to the videos and such.
      But back to the audio…they really are artists, there is no mistaking that. They seem to have such a passion for what they do, and enjoy doing it. I think the fact that they want to do quality work is worth the wait since it seems like every other group that is part of the GW2 production is working hard on doing quality work. And in the end I would rather wait for a game that shows that dedication versus a game that comes out that you get frustrated with because they just hammered things out like a machine and gave it to us.

  5. Stock sounds are a good solution for a small studio, but I think with a high-profile AAA title like GW2, in order to create a truly unique experience, the developers are well within their rights to create their own aural canvas.

  6. What really impressed me about the GW2 audio team was their attention to detail. Simple sounds that we take for granted, barely giving them a second thought, have been carefully crafted to fit the soundscape of the individual player. One example being the footstep, where consideration is given to the type of shoe, the terrain and the armor being worn by the character, and then appropriate sound “layers” being merged to form a footstep that sounds like “YOU”. I really do think I’ll find myself stopping at various stages in the game just to soak up the visual and audio pleasures that are so easily missed. :)

    1. Randomising slightly different versions of a sound and different pitches and combinations – the windmill example – amazed me and seems fantastic. I love the idea that not only do your steps sound different depending on your gear, but even background sounds should be almost unique each time you pass by something or hear wind in the leaves.

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