The Borderlands series has always been known for having billions of guns, with each gun randomly generated. But all of these weapons also make noises when they shoot, like the loud crack of sniper or the blast of a rocket launcher. And as explained by the senior sound designer at Gearbox, Joshua Davidson, it took a lot of work to create over 5000 gun sounds for Borderlands 3.
In the older games, like Borderlands 2, Gearbox was limited by how much memory the consoles had. These limits forced the developer to limit how many gun noises could be shipped with the game. In Borderlands 2, Joshua Davidson estimates there were only about 350 individual weapon sounds. So when you picked up a Jakobs pistol, it didn’t matter if it was long, short, big, or small it would sound basically the same as any other Jakobs pistol.
In Borderlands 3, thanks to more powerful consoles, the team was able to implement many more sounds, with Davidson estimating over 5,500 individual sounds were created and shipped with the game.
The system for creating unique and different gun sounds for each randomly generated weapon in Borderlands 3 is very similar to how guns themselves are put together. As explained by Davidson in a video on his personal YouTube channel, each gun in Borderlands is made up of various parts. These parts can be combined into millions and millions of different weapons. To create the sound system, Davidson and the sound team “piggybacked” on the weapon part system. They linked different sounds to different parts. So if a sniper rifle had a long, plasma barrel on it, then it would sound different than a sniper with a short, laser barrel.
The end result of all this work and over 5000 sound files is that each weapon you pick up in Borderlands 3 will often sound different than a similar weapon you might already have. This helps make each weapon feel unique and interesting.
The full video is filled with a lot of behind the scenes information about creating sounds for a big video game like Borderlands 3. It might be a bit too technical for most folks, myself included. But it is still amazing to get a peek behind the curtain of how massive and complicated video games are made.
Davidson also has some other videos on his channel showcasing how other parts of Borderlands 3 and its sound design were created.