Kill Screen: Episode 5 The Immersive Sound Design Of Dead Space 3
When it comes to being scared witless while playing a survival horror game, it’s not always about what you can see—the audio plays just as effective a role in racking up the tension as you creep around trying to lay waste to unseen nasties. In episode five of our Kill Screen series Jamin Warren heads to California to speak to the team at Visceral Games, the team behind the audio for Dead Space 3.
Dead Space 3 features protagonists Isaac Clarke and John Carver as they set about ridding the universe of parasitic human corpses, called Necromorphs, and the game is set on a frozen planet in the distant environs of space. “The classic vibe of Dead Space,” says audio director Nick Laviers, “is you’re walking through these corridors with not much going on, from room to room, and you know at some stage, something somewhere is going to jump out. The sound of fear, to me, is all about building the tension before that moment happens.”
And far from being just unnatural noises of abominable monsters coming out from the darkness, you have to focus on the more mundane aspects to create an effective fearscape—like the characters’ sounds as they move around, the jostling of their feet and their space suit, their breathing. It’s what Laviers calls “creating a reality for the horror to exist in,” and it allows for the player to become fully immersed in the present and to be caught up in the game’s fiction.
To really build up the fear, the developers need to feature just the right amount of realism and interactivity with the game’s audio environment, which means players are able to identify individual sounds as they step into a new room.
They’ve sourced the sound effects in a very hands-on way. Hacking a melon with a pick axe will give you the perfect squelchy noises akin to a Necromorph’s skull being caved in. And carrots come in handy too, because the sound of bones being crunched is actually vegetables being brutalized. So, when you’re playing this latest installment, just remember, many vegetables were harmed in the making of this game.
Check out the game’s trailer below…
If you missed them, catch up on Kill Screen episodes one, two, three, and four.