Official development blog

Weapon SFX

While there are many non-weapon sound effects to be heard in Cogmind, a majority still belong to gunfire, lasers, explosions, etc.

Like working with particle effects, before creating and assigning them to specific weapons the planned sounds were organized into subgroups according to their properties. Many of these properties were already taken into consideration during the particle assignment phase, but once again required a lot of cross-referencing, especially later when the same considerations would have to be revisited when actually making the sounds.

It’s always a good idea to make lists and set out exactly what you have to do before doing it. Even if it may change at some point along the way, the best way to avoid working into a dead end is to plan.


Facing the truth: Planning categories for thermal gun sounds. (It was somewhat disheartening to see the ridiculously long list of sounds needed to cover everything in an absolute minimal way.)

Similar to the item template creation process, designing/assigning specific sounds also required thinking first about what the biggest, baddest weapons would sound like, then filling in the range between those and weak zippy lasers. Everything should at least approximate a progression from “this isn’t bad” to “I want to fire this thing again and again!”

Of course chosen sounds also had to match their particle effects, both visually and timing-wise. You can’t very well have a fiery-looking particle effect making a zapping laser sound, or a fast rocket that sounds like it’s inching towards the enemy. Again, lots of cross-referencing and comparison.

There are several types of sound effects needed for weapons:

  • Shots: Firing guns and cannons (ballistic/thermal/electromagnetic), making up the bulk of the sound effects. Also includes launchers releasing their projectile (grenades, rockets, missiles, etc.).
  • Charges: What better way to reflect the power of superweapons than have them spend 500-1200 milliseconds charging up before firing. Usually accompanied by an animation.
  • Explosions: Ka-boom!
  • As mentioned in the previous post, projectile impact sound mechanics are implemented but won’t be in the final game.

Below is a recording of a battle against 20 robots in the open sandbox. Normal confrontations are much simpler, but this was an easy way to hear more sounds (though note that you still only hear a small subset of the hundreds of weapon-related sfx). You can also occasionally hear a few interface sounds while I’m switching weapons and targeting, but it’s mostly the large number of enemy robots tearing me to pieces. Also, for the recording I was cheating to take all the damage to my souped up core and leave my weapons unharmed, so there is an unusually large number of interface glitch sounds as my core takes damage. (Note: In-game sound effects as heard in this recording are currently played at 22050 Hz.)
You’ll notice that weapons may sound a good bit quieter in some cases. This is because their volume is distance based, and some are being fired from fairly far away. The effect makes more sense when you see it, and is also a good cue when you can’t see what’s going on (like a battle taking place somewhere nearby).

Update 5/15/14: By request I’ve re-recorded the combat with UI sounds disabled, which you can listen to here.

This is the second of a four-part series on the subject of sound effects. The first one gave an overview of sound effects in roguelikes and Cogmind, the next examines the game’s audio engine, and the last looks more specifically at the details of sound design.

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  1. Alex Heartnet
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    There are a lot more then a ‘few’ interface sounds in that clip. The glitches and beeps get in the way of what otherwise genuinely sounds like a battle.

    I know you said that the glitches and beeps were part of the game interface as opposed to part of the gunfire, but it took me some time to actually process that. It would no doubt be more obvious if I was actually ingame switching equipment,

    That glitch noise just doesn’t come across as “I just got hit by a bullet”. I’d instead have the glitch noise play periodically if badly damaged so there is an audio warning for “You are about to die”. Perhaps have the sound of “I just got hit by a bullet” be a *thunk* or a *bzzrt* noise instead?

    • Kyzrati
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:14 am | Permalink

      “There are a lot more then a ‘few’ interface sounds in that clip.”
      Hehe, true. I re-recorded it a week or more after writing the original post and the second time around interacted with a lot more content. As you assume, once you see it the experience is quite different.

      Glitches occur only when your core is hit, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as this clip implies, but are very important and need as much feedback as possible since loss of core integrity is one of only two ways to actually die. In order to get the second recording without losing my weapons (which would happen quickly against so many enemies) I upped the core exposure so that it absorbed *all* enemy shots, hence all the glitches. In hindsight I really should’ve done it another way to avoid the glitches completely!

      If core integrity is low (< 25%, a number adjustable in the options), an occasional alarm plays to remind you, and the UI glows red. There is no glitching at all when other parts (i.e., not the core) are hit, so it will be less frequent than the audio here implies. Though the game supports them, I have not added true projectile collision sounds at this point because of 1) the large number that would be required and 2) you usually can't hear many very clearly anyway because projectiles are often quite fast and strike almost immediately after fired--realistic collision sounds would tend to further muddy up the audio.

      • Alex Heartnet
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        If you don’t mind I’d love to hear what a shootout sounds like without the interface or core getting in the way.

        Sounds like sound design is trickier then I thought, glad you have thought this through so well!

        • Kyzrati
          Posted May 15, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

          Definitely tricky, yes, especially for non-professionals like myself ;)

          I do use a variety of weapon/material-specific projectile impact sounds in my bigger project (currently known as X@COM), because in that game projectiles are slower to create tension, and because there are far fewer of them--in Cogmind a much greater percentage of time in combat is spent firing volleys of multiple weapons, so they need to be faster and impact sounds end up being pretty pointless. However, melee weapons do have impact sounds based on what they hit (and those are always audible since you can only attack with one melee weapon at a time).

          I’ll see about recording another mock battle track later today without the glitches. You’ll still hear some electronic explosions and sparking, but that’s the sound of dying robots and parts being blown off.

        • Kyzrati
          Posted May 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          Re-recorded it here.

          • Alex Heartnet
            Posted May 17, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

            This genuinely sounds like a gunfight, I like this. To an artist this probably isn’t good enough, but an artist is never satisfied.

            Between the graphics and the sound, you are definitely setting a new standard for traditional roguelikes.

          • Kyzrati
            Posted May 17, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

            Thanks! I’d agree that for a professional it leaves a lot to desire, but combined with the visuals it’s a serviceable representation.

            One thing about making games is you have to know when to stop one thing and move on to the next, all in the name of completing it one day. As a perfectionist myself, I failed in this for many years before putting my foot down and deciding that as long as people are liking what I’ve got in its current state, that’s got to be good enough.

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