I’ve just bought Portal 2, the sequel to Valve’s amazing game (which, at last brought some new game play ideas to the mainstream computer game market). On starting the game, I’ve been struck by my find at the point in the game just after you find the Portal Gun and move on. What I’ve been struck by, as you enter a hallway with some old computers, is a sound, a sound which has been present in computer games since at least 1996 and connects id Software’s original First Person Shooter, Quake to the present via film-maker, Andrei Tarkovsky.
As game fanatics may know, iD sold a license to the 3D engine that drives Quake to Valve Games for their early classic game, Half Life. So, the internal code that creates the environment of both of these titles shares a common link. Valve spent 6 years working on the sequel to the Half Life title before finally presenting Half-Life 2, a game powered by their own Source game engine.
In between the 16 years that separates these two games I got my original chronology wrong here, in fact it was in 1979 that Russian film director, Andrei Tarkovsky released the amazing, hypnotic film, Stalker. A tale of an area of Nature gone wild that begins to thrive after a meteorite strikes the Earth, and a magical wish-fulfilling room at it’s heart. Visitors enlist the aid of the titles Zone-savvy Stalker to navigate the hazardous region in order to find, and enter The Room.
Appearing in, and linking each of these separate elements is a sound which is so distinctive it jumped out at me when I encountered it during this first run through Portal 2.
I can’t say why it’s in all of these things, but it is.
If you’re interested it’s this sound, found in /ambience/drip1 of the pak0.pak file from Quake:
22/12/11: I put a post on the forum at American McGee’s site and he kindly replied here:
That’s an excellent question. And there’s a really simple answer. All the same sound effect. And all taken from a sound library that each company bought/used for their individual project(s). When I was making sound effects for Quake my sound library consisted of CDs bought from a company… the name escapes me now (that’s where the drip came from). And also a large library created from scratch and provided by the Nine Inch Nails guys. To create any one sound in Quake I’d use something raw from one of those sources or combine different sounds from different sources to create something new. I also did some foley work of my own – exploding fireworks inside tubes on the roof of the id offices, for example. That’s where the distinctive “whump” sound from an underwater grenade explosion originated. The Nail Gun sound was a combo of guns, helicopter turbine whine, etc.