Hello, I’m Makoto Hosoi, the Audio Lead for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and thank you for taking time to read my blog entry about the sound in games – an area I always see as overlooked and under-appreciated! Historically, I think sound had always come second after graphics or visual effects but time is changing and nowadays sound has significantly evolved. Sound teams don’t have any restrictions like we used to. Just look at shows like Gamescom, E3 and TGS – whole presentations are made there now that focus solely on sound and music.
Game sound is completely different from movie sound. I think sound games is very important since it needs to give users exhilaration when they press the button with the sound of slashing, hitting, breaking something, jumping, flying and etc… Of course the sound itself is important, but more importantly you need a good sound programmer in the first place to make it happen. For example, in Ninja Gaiden Sigma2 there is complicated sound program when Ryu attacks to enemies. Its an expressive, powerful sound by itself, so we have to be careful that the sound designer and sound programmer team up with very well and work together to ensure it compliments and integrates with the other sounds on screen.
When it comes to creating sounds for weapons, I’ve actually studied real weapons but never touched or used them for any other reasons, promise! I’ve always pay attention to give our fans the best sound they deserve sound. Think about in reality – if a Samurai brings down his sword lightly and slowly, nobody hears it, however a game needs to implement sounds you wouldn’t even consider – from the feeling of the breeze, through to almost imperceptible metallic clanks. All of these sounds are actually artificial, we don’t go out and record the wind, but the result we get from manufacturing sounds make us feel really cool! I always work over and over on our sounds by editing, equalizing and adding more effects and then eventually I end up with a sound good enough for our games. The cool thing is, inspiration comes from anywhere. Even converting sounds on a computer actually creates sound! I have millions of sources but I’m always looking for good quality sounds.
It’s really tough to invent unique sounds for our characters, but it’s really fun. It’s really gives a soul to them. Once they have their own sound, they become vivid. For inventive monsters and characters what we can do is to imagine their voice and sound. If a character is a Dragon for example, I imagine like their voice may originate from a large feline sound sample. I create and complete the sound for them based on imagination by learning by mistake. I’ll let you into a secret but there’s a bit in NINJA GAINDEN SIGMA 2 when a character appears out of the shadows. I created that sound from a pig’s oink! Look out for it!
When it comes to the actual music composition, we begin with our PC connected to synthesizer, sampler, effecter etc, but before we start composing, we spend great amounts of time hearing rough outlines of characters, stages from Hayashi-san, playing the game and looking into designs, etc…. Once we finish composing we encode them to data and implement to the game. It’s always challenging but we are enjoying it. The most difficult time for me is when a good sound or arrangement doesn’t find its way to me.
For a sound engineer I can’t say I’ve been a devoted music fan, which some people may find odd. Actually, I’d never had a special education for music until junior high. However, in hindsight, I was always looking forward to the music class more than my classmates were. I was great at recorder! It was when I entered my high school, that my father bought me a “Walkman” with a tuner as a gift and for the first time, I listened to the stereo sound of FM. I was completely shocked at the sound! Even though I knew it’s JUST a stereo, the idea of this experience in my ears was intense! And from then, I came to listen the radio every day and tapes which my friends had recorded for me. In these days Eurobeat was a very popular genre and listening to all that music composed with synthesizer with mind blowing. This spurred my interesting in electrical sound and music I guess.
After graduating from high school I learned electrical instruments, voice synthesis techniques and how to compose for real. I think those times were very important for me. I listened to a various kinds of music but I liked pop, rocks and movie soundtracks. I’ve given myself over to not only listening music but also looking at live performances of artists at concerts, all of which inspire me and help me – what you are listening to in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, no matter how small or unimportant, all of it has been considered and thought about by minds obsessed with music and sound! I hope you listen out for some of our sounds, and remember to listen out for the pig!