ZELDA-SOUND-DESIGN Asbjoern Andersen


Getting the story behind Zelda's fantastic game audio has been tricky, but thanks to a recent video from GDC we now have it - directly from the sound team at Nintendo!
Recap by Jennifer Walden, based on a video from GDC 2024 featuring Technical Director Takuhiro Dohta, Lead Physics Programmer Takahiro Takayama, and Lead Sound Engineer Junya Osada
Please share:

T he development team at Nintendo EPD released The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – the sequel to Breath of the Wild (2017) – last spring to glowing reviews from fans and critics. The game won several awards, including two 24th Game Developers Choice Awards for “Best Technology” and the “Innovation Award,” the 27th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards for “Adventure Game of the Year,” The Game Awards 2023 award for “Best Action/Adventure Game,” the 20th British Academy Games Awards for “Technical Achievement,” the 2023 Gamescom Award for “Best Audio,” and more.

It was nominated for numerous awards as well, including nominations for sound, such as the 2023 Golden Joystick Awards for “Best Audio,” The Game Awards 2023 award for “Best Score and Music,” the 24th Game Developers Choice Awards for “Best Audio,” and the 20th British Academy Games Awards for “Audio Achievement.”

At a 2024 GDC talk titled, “Tunes of the Kingdom: Evolving Physics and Sounds for ‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom,'” Technical Director Takuhiro Dohta, Lead Physics Programmer Takahiro Takayama, and Lead Sound Engineer Junya Osada discuss the challenges of creating the sequel to Breath of the Wild (2017).

Here, we recap Lead Sound Engineer Junya Osada’s discussion on the sound team’s approach to the game.

For more detailed information, please watch the original GDC talk “Tunes of the Kingdom: Evolving Physics and Sounds for ‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.'” The sound portion begins at 36 minutes:



Tunes of the Kingdom: Evolving Physics and Sounds for ‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’


Tunes of the Kingdom: Evolving Physics and Sounds for ‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’

To recap Junya Osada’s presentation on the sound aspect of the game, he said they wanted sounds to have natural decay and echoes that were relevant to the many different spaces in the game, such as open-air spaces, complicated terrain (with structures, forests, and other obstacles that absorb or occlude sounds), and enclosed spaces. To achieve this, they needed to create rules for the sound design that dictated how sounds would act in the 3D environments in-game.

Examining sounds of the real world

They started by examining real world acoustic characteristics. As a general rule, SPL decreases by 6 dB for every doubling of the distance from the source. Air absorption also plays a role in the attenuation of sounds at distance, and the higher the frequency, the more it’s absorbed by air. A distance attenuation curve is used to show how quiet a sound is perceived to be at distances further from the sound source. This helped to create one of the rules they used for lowering the volume of sounds in-game. But lowering the volume is only one aspect. Different filters are added at different distances, like low-pass filters to muffle the sound, and reverb to help the sound gradually blend into the environment. This helps the sound to feel like it’s realistically getting further away.

Aside from processing, this effect can be achieved by cross-fading a close-up recording with a distant recording of the same sound source.

These tried-and-true metholds have been used with success on many game titles. But the concept is taken even further on Tears of the Kingdom because they wanted the player to have other information delivered via sound: how far away the source of the sound is, what direction it’s coming from, and what environment the source sound is coming from (a cave, open-air, a forest, etc.). To achieve this, sound parameters that change with distance – like volume, filters, and reverb processing – must be controlled by the same rules. When creating rules for sound, the team considered what characteristics they needed filters for, and the distance at which those filters should be applied.

Interactive sound effects

Their interactive music system was the inspiration for their system for interactive sound effects. They created a system that allowed them to manipulate sounds so they played in the 3D game space, like changing the volume of sounds to match the character’s distance from its source, adding filters and reverb depending on the distance, panning sounds to match the sound source’s location on-screen, and processing sounds to match the sound source’s environment (i.e., sounds happening in a cave will have echo on them).

