Sound of mobile shooters

Recently AK Audio team has designed a video prototype of how mobile shooters could sound. In this video, we are showing the redesign of shots, the dynamic mix (the term means that the prior sounds are highlighted in the necessary moments), the occlusion and diffraction systems (the physical process which makes sound waves stream around the obstacle) and the ambient sounds. This video compares the prototype to the original game sound and also deconstructs the layers of the prototype in turn.
And now let’s delve into what have just watched.

THE COMPARISON OF SOUND IN THE PROTOTYPE AND THE ORIGINAL game audio


1. Prototype

In the beginning of the video (0:07 - 0:11)  you may discover the scene, for which we have created all sounds and mixed them. In this scene, we hear the footsteps of the playable character, the sound of gunfire outside, the sound of approaching footsteps of the rivals, our gunshots, the gunshots of the rivals,  the impacts (in the playable character, in the rival and the metal fence), the sound of ambience. Each time an enemy is shot, we hear a specific sound, which signals of finishing the task, so there is no need to find a UI message confirmation.

The dynamic mix prevents the abundant sound from turning to mush - the sound adjusts itself to the part of the information which is the most important for the player. For example, such events as damage (the sounds of danger) and hit (achieving the objective) will be of the highest priority, while the expressive part of sound will be of the lowest priority in the moment of battle. Thus, the ambient sounds will be “bent” under the most valuable sounds according to the priorities we have set.

2. The original sound

From 0:12 - 0:15  we see the same scene with the original sound, made by the developers of the game. In the moment of battle, we notice the sound of bullets and grates and the sound of gunshots. It is difficult to distinguish between the shots of the playable and non-playable characters. The sound doesn’t provide us with critical information, such as:

  • are there enemies nearby?
  • does the player need to take action to eliminate rivals?
  • are there any allies nearby?
  • where exactly are all the necessary NPCs localized?

The sound may and should inform us of what happens outside the screen.

3. The prototype mix VS the original mix

From 0:16 по 0:24 we see a short scene.
When moving inside the building, the gamer hears the distant shots from the corridor and prepares for the fight with the rival. In this scene we hear well-mixed sounds, each moment we are provided with the most important information. For example, when we have just killed the enemy and the important events are reproduced, we listen to the sound of the crumbling plaster from the rival’s gunshots - the expressive part of the sound mix. Such embellishments mustn't impede the distinctness of battle sounds. This, as well, works due to the prioritization of voices.

0:24 - 0:27 - In the sound of the developers we cannot be confident whether our shot has reached the enemy or not, but the ricochet sounds even louder, than the shots of the MPC. The crucial and unnecessary information is blended into a harsh mix.

THE ANALYSIS OF THE PROTOTYPE AUDIO LAYERS


From 0:30 по 0:51  all of the audio systems are played back in turn.
  • at first, we can hear the sound of ambience - it is the sound of the working air conditioning systems;
  • next to it, we hear the footsteps of the PC and the approaching footsteps of the NPC. Mind that the most important information (footsteps of the enemy) is emphasized;
  • now the audio layer of weapon is added. In the moment of shootout the secondary sounds are bent under the sounds of gunshots;
  • then the layer of reverberation is added, it is an expressive part of the mix and helps to understand the size of space;
  • finally, three layers come: the NPC’s gunshots, the impacts  to the bodies and the grates

THE SHOOTER IN THE OPEN AIR


From 0:55 to 1:16 the work of prioritization system and occlusion system is demonstrated in the open air.

While getting out of the building, we hear the bullets passing by, which indicate that we are taking sustained fire and would better clear ourself of the line of fire. Since we are in the open air, we can hear as the reverberation of space changes and the sound becomes more “open”.

The prioritization system is clearly illustrated in the sound of the headshot. When we kill an enemy, we hear a specific sound along with the ducking of the whole mix.
Next to it, our ally is getting into the fight. His sounds have low priority. Pay attention to the fight of the allied player and the enemy with a shotgun.

TO BALANCE THE MESS


The final scene (from 1:18 -  to the end) demonstrates the gameplay situation when many informative events happen simultaneously:  the footsteps of the allies, the footsteps of rivals, our shots, the shots of the several enemies, impacts and taking damage. Plus, we hear the expressive part of the mix: the wind is blowing, trees are rustling, the birds are singing and so on.

In this scene all sounds are given in the proper balance. At first, we should hear more important sounds which will lead to some reaction, and only after it the beauty of soundscape will be shown.

CONCLUSION


To sum up, we would like to mention that the sound should give the information, which can be found outside of the screen. When the screen is riddled with a big number of notifications, it is of the utmost importance to provide the gamer with the information through the sound, so they will be able to make effective and timely use of it. Surely, with the help of audio, we can emphasize the specificities of the environment and the beauty of the sceneries.

We are often questioned: “But this will result in higher CPU load! Is the game going to work on mobile platforms?“. Using the modern audio middle-ware engines, we can optimize the processor load. This invokes several tools: only the important part of the information is processed; the amount of memory usage is reduced, when the contents are loads directly from the hardware of the mobile device; the amount of contents is lowered, when we operate the CODECs of the sounds. The good news is that there is no need to burden the programmers with the optimization and setting an informative and beautiful mix.

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