Let us talk about sound.
What will you not hear in Pathologic? There definitely won’t be any pop hits. No signals of planes, ships, or trams. No highway roars planned for it either. A merry carnival is unlikely to add its noises to the game, and so are ambulance or emergency buzzers. Do not expect to hear the sound of jumping either.
Instead, you will have an opportunity to catch dogs bark and crows caw, the dying moan and the infected rave feverishly. There will be painful coughs and heart-rending screams. Funeral silence instead of a noisy carnival. You will hear rusty hinges creak and cry, the earth breathe, and the blood in its veins pulsate. You will hear rough barks and gentle hums; you will hear someone murmur behind the wall. A knock on the door. A key turning impatiently. The patter of rain against a window and footsteps scurrying across a wet pavement. (Okay, we’re just reading from a content list now.)
The Town’s soundscape consists of several layers, each composed of a number of categories: characters, atmospheric ambient, and so on. Depending on the character’s status and the player’s actions, they can change in volume and receive additional effects to emulate altered states of perception—in this case, the perception of sounds. Sometimes the noise of rain can get overwhelming; sometimes, human voices come to the foreground; in other cases however, all you can hear is the beat of your own heart.
We hope that the player will end up listening not only to the sounds, but to the natural pauses as well. Perhaps they will even experience synesthesia.
Still, for now we keep experimenting and fine-tuning the details. For instance, right now we’re creating the content to fill the aforementioned layers with; we record everything you’ll encounter in the game, break the sound library into categories, and test their compatibility when emulated under different conditions—outside of the game’s engine. The work on integrating the newly-created categories into the game and making them sound right lies ahead still. As is testing, more fine-tuning, fixing mistakes, changing details, testing again… all the fun of creative work!
As for recording the sounds themselves, we use every technology available, stopping at nothing. We put microphones into glass vases to record flies buzzing. Wrap them in cloth and plastic to hit them or drown them in water; beauty has its price. We record rustling and scratches, broken toy mechanisms and nails scraping wood. We tear cloth apart and break glass, pommel iron shields and stop others from oiling rusty hinges. We make actors moan and howl, scream and writhe. (The best part of the job, really.)
Still, sometimes we do use the sounds from our friends’ libraries—you can’t always record, say, cows fast enough and with enough emotion.
And for some reason our landlords won’t let us get our own office cow.