Interviewing: Vyacheslav Pakalin, Sound Designer of Sherlock Holmes The Awakened, Chapter One and The Sinking City!

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Interviewing: Vyacheslav Pakalin, Sound Designer of Sherlock Holmes The Awakened, Chapter One and The Sinking City!

I don’t know about you, but I’m ridiculously excited to play the new/old Sherlock Holmes game. What I mean by this is that The Awakened is technically a remake, but reworked to be part of the ongoing Sherlock Holmes storyline after the first chapter. We had the amazing opportunity to discuss The Awakened, and specifically the sound design, with the man who designed it. It was a pleasure to speak with Vyacheslav Pakalin, sound designer, and hear about The Awakened, the challenges of making remakes, personal accolades, along with the problems that come with developing a game in a war zone. Check out the video below, as well as our transcription of his accounts.

David Burdett: Hello everyone and thank you for joining us. I’m David Burdett, Editor-in-Chief at, and I’m with Vyacheslav. We’re going to talk about a game he’s working on, Sherlock Holmes The Awakened. It goes back to, I think, 2006, 2008, something around there. How are you today?

Vyacheslav Pakalin: Ah, I’m fine. Today there were far fewer air raid sirens than usual. But one just finished a few minutes before we started our interview, so today is…well, I might say, a quiet day.

David Burdett: Well, peace of mind is definitely a good thing, especially since I know our first question on the board is, you know, we can’t fathom the struggles you have to have to deal with the fact that you’re developing the video game in in the middle of a real war. And obviously our condolences that you even have to have a challenge. Would you like to talk about what those challenges are right now?

Vyacheslav Pakalin: Imagine that when we started developing the game, it was March 2022. There was still a sense of uncertainty about what would happen tomorrow or even in a few hours. Constant reports that some town had also been attacked, something had been bombed, but we decided we had to do something. I can’t speak for everyone on the team, but what I experienced was when there was something to do, you know, like making a play or something. You know, doing some work, something repetitive, something that takes all your focus. For me, you know, to experience all these horrors that happened around, it became a little bit easier because you have something that you can use as a shutdown mechanism. You know, just put your phone away when you’re reading constant news about doomed scrolls or something. It really helped me, but of course there were some difficulties in the team. Some people joined military forces, some were constantly volunteering, helping civilians, helping the military, and so on. Some who lived in the danger zones had to leave and flee either to other cities of Ukraine that were safer, or even to Europe. So it was like giant circles. Well, it was an extraordinary experience. I’m glad I saw it, but I hope no one ever has to experience something like this. Because while it teaches you, you know, how to concentrate, how to focus on something you have to do, it can also break a person. I can’t imagine how some people continue to work because they have lost someone. We, almost all of the team, either lost someone or experienced some tragedy related to this invasion. So it’s emotionally very heavy.

David Burdett: Understandably, as you said, it’s something that yes you can learn from, but it’s something that no one should learn from in this modern age.

Vyacheslav Pakalin: It can definitely make a person stronger, but at what cost? This is perhaps the main problem. Which we will probably try to resolve after the war and years and years.

David Burdett: Yes yes. Now back to the Sherlock Holmes game, I love the evolution of the Sherlock Holmes games. I’ve played a lot of the older ones, but especially the latest release with Chapter One. This was my first time reviewing a Sherlock Holmes game and I really enjoyed my time with it. How do you take steps forward in game design while still developing a remake? Because it’s kind of a challenge.

Vyacheslav Pakalin: Well, yes, there was a gimmick that we tied this remake into the story of Chapter One. So basically it’s a continuation of the story that happened in the previous game, but related to the story of the original. So some things need to be redone, some things [did] didn’t work properly in the previous entry in the series, we need to update them [or] maybe cut something. It should also be noted that the main transition was that while Sherlock Holmes Chapter One was an open world game, the new one is simpler, more linear in terms of how the levels are built in the game. It’s probably not as big as it used to be. If I may say, it would have taken probably sixteen hours instead of how much longer our previous game was. We have to adapt some tools to how they work, because everything that was created for the open world game, OK, now has to change to something more, you know, more linear or something. So it was a big challenge. Yes, I hope we have it covered.

David Burdett: How do you feel your work on Awakened differs from that on Chapter One?

Vyacheslav Pakalin: Hmm, I really enjoy it when you play [are] smaller [because] I had to produce less music. Because I remember the time in the first chapter when I was like, “Oh my God, another case. Oh, here we go. WELL WELL. A few more songs. Here we are. Drop.” So it became a little bit easier, plus open world games, sometimes they can’t let you, you know, to [utilize] micromanaging. Some small bits here and there due to resources can hurt performance. Something like that. And with this game I had more, you know, more room to do some weird audio stuff.

