• Cizlin

Ask343 April 2021 - Audio Team Q&A

Updated: Feb 9


After each Inside Infinite article, fans can ask questions of the team interviewed in the article on social media using #Ask343. Two weeks later, in the Community Update for the following month, they will put out a video interview in which some of the community’s questions are selected and answered. This month, John Junyszek sat down with Chase Thompson, Lead Audio Technical Designer; Joel Yarger, Music Supervisor; and Kyle Fraser, Lead Sound Designer, to answer several community questions about Halo Infinite’s audio! Here’s a summary of what we learned.


1:34

Q: “With the new acoustics systems, does it allow players immediately on either side of the same wall with no ‘portals’ to hear each other’s location similar to other games? Or does the room-and-portal pathfinding completely take precedent?”
A: “Sounds on either side of a wall are never going to be completely muted because of the acoustic system… When those sounds are in other rooms, they’ll be appropriately muffled or turned down based on how occluded or obstructed the sound is. So if there is a portal there, it’ll be clearer, and if there’s not, it’ll be muffled, but you’ll still be able to hear it.” - Chase Thompson

The goal of the acoustics system is to sound natural, and that means you will still hear weapon fire and loud actions on the other side of a closed-off wall. It will be more muffled, but not entirely inaudible. If there is a portal, such as a window or doorway, in the wall, then the sound will be louder based on that portal’s location.


2:33

Q: “I am all for the direction of the OST in Infinite, but my question is will there be some somber/emotional tracks?”
A: “The short answer is yes… We have emotional and character arcs that involve spoilers… It’s not all bright, it’s just we wanted to recapture what made early Halos feel special.” - Joel Yarger

In the March 2021 Inside Infinite blog, Joel Yarger had mentioned that the overall goal with Halo Infinite’s soundtrack was to bring a sense of hope and uplifting emotions while the player is exploring Zeta Halo and uprooting the Banished. There was some concern that this direction would not leave room for more emotional, somber pieces, but Joel confirms that there will still be character arcs represented in the music, not just for Escharum and the Pilot but also for other characters that have not been shown. The goal with Halo Infinite’s music direction is not to make a bright and cheery soundtrack but to learn from the original trilogy and apply those lessons in a new way.


3:51

Q: “Will we see the classic overcharge hum from the Plasma Pistol back for Halo Infinite? It’s really cool seeing the studio embracing the two decades of Halo audio and trying to weave ‘legacy’ into the soundscape of the game!”
A: “We definitely decided to weave it into our aesthetic, into our designs, and it worked out really well… When you charge up the fire of the Plasma Pistol, you get a nice satisfying high-tech wind up, then before it’s fully charged, you’ll get the swell of the hum that goes into this hum loop. And you kind of get some nice crackling and plasma and whatnot.” - Kyle Fraser

The classic overcharge hum from the Plasma Pistol is returning but in a way that fits into the general aesthetic of Halo Infinite’s overall soundscape. Kyle describes it as having a techy wind up with a lingering hum while it’s charged, with smaller added sound effects over the top of it.


5:39

Q: “Will enemies shooting at friendlies still be loud for you? Or is it just a thing when you’re personally targeted? I worry for the situational awareness up close. How quiet are we talking here?”
A: “The threat priority system uses a bucketing system where the highest threat to the player is going to be turned up, and the next level of enemies is going to be turned down just a little bit, and then any friendly characters and weapons in the game are going to be turned down the most… You can really hear the most threatening enemy, and then right under that will be the other enemies that are nearby. So, it’s not going to make those completely inaudible. In fact, it’ll help bring those up in the mix because your teammates won’t be so loud anymore.” - Chase Thompson

There appear to be three main priorities for audio in Halo Infinite. The highest priority is reserved for those enemies that are shooting directly at the player and acting as the greatest threat. The middle priority will be only slightly quieter than the highest priority, and it is reserved for all other nearby enemies. Finally, the lowest priority contains all friendly combatant sounds, such as footsteps and weapon fire, and this audio will be turned down a bit more compared to sound effects from enemies.


