Not so long ago I was playing a battle of World of Warships with a friend. As I sailed past his Neptune, he was firing all guns at a Tirpitz. At that moment I forgot what I was going to do because the sounds of his shots were so cool. I began to pay close attention to the sounds in the game and started wondering how the hell they did it. Every good computer game has great sounds and quite often you are not aware of it and World of Warships is no exception. Great game with great sounds so how does Wargaming make those sounds?
Well let’s find out from Arthur Tokhtash:
How big is the team working on the sounds in the game?
Our Audio team consists of four multitalented professionals working on game’s audio:
Artur Tokhtash (Audio Team Lead, Music Composer, Lead Sound Designer)
Vladimir Gorbunov (Senior Sound Designer, Music Composer)
Savva Dudin (Sound Designer, Music Composer)
Alexander Kozlov (Senior Audio Programmer)
Do you use real gun sounds?
We work with some licensed “natural” source material pre-recorded in different conditions to design our iconic WOWS gunshot sounds. During our lab researches, we found that “real gun sounds” sound not so real compared to specially designed ones.
Therefore, we work hard on every gunshot sound layer to achieve that Boom sound that makes our players feel shivers every time they push the fire button.
If so which guns did you use?
From 7,62 handguns to 120 Artillery Guns. Every good sample should come in handy.
If not how do you render the sounds? Should I think of combination of sounds like they do in for example Jurassic park or do you use old film footage?
We maintain modular sound design approach for every sound in the game starting from subtle ui sounds to huge explosions – it’s like a layer-cake made of small samples. For example, let’s examine how our gunshot sounds are made. Every gunshot bang in our game consists of four main layers: Attack, Gunfire, Echo and a Post-Effect (various recoil sounds and so on). At first, sound designers manage ‘attack’ and ‘gunfire’ layers, because these are not just sound effects: they inform players about the calibre of the weapon. The ‘attack’ sound prevails over the overall audio scheme of the game: when this layer is being played there’s a ‘ducking’ effect that allows to hear each gun in the gun mount. For this layer, we also use generated impact effects, and their frequency is unique for each gun calibre. As for the ‘gunfire’; we use the layered cake principle: sound is designed by layering audio elements one upon the other, then this ‘cake’ is equalized and adjusted to each other to create surround sound. Then there goes “echo” and post effect sound – different for each in game ship.
This variety of sounds is being managed by our audio engine, WWISE – we combine the sounds in a structure that we call “Ship Audio Passport” – it’s like a bunch of folders organised by ship type and ship name.
How do you know for example how the Bismarck guns should sound? Since there are no Bismarck guns left to fire from that era?
It should sound in a way that our players could say it is very realistic and pleasant to hear. It has been proven that every player can tell if the sound is OK or not – nobody knows how exactly it should sound, but if it is not satisfying enough – we have something to improve.
We test every new sound during the set of playtests and super test sessions to ensure it sounds just right.
How do you decide how the ship engines must sound? Do you again use real ships for this?
We combine some prerecorded sample material and generated samples in our modular way to differ the sounds of each in-game ship.
Are the sounds going to change the next patch (6.6)?
For 0.6.6 we produced a huge sound update featuring full rework for every aspect of sound within the new quality pre-set, it’s Ultra High in our game’s audio options. In addition, we provided a dozen of new music tracks and updated the audio engine.
For 0.6.7 we are planning to roll out the musical mode selection switch (Mixed/ Dynamic/ Original) that will provide the opportunity to fine-tune the overall musical scheme of the game.
We have prepared some major enhancements for PVE game modes, new voiceovers and new sound effects for Ultra High pre-set for upcoming 0.6.8 and 0.6.9 patches.
How have the sounds evolved until now? Thinking of quality and quantity.
Starting from WOWS initial stage of development, overall in-game audio has dramatically increased in quality and quantity – now we manage over 4000 top-notch sound effects baked in our sound banks plus more than 5 hours of soundtrack.
As for the quality, we started with temporary sound assets that were cut from licensed libraries. And then we drastically improved every aspect of the sound design – made it 100% “custom” and tailored for our gameplay.
Are there Easter egg sounds in the game, like for example the Wilhelm scream in Star Wars?
Sure, starting from coded Morse messages in port to some in-battle sounds. You want to listen to game’s audio (sfx and music) carefully and maybe you would encounter something cool 😉
How do you choose or who chooses the music?
I enjoy a strong and distinct relationship with music: from the start of WOWS development, I have composed over 3 hours of soundtrack that makes me feel proud. Vladimir and Savva love to compose the WOWS soundtrack as well, so we work closely to provide the brilliant soundtrack filled with creative ideas.
The main thing about our in-game soundtrack is that it is very eclectic – it sounds like hybrid electronics mixed with orchestra and ethnic instruments. The music evokes emotions and feelings and “colorizes” the overall gameplay as well.
We are not afraid to implement some dubstep, jungle and even hard-core musical elements to our game’s soundtrack, despite the game’s depicted period of time – we believe that all these elements should help our players feel the gameplay and enjoy it.
Why is the music important in the game?
Well, the music in our game can be both reactive and active: it encourages players to act and also changes depending on their successful and unsuccessful actions. I believe that dramatic music which suits in-game events deepens the player’s experience, creates a new level of immersion and motivates our players to improve their skill and never give up. In addition, some in-game events are associated with music in a direct way – for example, notifications that the battle is over in a few minutes, weather change events and so on.
What would you say is the strongest point about the sounds in World of Warships?
The mixture of top-notch diegetic, non-diegetic sounds and music working together to provide to our players the audial pleasure, deepen immersion and transmit a lot of helpful information about the gameplay.
How important are sounds for games in general and for Warships in particular ?
I believe that there is nothing more important than fully synchronized top-notch content for our video and audio perception systems – this is the shortest route to our kinesthetic system that manages our feelings and emotions. Therefore, the overall audio should be also not only heard, but felt as well. When you hear, see and feel the game in a proper way – you enjoy it. That’s one of our goals for gameplay audio.
As I stated before, there are some typical audio tasks to manage:
And so on. If you want to look closer, you’ll find something very interesting.
If you would have to start again with the sounds in the game what would you do different?
At first, we lost some time to prototype game’s audio using different audio engine. It was slow as hell and not productive.
Then I came up with 3 iterations of soundtrack, first was just orchestral music, second was too slow to react and then we found the right style, that suited the game.
Going further, I would start again with a more simplified approach to audio design for some in-game features.
Further – we would spend some more time to make the overall sound system more stable and logic at the start of the development.
Well, the lessons are learned J.
How do you see the sound effects evolving in the future?
Shortly: we plan to develop the Ultra High pre-set, some new modes for in-game music, implement the real occlusion/obstruction and provide tons of new content.
Meanwhile, we will be enhancing our multichannel audio as well.
Stay tuned for our updates.
Last but not least, how realistic are the sounds in the game so far?
Our audio is completely realistic for the nowadays reality of World of Warships. Do you believe it?
A big thanks to Arthur for the interview and to Marcela Koster P.R. manager (Wargaming Benelux and Portugal) for making it possible.
MajorMadMike signing off.