DEV DIARY: THE SOUND OF THE GOLF CLUB
Development Diary: John McCarthy, Senior Audio Designer
Golf can be a relaxing game…if you let it. I’d like to let you relax while playing The Golf Club. The ambiences are lush, the music is chill and the commentary keeps things casual. I hope the cumulative effect of this is a soundscape that helps to ease people into an escape from their noisy lives for a while.
We’ve sourced as much original content as we could for the sound effects in the game. I’m a strong believer in making your own library of sounds to pull from when making a game like this. We went out to the local golf club here in Lunenburg to capture all of the club-hitting-ball sounds. The great guys at the pro shop even let us on to the driving range before it was open to the membership! I can’t say enough about the folks up at the Lunenburg Golf Club. Above are some photos of me capturing some of the sounds for The Golf Club.
The other big part of the soundscape in TGC is the ambiance. I have recorded some great stuff in various places in Nova Scotia to use in our game. Each course theme will have its own flavour of ambiance as a bed with other ambient elements on top. One cool part of the ambiance system is some fancy code that our Technical Audio Designer cooked up that will find the closest batch of trees to the golfer and place an audio emitter in those trees with some sounds that we recorded in the forest like birds, chipmunks, etc. The other ambient element that really puts you in the environment is the wind system. I’ve tuned the wind to only be present when it has a chance to affect your shot. So it doesn’t start to peak out of the mix until the global wind speed get to around 10-12km/h. I also tie the wind volume to the height of the camera so when it follows the ball through the air – or gives you a flyby of the current hole – the wind gets a bit of a boost. When the ambient elements start combining with the ambiance bed, you get some really neat immersion happening. So when you aim your shot and the camera flies to the predicted landing area, you actually hear the perspective shift with the camera.
The musical element of the soundscape is also very chill and relaxing. I wanted to present my own take on ‘golf music’ for a next-fen video game. I was listening to a lot of Emanciptor, Susanne Sundfør and the soundtrack to Oblivion when I came up with the tracks in TGC and this really helped to focus in on where I wanted the music to go. Here is a taste of our main menu music:
The speech system in The Golf Club was built during the development of Rugby World Cup 2011 with traditional play-by-play commentary in mind. This means it is quite complex BUT that doesn’t mean it HAS to be used in a traditional context. In keeping with my theme for the soundscape of The Golf Club, I wanted the commentary to have a casual vibe. There are still elements of TV commentary like our semi-official sounding intros/outros and inter-hole score updates to keep you in the loop as your round progresses. There are also little comments that get triggered pre-shot with info like distance to the hole, info about your lie, etc – sort of like a caddy. You may get a little light-hearted ribbing when you mess up but it gets balanced by much praise when things go well. My hope is that when it all comes together, you will have a nice balance of relevant information and entertainment.
The cool part for me with regard to commentary is that I’m not only the designer but I am also the voice. I recorded a lot of placeholder speech early on so that I could communicate the tone I wanted to go for with the speech in TGC and I think it started to grow on people. Then after hearing good feedback from various neutral third-parties the decision was made to stick with my voice which gives me a lot of advantages over the traditional means of implementing commentary in a game. The traditional flow for recording commentary for a sports game goes like this:
The thing that makes this workflow so inflexible is that you are dependent on the availability of the talent. We’ve taken that hindrance out of the loop and so since I’m implementing the speech and am also the source of the speech, the turnaround time is minuscule compared to the traditional way of doing things. I can just sit at my desk and play the game and if I get an idea, I pull the mic over, hit record, and after a half-hour I have brand new speech in the game. Needless to say, I am super excited to see how we can evolve the commentary post-release.
The commentary is always on my mind and will be constantly evolving after release. We will be pushing out updates in the months to come and the commentary will evolve with each update. I really want to tap into the community to get feedback and suggestions of how our commentary can progress. I’ve even set up a twitter account to try and keep in touch with everyone. I’m also using it to take a deep dive into golf and sports gaming on twitter by following all my favourite golf personalities and sports game journalists. Thanks to those of you who tweeted me questions for me to answer in this Dev Diary! If you still have audio questions, just hit me up at @NewVoiceOfGolf on Twitter.