End of Year 2018: Favorite Sound Design


#1

Favorite Sound Design

Many of our favorite games would not be the same if their sound design was different or absent. It’s hard to explain the full effect good sound design has. This is because sounds do not just make you aware that something has happened with your UI or that an enemy is nearby. They make a swing or a step or roll feel like it has weight. They make shots fired toward you feel dangerous, and help the sliding or placing of a puzzle block feel pleasantly tactile.

It’s likely that games nominated for this category will usually have very important sound design, because that’s easiest to remember. However, I encourage you to return to your favorite games of the year and play through a bit with full attention towards the sound. Play with and without sound, play with your best headphones or speakers if possible, and if it moves you, come here to describe that re-evaluating experience. Sound design is extremely under-recognized in proportion to how important it is for games. Let’s try and change that.


Nomination Submissions

[click here for access to the submission form]

You will have until 5th January to nominate your games – this is our cut-off ahead of polling going live.

Remember: you can nominate up to three games, so be creative with your choices!

Be sure to check the Q&A section below if you have questions, otherwise feel free to reach out to one of us! We hope you enjoy this event and we’re excited to see what sorts of discussion each category inspires!


Q&A

Q: End of Year? What's that?

A: I’m glad you asked! Just head over to our pinned topic if you need a catch up! You can also find details on the process for the event here.

Q: How do I nominate a game?

A: To nominate a game, head on over to our google form and write down your submissions in the appropriate field. You may nominate up to three games and you will be able to edit this submission at any time by returning to the google form (before the nomination date closes).

As the nominations will be done externally, this thread will instead be the place to discuss what your favorites were and to make the case for them if you feel strongly. We welcome thoughtful posts about how you made your decision, as long as we keep it positive and respectful.

Q: When does the nomination process end?

A: The period of time to make your nominations will end January 5th, 2019.

Q: What games can I nominate?

A: For this category, we’re specifically looking for games that were released between 10th December 2017 - 15th December 2018.

Games that either entered Early Access or hit 1.0 during this period are eligible.

Ports, remakes, and remasters are not eligible.

Standalone games/expansions are eligible, however Downloadable Content (DLC) is not.

Mobile and browser games are eligible as long as they meet all other relevant criteria.

The moderation team reserves the right to remove any game from nomination if necessary.

Credits
  • Thank you to @Emily for the banner!

End of Year 2018: Waypoint Community's Favorites
End of Year 2018: Vote for your favs!
#4

This is a pretty safe #1 choice, but, Forza Horizon 4. It’s the first driving game I’ve ever played where I have actively wanted to hear the purr of the engine and squeal of the tires in addition to my own music and I fucking hate it when my music listening is disrupted.

Aside from that, God of War, which I’m actually replaying right now. Atm, the primary reason is the freakin WORLD SERPENT.


#5

First on the list, Hitman 2. If it weren’t for Hitman 2 being a very, very close copy of its 2016 release, I’d really want this to win. Very few places recognized overall sound design in favor of music, so in a weird way this is mostly making up for sins of the past. Hitman’s sound design is superb. It manages to be a cacophony of noise around you at all times fitting most of your situations, but there is never a moment where you miss relevant information be it diegetic or not. Even when I’m in the middle of a high tech race with cheering fans and engine noises, I will never mistake or miss the telltale hissing noise of enemy awareness. Even with the din of hundreds of people talking and snippets of conversation, I will never miss the hints the game is dropping about relevant information. You will always overhear what you need no matter what. It’s also full of delightful little sound stingers for when you accomplish a task or learn something new. Also, let us never forget the telltale thud of a monkey wrench hitting a human skull at speed.

Second on the list is Dead Cells. Does Dead Cells have music? Hell if I know, because all I hear is the crunch of decaying corpses and the shattering of doors I’m blowing to pieces. Every sound effect in this game is tuned to perfection. The whooshing sound of a new upgrade point, the splattering noise of meaty chunks, the thud of arrows sticking in, it’s all so good. The dance of carnage you employ to get through the game is elevated to serene by the way it all sounds.

Third is Nintendo Labo. I haven’t played Labo. I probably won’t play Labo. I admire the design, and even as someone with a young kid I can appreciate the ideas behind it, but I see it as a fun afternoon of building followed by 30 minutes of tinkering with the game part and it being shelved forever. That said, having watched a bunch of videos of the building process, the entire thing is a delight. The aural experience, the snap of each fold, the little noise distortion as you slowly go through each step, it’s just a joy to listen to.


