Chapter 14 of 21 from Will Wright

Designing a Sound Aesthetic

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Great sound can improve the experience of your game exponentially. Learn how to utilize music and sound design to expand your player’s imagination and heighten their emotional experience.

Topics include: Expand the Player’s Imagination • Collaborate With Your Sound Designer • Make Sound and Art Cohesive • Build Sound Design in Layers • Use Timing for Emotional Punch • Fall Back on Humor • Sound Design in The Sims

Will Wright

Will Wright Teaches Game Design and Theory

Collaboration, prototyping, playtesting. The Sims creator Will Wright breaks down his process for designing games that unleash player creativity.

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Sound design is a huge potential force multiplier. Sound design can take a really good game and make it great. [RELOADING] If you ask a player why the game is great, they probably won't even tell you it's because of the sound design. [SCREAMS] If it is really that good, it'll probably be unconscious to the player. [BLADE SPINNING] But yet, it's influencing their emotional state. They're actually experiencing the graphics as being better or the gameplay as being better. And everything seems better to them because the sound design is kind of putting them in the right state of mind. So the sound design, I think, is kind of queuing up the player's imagination in the right state for everything else to do its thing. [AMBIENT SOUNDS] The sound design is usually the thing that gets the short shrift in a lot of game designs. It's kind of like, we know we have to do the programming, we know we have to do the art, the UI, and all that. Oh, by the way, we need to do sound at some point. But more and more, I think sound is becoming one of the really primary, upfront components of a lot of games. More and more games are actually based upon music, or that's the overt theme of the game. I think sound design-- if I'm including music as well-- is at least as tricky as the art side of things nowadays and at least as rich. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think the primary indicator for me as to the quality of sound design is whether I turn the sound off or not. [CHUCKLES] There are a lot of games where it's just like, that is annoying as hell. And I turn it off. Maybe the game is fun and I enjoy the game. But really great sound design is something that I notice. I'd say that good sound design is something that, OK, it's tolerable. It's nice. It informs me. It serves its purpose. Every now and then, I play a game where the sound design just blows me away. There was an old, old game-- I think it was "Clive Barker's Undying." It was a horror game. And you're going through this old house. And it's dark. And it was a first-person kind of scary game. And most of the sound design in there was the wind howling; some of the windows were open; you were seeing drapes move; creaking. And it was done so well, the blending between the creaking of your footsteps and the creaking of the wind. And every now and then, a monster would pop out. [GUNSHOTS] But it would be a little bit slightly different creek. And you were starting to imagine all these things in the soundscape that you were about to encounter. And so they were really tweaking your imagination with the sound design in a beautiful way. And every now and then, I see a game that does something like that. That, really, the sound is really adding a whole level of dynamics to what I'm building in my imagination. And I think that's an indicator of great sound design. [MUSIC PLAYING] Within sound design, there are a lot of components to it. You'll have sou...

Explore the Possibility Space

Learn the art and science of game design with Will Wright, the mind behind some of the most popular simulation games of all time—SimCity and The Sims. Will teaches you how to design games that empower players and unleash their creativity. You’ll develop a toolset for understanding player psychology, as well as learn Will's approach to generating and pitching ideas, prototyping, playtesting, and building a community.

The Sims creator Will Wright teaches you his personal strategies to design fascinating games that engage players and enable their creativity.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with an exclusive Game Design Document template to use in your own work.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Will will also critique select student work.

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Will Wright

Will Wright Teaches Game Design and Theory