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Hello,

i'm sound designer for small video games, so i have many projects coming in and out...and i always struggle at making those user interface/menu sounds...i know they should be subtle and all, but when there are so many projects i kinda running out of ideas/techniques, for these small and subtle sounds...any tips n tricks that might help me? :)

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10 Answers

For interface sounds you can use recordings of small stones, metal parts, ice, breaking glass etc. Take snippets not from the most loud parts of the sample, but from the tail. Build your sound from several elements to make it sounding nice. In some cases, add melodic elements (bells, mallets).

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most interface sounds regardless of style need to be incredibly short. start with drum samples. Real kits or samples from electronic kits. Process some hi hats and layer them on top of processed kicks for a starting point.

Take any sound that has a transient and just trim around the transient...just those few milliseconds. Once you have a bunch of these you can begin to mix and match and add flavor from there.

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When I have to deal with a generic Hud, I usually come with fm synthesis first . The flexibility and the control of the fm process help the creation of a large variety of tones which can cover all interface actions (validation, error, cancellation, rollover, etc...). Plus this sounds particularly clean on small device speakers.

For a themed menu I try to take small snippets of a related set of samples.

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I find Mario games usually very inspiring for UI & HUD sounds, and love borrowing their ideas. It basically comes down to creating fast and short tonal scales of mallet-like sounds that are in the same key as the background music. So ideally it's either you who's also writing the music, or you collaborate closely with the composer to ensure consistency between UI sfx and music.

Another important aspect in the Mario/Nintendo approach is identifying lots of different UI 'hooks', as to not merely end up with a single sound for 'select' and 'back' events for instance, but many different stages of similar events that occur at different screens, 'click-through-sequences' and so forth, each single event sounding a little bit different. You'll get a lovely rich, joyous and musical hybrid between UI fx and music by giving all of this a lot of detailed attention.

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What does UI and HUD mean? –  Britt Jan 15 '12 at 19:54
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@ Britt, UI stands for User Interface and HUD for Head-up Display. –  Daan Hendriks Jan 16 '12 at 23:55
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Always depends on what the overall ambience and feel should be of course. What type of game is it?

I really enjoy the iPhone games that are on the app store, all of them have very nice menu sounds. Like the Halfbrick Studio games, Fruit Ninja for example. One interface (and overall sound in game btw) I really liked was "Bulletstorm". I know that isn't helping but it could be something to be inspired by.

I've never actually (professionally) worked with games and sound design for HUDs and menus, but I'd like to think that if I were, I'd work with the imagery and overall feel. I mean if the game's all about cowboys I'd work with leather, chains and the likes. If the game's about dancing I'd probably want to manufacture some music-like sounds. Small snippets.

In a way I think the easiest route to go is to make it simple and start out with finding small snippets of sound with only one object. Set creative boundaries for yourself. Sort of like Diego Stocco making music out of just one thing, that trick could be really creatively inspiring. I remember doing sound design for a short film in the beginning of my career, and the film contained a computer like thingy that had to have interaction sounds. The thingy was to look old and crappy, so I decided that I would use a printer and record all different stages of that and cut out small snippets of the printer sounds. That way, I had just used one "thing" to make the sound for the computer thingy. That made it simple, and it made it fun. That's what I do when I run out of ideas anyway.

I'm sure you'll come up with something and it will rock!

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Depending on what the game calls for, there's two directions I tend to go in. Synthesized, which is usually more melodic and pitch based. Nice if you want to pitch your sounds to the menu music. Or you can use recorded and library sounds. A few months back I gathered kid toys from a bunch of people and spent the day recording everything I could. This has since been my go to UI library.

Lots of the previous suggestions are dead on, regarding short edits with tight fades, light reverb and up-pitched sounds. The biggest challenge is usually with consistency, keeping the same palette across the game makes for good direction and a clean design.

I use a lot of eq as well, transient sounds tend to have a harshness factor that when repeated often, cause a fatigue. You'll want to smooth out the sounds, enough to be noticeable, not annoying.

Good luck!

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if you have ever used the WII then the home screen and dashboard menus are actually quite well done in terms of audio, subtle electronic heavily rhythmic UI musc and nice synthesised tones for back and forth selecting and hovering the cursor over the selections, a game called EVAC HD on android i particularly like that imitates this style, might be on IOS too but unsure, =]

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i find that speeding sounds up but huge amounts (4-5 octaves) gives good restults

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If you don't have time to create your own sounds, check out "THE INTERFACE" from BOOM Library. A professional SFX library with tons of interface sounds.

[soundcloud]http://www.soundcloud.com/boom-library/the-interface-demo-01[/soundcloud]

Cheers

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+1 to basically everything said so far in this thread. I'm all about using either synthesis or different kinds of small sound recordings of things like sticks clacking, little stones, etc. It all depends on the look and feel.

One thing I like to always keep in mind when doing UI sounds is that something needs to be inherently pleasing about the sound, and when combined with the visual feedback of the button, should almost be able to act upon all the senses. A lot of kids puzzle games have some really good stuff like this, I'm thinking in particular of one I played a long time ago (cannot remember the name) where you would drag little colored translucent cubes into a tray to solve a puzzle. The "klak" sound that they had, combined with the visuals, could only be described as "delicious."

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