Creating the Sound of The Witcher 3 | #GameAudio

The A Sound Effect is on fire lately. Once more, I’m here to share a post of them: a great, great interview with the audio team from CD Projekt Red, the developer of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, where they talk about the how the sound of the game was created, developed and implemented.

First, let me stating saying that The Witcher 3 was one of the games I most loved and enjoyed playing in the past years. Along with Skyrim, for me, is one of the best games ever made on the “modern console” game era. So, I wanna leave here my congratulations for the team that made it: you guys nailed it!

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_A_lonely_tower__is_it_abandoned.0.pngAs an sound editor and recordist himself, Fred Pearson made some really good and interesting questions for the sound team, regarding the environmental sound creation, the dialogs and voice-overs, how did they managed to make the game sounds less annoying and repetitive, and also a bit about the soundtrack composition.

Below, I have separated some interesting excerpts of the interview. In full, you can read it liking on this link: Creating the Sound for the Grand, Wild World of ‘The Witcher 3’

(on how to make the weather sounds so dynamic and natural)

We opted to base everything on dynamic, living systems rather than resorting to single tracks that would have the full set of ambient sounds burned into them. So we set everything up to respond dynamically to various parameters such as wind speed, rain/storm intensity, time of day, location… To work, everything had to be split into its individual components: wind characteristics, water components (wave intensities, water types), leaves rustling (a few different types and intensities), branches cracking or other elements breaking due to stormy conditions, rain, thunder, etc.

Likewise, birds and other wildlife had to be assigned separate, clean sounds… Our most difficult job was to remove any unwanted noise from all those elements, all those components either we recorded ourselves or gathered from sound libraries.

Each sound had to be fine-tuned to the system, to everything down- and upstream of it, so that the resulting mix of components was not muddy, instead, letting all the important gameplay sounds come through.

(on techniques to avoid sounds to become repetitive and annoying)

(…)we produced a lot of variations (different takes) for things that we knew players would hear many times over in the game. Also, the old-school technique of pitch and volume randomization remains irreplaceable, and we applied it in many, many areas. But on top of all that, the game as a whole is deep and varied. That’s important as it greatly helps to mask repetitiveness, dilute any perception thereof.

(…)I would also add that many of the sfx in the game respond to real-time parameters. Quite often real-time changes in, for instance, wind speed or the type/state of rain can enhance or even fundamentally alter listeners’ perception of a given sound, be it the scream of a noonwraith or the sound of sword striking its target. It’s funny, something of a paradox – sometimes the easiest way to avoid sound repetition, audio redundancy, is not to touch the sound itself… but to slightly alter everything else instead.

(about the soundtrack creation and implementation)

We had this idea that we wanted to push the music further, make it an integral part of the game’s narrative. We knew we would need a new approach to implementation and to handling in-game music, so we started working on our own adaptive music system. The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_You_never_know_what_waits_around_the_corner.0.pngOur main goal was to make players feel that the music was constantly evolving and adapting to the storylines they chose to follow and to their style of play.

Implementation was handled in Wwise, and we took full advantage of the software’s features. A significant share of the music is layered, so we used a set of parameters and switches to control the behavior of the music and to craft sound on the fly.

(on how to make the two main regions on the game sound different, but coherent)

The Skellige Isles were going to be a harsh and cold environment – we knew that from the start. The design here was roughly based on the northern reaches of Scandinavia. The most important thing was to prepare the right type of wind, a more aggressive wind, especially at higher altitudes. Also, we focused on creating a different set of animals and birds for the region. Because the assumption was that the median temperatures there are lower, we also chose to reduce the number of insect sounds.

In contrast, for Redania and all the territory south of it that we refer to as No Man’s Land, we set out to create a more gentle, serene soundscape. We based our designs on elements we thought of as evoking the mood of Polish rural areas. Naturally, there were departures from this when we wanted to convey a sense of danger, have players feel the gravity of nature, its powers. But this was true for both areas, really, whenever weather conditions turned drastic and dangerous.

(about the weapon sounds design and implementation)

We aimed to be as organic as possible. Early on in the process, we started assembling sounds for various weapon types, recording and gathering sounds for swords, axes, knives, pikes, etc., as well as for sets of armor and shields. This gave us a great base to then further tweak. Later on we used different sound libraries to enhance what we had recorded. On the implementation side, the system’s core was a rather complex matrix of sounds. In essence, it’s a mix of 4 different variables: hit type, weapon type, material type and body part being hit. The vast number of possible permutations of that set of elements is the main reason why players shouldn’t perceive much repetition. A majority of the components were fashioned and implemented by our fantastic sound designer, Laszlo Vincze, who ultimately deserves most of the credit for the final result.

Great, right! Read the whole interview, there’s more details and info there!

Hope you enjoyed it! 🙂

Mauricio Ruiz – www.mauricioruiz.me

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