6:21

Q: “Will the music be ‘adaptive’ like it was in earlier Halo titles? Will the tracks play out differently depending on the gameplay state?”
A: “Absolutely yes… We take into account a lot of what we consider to be player intention: what a player might be doing next or how we could react to what a player might be doing next. Are they going full-on into battle or are they keeping back and sniping or are they just passing through and walking to the next experience? ...You might be walking through the world and get a piece of music while you’re just exploring that then carries over into combat engagement, whereas if you just walked into the combat engagement without that piece of music playing, you get something else… What music is chosen is indicative of what you’ve already accomplished in the story” - Joel Yarger

Adaptive music is essentially a system present in many games where the music is chosen and played based on what the player is doing and where they are in the story, among other things. The exact length of a track can vary depending on the player’s actions, and some tracks may not even play at all if the player skips an engagement. Such a system is also in place in Halo Infinite, although given the open nature of the Campaign, there are some unique features of the system. In particular, one of the most important factors in choosing what to play appears to be based on what they expect the player to do next. The music almost plans ahead for what the player will do: will they sit back and snipe, charge head-on, or just ignore the engagement completely? Different options will result in different musical pieces, and being at different places in the story will also change things up.


11:44

Q: “The differences in teammates audio when shooting compared to enemies is awesome. Can we expect the same for footsteps and does this apply to yourself as well?”
A: “In Halo Infinite, we’ll have three different types of footsteps in multiplayer, where you’ll have your own personal player footsteps, as well as footsteps for your enemies and for your teammates… Alongside those footsteps, we’ve also got 3D mode audio that we’ve added to the multiplayer modes for things like Capture the Flag where the sounds of returning the flag are actually going to come in 3D from the position of the flag object.” - Chase Thompson

Yes, the volume difference between enemies and allies will apply to footsteps, and from the sounds of it, player footsteps will be considered a separate entity from teammate footsteps. Based on their commitment to increasing spatial awareness in multiplayer, it sounds like player footsteps might be a little louder than teammate footsteps, but quieter than enemy footsteps. Additionally, objective sounds will actually come from the physical position of the objective item in Halo Infinite, allowing players to hear where the flag or oddball is located. This also inadvertently confirms that Capture the Flag will return in Halo Infinite.


13:57

Q: “Does bigger mean louder in terms of the awesome threat priority system when it comes to vehicles? How does object/source size play into both design and threat priority?”
A: “We actually built a lot of different types of threats that contribute to the threat system. So the way that it works is each biped in the game, each character in the game, has various different types of threats that we’re tracking. Some of them are who they’re targeting, where they’re aiming, how far away they are. And one of those types of threats that we tried out was the inherent ‘scariness’ of that object: things like what type of character is it, what type of weapon do they have, what type of vehicle are they in. We tried that out, and it actually didn’t quite achieve the goals that we were looking for. What we determined...was that the most important factor was just who’s about to deal damage to you, who’s got the most capacity for damage at that exact moment, and that’s what we’re highlighting.” - Chase Thompson

The threat prioritization system has been iterated upon and tested countless times during the development of Halo Infinite. One of the threat indicators they tried was how big and ferocious a threat was, but they found that it was less helpful to make bigger things louder than it was to highlight specifically things that are about to deal damage to the player.


17:22

Q: “In the last sandbox Inside Infinite, the team mentioned a new interactive ‘damage tracking’ feature for vehicles. How did the Audio Team integrate sound design into this system to enhance the player experience?”
A: “As you’re taking damage, we’ll start introducing the audio of sparks and steam and flames and whatnot. When the tires get blown out, we’ll switch out the surface sounds to give you an uneven, wobbly texture. And then, before the vehicle is going to explode, we bring in this doom state alarm, and it’s really efficient at letting you know how much time you have until you need to bail out.” - Kyle Fraser

As different parts of the vehicle are damaged, new sound effects will be brought in on top of the existing sound effects for the vehicle. Sounds such as sparks, flames, and steam can be heard as the vehicle is damaged more and more. In the case of the Warthog, having the tire blown out also changes the sound effect of driving along a surface. Plus, when the vehicle is on the verge of detonating, players will be able to hear a clear alarm that urges them to evacuate immediately before the vehicle self-destructs.


