The sounds of Madden NFL 17 come from an unusual source

Smash it up.

Fans of EA's Madden games would be forgiven for thinking that the game's audio was recorded at an actual NFL match inside a huge stadium in the US.

It turns out that for this year's game, a lot of the audio came from an unlikely source: Tupperware bashed to bits in the Scottish countryside.

Will Morton and Craig Conner left Rockstar North back in 2014 to to set up their own company, Solid Audioworks. Morton worked at Rockstar North for 12 years as a dialogue supervisor and senior audio designer. Conner was the music director at Rockstar North. He scored nearly 20 years at the company, composing the soundtrack for the original Grand Theft Auto in 1997.

I had a chat with them about what it was like to work for the super secretive developer of the Grand Theft Auto games, and they mentioned they had something new to work on, but couldn't say what it was.

It turned out, it was Madden.

"We thought it would be nice to do something different," Morton said.

1
Morton and Conner re-designed virtually every sound in the game via a recording session at Pinewood Studios and a Scottish field.

The Madden gig came about after EA got in touch through the Solid Audioworks website. EA wanted some help finishing up the audio on last year's game, and signed the pair to overhaul the American Football game's audio for this year's entry.

The only problem was, neither Morton nor Conner knew anything about American Football. "It took us a year to call the pitch a field," Conner said.

Morton had at least played a Madden game on the Amiga, but that was back during the 16-bit days. But he does know a lot about rugby - particularly rugby league - and once EA had explained the rules of the sport, it didn't take him long to catch up. "You can call me a legitimate NFL fan now," he said.

American Football is a brutal sport, and some of the on the field sounds really do make you wince. When you watch it on telly, you can hear the clash of helmets and the crack of shoulder pads picked up by microphones placed close to the action. It's a dangerous, in your face sport. It's one of the reasons it's so popular.

The Madden games have used sounds recorded at actual NFL matches for a while now, but EA wanted Morton and Conner to completely redesign the sound of the game. So, they booked Pinewood Studios in London to record fresh audio using actual NFL equipment. But they needed to record more sounds to make sure the game sounded fresh compared to previous entries in the long-running series.

So, they went their local pound shop, bought suitcases and Tupperware, then battered the hell out of the lot on a Scottish field. They sound of helmets clashing is actually the sound of people smashing grills with metal spoons. The clack of shoulder pads is the creak of plastic boxes.

"The most fun bit was buying cheap suitcases from pound stores, filling them full of clothes and just f***ing banging them off the ground and banging them into people and pushing people onto them," Conner said.

"When you hear the sound of somebody falling over on the field, you're not really hearing a person falling over," Morton added. "You're hearing somebody throwing a bunch of heavy bags onto the floor.

"We were beating an old leather sofa with a big mallet and smashing Tupperware together to get the clacks and making things creak. You can hardly describe it as a job really. It's great fun."

Madden is one of EA's biggest sports game. It comes out every year, just like FIFA does. Grand Theft Auto comes out, what, every five years? It takes Rockstar a lot longer to build each GTA than it does EA's Madden development team in Orlando to build each Madden, that's for sure.

Morton and Conner would spend weeks at a time at EA's Orlando developer working on the audio for the game, and found the development culture to be very different to what they were used to at Rockstar.

"They're very efficient. I'll say that about EA," Conner said. "They stick to their deadlines. In a good way, it's very regimented. It's very organised. They have to be. They're doing a game each year. There's no comeback. They can't delay it.

"Rockstar games, some were like five years. So this was really good. When you're doing your job, nothing's ever finished. You can mix a song for however long you want. But if you know you've got to have it finished by Friday, you've got to have it finished by Friday. Sometimes that gives you a kick up the arse.

"It was exactly what we needed after working on GTA. We always said we wanted to start something completely different, and we really did."

Morton and Conner had to recreate the sound of a stadium packed with 80,000 screaming American Football fans, and mix it with commentary and the noise of play.

They treated it like a song, with the commentary as the singer at the forefront, and the crowd filling in the space behind it.

When they started work on crowds, they tried to record in Scotland by going to a few gigs. But it didn't work out.

"You forget people are gonna shout in a crowd," Conner said. "So there was all these Scottish voices sneaking in there."

"It sounded like Scotland, so we had to ditch that idea," Morton added. "Then EA came to the rescue and got us a 24-channel four-hour recording they'd set up with multiple microphones at an actual proper American Football game. We were rescued.

"The Scottish thing was not going to work in that instance."

Morton and Conner had a good time working on Madden for a year, and while they can't confirm they've signed up to do the audio for next year's game, they said they've both up for it.

If they do, perhaps they'll go back to the Scottish countryside and smash up some more Tupperware.

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About the author

Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editor

Wesley is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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