Behind the Music: H5G’s Sound Department

Sound Department
Sound plays a subtle yet vital role in the overall aesthetic of slots. High 5 Games’ sound department must be able to rapidly switch between different genres of music in order to properly capture the spirit of a game. “Sounds really affect our emotions, and they can be very helpful in establishing the themes of a game and what universe it resides in,” said Aldo Perez, H5G’s creative sound director. When the sound department does its job properly, the music and sounds in a game join with the visuals to create a unified whole. “Foxy Dynamite, for example, just plays really well, to the point that the player may not even recognize the sounds are separate from the visuals,” said Matt, who as H5G’s resident audio wizard probably has the coolest job title in the company. “It takes a lot of work to make it all seem effortless and coherent.”

It typically takes three to four weeks for a game’s sound design to be completed. “I look at all the projects that are coming in, and I do a sort of pre-production evaluation on them so composers aren’t groping,” said Aldo. “I have an initial back-and-forth with art and math to understand how the game functions and what’s special about it. We think of every game like a film, and try to tell stories through sound. Once you figure out the setting of a game, what world it lives in, you can begin to zoom in on the story.”

The games then move onto the sound designers and composers. “Typically the first step is to write the underscore, which is the continuous soundtrack that plays in the bonus round,” explained Matt. “The underscore captures the theme of the game, and then it becomes your palette for the rest of the slot. From the underscore we create little bits of sound for animations and what not.” The sound department, which makes music using an even split of real instruments and computer programs, tries to compose the underscore using musical styles and instruments that fit organically in the game’s world. This is the most collaborative stage of the process, with everyone pitching in to provide constructive criticism or serving as session musicians translating a composer’s ideas into reality.

Aside from composing and recording the underscores, there’s also the task of creating the incidental sounds that further draw players into H5G’s releases. “Maybe you want one of your animated characters flicking a lighter,” proposed Matt the wizard. “You record a flicking lighter and it doesn’t sound anything like it needs to. You have to make it bigger than life, so people recognize what it is. So you pull out a bike chain and slap it against metal, and then mix that with a scraping sound, and all those things will go into the sound of a lighter. It reminds me of animation, where all this work is put in for a character to move for 10 seconds. You have to be so meticulous to make it look effortless.” Sound design is a thankless but crucial job, in that the better the wizard works his alchemy, the less likely anyone is to notice it.

The final step of the process is post-production. “We make sure that everything sounds the way it is supposed to once it gets in the game,” said Patrick, H5G’s technical sound director. “Once the composer is finished, I load everything into the prototype and go through it to see if any artistic or technical changes need to be made. Does it sound right? Is it mixed correctly? Once that’s sorted out on all platforms for all clients, we master it, which essentially means we make it all sound like it’s of the same package.”

Recently released High 5 Casino game Jazz is one of the titles the sound department is most proud of. In the future, even more High 5 Games slots will have their themes driven by sound. For now, though, the members of the sound department will continue to produce music that sounds great, and effortless, and likely coheres so well with the rest of the game that players barely notice it. And that’s how they’ll know they did their job.

Which H5G slot has your favorite music? What type of music would you like to hear in future H5G games?