The Sound Design of Magnetic: Cage Closed

Hi! I’m Samuel Lidström, sound designer for Guru Game’s Magnetic: Cage Closed. From the start of the project in 2011 up until around June 2014 we were two sound designers working on the game. The other sound designer, Martin Isaksson, unfortunately got too busy with other projects to continue working on Magnetic.

Around this time the team also decided to start using FMOD for the audio instead of Unity’s built in audio assets. This decision was taken partly because FMOD is a very powerful and flexible tool, but also because removing most of the sound design work from Unity would efficiency the workflow for the whole team. All sound then of course had to be redesigned in FMOD. This extra work was well worth the time, however. In this blog post I will only talk about the sound design done with FMOD, since this is what we used for the final product.

New Sounds and Implementation

Information about new upcoming things that need sound was most often given to me during meetings. With this information I was able to create place holder sound events in FMOD right away for Robin (Design) to trigger in Unity. When creating these place holders I focused on getting the sound events done fast rather than with high quality. The important thing here was to make sure the sound events’ potential functions (in terms of parameters, cues and such) were created and that the characteristics of the sounds at least were similar to the ideas I had for the final sounds.

This approach proved to be very time efficient. With all sound events created as soon as I got information about them so they could be triggered at any time in Unity, I could spend my time recording new material necessary for the final sound and continue developing the place holder sound event while waiting for the new live build. Then, when I got the next live build version with all the latest sound events triggered, I could try out the now completed sounds in-game and, if needed, do the final adjustments in context.

Always having a recent live build to spend time with also gave me a nice opportunity to find things in the game in need of a sound that the others hadn’t thought about or just overlooked.

With some sounds I chose to do most of the design in my DAW instead of in FMOD however. In these cases I used play blast animations and designed the sound in sync to these. The benefit of this approach is that it saves available audio channels in FMOD, especially when it comes to more complex sounds. An example of a sound on which I used this approach is the Main Door Sound. I often added further elements to the sound in FMOD afterwards however, to give the sound more life and make it less predictable, but the number of channels used in FMOD were never the less hugely reduced.

The Design Processes

I consider myself I reasonably good listener. What I mean by this is that my brain always process all sounds around me (whether I want it or not) and archive them in my personal little brain-database for later use. The important thing here is not to limit the information you remember to just for example – “It sounds like an unfolding umbrella”. Remembering the different characteristics and details in the sound is just as important. By doing this you can come a long way and create amazing stuff, just using recordings of things found in your close environment. An unfolding umbrella can for example be used when creating sounds of flapping wings, an unfolding parachute or the wind hitting the sails on a boat.

Most sounds in Magnetic are built up from sounds found in an ordinary household. The sound of electric drills and mixers, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, different kinds metal tools, cutlery and so on. Speaking of cutlery; that is what I used to create the sound of the Box Counter for the Dispensers. Below I will explain how some of the sounds in Magnetic were designed, starting with the cutlery-Box Counter. There are also video clips available that further explain how the sounds were designed.

The Box Counter Sound

The box counters are mechanically built little machines with cogwheels and gears that displays the number of boxes left in the dispensers. The display consists of several small metal plates in a row and to change the number they spin in a certain way. The sound is mostly built up from recordings of me tapping cutlery against cutlery.

The Sound of the Magnet Gun

The Magnet Gun is the main tool you as a player have in the game Magnetic. My goal was to create a vibrant, responsive sound that also gives a clear indication of how much power is applied with the Magnet Gun. The sound is built up from recordings of electric drills, screwdrivers, buzzing from a refrigerator, an electric door opener and more. Static short loops of these sound sources are modulated with real time effects in FMOD, like for example the built in Legacy Tremolo effect.

The Main Door Sound

The main doors in Magnetic are primarily made out of metal. They’re mechanically motorized and heavy. The sound is built up from recordings of trains, a washing machine, chains dragged over metal, a ticking bicycle, drawers opening and closing, a camera lens motor and more. As mentioned earlier this sound was designed in my DAW to a playblast video. The finished sound in FMOD just triggers a mono audio clip thus only using one of FMOD’s audio channels.

The Lever Sound

I designed this sound in my DAW to a video clip captured from an early version of the game. I used Native Instrument’s Kontakt with sample libraries I’ve built up from my own original recordings to create two variations of the sound. The sound was built up from recordings of metal scraping, door handles and different door locks. My aim was to make it sound sturdy, unbreakable and not very user

The Seesaw Sound

The seesaws in Magnetic are large and made out of metal. It was important for me to make a dynamic sound that well represents the speed of which the seesaw is moving. The slam sound of the seesaw hitting the stop blocks and the sound of when the seesaw is moving are two separate sound events in FMOD. The sound is built up from looped recordings of stones dragged onto metal plates, stones dropped into a metal bucket and creaking sounds from my chair.

The Glass Door Sound

The motors struggle with opening the heavy unbreakable glass doors. Each time the door is opened, the hard working motors sound a bit different. The sound is built up from recordings of an electric mixer, the buzz from a refrigerator and white noise, created with the software instrument Z3TA+2, with an automated low pass filter.

The Metal Gate Sound

When rough metal scratches against metal it never sounds exactly the same. To achieve this I created three audio channels for the sound event with different recorded loops, all with randomized starting times. The sound is built up from recordings of a metal tool box, an iron rod, a metal pipe, a clamp and more.

The Tesla Coil Sound

Electricity is random, wild and unpredictable. These characteristics were important factors to me when creating this sound. I wanted the sound in itself to mediate power and how painful it would be to get too close. The sound is built up from looped recordings of a welding torch and electrical spike sounds that are created with the software instrument Z3TA+2.

The Flamethrower Sound

The flamethrowers use three separate sound events – Open Hatch, Flame and Close Hatch. The flame sound is a six seconds long looped recording of an open fire place. I removed all the crackling simply by cutting these parts out from the waveform manually. To avoid phase cancellation in places with many flamethrowers, I randomized the pitch as well as the starting time of the flame sound.

The Spike Trap Sound

With this sound it was important for me create a contrast between the low hissing sound from the sliding swords and the metallic bang when they hit the stop. My aim was to create a feeling similar to getting attacked by a snake. When you hear the hissing warning sound, it’s already too late. The idea was also for the loud metallic bang in the end to represent the actual bite itself and to somewhat scare the player. It’s especially effective if the spike trap activates by walking on it. The bang also helps to authenticate the speed of the swords coming out.

This is of course just a few examples of all the sounds in Magnetic. I will however create more video examples and put them on my portfolio for anyone interested. If you have any questions or thoughts about any of this, feel free to leave a comment or two.