Last night, I played WoW for about an hour with the sound on. The sounds of the game aren’t necessarily important for play, but I believe that they are interesting and I would like a chance to talk about them in the context of this class. Below are a few of my observations and analyses about the sounds in the game. If anyone else has thoughts on the topic, please comment!
1) Your character talks to you.
I’m not kidding. I didn’t realize this during the first several times I played, but my character has a voice that is only used to communicate with the operator. The only things she says are “I can’t do that” or “I need a target” or similar phrases that are also communicated with writing on the screen*. I actually wasn’t a fan of this aspect of the game’s sound. Maybe it’s just that my character’s voice is really annoying, but I found it unnecessary and even frustrating.
2) It’s more violent than you think.
When killing enemies with the sound turned off, it’s easy to stab and shoot and slice without really thinking about it. You’re just concentrating on making their health bar* go down and making sure yours doesn’t do the same.
With the sound on, you can hear every violent action you take as well as the yelps and groans of pain from your enemy. It never made me think twice about attacking something, but it was pretty unnerving. Being able to hear the sounds of the (simulated) violence that I was committing affected me much more than any of the visual action.
3) The music makes no sense.
Music in the game, in my experience, is always nondiagetic. I’ve never seen a source for any of the music, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were diagetic music sources somewhere in Azeroth.
While I enjoyed the music for the most part, a lot of it seemed inappropriate for the visual action that it was accompanying. I heard a grandiose, heroic tune while getting killed and then running back to my body, and a dark, ominous tune at the happy moment when I completed a dungeon. I’m not sure what triggers the music, but it definitely has some issues with placement. The music also seemed to start and stop randomly, which was strange for me because I’m used to studying films where music is inserted with extreme precision. The unpredictability of it annoyed me, but I did enjoy hearing it when it felt appropriate to my situation.
While the music in WoW was unpredictable and the nondiagetic character-to-operator speech was annoying, I do appreciate the amount of detail that went into designing this completely unnecessary aspect of the game. Sound is a significant part of many forms of virtual media, and it’s been interesting to experience WoW with and without it.
* I don’t have much experience with this game so I’m not sure about some of the vocabulary. I apologize if I’ve used the wrong term, and if you’re not sure what I mean then please ask!
(Edit: Just realized that this almost fits the criteria for the third blog post. This is not my third blog post, just something I wanted to talk about.)