It’s also important to consider the characteristics of indirect sound. Sounds happening inside a house will sound different from ones happening inside a rock cave. Reverb size and length can help differentiate the two, but their approach to reverb in past games resulted in too many parameters to adjust and therefore, too much work. So for this game, the reverb parameters are automatically calculated using information about walls (e.g., direction of walls, distance to walls, room capacity, density of wall, and sound absorption rate of walls) collected by ray casting. This information is plugged into Eyring’s Reverberation Time Equation, and the results are used for reverb and echo parameters.

Sound obstruction and occlusion

Since this game has more complicated terrain, like walls and cave, sound obstruction and occlusion are important considerations when creating realistic sounds. To depict a three-dimensional world in-game, the terrain contains voxel information. Each voxel contains terrain information, like whether it’s located indoors or outdoors, near water, near a forest, etc. Sound uses the voxels as well to find sound paths using an informed search algorithm. The sound system performs calculations based on the camera’s position and the sound source along a sound path. So, if a sound is coming from behind a wall, the sound path to the player is obstructed and the sound is occluded. As the player runs around the wall, toward the sound source, the path gets more direct and the sound changes accordingly. Doors dynamically affect the sound path. If a door is open, the player can hear a sound source inside the structure; if the door is closed, the sound cannot be heard.

The important aspect of sound attenuation and processing in the game is that all sounds follow the same rules. Among those rules, loudness is particularly important. If you create acoustic characteristics based on the loudness of a sound (how loud it is and how far away it can be heard), then assigning a loudness to each sound will allow you to hear them properly in the game space.

Instrumental music that isn’t a sound effect can also echo off of nearby walls or sound as though it’s coming from a canyon. It’s affected by the same rules and therefore plays naturally within the game space.


Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:


Trending right now:

  • Firearms Sound Effects Sci-Fi Weapons (Principle Sound) Play Track 2626 sounds included $50

    The Sci-Fi Weapons library delivers more than 2600 futuristic weapon shots, charges, ricochets and other related sounds.

    All of them were designed using exclusively recorded Foley sounds, synthetic layers, various sound manipulation and morphing techniques.

    Single shots and automatic fire, reloading ammo, energy blasts, impacts and explosions, surface hits – it’s all there, ready to be used in your sci-fi projects!

    Version 1.5 is out:
    In v1.5 update we add 11 new weapons and two new reloads/ricochets packs. The total number of sounds in the library comes up to 2626.

    50 %
    OFF
  • Human Sound Effects Crowds: Emotions And Reactions Play Track 400 sounds included, 90 mins total $47.40

    This SFX library contains a wide range of reactions and emotional responses varying from quiet crowds to roared battle cries to a large selection of exclamations generated by a group of passionate theatrical actors in indoor venues.

    Apart from the vocalizations, we’ve also included recordings of more unusual crowd ambiances like people walking around the mics, falling down, sitting down and getting up, jumping around, marching, or just being present in the space.

    Crowds library is split into the following two parts:

    Small Groups: Includes small groups of up to 30 people which you can layer together and quickly create the sound of any sized realistic groups of people.

    Large Crowds: Brings pre-designed, easy-to-use sounds of medium to large crowds in various types of reactions, moods, and surroundings.

    40 %
    OFF
    Ends 1722031199
  • Analog Days contains 390 sounds extracted from old portable cassette players, Retro WW tube radios, vintage turntable vinyl record players and retro tape machines. This is really a sound time capsule ready to send your projects back to the good old analog days and give that sense of analog imperfection that makes the sound really interesting.

    30 %
    OFF
    Ends 1721944800
  • Ensembles of traditional Buddhist instruments and chanting, with throat singing.


Latest releases:

  • Environments & Ambiences Chimney Wind Play Track 30 sounds included, 93 mins total $7

    There was a massive storm going on outside and we could hear the wind from the chimney so we popped our field recording kit up and extended the microphones to as far as they would go up the chimney and pressed record. We managed to capture the low end and rumbles of the wind interacting with the chimney.

    We then tried adding some reverb on to the samples to give space and context which wasn’t exactly part of the plan for this sample pack but we thought it added something so decided to add these samples to the sample pack for no extra cost.

