I love gaming, but audio takes a pretty close second place in my heart. Be it soundtracks that perfectly capture the moment (or get the pulse racing) or a sound effect that sucks you in the experience, when it’s done right it can help take a game or a film to the next level. I regularly gush about soundtracks in my reviews and videos, but sound design is just as important in delivering a quality product. After all, equipping the most bad-ass looking weapon in the world to your character means nothing if the sound it makes when you strike a foe ends up like a tea spoon hitting a mug.
Actually, that would be quite funny.
One game that has always impressed me with its sound design is Guild Wars 2, and the Heart of Thorns expansion continues the high quality of work. As I looking into the topic it become clear just how seriously ArenaNet take this area of their game. Not only do their audio team have their own Foley studio, but (as I was to discover) they give their engineers the time and freedom to develop and create the effects we hear throughout the world of Tyria. That’s in addition to the proprietary engine used for the game, which uses variations of each sound type to make it seem like each sound effect in-game is unique. I for one am glad, anyway, because hearing the same “foot on grass” sound would have driven me insane.
ArenaNet have shown us how these sounds are created in the past – such as when the sound design team played with fire (seriously, go watch that video if you haven’t already) – but today they have released a new video in collaboration with Sennheiser that focuses on the audio effects and ambiance for the Heart of Thorns expansion. Ahead of its release, I was invited to chat with two of ArenaNet’s sound designers, Drew Cady and Jerry Schroeder, to learn more about the sound design throughout the Maguuma jungle. From favourite classes, to recording adventures, we also chat about why the team uses Sennheiser microphones – such as the MKH 418-S stereo shotgun microphone – for their work.
While this one is obviously geared at Guild Wars 2 fans, I’d recommend checking it out if you want to learn how sound designers come up with some (frankly ingenious) methods to create audio effects for your favourite games.
For those of you after a bit more detail, here’s some blurbs about Drew and Jerry:
Drew is a sound designer and foley artist for ArenaNet. He also does recording, mixing and mastering engineer for music, film and virtual reality. At ArenaNet he works mainly on the foley library, voice processing, creatures and ambient sounds for Guild Wars 2 and Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns. Drew has a driving need to push sound design and technology forward. He enjoys finding new ways of manipulating sounds and creating tools for a better product. Drew has lectured at the Berklee College of Music, DigiPen, Experience America and Seattle Game Audio Group.
Sound Designer, composer, bassist and creator of odd noises Jerry Schroeder (a.k.a. Urbex) is a game industry veteran with more than 15 years of experience dreaming up, creating, and implementing audio for interactive media. A member of the ArenaNet audio team, Jerry creates sound effects for various, skills, creatures, objects and emotions encountered while traversing the world of Tyria in Guild Wars 2 and Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.
For those of you interested in the equipment ArenaNet use, Jerry has kindly supplied a list, along with their uses:
Here are the Sennheiser microphones/headphones we use:
These two always tend to end up in our Foley recordings:
- MKH 418-S (shotgun microphone with an additional figure-8 element for stereo recording)
- MKH 8020 (omnidirectional microphone with frequency response of 10 – 60000 Hz )
Additionally, these mics are used in larger scale studio and field recording sessions. As you can see, we are quite partial to the MKH series.
- MKH 416 (shotgun)
- MKH 8040 (cardioid)
- MKH 20 (omni)
- MKH 30 (figure-8)
- MKH 40 (cardioid)
Headphones used by the team
- HD 280 Pro
- HD 380 Pro
- HD 25-1
- Game Zero