18:34

Q: “It was mentioned that you were ‘keeping music minimal in the (multiplayer) match itself.’ Does this mean music plays during the whole match? Or only in the beginning / near the end?”
A: “What we mean by minimal is mostly emphasizing bigger moments and areas where we feel like you’ve achieved something. So, for instance, the intro before the match, trying to hype things up. Also, the end of the match, end of round, and even moments that lead up to the end of round where you could be in a scoring situation that could potentially end a match, and we want to sort of hype that up. But, typically, we’re trying to stay out of the way and leave a very clean and clear audio experience, especially when it comes to competitive multiplayer. So you’re not going to hear constant music by any means. In fact, it’s going to be far less than you might expect, but it’s going to have impact where it lands… This is something we’re excited to share more when we get to actually share more multiplayer in general because I think we’ve taken things in a new direction, stylistically, that we feel really still fits in the Halo universe.” - Joel Yarger

Players of Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians may recall some pre-match and post-match music, as well as some faint music that plays when near the end of the match. Beyond these applications, it does not sound like multiplayer in Halo Infinite will feature more music than these games. It is only meant to highlight and hype up impactful moments during gameplay. However, the multiplayer music in Halo Infinite will apparently go in a different direction than the Campaign music, but in a way that should still feel like Halo music.


20:06

Q: “Will any of the existing sound design we’ve heard in the 2020 gameplay demo be adjusted? Or will that be left intact?”
A: “We’ve improved and flushed out the overall mix a bit better. We’ve even done some more in-depth redesigns. For example, we did another pass on the Mangler and the Ravager… I wouldn’t expect anything drastically different, but I would definitely expect an overall improvement.” - Kyle Fraser

The audio team has been hard at work over the last year since the July 2020 Campaign demo, and they have touched on the mix of sounds in various ways. While they have reviewed and improved the sounds for some weapons like the Mangler and the Ravager, the general notion seems to be that the individual improvements are small on their own but constitute a better overall mix.


21:02

Q: “I really enjoy the different Firefight voices in Halo 3: ODST and Reach, and I also really like the different multiplayer announcers from the Voices of War announcer pack in Halo 5. Will anything like this be available in Halo Infinite?”
A: “While we won’t have custom announcer voices like we did in the Voices of War pack, I’m really excited and passionate about being able to customize the player experience. I can’t say much today, but what I can say is we have some stuff we are working on that I think the fans will be excited about and that you’ll really enjoy.” - Chase Thompson

The Voices of War pack in Halo 5: Guardians offered players the choice of three alternative announcers for Multiplayer: Spartan Buck, Exuberant Witness, and Yabda the Merciless. While such custom announcers will not be featured in Halo Infinite, Chase did mention customization options that he cannot discuss yet. It is hard to know what they might be, but they will have something to do with audio in the game.


22:34

Q: “I really really love the fact that wildlife in this game already sound like cool side ambience! I am interested to know how you went about making the sounds for the wildlife?”
A: “We ended up utilizing some of the pug recordings that we did, and those got used for the digger creatures.” - Kyle Fraser

More than a year ago, it was revealed that pugs were used for some of the audio source material in Halo Infinite. While some speculated that the recordings would be used for the Flood, it sounds like they have instead been used for “digger creatures,” which I personally take to mean creatures that burrow and dig into the ground, such as the little gopher-type creatures at the start of the playable portion of the July 2020 Campaign demo. There is, of course, more to this answer, as well as other questions not included in this summary where Kyle Fraser goes into great detail about what it’s like to record, select sounds, and blend things together into a cohesive set of sound effects, and I highly recommend watching the video itself if you have the time.


