Puzzle game

Puzzle Game Unpacking contains 14,000 sound files for ordinary things


Boxes clutter a neat room in a chic apartment with a flat-screen TV and a guitar on the wall.

Screenshot: Witch Harness / Kotaku

Unpacking is more than meets the ears. The chillwave puzzle game, developed by Brisbane-based Witch Beam and released this week for Switch, PC and Xbox (via Game Pass), apparently has a huge 14,000 individual foley sound effects. No, it’s not a typo.

Foley sound effects, for those who don’t know, usually exist in the background, meant to replicate the everyday sounds of real-life objects and actions. They are most often used in layered audio tracks for film and television, to give realistic sound texture to soundscapes. Noise makers, for example, often get creative when trying to recreate sounds as mundane as the rustle of fabric when a character moves in a chair. When they’re done right, you don’t even notice their implementation.

They are also a common device in video games. If you’ve ever heard the crunch of footsteps in the snow in a winter level, it’s the result of well-integrated Foley sound effects. (A common technique: Put cornstarch in a leather pouch.) If you’ve heard the crackle of fire in a fantastic game, so too (sometimes done with cellophane). And Unpacking—I can’t stress this enough — count thousands.

Following Unpacking, fans quickly took note of the depth of the game’s audio track. A tweet, by Francesco Del Pia, senior sound designer at Chinese room (Dear Esther, Everyone’s gone for the kidnapping), sums up the reaction quite well:

The 49-second clip shows the player picking up a can of non-Febreze and placing it on various surfaces: a desk, a table, a mattress, the rug, the cover of a toilet tank, the tiles in the bathroom. , the cushion of an armless dining chair. Additionally, the sound changes noticeably with each placement, in the same way that placing a real world Febreze box on a real world table twice in a row will not produce two identical sound effects. Listen to the clip in a loop, and there is almost ASMR quality in the audio loop.

This is the result, like Sanatana Mishra from Witch Beam specified on Twitter, of Unpacking including over 14,000 .wav files (a common format for audio files). Mishra said Kotaku via DM much of the credit goes to Witch Beam’s Jeff van Dyck, but he by no means worked alone.

“It got so overwhelming that we hired Jeff’s wife Angela van Dyck, who also has expertise in this area, to work on the sounds for months,” Mishra said. “The workload was just too immense without additional help. “(Jeff said Kotaku in an email that Angela did “most” of the work.)

The workload behind the Foley effects is often enormous, and the process can take many forms. Sometimes audio designers come close to a specific sound effect through creative methods as mentioned. But other times, they’ll use the object itself, record what it really sounds like, and edit the audio file to unobtrusive perfection. Mishra, who did not go into too much detail, indicated that Unpacking has a ton of the latter.

“It really starts with physical objects if you want that satisfying, correct and playful sound,” Mishra said.

Either way, it’s the result of cumulative months of technical work – recording, editing, layering and tracking multiple spreadsheets – spread over three years, according to van Dyck’s tally. Everything was recorded in a soundproof room, making it easy for the audio team to add reverb to reproduce the echo you find in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms.

“The fine-tuning process was tedious, as you can imagine – literally placing every item on every surface and deciding if it needed tweaking,” van Dyck.

UnpackingThe Foleys are particularly well made, and their flawless implementation is without a doubt one of the main reasons why this big-hearted little puzzle game has already resonated with so many players as surprisingly real nostalgia, although pixelated. trip. (Guilty as charged.) At the game’s launch party on November 3, Jeff and Angela donated two items used for the Foley effects – a Rubiks cube and a mannequin – to Unpacking creative director Brier Wren.

“It was a heartwarming moment,” Mishra said. “And a great reminder of everything that goes into every little part of making a game like this.”

Update, 5:35 p.m. ET: Text modified to reflect van Dyck’s comment.