    Chimney Wind will give you enough audio to give your project the authentic sound of wind from a chimney stack, boosting your project to the next level. Chimney Wind has been edited to allow a drop in ready and Royalty Free sample pack. These Samples can be used in a variety of projects from Sound Designing/Compositions for TV, Film, Documentaries and Video Games. UCS Compliant and Metadata is attached to the samples

  • Door Sound Effects Small Furniture Workshop Play Track 17+ sounds included, 52 mins total $15

    This library is recorded in a small furniture workshop where office furniture is sawn and created. We recorded the sounds of the factory so that they can be easily combined together to create a workshop of any scale.

    Here’s What We Recorded:

    • Large circular saw

    • Drill

    • Doors

    • General work noises

    • Industrial Spaces

    Microphones were placed at varying distances from the recording subjects. Many recordings were created using a LOM Geofon contact microphone.

     

     

    50 %
    OFF
  • Rolling thunder, rain in the city or in the countryside – these are the sounds that are included in the collection “Thunderstorm Rain Vol.1”.

    These sounds are well suited for creating a stormy, rainy atmosphere for movies, games and other audio-visual content.

    All sounds are recorded in WAV format, 96 kHz, 24 bit.

     

    The following sounds are included:

    • Atmosphere of Thunderstorm in City Outside Window
    • Drops of Thunderstorm Rain on Windowsill
    • Heavy Rain
    • Pouring Rain
    • Rain Hurricane Rattle Metal Plate Loop
    • Rain in the Gazebo
    • Rain In the Village
    • Rain on Windowsill and City Traffic
    • Rain Thunderstorm on City Traffic Background
    • Rainy Atmosphere with Thunderstorm in City
    • The End of the Thunderstorm
    • Thunderstorm
    • Thunderstorm Rain Intensifies
    • Thunder FX

     

    Product Details:

    • 82 GB
    • 96kHz/24-Bit
    • 73 WAV files

    Thunderstorm Rain Vol.1 – Sound List

  • “Sci-Fi Textures and Loops” are unique sound effects in WAV 24 Bit 96 kHz format that are suitable for creating a dark, mysterious, alien atmosphere when creating science fiction films, games, and music tracks.

    32 %
    OFF
  • The Reindeer/Caribou sound effect library has 150 audio files and over 500 individual sounds. Including:

    • Isolated vocalizations of adults, young calves, and newborn calves, including grunts and nickers
    • Isolated mouth and nose sounds, including breaths, exhales, inhales, snorts, coughs, smacking, swallowing, sniffs, burps, and gurgles
    • Herd activity, including resting, moving, herding and round-up
    • Real and foley bells
    • Antlers clashing
    • Footsteps, walking and running on different surfaces
    • Eating and drinking
    • Sleeping/Resting
    • Digging snow

    Reindeer/Caribou - Sound Effect Library

    Most of these sounds have been recorded with a collar microphone on reindeer, so the sounds are extremely intimate, isolated, and close-up. The collar microphone was attached to a female reindeer with a calf, which captured the most intimate moments. The collar microphone also recorded many other reindeer in the herd, so there are a lot of unique reindeer vocalizations.

    This sound effect library also contains all 33 files from my previous Reindeer sound effect library.

    Note regarding the naming of the animal: Wikipedia says that “Reindeer is the European name for the species of Rangifer, while in North America, Rangifer species are known as Caribou”. So, you can use the same sounds for each of them because, at least in terms of sound, they are nearly identical!

    20 %
    OFF
Huge Summer Sound Effects Sale
Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:


Handling non-dedicated sounds

The sound team also needed to develop a system for handling non-dedicated sounds – sounds needed for player-created objects using ‘Ultrahand.’ This ability allows Link to grab, move, and rotate objects, and also attach things together to create bridges, and vehicles. How do you get sounds to play without dedicated implementation? The sound team created a system for combining existing sounds. For example, the sound of a wagon will combine the sounds of wheels rolling, short, repeated shaking sounds, creaking joints, and rattling chains. No dedicated ‘wagon’ sound was created for the game. There’s also no dedicated sound for the paddle boat. It’s just the combined sounds of wheels rotating on the water’s surface, and wooden boards splashing through the water. The sound changes due to the water resistance.

