Sound Effects

The most common use of sound in a game is for sound effects. These sounds corre­spond to the actions and events of the game world—for example, a burst of gunfire or the squealing of tires as a car slides around a corner. In the real world, sound

often presents the first warning of approaching danger, so use sound as an indica­tor that something needs the player's attention. Suspense movies do this well, and you can borrow techniques from them: Play the sound of footsteps or the sound of a gun being cocked before the player can see it. You can also use sound to provide feedback about aspects of the game under the player's control, such as judging when to change gears in a racing game by listening to the pitch of the engine.

You should also include sound effects as audible feedback in your user interface, not just in the game world. At the very minimum, make sure the screen buttons make an audible click when pressed, but try to find interface effects that harmonize with the theme of your game world as well (as long as they're not corny). Be sure to support audio feedback from the UI with visual feedback too so that when players hear a click or beep or buzz, the visual feedback directs them to the issue that gen­erated the audible signal. We interpret events that we can see more easily than with audio alone.


Many modern controllers include a vibration feature, which you can use to provide sensory feedback (often called rumble) about game events. Although rumble is not technically an audio element, the player can usually hear it as well as feel it.

Normally you can control two aspects of the vibration: intensity and duration. Be sure to scale these appropriately to the game world phenomenon that they're asso­ciated with. Rumble can be very startling when it's unexpected, which makes it an excellent feature for survival horror and stealth games. Don't use rumble constantly, or the player will learn to ignore it. Also, if you use rumble too much, the player's hands will begin to tingle unpleasantly.

It's best to use rumble when something big happens, such as an explosion, or when something bad happens, such as when the player's racing car scrapes the wall of the racetrack.

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