Dallas Taylor, from Defacto Sound, had a very nice interview with Raison Varner, sound designer of Borderlands, at Gearbox Software. They talk about the music, sound design and audio development in general. Check some excerpts:
Defacto Sound: How long was the Development cycle?
Raison Varner: The development cycle for audio is different than the cycle of the entire project. From the beginning, I believe the project was between 3 to 3.5 years. I’m not sure when the official start date was since I came to Gearbox well into the prototype. The project didn’t’ have an audio lead until about 3 months after I started at Gearbox, at which point I moved from Hell’s Highway to Borderlands as the audio lead once we got that WWII project out the door. I started on Borderlands around June/July of 2008 and it was pretty much a fresh start. There was some early prototype work done, but it was all placeholder material and was built during a time when audio development was focused elsewhere in the company. I was the only sound designer on the project for about 9 months, Mark came on to assist with sound design as we ramped up for a final 6 month push and worked ourselves to the bone to get that game out the door. So overall, I think all the audio production happened in about a 1.5 year period.
Defacto Sound: What was the Sound Design Direction for the game? What Movies and/or Games did you draw inspiration from?
Raison Varner: Hmmm… I can’t really think of anything specific at the moment. I know there are influences there, but I never really think about that sort of thing directly when I’m working. I just think about what the game needs and what kind of character to the sounds will provide the greatest impact. In Borderlands we had an interesting mix of high-tech sci-fi and low-tech sci-fi, so I wanted to mix really basic sounding machinery with really slick sounding “plastic” sci-fi elements.
Defacto Sound: How long did it take to record & implement “87 bazillion” guns?
Raison Varner: I approached the guns as “sets” of weapons. We were able to boil the stats of guns down to a single deterministic value and I would create a “low”, “medium” and “high” power version of that weapon. Based on that one stat, we would do a sample switch that was a very general representation of the power of a weapon. So each weapon type had 3 sets of power. 3 SMGs, 3 Rifles, 3 Sniper Rifles, 3 Shotguns, etc… Towards the end of the game I ran out of time to keep doing that, so I left the rocket launcher and grenade launcher as a single firing sound. I mean… how nuanced can you get with those types of weapons anyhow? So I figured it would be an acceptable compromise.
Every weapon in the game also had a variable firing rate so we couldn’t use loops. In order to try and give the guns a “cadence” to firing I would create an over powered sounding “First Shot,” extremely short “successive shots” and then a tail that carried the rapport of the gunshot’s echo. I also mixed the mechanical elements hotter in the successive shot sounds so that when you held the trigger down, you really heard all that metal working hard in the weapon.