The Last Of Us Part 2 has a huge amount of depth to it, and a lot of that comes from how well the individual systems in the game have been put together. Now one of the Sound Designers for Naughty Dog, Jesse James Garcia, has walked through the glass shattering of the game, explaining the processes that made it feel so real and visceral in the final product.
Since multiple people have asked. The following thread will be about the creation of the sound for “Breaking Glass” in the #TheLastofUsPart2. This was one of the first systems I dove into at ND. 1/23 pic.twitter.com/GC44aTJZek
— Jesse James Garcia MPSE (@Jessejames34) June 28, 2020
The glass is made up of a number of different systems in the game, which is what gives is such a good sound and feeling. Garcia felt that more layers would create a better sound, and overall feel for breaking glass, so he doubled down on adding those layers.
The first layer is the initial impact of hitting a piece of glass, which is achieved by combining a mixture of small glass cracks with an electric zap, processed to make it sound like a snap. The second layer is a few different glass cracking sounds. These are delayed and randomised to make the piece of glass you’re breaking feel individual. Then there’s the thump, which comes with that initial impact, making everything come together as one swift glass break, followed by a shattering.
The debris sound is the longest, and Garcia believes it is the glue that holds the systems together. Both the debris and the thump are referenced from John Wick. In the movie, there’s a scene early on when Wick throws someone through a window, and it’s these noises that inspired Garcia the most. This is also where the necessity of that debris sound was realised.
What all this glass breaking does is make a massive noise, and because ti feels real, players are then worried about enemies hearing them and heading out to look for them. To aid this, another Sound Designer by the name of Neil Uchitel was able to create the sounds of walking on glass, both kicking large pieces and crushing smaller pieces, to add more tension to the situation. If you crack some glass underfoot when an enemy is nearby, you can be that they’ll hear you, and it’s terrifying.
The next part of the glass shattering system was the pieces that don’t fall out of a pane immediately. You’ll accidentally knock these and kick them as you vault, making even more noise, even if you’re being quiet. The sounds for these pieces was mainly created using more electric snaps, and they sound like you’re actively ripping panes of glass apart.
Of course, all of this sound takes up a lot of memory in the game. Thankfully the Naughty Dog programming team, and Jaroslav Sinecky in particular, were able to help Garcia pull everything into the game without it being massive. This is how the game is able to feel so real and have so much depth, without needing yet another disc to run on the PlayStation 4.
For car windows, the pane sounds were actually removed. Instead, these are made to sound like small explosions, which adds adrenaline to a situation when an enemy shoots one out near your position. This is combined with glass scattering on car floors and seats, which grounds the sound in reality, adding to that tense combat experience.
I think that the sound design in The Last Of Us Part 2 is really interesting, but it’s the big noises that are the most interesting. The game is mostly quiet, with weather being the main driver for noise. This makes any sound that players make extremely loud, and pushes players to try to avoid making noise as much as possible.