Today’s Dead Space developer livestream focused exclusively on audio design. It wasn’t the most exciting showcase for those that just wanted to see the game in action, but it shows how much care is being poured into the project. Audio design plays a major role in a horror game’s atmosphere, which the developers of the Dead Space remake seem to have a handle on.
Motive Studios made it clear that it didn’t go in and change the game wholesale, including its approach to audio design. Rather, the team aims to emulate the original intent as much as possible while improving upon what was already a solid foundation for the era.
The key takeaway from the stream is the implementation of occlusion and obstruction within its soundscape. Occlusion refers to sound that is completely blocked off by a surface, whereas obstruction refers to sound passing around corners with the expected diminishing returns with each bounce within a scene.
To demonstrate this in action, the developers showed a scene from the original game in which Isaac enters a room with a long wall in front of him. The player immediately hears a necromorph banging its head against a surface past the wall at the end of the corridor. The volume and directionality of this sound doesn’t change much even as Isaac passes around the wall.
In the remake, the same scene is much more realistic. For starters, the source is heard through the left portion of the soundscape as opposed to the right side because it has to wrap around the corridor to reach Isaac. It’s also much quieter as the source is much further away, with the obstruction reducing the significance of the sound until Isaac stands in view of the corridor.
The same system is used when players enter entirely separate rooms, with mix changes applied depending on the materials the source passes through. If a room has a window, for example, the sound of someone singing a lullaby sounds much more muffled as it passes through the glass surface.
Similar attention to detail applies to every other aspect of Dead Space’s sound design, including weapon audio and ambient sounds such as Isaac’s heartbeat and breathing, referred to as the A.L.I.V.E system. The hour-long livestream goes into more detail for those that are interested.