Having seen how the sound design for both the Shamblers, and the glass smashing was created in The Last Of Us Part 2, we now have a good look at how the terrifying whistles for the Scars were made. I’d argue that these whistles are one of the most important parts of the design of the Scars, because not only do they need to sound menacing and distinct, but a whole language has to be built with them. Scars use these whistles to indicate when they’re searching somewhere, when they’ve found a dead body, and many other things, and they’re horrible to hear in the game.
— Black Lives Matter! (@Anghil) July 2, 2020
I apologise because I don’t know exactly which sound designer this is, but they praise the leadership team for the freedom they were given with creating the Scar’s whistles. Apparently the whistles were discussed early on, but no work started on them until about 2018, because they were needed for an E3 demo. Apparently some cuts were made to this guerrilla-style language the group uses because of time constraints. At one point we may have also seen the addition of knocking on trees or rattling, but alas they didn’t make it into the final product.
The whistling references two languages spoken in their regions, Silba Gomera from La Gomero, and Sfyria from Greece. However, these were more sophisticated than the Scars needed to be. The first work on the whistles involved a very talented expert, but the whistles ended up being too light, and blended with the fauna too well for the distinct noise required by the Scars. The group also needed to express clear intention, very loudly, without giving away their moves or position.
Some of the team working on the game stepped up, and provided super loud whistles that require your fingers in your mouth. This is what you see the Scars do in the game, so it makes sense that the shrill noise would be from the same origin. After an hour of recording, the whistles were grouped according to phenome, laying the land for how they’d be used in the game.
The next process was working out which whistles to use for which voice lines the WLF use. Saying, “I’m checking over here because of that noise”, would give away their position and movement, making them easy to hunt and kill. Another line would be to keep others aware of your presence, this would ensure that fallen allies are quickly identified and checked on. Finally, there’s the huge, monumentally scary whistle used to signify a dead ally. The team worked on the whistles, quickly pulling the haunting one we all know best for a dead ally, and then putting together the call and answer lines that were much more subtle.
After a decent amount of work on the whistles, the team had 26 types sorted for professionals to come in and record. They were all designed to mimic the lines that the WLF use, but make it much harder for players to work out what is going on. The whistles were then formatted to make then sound like they come from all around you, which helps the tension, and makes it feel like there are so many more Scars than there actually are. After much more work, the whistles were finally done, with the fallen ally one being reworked yet again to make it sound like it would really reach far off allies.
Next came subtitling the whistles for the hard of hearing. Trying to work this out proved fruitless, because the designers weren’t the ones who needed the subtitles. As a result, Morgan Baker, who is deaf, was brought in to advise. The subtitling is apparently very good for those who can’t hear well, or at all, because the game is being more than praised for its accessibility.
That’s all there is to know about the whistles of the Scars. I found this faction to be extremely violent, tactical, and almost impossible to attack from a stealthy standpoint. You can sneak around most of them, but then a rogue whistle will catch you out, alerting everyone else to your presence, and then you’re screwed.