Monday, 15 July 2013

Lost in the Sound Design: grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption

I often say that music is often one of the backbones of a good game, but I rarely mention the actual sound design of a game. Sound design is where not only the music is incorporated into the world, but the environment sounds as well. Today on Lost in the Music, I will be taking a both Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, two Rockstar Games that showcase the amount of detail the teams put into their game.

I, like many others, was disappointed in Grand Theft Auto IV. Yes the recreation of New York City down to the minute detail was amazing, but the story lacked the same charm that the previous games had established. In its place was a gritty look at America through the eyes of an immigrant. He was promised the American dream, and was given a nightmare.

However, for all the faults of the game, I cannot chastise the game for its sound design. Rockstar North did a fantastic job of recreating New York City, bringing the Big Apple experience to everyone. When you are walking along the street, not only do you hear people having conversations with one another, but also the sound of the passing vehicles as they drive over debris.

There is so much life in the city that you almost feel as if you are there. Standing in the middle of Star Avenue watching people walk by, either talking or buying food or just being there.

Let's not forget Rockstar North's other open world adventure; Red Dead Redemption. Where Grand Theft Auto IV was able to bring the player the New York experience without having to leave their home, Red Dead Redemption brought the player to early 20th century Texas and allowed the player to explore the Frontier near the end of the Wild West era.

What makes Red Dead Redemption as good as Grand Theft Auto IV was once again, Rockstar's North dedication to the audio of the game. However, unlike Grand Theft Auto IV, what made the audio was the musical backing of the game. Every so often as you were exploring New Austin or North Mexico, music would begin to play. It wasn't anything major just some guitar chords and woodwinds or while in Mexico horns would play. They would either show up during a mission or when you are merely wandering along the plains. It doesn't show up all that often, but when it does, it does add something to the world and doesn't drag you out of it.

Another part of the audio design of Red Dead Redemption was how they made the world sound authentic. What makes Red Dead Redemption different is that, save for a couple of places, the player was busy exploring the Frontier, either hunting wild life or taking on bandits. While exploring the frontier, there would be times you would hear an eagles screech or a snake's kissing. These sounds would bring you out of your thought and made you realize you are part of a much larger world.

The audio team at Rockstar North are some of the best in the business. They bring the game worlds alive with their sound. In Grand Theft Auto IV, through the sounds of the city, the player is brought to a fictitious New York City bristling with life, while in Red Dead Redemption, they transported the players back to the last days of the old west. The amount of detail that went into designing the world's of Liberty City and New Austin is unparalleled and that it is something all companies should strive for. Music is wonderful at drawing you in, but it rarely makes the world seem alive.

This is Daimo Mac and I am lost in the music.

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