24:50

Q: “When can we expect to hear another song from the Halo Infinite soundtrack?”
A: “We have been very excited and would love to share more, but we’re also aware of the story arc and a lot of other details that are part of the game itself, so we really would love for you to hear the rest of the music in context… A lot of the music is in context of some, frankly, really awesome storyline that I think a lot of people won’t be expecting… Even trying to come up with a name for tracks becomes an effort not to spoil.” - Joel Yarger

While unfortunate in some ways, it sounds like we will not be hearing any new Halo Infinite songs until we either see more Campaign gameplay or have played the game ourselves. Context is everything for some of the pieces, and the music team believes they are best experienced in context for the first time, which is very understandable.


26:30

Q: “Is there a certain BR the Halo Infinite version is based off of? And what weapon was used to record for the new BR?”
A: “The inspiration behind the BR was the Halo 2 BR.” - Kyle Fraser

The beefier, bassy sound of the Halo Infinite Battle Rifle was inspired by the sound of the Halo 2 Battle Rifle. Although it was derived from multiple real-world gun recordings, the sound was designed to be a successor to how it originally sounded when it debuted in Halo 2. The sound effect for the BR in this game was low-pitched and simple, and the inspiration can be heard in the Halo Infinite sound effect.


Summary

Even though we didn’t get any new sound effects in this Q&A, we still learned a lot of details around the audio systems in Halo Infinite. Here’s a quick summary on the most important details.

  • You will be able to hear players firing on the opposite side of a solid wall, although it will be a bit muffled. If an opening such as a window or doorway exists in the wall, the sound will be clearer, but it will never be inaudible from the opposite side of a wall.

  • Although the overall goal with Halo Infinite’s soundtrack is to reconvey the sense of hope and uplifting emotions that the original soundtrack had, there will still be more somber, emotional pieces that follow different character arcs, including but not limited to those of Escharum and the Pilot.

  • The classic Plasma Pistol overcharge hum is returning, but it has been reimagined and recreated to fit in with the rest of Halo Infinite’s overall soundscape.

  • The audio threat prioritization system features three priorities with varying volumes: The highest and loudest priority is reserved for enemies firing directly at the player, the most immediate threats. Just under this priority are other enemies nearby. Finally, teammates and other friendly AI will be lower in priority and volume than enemies, making it easier to hear and locate important threats in the midst of battle. This applies to footsteps as well.

  • There will be an adaptive music system that will attempt to predict the player’s next actions, such as how they intend to engage, or not, with a group of enemies. Being at different places in the story will also affect the soundtracks heard.

  • Sound effects associated with multiplayer objective items will now originate from the object itself, which will allow players to hear where an object is in 3D.

  • Capture the Flag will return in Halo Infinite.

  • Threat prioritization will not take into account the size of an enemy when adjusting the volume of nearby threats. This aspect was tried and found to work against the intended goals of the system, so it was removed.

  • As a vehicle takes damage, the sound effects for steam, sparks, and flames will be added on top of the vehicle sounds. For the Warthog, when a tire is blown out, driving the Warthog will sound different. Finally, when a vehicle enters a doomed state, where it is about to explode, a clear alarm will sound letting the player know how much time they have left to abandon the vehicle.

  • Music in multiplayer will be very limited, only appearing at the start and end of matches and when matches are about to end. It is intended to appear only when it will have the most impact but not in a way that will distract players during gameplay.

  • The audio mix has been generally improved since the July 2020 Campaign demo, with more focused passes for weapons like the Mangler and the Ravager.

  • Custom announcers such as those that appeared in the Halo 5: Guardians Voices of War pack will not be featured in Halo Infinite, but there will be some sort of audio-related customization items.

  • The recordings of the pugs from over a year ago have been used for “digger creatures,” which likely refers to burrowing wildlife such as the gopher-like creatures seen at the beginning of the July 2020 Campaign demo.

  • New Halo Infinite soundtracks will not be revealed on their own in the future, as they are meant to be heard in the context of important Campaign moments.

  • The Halo Infinite BR sound effect was inspired by the Halo 2 BR.

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