The lights are on
Creating a soundtrack for a horror game is no easy task. The genre relies heavily on tension and mood, so every little bump and squeal counts. Great soundtracks go practically unnoticed to players, bleeding into the overall atmosphere becoming a part of the larger experience. If you found your heart racing while walking through the decaying industrial halls of the Ishimura in the original Dead Space, chances are it was because the soundtrack was covertly pulling your strings. How does one shape a facet of a game so integral to the core experience? We talked with Don Veca, the audio director for Visceral Games, about his approach to crafting the Dead Space series’ audio experience.
For the original Dead Space, the first thing Veca did was go to Safeway. “Our big thing was dismemberment, so I sent e-mails out to the team asking if I could get volunteers for recording those effects,” Veca jokes. “But nobody volunteered, and I had to go to the grocery store and get melons…we bought a whole bunch of fruit – tomatoes, celery, corn – anything we could break and make a mess with.” Veca took his shopping bags full of produce ($400 worth, by some dubious accounts) back to EA Redwood Shore’s in-house recording studio. Like many movies, game studios often employ Foley artists to help engineer the sounds for a game. Since Dead Space was such an alien setting, it required some extensive audio manufacturing. In the course of one eight-hour recording session Veca recorded the brutal destruction of dozens of plant species. “We tried really hard to clean it up at the end of our session,” laughs Veca. “But it reeked, and it reeked for three months. The Sims guys eventually got sick of it and hired a professional cleaner.” Other sessions helped captured moody instrumental effects from Saxophones, cymbals, and different string instruments. At one point a couple of EA interns even climb into a dumpster to record banging and clanging sounds that would be used for Dead Space’s environmental effects.
Only so much material can be captured from planned studio sessions, however. Sometimes the best audio comes from unexpected places. “I got this little portable recorder,” says Veca. “It’s just a small Sony recorder, it's no big deal, but I can carry it anywhere. You never know when you might be sitting in a bar or a restroom or something and hear this kind of bubbling on the pipes that you want to capture. Believe it or not, a lot of the sounds in Dead Space were just from when I was walking down the hall somewhere.” Interestingly, Veca used this portable recorder to capture sounds for one of the Ishimura’s machine rooms while he was riding San Francisco BART train across the bay at night.
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The lurkers sound effin creepy as hell
The sound is the one of the main reasons the first Dead Space was so great. Creepy noises make for a creepy game.
The lurker sound actually made me jump right now.
i love being scared in these games. sound's scary!
Lurker made me jump.
I can't wait!
Thank you guys at game informer for always doing extensive coverage for music in video games! I'm a musician myself so I find myself enjoying these little articles a lot!
Gawd...you guys made me nearly crap my pants.
Interesting read! I loved the sounds in Dead Space. Kept me on my toes during the entire game.
That is so insane. It's really cool that they can do that. Audio technicians and people like that interest me.
Metroid for the NES had sum creepy music
That Lurker one really woke me up haha
So many vegetables have been wasted in the name of video-games.
I'm so hungry for Dead Space 2, though. This article was delicious.
ah god i keep relizing that game was f*ing awsome! I need to play it again.
oh yeah! this game is gonna be good. im not even gonna lie these sounds scared the hell out of me because the volume on my laptop was on MAX!!! lol. they sound great though. im gonna add this soundtrack to my collection. 2 thumbs way up
The first dead space had one of the scariest soundtracks and sound effects i have heard in a horror game. Maybe thats why it is probably my favorite horror game of all time.
Im craving for number 2. Keep the articles on Dead Space coming!
Im digging them very much!
i really dig the whole dead space franchise from the game to the movie to the wii on rail shooter, which was good by the way, the universe they crafted is impressive. I hope dead space 2 kicks major ass
The guys that breathed all the poison in the air on the one level just unsettled me greatly.