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Sound and Music in Games

The Last of Us (Main Menu & Intro Cut-Scene) & Plants vs


Zombies
In The Last of Us, the developers known as Naughty Dog immediately
use their extensive knowledge of sound in this video game by applying
sounds on their main menu which have incredible meaning behind them
and gives a sense of foreboding. [1] This is demonstrated by the music of
the main menu and the ambient sound of wind.

https://ilikeinterfaces.com/2015/01/08/settings-ui-the-last-of-us/ &
http://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/959255-plants-vs-zombies/images/22

On the other hand, PopCap (the creators of Plants vs Zombies) gives the
player a sense of foreshadowing as their main menu music plays. [2] Their
main menu music isnt cryptic, but because of the pentatonic scales, it
sounds ghastly despite it being a smooth track. [3] Similarly, the
pentatonic scales used for the main menu music of The Last of Us,
provides information that the atmosphere of the game will be murky and
deathly despite the music sounding quite calm. On the contrary, due to
the music sounding calm, it can lure the player into a calm mood when in
actuality the player needs to prepare for an up-beat emotional
rollercoaster thats present during the entirety of the game. Another
example of how well non-diegetic music is used is when Sarah goes back
to sleep; the dialogue between both Joel and Sarah is substituted by
soothing, non-dynamic linear music (when Joel carries Sarah upstairs to
bed). This game music aesthetic describes how strong the bond is
between Joel/father and Sarah/daughter which makes the death of Sarah
(later on in the prologue) much more heart-wrenching. After this, the
soothing music stops and gets replaced by the ringing of a phone by
Sarahs bedside which on the other end is Uncle Tommy who sounds
worried before he gets cut off suddenly, creating impactful suspense just
before the player plays in Sarahs perspective.

http://thelastofus.wikia.com/wiki/Joel_%26_Sarah_Photo

In contrast to this, PopCaps level music is calm, but the waveform of the
level music alters as the player reaches flag-points in the level (or is near
to completing the level), clarifying that the level music of Plants vs
Zombies is tension music. When these situations occur, the levels music
increases in decibel level and more instruments play in the background to
emphasise how important these moments are, building the tension up so
that the player cracks under pressure when an enormous wave of
zombies head towards the house.

http://www.vampiresandzombies.com/plants-vs-zombies-game.html

Also, when it comes to the sounds of the zombies, the pitch of the sounds
varies for Gargantuars and Imps to provide information on how tough
these zombies are to defeat (although there are other methods such as
added items e.g. Bucket-Head Zombies and vehicles e.g. Zambonis), Imps
sounding high-pitched because theyre the weakest in the game and
Gargantuars grunting low-pitch because theyre the toughest in the game.

http://plantsvszombies.wikia.com/wiki/Imp/Gallery &
http://plantsvszombies.wikia.com/wiki/File:PVZ_2_Gargantuar_HD.png

Going back to the end of the intro cut-scene in The Last of Us, the last,
significant acousmatic, diegetic sound thats heard (before actually
playing) is Uncle Tommys voice of panic (when talking on the phone with
Sarah). This reiterates that this game will be murky and deathly, not
soothing and calm, as told by the main menu music of the game. Not to
mention that Uncle Tommys tone of voice indicates that raw feelings and
emotions such as panic will be constantly portrayed and felt throughout
the game!
Like it was mentioned earlier, the sound of wind can be heard as it blows
the window curtains in the main menu of The Last of Us. The wind is
there as an ambience sound to signify that the world behind the window is
about to fade like the quality of the walls that encompass the window it
gives the player a sense of urgency since the player will be dumped into a
series of tragic events. Whereas, although the events of Plants vs
Zombies arent tragic, PopCap uses sound samples such as lightning
when bold text e.g. A huge wave of zombies is approaching appears to
give the player a sense of urgency (as well) and braces the player for the
impending event.
In addition to ambience sounds, PopCap uses symbolic leitmotifs e.g.
zombies saying brains to warn the player the consequences which will
follow if the players plants are defeated and the zombies reach the
house, giving the player incentive to ensure that this dreadful possibility is
prevented by any means necessary.

http://plantsvszombies.wikia.com/wiki/I,_Zombie_hack

Likewise, the sounds of The Last of Us could be viewed as symbolic too


as when the game is started the player is shown Sarah, whos sleeping on
the couch and moving about vividly as a clock is ticking. Afterwards, the
opening/closing of a door can be heard, followed by footsteps (which
appears to be Joel whilst hes talking on his phone). These examples of
acousmatic, diegetic sounds (the clock being a non-dynamic diegetic
sound) could symbolise the beginning of the end! The clock ticking
symbolises that its only a matter of time until the apocalypse begins, and
the front door opening/closing of the door with Joel appearing could
symbolise the negative effects upcoming for humans - added by Joels
concerned voice when hes talking to someone on the phone (even though
its not about an apocalypse).

http://orcz.com/The_Last_of_Us:_Sarah & http://www.gameskinny.com/kexeb/thelast-of-us-get-ready-to-survive

