Brink: ‘A Choir of Noise’
After taking a break for Christmas, Bethesda are back pumping out promo videos for Brink. This one is called “A Choir of Noise”. So put on your headphones, crank up the volume, and enjoy the brutal sounds that come from Brink’s many guns.
The trailer was put together by Splash Damage’s audio director, Chris Sweetman (previous credits include Black). Sweetman believes strongly that if you want to stand out from the crowd you have to record your own source material. His team recorded around 35 different weapons out into the wilderness of Nevada, where they could make good use of the sonic space. It was there that one person claimed the Barrett sniper rifle sounded like “God coughing”.
There is also an interview to accompany the trailer, which can be found on the Brink website. During the interview, Sweetman explains that the sheer number of sounds that go into a game – music, gunfire, dialogue, Foley, explosions, and ambient sounds – can all lead to problems. He describes them as all colliding to become an “aural mush”. It’s a problem he is determined to overcome.
We wanted every sound in Brink to be heard perfectly, whether it was a Molotov cocktail exploding, a mini gun winding up, or a heavy body-type player coming round the corner to stomp on your face. These sounds were only going to be heard properly with enough space in the audio mix. If you consider that it’s entirely plausible to have 16 players in the same part of a level, all triggering the same sounds, then the true scope of this challenge becomes clear.
Audio design is about more than sounding authentic, for Sweetman, it has to carry personality. He lists three objectives that his team are trying to achieve:
- We wanted to use audio to enhance gameplay. It can be very easy to fall into a trap of just attaching sounds to actions, however, it’s incredibly important to collaborate with level designers and not be afraid to say “that does not need a sound at this time.”
- Since SMART was going to be such a significant part of the player’s interaction with the game world, I wanted to really make it feel grounded through the use of Foley.
- Finally, because Brink is a FPS, weapon sounds were obviously high on the priority list. The player’s gun is essentially your lead actor as it’s on-screen 95% of the time, so you want them to have a good voice!
To solve the issues of having 16 players firing at once they are making the guns sound different for each team. The Security’s guns will sound “well-lubricated, snappy and precise” and the Resistance’s weapons will sound more “worn and weathered”. You should be able to know if it is an ally shooting nearby or a member of the opposition.
They haven’t left it there. They have recorded the audio with a “choir” in mind, taking into consideration the different levels of sound:
- A close-up third person sound – what you would hear if another player was right next to you.
- A mid-range sample – which would be played about 15 to 20 ft away from the firing player.
- A far sample – which would be played above and beyond 20 ft from the firing player.
These samples crossfade seamlessly and they incidentally help evolve the ambience of the battle based on what’s actually happening during gameplay.
Because they are not baked into an ambient soundscape, the three stages of distance actually create an interactive battle ambience. The player is able to tell exactly where a fight is happening and how far away it is.
There is a lot of time being spent on getting the guns right, but the team are also putting as much care into the recording of footsteps and other movement sounds. Sweetman wants you to be able to hear that heavy body type coming round the corner, and describes Foley (the recreation of live sounds) as being “one of the undiscovered areas of sound design in games”.
Sweetman goes into a lot more depth in the interview, and we definitely recommend you read it if you are at all interested in audio recordings or game development in general.
Brink is due for release this Spring, and boy is it shaping up nicely.