White Night Sound design
«The main question is how to immerse the player and maintain the tension. Which sound artistic direction according the overall feeling we want for the game: tension, fear, oppression, strangeness»
Nicolas Bredin, Sound Designer for OSome Studio
Give life to the character
In video game sound design, the first step is to give life to the character in order to create an identification for the player. It’s very important for the sound to reach that point as the player controls the main character.
We decided to sound very precisely the hero, each of his movements, a lot of raincoat sounds were recorded in studio and then integrated in the game, the heroes is sounded specifically for each action he does.
Paradoxically he has no breathing sound, nor onomatopoeia. We can just hear his voice via his narrator’s role. The player is confronted at this strange paradox from the very beginning of the story. It makes the player uncomfortable, as the universe is not as “real” expected.
On the whole, the variety for each sound (twenty for each feedback played in random) contribute to create a realistic environment. In addition, it was interesting to get off the certain aesthetic of video game and create something little bit different by avoiding too much exaggerated sounds, and play with the sound dynamic and put a constant progression during the adventure in term of loudness.
Majority of sounds in white night were recorded specifically for the game: door, cloth, footstep, water drip, paper and matches/candle etc. with very few transformations after, just mainly of course a mixing work between different layers.
For example, for matches & candles I recorded the sound with the mic very close to the source in order to record the smallest details of crackling and flame’s blowing. But there is no sound added artificially. It gives the strange feeling to hear this sound as we can hear in real life, as if you had your ear stuck on the match. The sound of mechanism are very important too in the Mansion, it gives life to each object of this strange place from which the player can’t escape. No exaggeration here too, we stay in something uncluttered.
Ambiances & drones
I use exactly the same approach to create ambiances at the beginning ; for example in the forest or the garden’s Mansion with only a main layer of wind and some random of nocturnal animals triggered randomly. But just sometimes, a subtle drone is played as to remind the player that something strange happened and stays present.
The more we progress in the Mansion, the louder and unrealistic is the sound. In fact we have constantly a “fragile” balance between realism and unrealism with the use of drones which contribute to maintain a feeling of tension and oppression during our progression in the game. The drone refers to unusual frequencies for the listener, something “cold” by nature because all the waveforms are generated by computer. More precisely it refers to unusual relation between frequencies and because we haven’t the practice to listen this kind of sound it creates automatically a discomfort. Associated with images and gameplay events it contributes to enforce the tension. The more we progress in the adventure the more the drone are loud and dissonant and take all the place until the End climax.
Contrasting ghost sounds
In White Night, the player must escape from the Darkness and from the Ghosts which haunt the mansion and are hidden in the obscurity.
Between uncluttered sounds and unrealistic ambiances, the Darkness feedback must sound differently. The idea was to create something evolving according the distance between Darkness and the player, as an information to help him to escape. As the Darkness comes closer the sound becomes loud and unhealthy, percussions become more powerful; that enforces the urgency feeling for the player.
Ghost are more aggressive and pounce on the player. The best way to frighten the player is to play with very loud punctual sounds contrasting with a relatively constant sound dynamic. It’s something related to how much our attention is focused and how much our ears acclimate to a constant sound level. Thus the percussive sound mixed with very loud frightening scream of the Ghost slices radically with the tense climate in which the player navigates.
Combining all these elements, we obtain something definitely coherent that underlines the overall mood of the game, something that often oscillates between realism – unrealism, strange – eerie, uncluttered-loud, tension-fear, a sound design close to a musical approach with the use of drone, which progresses inexorably with player progression in the narration.