Now, when one of the 4 main game modes (Adventure, Mini-Games,


Puzzle & Survival) in Plants vs Zombies is selected, a zombies hand digs
its way out of the ground. This diegetic sound assists the motion being
executed, magnifying how alarming the motion is, alerting the player that
the game is about to start. Furthermore, the leitmotif of the creepy laugh
that follows this amplifies the seriousness of the game, convincing the
player to take this game seriously. This also drastically affects how the
player perceives the game as it changes the players expression from
careless to a more careful state.
Unlike PopCap, who have to go to such lengths to affect the players mood
due to their game being quite repetitive, Naughty Dog can affect the
players mood with sounds much more freely as The Last of Us isnt
anywhere as repetitive as Plants vs Zombies. This is exemplified by the
objective-internal sound of Sarahs yawn and the diegetic sound of the T.V.

These sounds accurately concoct a feeling of humanity in their game,


immersing the player as reality within fiction can be visualised as the
player is watching/playing. This also helps the player to personally relate
to their characters, causing reflection and replication of the characters
mood & emotion, because of the immersion constructed by sounds such
as these.

http://thebloodybaronishere.tumblr.com/post/108779564418/the-last-of-us

When it comes to the audio environment, The Last of Us is in-depth as


Naughty Dog strives to support the games realistic audio environment
authenticity with its surround sound (amplifying the ability to hear sounds
around the characters surroundings) whilst utilising techniques such as
occlusion, obstruction and reverberation to achieve realistic sound effects
the player/Sarah shouldnt be able to hear the T.V downstairs loud and
clear, especially with many solid objects being between Sarah and the T.V.
Whereas, Plants vs Zombies has a very simplistic audio environment that
doesnt waver and the only thing defining about its audio environment is
its surround sound! Finally, as a similarity, both games use interactive
sound since when an action occurs (due to a button on a controller being
pressed) the same sound occurs with that same action over and over
again without changing.

https://thetripleoption.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/five-things-you-might-havemissed-in-the-last-of-us/ & http://levelsave.com/the-last-of-us-i-became-amonster-spoilers/

In terms of the legality of their sounds, although only the main menu and
intro cut-scene of The Last of Us has been focused on, both this game
and Plants vs Zombies wouldnt have used public domain music and
sounds for their games. Even though the companies can commercially use
them without permission, the developers (and publishers) wouldnt own
the property rights those sounds because anyone can access them on
sound libraries without permission. Plus, the companies wouldnt be able

to copyright-protect them either. In addition, third-party licensed


music/sounds wouldnt have been used either, otherwise these companies
would definitely not get all of the royalties as the profits would have to be
shared with the third-party companies who provided those sounds due to
ancillary rights.

http://creativedojo.net/starting-music-sound-library/ &
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thriller_(song)

[4] Because of these reasons, Naughty Dog and PopCap would have [most
likely] recorded the sounds for the games using the method of in-studio
recording: Almost all of the sounds being heard in the games would be
achievable under controllable conditions and the studio team would have
access to higher-quality sound equipment, allowing for easier and better
results when creating music and sounds for the game. Plus, those sounds
would be the companys own intellectual property, thus the company can
copyright-protect the audio-visual work done and register it with a
copyright office so rewards can be reaped off of copyright infringement.
[5] [6] To add, both companies would have used the technique called
original recording because the sounds in both of these games can be
associated with the objects that are accompanied in real-life.

http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/an-employee-works-on-a-voicerecording-for-a-video-game-at-news-photo/94597670

However, some sounds such as gunfire in The Last of Us and thunder and
lightning in Plants vs Zombies cant be achieved in a studio alone.

Therefore, both companies alike mustve used remote recording to


compile these sounds, where PopCap specifically used the technique of
field recording to get thunder, rain and lightning samples to place in some
of the levels of Plants vs Zombies. Unfortunately, if field recording,
PopCap wouldnt have initial control over how e.g. the weather is and
what sounds are created from the weather. That means that, for the
distinct lightning sound heard when a huge/final wave of zombies
approach, this company had to modify the sound of the sample with
specialised sound gear to get this specific sound that they hoped for.

http://variousaudio.com/video-game-audio & Foley:


http://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/recording-foley-and-sound-effects-thefundamentals/

In conclusion, solely for The Last of Us, Naughty Dog may have required
the help of Foley to re-create whats visualised on the film/game cinematic
cut-scenes and mix the sounds carefully the actions being portrayed
during the cut-scene.

Bibliography
[1] The Last of Us (0:00-3:16 & 4:17-5:20):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HawhjjF5qFc [Accessed 5 Sep. 2016].
[2] Plants vs Zombies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPie0xqd2Rk
[Accessed 5 Sep. 2016].
[3] Psychology of Sound Word Document [Accessed 5 Sep. 2016].
[4] https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6qO7NfG9txETjJRNFk4SW1XNkE/view
[Accessed 16 Sep. 2016].
[5] Sound Recordings & Soundtracks Word Document [Accessed 16 Sep.
2016].
[6] http://estudy.wiltshire.ac.uk/mod/resource/view.php?id=2298625
[Accessed 16 Sep. 2016].

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