Video games like Call of Duty have become entertainment juggernauts, attracting millions of fans around the world. They come for the challenge, for the thrill, and for the storytelling.
Mark Kilborn is the audio director for Raven Software in Middleton, Wis., one of the companies responsible for some of the most popular games. “In the audio dept we’re essentially responsible for everything that comes out of the speakers. Music, voice, sound FX. And in a game like COD [Call of Duty], we have to build every little sound you may or may not hear,” explains Kilborn.
That includes footsteps and leaves rustling, not just explosions and gun fire. If a character walks across some dirt, Kilborn and his team take microphones outside and record the sound of walking on dirt. If a box gets knocked off a table, they record the sound of a box falling off a table.
Kilborn traces his interest in sound to a very specific musical moment: “West End Girls” on the album Please by the Pet Shop Boys.
“I liked the music of it but I just, I liked the sounds,” says Kilborn. “There were samples you’d hear, traffic in the streets and all sorts of crazy stuff they were missing in, and I had never heard an album that was using all of these elements.”
For Kilborn, it seemed like magic that someone could put together all of these sounds to tell a story. And that’s what he tries to do now in the games he works on for Raven. But he thinks that games still have a ways to go, especially compared to movies.
“We feel strongly that game audio on the whole as a field is not as far as it should be,” says Kilborn. “You know films sound amazing these days. You go listen to a film like Gravity. There’s not many games that sound at that level of quality. And so we feel like it’s our obligation to push things as hard as we can and make it sound as good as we can.”
See more on video game design and conception at Raven Software from In Wisconsin.