Hello “The Inter-webs”. My name is Calum. You may not know who I am quite yet, but some day I wish to be as proud of my own work as I am so very fond, In love with you could say of the Sound Design in this game series.
I would very much for you, my lovely reader, to take the time to really think about a specific moment. THE moment you finally reach the Fire Link Shine (the main hub of the game) for the first time, how it MADE you feel when the music started to play, not just suggest a mild mood to you, but MADE you feel. It was probably one of real relaxation, safety, a literal and Connotative pause in the horror and death that surrounds this very area. Two or so minutes before is the first boss fight which, as I will delve into in bit, is very different.
If for whatever reason you are reading this and you haven’t played it, then it might sound like such a simple, almost overlooked or obvious thing indeed. It’s just that this concept of contract really stays true throughout the first game and the series.
CONTRAST is the thing this game understands in all of its design philosophy, from gameplay, to the environments and what I will be focusing on, the sound.
Imagine a graph with the Firelink Shrine at one extreme and the various Boss Themes on the other extreme. Now these moments are pretty much the only time the player will experience any form of music in the game. Which will be be less than 10% of the total play time, if that. That’s not a lot of time, but It makes for a bloody great roller-coaster when you start to consider how the lack of music will naturally emphasise the Sound design and Atmospheres. The mood this connotes to the player is one of insignificance, solitude, and dread of the unknown . If you are more of a visual type you can relate these feelings to say a wide camera shot and a pitch black environment. We all know that these types of environments I just described are recurring themes in all the titles as it happens.
This feeling of safety continues throughout the game as you reach the various bonfires (checkpoints) littered around the world, the distant crackle of fire means salvation and hope, if only for the briefest moments. The player quickly learns to listen out for this sound, as a lot of the time these bonfires maybe hard to find visually. I cant quite put my finger on what it is exactly that makes the specific sound used for the bonfires so pleasing to the ears. It doesn’t sound like any old fire sound effect, it has a character to it that has become somewhat a modern icon dare I say it.
(picture by ©2015-2017 ralphdamiani)
Whether this is me just gushing now, I’m not so sure, but its definitely left some sort of impact on me, and the way I will design my own sounds in the future.
When checking the date for this I realised that a lot of my favourite Games were released in this year with titles such as Battlefield 3, Portal 2, The elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Rayman Origins and Dead Space 2! PHEW (we have to make some more Blogs very soon) and these all have absolutely stellar sound design all from very different directions too.
Whether its the heavy handed mickey mousing of the Dead Space horror strings.
The Vocal talent alone for Portal 2.
The bold and bone rattling style of Battlefield 3 or;
the back to basics design of Rayman Origins with one hella catchy original soundtrack.
2011 could be my personal favourite year for modern game audio as It happens. I prefix with modern because Sonic The Hedgehog 2 does exist. Bye for now and try and think of your own moment like this example while you go to sleep tonight.