Game Life is happy to present an interview with Hexany Audio, conducted by Chris Miller. Hexany Audio is the studio behind the sounds of Splitgate: Arena Warfare. With the game’s success, players become more curious about the production involved with Splitgate, specifically from the audio side. Chris Miller has given us permission to publish his exclusive interview here.
Interview: Creating the Sound for Splitgate: Arena Warfare
Launching a few weeks ago exclusively for PC, 1047 Games’ Splitgate: Arena Warfare is breathing new life to the arena shooter. One of the reasons being, the game’s developer, was founded by two arena shooter super fans, Ian Proulx & Nicholas Bagamian, who know just what the genre has been missing since its glory days. More specifically gamers have been praising the innovative portal mechanics and how they don’t feel too forced with the combined arena shooter gameplay. A sentence that continues to throw around describing the game is “simple to learn and difficult to master.” Adding to the effectiveness of the overall gameplay are the sound effects, which have been designed by Hexany Audio. This aspect is not often explored, so for players to get a better sense of this world, Hexany Audio’s Richard Ludlow and Kellen Fenton discuss what’s involved in making a game like Splitgate: Arena Warfare sound as real as possible.
Full Interview with Richard and Kellen
-How did you get connected with the developer of the game, 1047 Games?
Kellen Fenton: 1047 Games was looking to overhaul their audio and they became familiar with us after hearing work we had done on other projects. They reached out to Richard Ludlow (our audio director) and he assigned me to be the Lead Sound Designer.
Richard Ludlow: Yeah as Kellen mentioned, 1047 reached out to our team at Hexany Audio in part because of our past video game sound design work, and also in part due to our specialization with the audio middleware Wwise, which Splitgate is utilizing.
-Many critics are saying Splitgate is very reminiscent of Halo. Did you go back and look at Halo for motivation?
Kellen Fenton: We looked at a lot of modern first-person shooters for references, everything from the more recent Call of Duty games, to Apex Legends, Overwatch, and Halo 5.
Richard Ludlow: Of course Halo is a classic and set the standard for games like this in so many ways, but as Kellen mentioned, we really tried to look at the full gamut of FPS games out there and see what each was doing the best from an audio standpoint.
-What would you say your main objective is for a game such as Splitgate: Arena Warfare? For people who don’t quite know what you do, can you explain.
Kellen Fenton: I’m the lead sound designer on Splitgate which means that my role has two main parts. The first part is creating many of the key sounds of the game, the second is directing the rest of the audio team here at Hexany to ensure we were all working towards the same goals.
My main objective with this game is to design an audio experience that gives the player as much information as possible as clearly as possible.
– Some people have said this game is revolutionizing the FPS genre with the unique movement and flanking abilities that players can pull off through portals. What do you think about this?
Kellen Fenton: I think the portal mechanic is brilliant and it’s something that people have wanted to see in games for a long time. I think a big part of Splitgate’s success is due to its simple concept, a first-person arena shooter with portals. The simplicity of it makes it approachable for new-comers but it’s also very difficult to master, leaving something for the pros to really latch on to.
-Were there any specific challenges that you had while working on this game you had to overcome?
Kellen Fenton: One thing that’s tricky about a fast-paced arena style shooter is giving the player enough audio cues to inform them of the enemy position. We used things like positional bullet hits that help guide you towards the enemy player, enemy portal indicators that alert you when an enemy is looking at you through a portal, and a streamlined priority system that ensures that you’re always hearing the most important sound at any given moment.
-What was the most difficult sound you created for this game?
Kellen Fenton: The assault rifle was a challenge as it’s the weapon that you start out with in most of the game modes. Making sure that it feels satisfying and powerful but also making sure that it doesn’t hog up the entire mix was difficult and took several iterations before I dialed it in.
–Splitgate: Arena Warfare is available on PC. Does your job change at all depending on what platform the title is on?
Kellen Fenton: If a game releases on console there are some relatively minor tweaks we have to make to ensure everything runs smoothly but we like to make sure that our PC releases are optimized as well. If a gameplay feature is altered for a console release then we would of course address that, but for the most part we want it to be 1:1.
Richard Ludlow: Kellen brings up a great point; nowadays things are more streamlined when porting games from platform-to-platform. A few years ago if we were porting this to console, it would have been a much bigger headache than with the current generation. But today with the advent of standardized game engines and the audio middleware Wwise, it’s much less of a headache to release something cross-platform if the developers decide to do that down the road.
It becomes more about optimization than rebuilding everything. That being said, there are certain things that are platform-specific that always require some unique work for each console. But to address your point, does our job change? Yes it does sometimes, depending on the platform and the technologies we want to leverage. Thankfully, PC is usually the most straight forward development platform.
-Were there any sound effects you created with out of the ordinary objects that would surprise the player? For instance, we read that someone from Hexany used a car tailpipe to create a unique sound for a previous project.
Kellen Fenton: I’ve always liked that nice ‘thwoomp’ sound that a grenade launcher makes and I think that sound is also very easy for players to identify. The water bottle I use has a very tonal, snappy lid that makes a similar sound when its popped open. I took that sound, pitched it down, and beefed it up. That was then layered with other explosive and mechanical gun sounds and turned into the sound of the rocket launcher.
*Interview was conducted by Chris Miller
About Hexany Audio
Hexany Audio is a Los Angeles based audio post-production studio that provides custom sound, original music, voice over, audio programming, and sound branding for video games, virtual reality (VR) and interactive media. Some of their work include:
- Assassins Creed Syndicate
- Overwatch Contenders
- Arena of Valor
- Monster Hunter Online
- H1Z1 Auto Royale
- John Wick Chronicles
- King’s Quest (2015)
You can see more of their work here. Additionally, you can listen to some of their work below: