Dev Letter: Footstep Sound Rebalance

Hello players,

Sound is a topic brought up quite often in the community. We know that sound is extremely important to PUBG gameplay and while our goal has always been to offer a highly immersive, realistic sound environment that is fair to everyone, we have seen some issues along the way. Footstep sound effects have been an especially large undertaking for us. Today we want to talk about footstep sounds in particular, and what we’re doing to improve them for you.

Footstep Issues:

  • Poor quality footstep sounds on some materials such as soil, sand, and grass.
  • Unnatural sound changes over distances.
  • Large acoustic differences between shoes and barefoot.
    • In particular, when an enemy is barefoot, it makes much less noise from certain distances compared to when they are wearing shoes, making it difficult to pinpoint enemies. While this certainly makes sense realistically, it’s not ideal for the sake of PUBG gameplay.

Your feedback on the above issues has been clear, our current footstep sounds do not give you the info you need to make key decisions while playing. As a result, many players have resorted to cranking their volume to hear these sounds, which can also lead to a negative experience when PUBGs other, louder sound effects kick in.

We tried to implement a fix last Summer, which was deployed a bit too hastily and led to some pushback due to unintended confusion and negative gameplay experiences. As a result, we rolled back these changes and promised we’d be back with changes to the system.

Since then, we’ve been heads down working on a better system and have come up with the following solution for footstep sound effects.

Enhanced quality and defined details

Our previous footstep sounds lacked detailed differences for various ground materials, causing the same sound to be repeatedly produced. This made sound effects dull and unnatural, especially over longer distances.

The updated version produces more detailed sound effects, even on the same materials, compared to the previous version. We’ve also added a variety of random variations to minimize the dull redundancy of footstep sound effects.

Enhanced footstep quality over distance

When trying to create different footstep sounds that vary by distance, we kept the resource itself unchanged but reduced the volume and the bandwidth of high-frequency. Consequently, footstep sounds in mid and long range distances became muffled, lower quality, and more difficult to hear.

We divided distance into two (short and long distances) or three (short, mid, and long distances) depending on the materials and characteristics movement and created a new sound design better suited to them. Thanks to these changes, mid and long range footstep sounds should now be more audible compared to the previous ones.

Minimized auditory gap between going barefoot and wearing shoes

Realism is important for us, but we also believe that fairness in gameplay is one place where there can be exceptions to realism. The huge sound gap between footsteps with and without shoes in the existing sound rules are a big issue. In this case, we skewed realism a bit to make the gameplay feel better.

Our new footstep sounds are generated using a combination of what you’re wearing and how far away you are.

  • At close distances, footstep sounds will be different depending on if the player is wearing shoes or not, however the volume of the steps has been equalized, giving no advantage to being barefoot.
  • At mid-to-long distances, the footstep sound will be exactly the same, whether the player is wearing shoes or not.
  • We feel the above compromises realism enough to make approaching enemies easier to hear, but keeps the realism of the different sounds once they’re close.

This is just a brief overview of the sound improvements we’ve been working on.

We’re still tweaking other sound issues and exploring the proper volume balance between everything from firing to footstep sounds internally. We’ll share another Dev Letter when we’ve settled on our strategy for those. For now, we hope you enjoy the footstep sound updates in Update 8.1. We want you to be able to fully immerse yourself in all aspects of PUBG without a negative sound experience pulling you out and hope this first step helps us towards that goal.

Thanks, and we’ll be back with more soon!

Kyungwon Park, PUBG Sound Team.