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Have You Even Noticed The Breathing System In The Last Of Us Part 2?

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We’ve covered a few of the different systems in The Last Of Us Part 2 recently. There’s the sound design for the Shambler Infected, the whistles of the Scars, and even the fact that Lev’s name comes from a book that inspired the series. Today Sound Designer Beau Anthony Jiminez has produced a thread on the breathing mechanics in the game, and we’re going to dive into those.

He first discusses murmuration, which kicks in when you’re doing something active. Certain actions will turn it off though, such as aiming a weapon, but the loop will pick up again afterwards, which achieves a nicely looped breathing cycle that sounds realistic. Apparently it’s called Murmuration because it’s the sound under the sounds. So for humans it’s breathing, but for Clickers and Shamblers it would be the form of clicking that they do, or I suppose straining for breathe.

Heart rate is actually a big part of the breathing in the game, even though the characters aren’t technically alive. Jiminez explains that he added a heart rate monitor that valued different levels of exertion to Ellie and Abby based on what they’ve been doing. This monitor also exists for every living creature, including the Infected.

Programmers helped Jiminez split up the states he needed in the game, and he was able to assign different breathing levels to them all. It’s even used on attack types, such as the Bloater’s charge. Clickers have various states that affect their breathing, with frenzied or unaware being just two of the polar opposites you can encounter.

Using all of these various states, it was possible to put together the sprinting breathing noises for Ellie and Abby. It makes the sounds more accurate depending on how hard and long the characters have been sprinting for. You’ll notice it if you run for a good long while with Ellie, and then battle through a bunch of enemies. She sounds ragged by the end, and it’s very different to taking down groups of enemies using stealth.

You also get a really good idea for how this system is used in the following video.

The system becomes even more complex when you realise that there’s an entirely different set of breathing mechanics for Ellie breathing with her mouth open or closed. It completely changes the tone of an encounter, and now that I think about it, I noticed this a lot while playing the game.

Abby has vertigo, meaning she’s afraid of heights. Breathing played a small part in making it feel like the character was truly broken when faced with a height, and you can see just how effective that is in the sound design below.

Finally, we have breathing while injured. It works really well as a way to signpost to the player just how damaged Ellie is, which is integral to keeping track of health. It’s also a great way to flag when Ellie probably has an arrow sticking out of her shoulder or something.

There’s a lot more to the breathing system, and I didn’t want to bombard you with it all in one post. So keep an eye out tomorrow morning when we’ll have a little but more about how breathing was done in The Last Of Us Part 2.

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