Untitled Goose Game sound Asbjoern Andersen


In House House’s Untitled Goose Game, the player assumes the role of a troublemaking goose that disrupts the lives of people in a quiet village. It’s equal parts wicked and charming, thanks to the minimalistic animation and music, and pleasing sound designed by A Shell in the Pit’s Em Halberstadt.

Here, she talks about channeling her inner goose to find creative inspiration, recording sounds outdoors, and enhancing the player experience by adding subtle details through processing and implementation.


Interview by Jennifer Walden, photos courtesy of House House and Em Halberstadt
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G eese are by far the cheekiest of all common birds. Despite being one-third the size of a full-grown human being, a goose will not hesitate to harass a person. And nothing is funnier than watching a person run from a ‘little’ goose.

Ever wish you could be an irreverent goose just wrecking havoc on a town’s inhabitants? Well, wish no more! Game developer House House has created the hilarious Untitled Goose Game, available now for PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch.

Their tag line sums up the game experience perfectly — It’s a lovely day in the village, and you are a horrible goose.

Their tag line sums up the game experience perfectly — It’s a lovely day in the village, and you are a horrible goose

The simple animation, sparse yet expressive piano music, and pleasant sound design make for a quirky game that’s utterly enjoyable. It’s simultaneously cute and kind of evil. Sound designer Em Halberstadt at A Shell in the Pit put so much careful detail into her work, from varying impacts, pick-ups and put-downs to special goose honks — like honking down a wishing well and honking through a harmonica — all of which make the game deeply satisfying.

Here, Halberstadt talks about her sound design aesthetic for the Untitled Goose Game, how she recorded some of the charming sounds — like the goose feet, furniture malfunctions, tea cup and plate rattles — and how she implemented and processed the sounds to best immerse the player into this mischievous goose adventure.
 

Em recording a watering can for Untitled Goose GameHow did you get involved with the Untitled Goose Game?
Em Halberstadt (EH): I got involved with Untitled Goose Game through my work with A Shell in the Pit. Awhile back, I did a Full Indie Summit and GDC talk about the sound design of Night in the Woods, and the folks at House House enjoyed it and the sounds enough to approach me about doing the sound for the Goose! I was really happy because I had already been following and loving the game. I still feel really lucky that I was able to get involved.

How did the look of this game influence your approach to the sound?
EH: My first impression of the game was that it looked simple and pleasant, so I tried to mimic that in the sounds. I wanted them to be easy to listen to and understated, so I put a lot of effort into making sure it felt super pleasant.

I think the harshness of the honk is made funnier by the subtlety and niceness of all the prop sounds and character voices.

I think the harshness of the honk is made funnier by the subtlety and niceness of all the prop sounds and character voices.
 


 

Let’s talk about some fun sounds for the game. How did you make the Goose feet?
EH: I made the Goose footsteps by softly slapping a rubber glove against various surfaces, just floppily enough.
 

How did you make the Goose honk through the walkie-talkie on the second map?
EH: I made the Goose honk sound like it was coming from the walkie-talkie with EQ, an impulse response in Fog Convolver, and a layer of static. I also added the sound of a button to the pickup, so that it seemed like the Goose was pressing the button on purpose.

Recording in the backyard for Untitled Goose Game
 

What went into the sound of the glasses?
EH: All of the props in the game I recorded in my house and backyard. This means I was picking them up, dropping, and dragging them all on three different surfaces.

All of the props in the game I recorded in my house and backyard

They each shared a grab, release, and impact set, along with a drag for some of them. A lot of them I did using a similar real life prop. I did in fact put a rake in a lake.

Rake in the lake for Untitled Goose Game

For the glasses, I used an old pair of sunglasses. Here are some examples of the things I would drop! Sometimes my neighbors would come out and watch but not say anything, and I wouldn’t say anything either. They probably thought I was pretty weird.

More backyard recording for Untitled Goose Game
 

How about the tea cup sounds?
EH: All the fragile props were tricky because I had to drop them on concrete without breaking them. And one time I did break a glass, right after declaring it was fine. I think for the tea cup I used a mug.

 

What about the vase grabs and break?
EH: I was tempting fate with the vase, because I was dropping a real vase that we had just bought! But it was robust so it was ok. I was only dropping it from a little distance. I used a library of ceramic shattering for the breaks, because I didn’t want to break my stuff.

 

And for the garden sheers, what did you use?
EH: The garden sheers I think I used my trowel and I pitched it down so it would sound heavier. This was one of the props that the goose could drag. For all of these props, I recorded myself moving them around in a continuous circle on the ground. I then edited out all the accidental pauses and stand out bumps so it would sound like a constant action.

The Goose doesn’t actually destroy much so we wanted it to feel very satisfying to pull the desk apart.

