In this 3rd and final part of our series with Victor Sola, Social Point sound and music wizard, we take a dive into the strange and fascinating world of special effects. And whether there are any limits when it comes to making strange noises!
You can’t stop the music. Our Headphone Honcho, Victor Sola, in action.
Victor, what are the different types of sound effect you have to create for Monster Legends or Dragon City, for example?
You can classify SFX into 2 groups: interface sounds which are all the noises relating to the graphic interface, like buttons, slides and so on. Then you have gameplay SFX and this is where you get the effects related to the dragons or monsters – so, breeding, collecting and battle attack noises.
How do you create effects?
I start off by creating a list – as complete a list as possible – of the game’s requirements in terms of sound. So I will include everything from menus and pop-ups to characters and back. This list can keep changing as the game evolves so it’s important to keep it updated.
Once I have my initial list, and the theme music for the game, I start looking for esthetic and sound references that match the game. You can really let your imagination off the leash. Any sound, texture or effect mixed with a different element can give you a completely unexpected result. Of course you learn how to create unique new sounds on the basis of experience, but I really believe that there are no hard rules. You should simply be guided by the game: so in a “realistic” game you should aim for “realistic” sounds for instance.
From a technical perspective, it’s important to level out the volumes and dynamics of your sounds. There are noises that should sound like they are moving away from the player, and others that should be write in your face.
And remember to keep your sound libraries well organized – meta information and tagging, whatever works for you. But be organized.
What technology do you use to create sounds?
Like any sound designer I use libraries, a lot of digital synthesis, and analogue techniques. To organize my sounds I like to use Sound Miner and I always work with Logic Pro X.
Are there any limits to what you can create?
Any limits are marked by the game itself. The sound designer has to adapt to the game, nothing more, nothing less. Over time it’s common to want to be original, create clean sounds and ideally deliver games that become a reference for others. But other than that, I don’t think there are any real limits to what you can create in sound.
Which effects do you most like making?
I really like making “unreal” sounds – sounds that represent things that don’t exist in real life – because I get to really use my imagination and to experiment. I also really enjoy making different sound effects for the games’ interfaces as it can be challenging to get right.
What do Monsters sound like? Here’s a first pass at some of our friends from Monster Legends.
And here’s a clean version of the same Monsters. Recognize any of them?
Talking of challenges, what are the biggest challenges in your job?
I think the hardest thing is to be original. There are a lot of games out there which are quite similar, with the same sorts of mechanisms. Saying that, it is quite hard to find a game with the same SFX or music as yours – unless you are using libraries too much, maybe. But it’s quite hard to create a unique sound and music personality for a video game that marks it out as very different from the rest.
Another challenge is the question of space. All sound files need to be compressed so you to know how to prioritize the sounds that need a lot of compression, and those that need less, depending on the sharpness of each sound. This has to work within the confines of the space allocated to audio.
Is there anything you are really proud of during your time here at Social Point?
I joined Social Point without any experience of working in video games. I’d worked in TV and cartoons, but never in games. So I am really proud of all the stuff I have learned and the skills I have acquired in developing games – from composing to SFX design. With each game I think the sound and music gets better and better – I’m proud of this, and proud of the place I work!
Victor is wired for sound at the Breakfast Club, Barcelona’s cultural shindig, in May.
Now jump to Parts #1 and #2 of this story: