The Sounds of Star Wars Battlefront

Martin Wöhrer: Sound Designer

One thing the game development team set out to achieve in Star Wars™ Battlefront™, was to give players the sense of being part of a massive event that stretches far beyond the traversable battle areas. For this we added a feature called ‘Battle Beyond,’; a series of epic events that happen outside of the main story arch. Examples of these include Star Destroyers fighting and crashing in the background, Turbo Lasers battling Star Cruisers and Rebel Transport Ships escaping the grasp of the Empire at the very last minute… or not.

To create the sounds for these events we aimed to find samples that conveyed the massive size of the ships and also hinted to hidden workings of the ship’s machinery. As it was really tricky to find an actual Star Destroyer to record, I had to experiment with real life sounds to get the desired results.

In one of the Battle Beyond sequences a Super Star Destroyer is rising from behind a mountain range, into the sight of the player, and then slowly disappears into a dense layer of Sullustan clouds. At one point during production we decided that the arrival of big ships should always be accompanied by a big introduction sound to alert the player, and to draw their attention to the event. For the introduction of this particular ship I was lucky enough to have attended a gun recording session, some weeks prior. Around the gun range huge trucks were dropping off soil and rocks and one of them happened to make this huge rattling noise that nicely echoed around the area. As they usually ceased working while we recorded the guns it was a bit tricky to capture the sound but at one point during one of the microphone setup phases I happened to have one recorder up and running and managed to capture this sound. As a little nod to our friends at BioWare we called the sound ‘The Reaper’

For the ascent of the Super Star Destroyer I experimented with various sounds, but in the end figured that a strong, tonal one should do the trick and started working with recordings of an elephant trumpeting. By creating various layers, tuned to different base frequencies, and then letting them rise from a low to a somewhat higher pitch I eventually got this sound.

At the peak of the ascent the Super Star Destroyer slows down and then fires up its main thrusters. As mentioned before I like to use sound to hint to the inner workings of the ships so I decided, at this point, that the system driving the rise would wind down followed by a wind up of the thruster system. This was achieved by taking the sound of an impact on an icy lake and a recording of the ‘amazing’ squeak my fridge does when opening it and pitching them down quite a bit. After those sounds I play firework recordings mixed with some 40mm gun tails to support the visuals of the engines firing up.

For the end of the sequence where the Super Star Destroyer slowly disappears in the clouds, I created a rocket loop and a variety of sounds that are randomly played on top of that loop at certain points. In such cases, where the sequence becomes rather uneventful, it’s important to tone down the constant elements – like the rocket loop – and rather highlight certain moments to not overwhelm the players with a constant wall of noise but still give them the impression that the ship is present. In these moments our Audio HDR system helps, as it will lower such sounds in the mix if more pressing things, like blaster-fire, for example, happen around the player. For the random sweeteners I used similar elements like the ones I used for the introduction and mixed them quieter and further away.

The whole sequence then sounds like this.

Thanks for listening!