What went into the sound of the desk falling apart?
EH: The desk breaking was divided into parts. There’s the slide of the drawer, which was a loop, some creaky sounds so you’d know you were doing something meaningful, and the collapse, which I ended up making stereo because I had a note to make sure it was big. The Goose doesn’t actually destroy much so we wanted it to feel very satisfying to pull the desk apart.
 


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I loved the details of the Goose honks interacting with the environment, for example when the Goose honks down the wishing well. How did you create that effect?
EH: I used an FMOD snapshot for this effect. I made a barely audible spot sound for the water in the well, mostly so that I could attach a snapshot and a distance parameter to it. Snapshots are pretty cool. I just used the FMOD reverb and delay for the echo.

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The first 11 minutes of ‘Untitled Goose Game’ (contains spoilers)

How about the Goose walking through the house? It sounds like it’s destroying everything in there!
EH: The Goose crashing through the house was a random container of various crash sounds. It’s implemented this way because the amount of time you can be in the house is variable, depending on how resistant of a goose you are. Some of the sounds are actually me throwing things around in my house, and some of the bigger crashes are from a library. Originally I had put a heavy EQ on it to muffle everything, because I often get too realistic in my thinking, and Jake from House House pointed out that they wanted it to be more cartoon-like, referencing a gag from The Simpsons. It worked much better this way!
 

The Goose honking through the harmonica was hilarious. How did you create that sound?
EH: I took my harmonica and recorded some obnoxious and random notes. I then put some EQ on the goose honk and layered them together.
 

The rattling comes from an RTPC I set up for each prop, which calculates the velocity of each impact and changes the pitch and volume accordingly.

What did you do for the plate rattling at the pub?
EH: For the base sound, I took a plate and dropped it on the ground. The rattling comes from an RTPC I set up for each prop, which calculates the velocity of each impact and changes the pitch and volume accordingly. I had a base curve that I started with but each prop had to be set manually. I spent a lot of time in the game testing and dropping everything over and over.

RTPC curves for pitch and volume in Untitled Goose Game
 

How about the miniature castle falling over? How did you design that sequence?
EH: The miniature castle was one of the most complicated series of sounds in the game. There were a series of lurches, pull loops, the wood you grab at the end, and a series of pecks for cracking the plaster. There were detailed instructions along with all this, which was one of the really cool things about working with House House. They were super detail-oriented, and I loved that because that’s how I work too. It’s so nice to work with folks who pay such close attention to sound, and they had so many great ideas for it in this game.
 

It’s so nice to work with folks who pay such close attention to sound, and they had so many great ideas for it in this game.

What did you use for the bell pick-ups, ringing, and drop at the end?
EH: This was one that I really struggled with for some reason. I think it’s because I didn’t have the proper bell at home, or in my library. And it was quite an important sound so it had to be just right. I ended up recording my singing bowl for some of the metal impacts for putting it down. And for the ringing, we ended up buying a library of antique bells from A Sound Effect ;)
 

Did you do the implementation too? If so, what did you use? Any challenges here?
EH: I implemented the sound effects and House House implemented the music, using FMOD. The music logic uses Nico’s code.

Other than the technical challenge of getting the impacts firing properly, the biggest and most fun challenge was finding what I was going to use for each prop.

It was fairly straightforward all around but I did find it challenging to get the physics of the impacts just right. There was a ton of tweaking the velocity curve for each individual prop and for the max number of instances and the cooldown.
 

What was your biggest challenge in terms of sound on this game?
EH: Other than the technical challenge of getting the impacts firing properly, the biggest and most fun challenge was finding what I was going to use for each prop. I spent a lot of time wandering around looking for things I could drop. I started out with my stuff, but then ran out and had to move on to my housemate’s stuff. I would go rummaging through their shed looking for things like a metal watering can or rubber boots. I was lucky because over the course of the game I moved in with my partner, who had a lot of stuff I could drop that I was missing before. I also worked in New Zealand for a few months during development, so I was able to drop some of the stuff of the people I was staying with. I was a little bit like the Goose I suppose.

I’m very proud to see so many people noticing these small details like the footsteps, the special honks and even the impact sounds. People don’t usually notice sound consciously, so it’s very gratifying to see people reacting to these things.

 

What are you most proud of in terms of sound on the Untitled Goose Game?
EH: I’m always really excited about getting people to listen. I think it’s one of the main reasons I got into this work. Because listening is fantastic.

So I’m very proud to see so many people noticing these small details like the footsteps, the special honks and even the impact sounds.

People don’t usually notice sound consciously, so it’s very gratifying to see people reacting to these things.
 

A big thanks to Em Halberstadt for the story behind the great sound for the game – and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

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