10 Top Tips for Video Game Sound Effect Design

Sound Design Tips with Greg Lester

Sound designer Greg Lester has shared his top ten tips for creating video game sound effects. Greg has worked on games including The Quarry, and is now working on another exciting, unannounced project over at Sound Cuts.

He also runs the Game Audio Learning website, so it’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about game audio…luckily for us, he is generous enough to share his wisdom and knowledge with these ten tips below!

poster for the quarry

Video Game Sound Effects Tips, from Greg Lester

1. Consider how your video game sound effects will be implemented

Find out how sounds are going to be implemented into the game, that will usually determine how you design and separate the layers of the sounds so that you can easily export and implement them.

wwise and fmod middleware for video game sound effects

2. Split your sound effects into layers

Split your sound designs into different layers. This will make it easier to export them individually and add more modularity when implementing them. It doesn’t have to be too granular, but imagine designing a gun, you can split it into the mechanics, body, sub and tail for example.

Krotos Weaponiser layer engines for creating video game sound effects
Weaponiser by Krotos has 4 engines built in to help you easily split your video game sound effects designs into layers for testing implementation

3. Variations are the most important thing for immersive video game sound effects

When you design sounds, keep in mind that you’ll want to create a bunch of variations, especially for repetitive sounds like footsteps. You don’t want them to become repetitive!

4. Experiment, and don’t be afraid to start from scratch

When we design sounds, we often go in a certain direction and then tweak the sound for ages. This will usually give you a bunch of cool but similar results.

When we don’t have a clear direction yet it’s often a good idea to design a sound and then move on and start from scratch again with different source material. Repeat this a couple of times and you’ll have a selection of different styles which will then help you clarify in what direction to go as you can get a clearer idea of what you like and what you don’t like.

5. Keep your projects organised

Name your tracks and colour-code them. Create folders and subfolders, it doesn’t have to be too granular, but you will thank yourself later.

If you’re working in a team, there is a very high likelihood that other people will work in the same session at one point or another, meaning they have to dive into your mess.

So when you organise your project, pretend that you are one of your co-workers, who has never opened this project and needs to make some adjustments to one of the layers. Think about how you can make it easy for them to find what they need, with as little effort as possible.

6. Test your sounds!

Your sounds might be awesome in the DAW, but they may not translate well when implemented into the game. Try to get the hooks for your sounds in as soon as you can, or even better, before you start designing the sound. This way will be able to regularly test them in the full context of the game. 

See Greg Lester’s awesome video on game audio implementation

7. If it sounds good…it is good!

Sometimes we forget to use our ears and get too caught up in the perceived “rules” and “guidelines” of what we think we should be doing. This means we stop trusting our own judgement, instinct and tastes. Sounds can be simple, complex, have tons of processing and effects or none at all – the only thing that matters is that they sound cool in the context of the game.

8. Always ask for Feedback

Getting feedback from your co-workers is one of the most important and fun, but also scary aspects of this job. It’s also one of the best ways to get better and improve, so throw your ego away and embrace it. Teamwork is key, so more ears and constructive criticism will help deliver better results. 

9. Remember the Assignment!

With all of the sounds your make, you are trying to make the best possible sounding game – remember it is not a personal project, and you have to work within the constraints and limitations of the allocated time, budget and technology at your disposal…It is NOT a personal portfolio piece!

10. You are designing video game sound effects…so have fun!

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. The sound design for game audio can be immensely stressful…I know, because I’ve been there! If you find yourself in one of those moments, take a breath and remind yourself that you’re making video games, not doing brain surgery or building rockets that launch people into the endless universe. The stakes are not as high as we perceive them to be in those moments…you will be okay! 

video game sound effects in pro tools

Thanks to Greg for sharing these fantastic tips! Want more tips like these? See our other content below and read Greg’s article about the game audio learning website.

More Game Audio Content

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