Inside the Hytale foley studio
Foley is the process by which ordinary objects are used to create the sound effects you hear in TV shows, films, and videogames. In this post, we’re going to reveal how Hytale sound designer Kieran Fitzpatrick goes about creating audio for everything from weapon swings to creepy creatures. Consider this a follow-up to our previous blog about sound design, which focused on how post-processing and editing is used to turn raw audio into in-game effects. Today, we’re showing off how all of that raw audio comes to be. This one's all about audio, so please wear headphones if you can!
Please note! The final two clips in this post involve in-game insects, including spiders. If you suffer from arachnophobia, you might want to stop scrolling after the weapon effects video!
Hypixel Studios is a remote team, and so Kieran’s process begins in his home recording studio - using a variety of household objects to create sounds that are implemented into the game in all sorts of different ways.
Recording takes place outside the studio too - many of Hytale’s ambient nature sounds begin as real-life recordings of forests, rivers, and other natural environments.
While many of the vocal creature sounds in the game are produced by Kieran himself, we also make use of actors. In this case, Kieran’s dog, Roland.
In the next set of clips, we’re going to show how this audio recording process produces the sounds you hear in-game. We’ll start with another set of creature sounds - in this case, cave bats.
“Bats are a unique sound to work on” Kieran says. “Everybody thinks they know what a bat ‘sounds’ like, but in actuality they emit ultrasonic sounds outside the range of frequency that humans can hear. To mimic this in an audible way, I knew it would require a prop that makes high frequency sounds. There’s an infinite way to go about creating these, but I found that the balloon led to a good balance between cartoonish and comical versus expressive and bat-like.”
Even in instances where it is possible to record the desired effect for real, creative use of props can actually yield a more believable result. In the next clip, we’re going to show how we create the sound of heavy footsteps in snow:
“Corn starch. The noisiest of the starches” Kieran says. “After experimenting with different powders, this provided the greatest crunch and squeaks. This was one of the layers used in the footsteps, and became the base on which other layers could be added.”
“Some things in real life sound very little like what is desired or expected” he continues. “This is an example of a sound that needed to be ‘designed’ or ‘sweetened’ to achieve the hyper-realistic sound that most people associated with snow - traditional snow recordings just weren’t cutting it.”
Next, we’re going to show how a highly ‘designed’ sound can be created using foley recordings as a base. Let’s take a look at a treasure chest being opened - both in real life, and in the game!
“Recording your own source will always lead to a more original design” Kieran says. “Finding a ‘seed’ with which to start the process can sometimes be the most challenging part. Think of it like taking a photograph, and then tracing over it with pencil - the chest recording provides the rough shape, and then layers are used to sweeten it and highlight other elements.”
Next, we’re going to take a look at the humble origins of some of Hytale’s weapon effects. It might not sound like the player in the previous clip was swinging a coat hanger, but you’d be surprised!
Each of Hytale’s weapon types has a distinct audio signature, and these begin life as original recordings using familiar objects. “Recording your own props provides you with more variety” Kieran says. “If you choose to use a sound library, you’re limited to what you’re given.”
“These recordings provided the base content for the weapon swings” he continues. “Then, using a number of sound design tricks and tools, coat hangers and dustpans were crafted into sharpened steel blades.” The tools that Kieran uses to achieve this include pitch shifting, reversing the audio, equalization, reverb, and layering. The combination is different in each case!
In the next clip, we’re going to show how Hytale’s creepier monsters are brought to life using a variety of unusual props. If you’re not a fan of spiders, consider this your second warning! Also, if you’re a bell pepper, this one may be hard to watch.
“The goal of the spider effects was to make them as crunchy and nasty as possible” Kieran says. “Vegetables are a tried and true method of recording gory sounds. I also recorded some paper and onion peel crumpling, as it provided a more exoskeleton-esque sound.”
Listen closely to the hissing sound of the spiders, and then go listen back to the first clip in this post - the bending and flexing of a wicker basket is the secret ingredient in this effect! “I used the tension of the wicker basket to morph the hissing of the spiders, to create a more insect-like rhythm to the sound” Kieran says.
Finally, we’re going to answer a direct request from the Hytale community! While we were in the process of producing this post, Noxy happened to receive a pertinent question from community member Kweebec Corner:
We’d be more than happy to show you - but beware, it’s a little gross!
“This sound was designed with the purpose of being gross and uncomfortable to hear, to alert the player that they’re in the presence of the eggs” Kieran says. “The styrofoam made squeaks and creaks similar to that of high-frequency spider hatchlings. With the dog food inside, it also thickened up the sound.”
It turns out that this process actually produced sound close to the desired result without requiring much post-processing. “Normally, sounds require a lot of massaging from the initial recording through to playback in-game. Scarak eggs were the exception to that rule.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the production of Hytale’s audio. For more information on the story behind Hytale, Edge Magazine’s article about the game is now available online on GamesRadar+. If you missed it in print, now’s the time to check out this in-depth look at Hytale’s past, present and future.
To download a .zip containing the video clips featured in this post, click here!