#6

it almost feels like the elephant in the room for this category but the way that Obra Dinn used those orchestral hits and musical stings to punctuate the clunky-but-physical feel of the UI absolutely blew me away. playing that game feels like becoming part of a stage play, the melodrama of the score buoying you through every step of your discovery and exploration.

the other game that really stood out to me in this regard was Runner3. the Runner series seems to want to be defined by the ways in which it references and parodies “video-game-ass video games” and the 3rd entry hits a ton of those notes in the sound design. there’s a combination of bling/boing/bonk cartoon stock sound effects to keep the game’s self-mockery light and fun, with ASMR-esque foley work to accentuate the game’s creepy-cute hyper-real aesthetics. i think these elements clash against each other in a really fun way. also, hard to accurately represent the importance of charles martinet’s narration to help ground the goofball tone throughout. Runner3 has such a unique sonic palette


#7

Definitely in on Obra Dinn for this category. It’s the first one I thought of, in particular because of the timing of all the musical queues, but also because it felt so much like you were actually on that boat due to the sound design.

The other one that jumps out at me is Wandersong. While I still need to finish it, what I’ve seen so far really does some inventive things around sound as puzzle mechanics or as a way to express how your character is feeling.


#8

The World Serpent alone is enough for me to give this to God of War hands down.

It may be a boring, conventional choice, but Forza Horizon 4 sounds phenomenal. It’s not anything you wouldn’t expect - the cars sound great, the terrains are all unique, the snow muffles everything - it’s just supremely well done.


#9

So something I’ve kind of noticed that is kind of interesting about the question of “Best Sound Design” is the kind of games that at least I end up prioritizing in this field. Like, I’m nominating Below, which has great sound design, where every critter and movement makes a noise in the darkness. The soundtrack itself almost feels like ambient noise of the world since it’s steeped in such a tenebrous mire. It’s really brilliant.

Some people have brought up thinks like Forza for its simulationist sound design and games like Wandersong where music is built into actions. Florence has pretty great sound design as well. While Below has this disparate soundscape and it uses silence and ambiance to accentuate the sound that punctuates it, I sometimes feel like that ends up on the forefront, at least for me, on conversations of sound design. Games where sound is a necessity rather than an enhancer. I think it’s good to have a diversity of these styles!

But I also think there needs to be room for this really specific style of sound design that I think goes undiscussed a lot of the time. For example, despite not coming immediately to mind, Lethal League Blaze has pretty great sound design. The reason it’s great is not because it “immerses” you in the world, but rather because it conveys information extremely effectively. In a game like Lethal League Blaze, you’ve got milliseconds to time your hits right, and your ears are faster than your eyes. While I haven’t been able to actually play it myself, watching gameplay of it reveals that almost all actions in the game have distinct and recognizable audio cues. That’s essential. I think there’s room for this kind of more utilitarian sound design, which is why I’ll be nominating Into the Breach, a game who’s sound, despite almost easy to ignore, conveys a lot to the player with each noise it makes.


#10

Along those same lines I would mention Sea of Thieves for consideration here. The ambience of the ocean waves splashing against your ship is great, and there’s a lot of character contained in all the various barks the animals (and skeletons) make. It’s the way the game uses certain musical ques and sounds to help convey information while sailing where it really shines, though.

You always know when you have the ship’s wheel centred because there’s a satisfying click when you hit it. The music swells to inform the player that the sails have caught the wind. You really feel it when you scrape against a sand bed while coming in to dock, the awful sound giving you a good indication that you should be below deck fixing that mistake. It all goes a long way in making the sailing in Sea of Thieves, arguably the most important part of the experience, all the more intuitive and enjoyable.


#11

Hey folks!

With the deadline for phase 1 fast approaching we wanted to remind everyone to get their nominations in if they haven’t already. The google forms will stop taking submissions by 10pm GMT (2pm PST / 5pm EST) on Saturday.

That said, these threads will remain open so that people can continue to share their thoughts on specific categories/games for the remainder of the event. We hope you’ve enjoyed the event thus far and we’re excited to unveil the the voting phase over the weekend!