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WildStar sound designer details audio development process

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Sound designers use noises that often have nothing to do with the on-screen action — "it doesn't matter what you're hearing, it matters what you're seeing," said WildStar senior sound designer Greg Meader in a developer blog yesterday.

Meader previously worked as an Imagineer at Disney, where he handled sound design for Disney World rides and attractions such as Tower of Terror. He explained that he frequently records ambient noises, such as insects in the night air on a trip to China, in case he can find a use for them later on.

Sound design, whether for theme parks, movies or video games, is a painstaking process in which the designer often chooses unrelated noises and experiments with them in order to create the desired sound — think of the theater standby of using a metal sheet to simulate thunder.

Meader discussed the process of coming up with a sound effect for an ability of the Skug Queen, one of WildStar's enemies. In the "Leeching Spores" ability, the creature spits out exploding spores and sprays a stream of foul gas. He initially experimented with a fire extinguisher, mud bubbles and a magic marker, but individually, none of those noises seemed to fit. Then he played them together, but the sound was still missing something. Meader added a growl at the beginning and layered on a few more sounds, then played with their respective levels to create the final sound effect.

That's the amount of work that goes into creating a sound effect for one ability of one enemy, Meader pointed out. "And we've got an entire MMO to fill!"

Carbine Studios' WildStar is an upcoming MMO being published by NCsoft, set on a mysterious planet at the edge of space. It currently has no release window. You can check out three brief videos chronicling Meader's Leeching Spores experimentation below.

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