The sound team made a system based on the physics system (how rigid objects move). It analyzes the way rigid bodies – controlled by the physics system – will move and then bases the sound on an object’s size and material. As a result, various sounds will play without needing to have a dedicated program set up to play them. One example is the suspension bridges. Those are held together with just physics, without any dedicated suspension bridge program, and their wobbling and creaking sounds play automatically.

The non-dedicated sounds also adhere to the established sound loudness rules, so they play naturally within the game space.

Sound rules

This form of implementation – building a rule system for how sounds are made and react to the game world – resulted in high-quality sounds that even impressed the game’s sound designers. The system made sounds that the sound designers have no memory of creating. The game director noted that it’s basically a physics engine for sound.

The sound team didn’t set out with the goal of building such a system. It was the result of their efforts to use sound to make the expanded world of Hyrule more dynamic.

A big thanks to GDC for sharing the video, to Technical Director Takuhiro Dohta, Lead Physics Programmer Takahiro Takayama, and Lead Sound Engineer Junya Osada for the insights, and to Jennifer Walden for the recap!


BONUS: More Zelda sound stories for you:

The evolving sound of Zelda:

 
Want to hear how the Zelda series have evolved over the years? SJM Gaming has compiled this overview, letting you experience what Zelda has looked and sounded like, from 1986 to 2022:



Evolution of The Legend of Zelda (1986-2022) | Breath of the Wild 2


The Sound Effects of Breath of the Wild:

 

If you want to learn more about the sound design for Breath of the Wild, Blipsounds did this interesting analysis on the sound of the game:



The Sound Effects of Breath of the Wild - Video Game Sound Design Analysis


 

Please share this:


 



 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:

  • Human Sound Effects Crowds: Emotions And Reactions Play Track 400 sounds included, 90 mins total $47.40

    This SFX library contains a wide range of reactions and emotional responses varying from quiet crowds to roared battle cries to a large selection of exclamations generated by a group of passionate theatrical actors in indoor venues.

    Apart from the vocalizations, we’ve also included recordings of more unusual crowd ambiances like people walking around the mics, falling down, sitting down and getting up, jumping around, marching, or just being present in the space.

    Crowds library is split into the following two parts:

    Small Groups: Includes small groups of up to 30 people which you can layer together and quickly create the sound of any sized realistic groups of people.

    Large Crowds: Brings pre-designed, easy-to-use sounds of medium to large crowds in various types of reactions, moods, and surroundings.

    40 %
    OFF
    Ends 1722031199
  • “The Shoe Collection: Dirt- Knee High Boot“ by Periscope Post & Audio, provides 22 high quality footsteps files in dirt with the knee high boot.  The audio files are recorded at 24bit, 192k with mono and stereo recordings.  The Sennheiser MKH-60 was used for the mono files with a slightly more distant mic placement than the stereo files, which were recorded with the Sennheiser MKH8050 and the Sennheiser MKH-30 near the shoe.  From different walking speeds, to jogging, sprinting, jumping, hard stops, scuffs, and more!  There are several performances with each file to fit the right action you need.  That’s a whopping 268 footsteps between the mono and stereo files!

    These sound files are also UCS metadata tagged

  • Creature Sound Effects WINGS Play Track 1444+ sounds included From: $99

    We are extremely proud to present our first library, WINGS – a one-of-a-kind sound library.

    From tiny insects to small birds, from fairies to dragons, WINGS offers a creative palette with a diverse range of sounds to choose from.

    With over 1400 files (more than 4 GB for the 192 kHz version ) we’re confident you will find the perfect sound.

    When purchasing WINGS you get 2 packs, our Design category that includes 180 files and the Source category that offers more than 1200 sounds. Featuring the very best of our foley sessions.

    All single flaps have been careful edited, allowing for unique speed or rate adjustments.

