November 23, 2018

Hunt Audio: A Day in the Crytek Audio Department

Today Audio Director Florian Füsslin is here to talk about what it is like to work on the audio for Hunt: Showdown, with some details about the work the Audio Team did on Update 3.0. Have questions for Florian for his next blog? Send them to us on Twitter with #AskHuntAudio.

Every day starts with a stand-up meeting—which is the audio team getting together to discuss what happened the day before and what needs to happen that day. We talk about issues and bugs that need to be fixed, features we're working on, and pressing community feedback. Doing this daily allows us to be flexible and to react to issues quickly. Once we're all up to date on what needs to be done, and most of the team go back to their desks to start designing.

At that point—because my job as director includes a lot of managerial organization—I take a look at all the lists of tasks, bugs, and finished items that have rolled in, and then throughout the morning there will be a few more production meetings for planning. What we do here takes a lot of time, so we have to plan ahead as far as possible to make it happen, while also staying flexible enough to take on community feedback as it rolls in.

Testing, Testing

After lunch, we will often have audio team playtests focused on a specific topic we want to investigate. For example, a while back there was an issue with explosions not being audible that we were having a hard time reproducing in-house. So the entire audio team went into the game for a focused stress test, and we just threw explosives like crazy. Unfortunately, in that case, we still couldn't reproduce the issue, but we found another one instead that we were able to fix.

Of course, all kinds of testing is going on all the time—with our QA Team in-house and our community testing alongside us on the Test Server. But doing an audio-focused playtest is also really valuable because we can really focus on getting one element under a magnifying glass. And while we're doing that, we often notice other issues that need to be discussed. A lot of great ideas come out of those sessions.

Another form of testing we do for audio is to go in when a new element is finished and check that everything works from every perspective. So we're in there looking at whether first-person sound works, at whether third-person sound works, that everything is there, and that it all feels right. After we've all had a look, there is always a lot of back and forth—about whether it is finished and can be added to the game or whether it still needs some tweaking.

Late afternoon things get quiet again, and you can bunker down and work on a task for the next day. This is another focused work time for a lot of people, especially for me because the day's meetings are over. Sometimes I'll design and debug a sound or do research.

Update 3.0

To take a more specific example of the kind of tasks we tackle, let's look at one of the big audio fixes we had in Update 3.0. Thanks to community feedback about the audio mix, we decided we needed to prioritize unifying how audio behaves over a distance—i.e. to ensure that louder sounds carry farther than quieter sounds—which is called attenuation. So for example, if you have a dog and a grunt, they should both get quieter as you move away from them in the same fashion.

While we were working on unifying the attenuation, a couple of bugs snuck in. One of those bugs had upped the reverb for all interiors. Suddenly, when approaching a compound, it felt like an audio zoo — noises coming from everywhere making it hard to identify the different sources. We had to fix that. But the change to resolve this was not trivial. It ended up being a major rework that touched on all parts of audio, which then needs more testing so our rework didn't cause new problems on the way.

Another example is the new song “Devil in the Churchyard," which we just finished recently. We had it playing in the menu the first time you start your client to present the new map and set the mood. We felt it worked really well, but after it hit the test server we received interesting feedback we hadn't thought would be an issue: while people generally liked the song, many found it distracting to have voices singing while you are trying to talk to your teammate. Since we don't want to stay in the way of people making their battle plan, we reworked the setup to only use the instrumental version during matchmaking.

We hope the latest update is perceived positively and that players can rely even more on audio to give them valuable information on their hunt. Obviously we are not done yet, as there are still some bugs to fix, more improvements to make, and new audio content to be explored and developed.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the community for all their ideas, feedback, and suggestions. Keep it coming!

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