    Pick your preferred version at the introductory prices below:

Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Environments & Ambiences Chimney Wind Play Track 30 sounds included, 93 mins total $7

    There was a massive storm going on outside and we could hear the wind from the chimney so we popped our field recording kit up and extended the microphones to as far as they would go up the chimney and pressed record. We managed to capture the low end and rumbles of the wind interacting with the chimney.

    We then tried adding some reverb on to the samples to give space and context which wasn’t exactly part of the plan for this sample pack but we thought it added something so decided to add these samples to the sample pack for no extra cost.

    Chimney Wind will give you enough audio to give your project the authentic sound of wind from a chimney stack, boosting your project to the next level. Chimney Wind has been edited to allow a drop in ready and Royalty Free sample pack. These Samples can be used in a variety of projects from Sound Designing/Compositions for TV, Film, Documentaries and Video Games. UCS Compliant and Metadata is attached to the samples

  • Door Sound Effects Small Furniture Workshop Play Track 17+ sounds included, 52 mins total $15

    This library is recorded in a small furniture workshop where office furniture is sawn and created. We recorded the sounds of the factory so that they can be easily combined together to create a workshop of any scale.

    Here’s What We Recorded:

    • Large circular saw

    • Drill

    • Doors

    • General work noises

    • Industrial Spaces

    Microphones were placed at varying distances from the recording subjects. Many recordings were created using a LOM Geofon contact microphone.

     

     

    50 %
    OFF
  • Rolling thunder, rain in the city or in the countryside – these are the sounds that are included in the collection “Thunderstorm Rain Vol.1”.

    These sounds are well suited for creating a stormy, rainy atmosphere for movies, games and other audio-visual content.

    All sounds are recorded in WAV format, 96 kHz, 24 bit.

     

    The following sounds are included:

    • Atmosphere of Thunderstorm in City Outside Window
    • Drops of Thunderstorm Rain on Windowsill
    • Heavy Rain
    • Pouring Rain
    • Rain Hurricane Rattle Metal Plate Loop
    • Rain in the Gazebo
    • Rain In the Village
    • Rain on Windowsill and City Traffic
    • Rain Thunderstorm on City Traffic Background
    • Rainy Atmosphere with Thunderstorm in City
    • The End of the Thunderstorm
    • Thunderstorm
    • Thunderstorm Rain Intensifies
    • Thunder FX

     

    Product Details:

    • 82 GB
    • 96kHz/24-Bit
    • 73 WAV files

    Thunderstorm Rain Vol.1 – Sound List

  • “Sci-Fi Textures and Loops” are unique sound effects in WAV 24 Bit 96 kHz format that are suitable for creating a dark, mysterious, alien atmosphere when creating science fiction films, games, and music tracks.

    32 %
    OFF
  • The Reindeer/Caribou sound effect library has 150 audio files and over 500 individual sounds. Including:

    • Isolated vocalizations of adults, young calves, and newborn calves, including grunts and nickers
    • Isolated mouth and nose sounds, including breaths, exhales, inhales, snorts, coughs, smacking, swallowing, sniffs, burps, and gurgles
    • Herd activity, including resting, moving, herding and round-up
    • Real and foley bells
    • Antlers clashing
    • Footsteps, walking and running on different surfaces
    • Eating and drinking
    • Sleeping/Resting
    • Digging snow

    Reindeer/Caribou - Sound Effect Library

    Most of these sounds have been recorded with a collar microphone on reindeer, so the sounds are extremely intimate, isolated, and close-up. The collar microphone was attached to a female reindeer with a calf, which captured the most intimate moments. The collar microphone also recorded many other reindeer in the herd, so there are a lot of unique reindeer vocalizations.

    This sound effect library also contains all 33 files from my previous Reindeer sound effect library.

    Note regarding the naming of the animal: Wikipedia says that “Reindeer is the European name for the species of Rangifer, while in North America, Rangifer species are known as Caribou”. So, you can use the same sounds for each of them because, at least in terms of sound, they are nearly identical!

    20 %
    OFF

   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.