David Burdett: OK.

Vyacheslav Pakalin: And some, even some experiments.

David Burdett: Great, well, I look forward to hearing them. Being a sound designer, how hard is it to listen to sounds that were created almost, you know, 15 years ago and you have to figure out how to make them fresh, but you don’t want to take away from the original and you want to keep some of it. How do you deal with it?

Vyacheslav Pakalin: How can I, you know, it’s hard for me to explain how this process happened because I used a lot of the previous game and adapted it, mixed it with some old sounds, some melodies that were a huge part of the previous game. I was like, OK, let’s play with it, but make it different. Make it, you know, something new or something that would be related to the previous games. So while some changes in the sound or in the music would be known, they would be known to the person who played them [The Awakened 2006], (Jesus, how many years ago was that), and the guy who played, like, only Chapter One, “OK, it’s a sequel/remake. Okay, I feel like I’m in the same place. The characters are the same, the music sounds similar or something.

David Burdett: Yes, that’s a really great idea. I honestly hadn’t even thought about it, the fact that someone could have just played Chapter One and picked up on this. You want them to feel that sense of familiarity too, not just the people from 15 years ago. One of my favorite things about video games is getting the atmosphere right, and you can’t get that right unless the sound design, the music, everything, unless it immerses the player. How do you usually start projects and what is your process to get there?

Vyacheslav Pakalin: Well, in the beginning when I see the first concept art or something or you know a prototype, a white box version of the level with sharp likes and everything and plus a story description. Okay, this level goes like this, this story telling, goes like this. Then I start creating a very simple demo. Just, you know, to fix, “Okay, probably this dark warehouse should have something like this. Like, OK, maybe we have a kind of dark tone around us here. OK. Well, the weather will probably be bad because we’re doing a dark game. Okay, let’s add some winds. You start to [and when you] back and forth after each submission to the different team members and you go back to the audio, building on what you’ve already done. So it’s more like layer upon layer. And in terms of the music, it was pretty easy for me because I decided to do something probably cheap because I was like, “Okay, we have music that works in Chapter One, let’s draw inspiration from that.” We also have Lovecraftian mythos, which greatly influence the overall story of the game. Okay, let’s take some inspiration from The Sinking City, because that was also a Lovecraftian game, and try to match it. Of course, don’t make it as dark and as industrial as it was in The Sinking City. But, you know, to find something mixed with it, so you have to play the game and hear and decide how it ends.

David Burdett: Great, The Sinking City is one of those on my to play list because I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

Vyacheslav Pakalin: You should definitely try it.

David Burdett: In your career, there have probably been many different moments in sound design that you’ve had to deal with. Are there any that you are proud of or think are unique experiences that you would like to share?

Vyacheslav Pakalin: I must have thought I had managed to finish the music for the first chapter [on my own]. Because when I suggested like, “Okay, I do sound design, but I can also do music,” because I was also working on the music for The Sinking City, but there was another person who helped me with that. But now I’m like, ‘Okay, I have full power, full control. I had to develop everything.” And it was very difficult, but when I finished it, I was like, “Well, I can do big things. It’s great.” So it’s more like there’s probably nothing unique about it, but it’s more like, you know, a personal milestone or something. Okay, I can do that now. You know, a sense of overcoming challenge or something.

David Burdett: Like defeating a boss in Elden Ring.

Vyacheslav Pakalin: Yes Yes Yes Yes. Malenia solo show.

David Burdett: Exactly. Well, I can tell you that you definitely accomplished a lot in the first chapter. The music design was great. Now this is our last question. This is a little more personal for me because I did the preview for The Awakened and the Heidi doll scared me to death. I have to ask if you were behind any of the sound design, specifically the design behind her, because it freaked me out and I guess that was his job.

Vyacheslav Pakalin: Yeah, we worked with our cinematography team and we just said, “Okay, come on, it’s a creepy doll and it talks. Let’s make it both silly and creepy.” And we were like, “Okay, let’s add some wood creaks and some voice effects so that it suddenly tries to scare the **** out of you and something with the impact or something. It was an exciting process to add all the little features in the voice lines and also the voice lines [that] they were great. So he was very funny to work with. And I’m glad that as we imagined this dialogue would/should work, that you experienced something as we imagined it.

David Burdett: Well, okay. Yeah, I went back and watched the original scene and I was like, “This is nowhere near as scary.” That’s what this is here. So it’s definitely doing its job, and I imagine there will be a lot of other moments as we play through Awakened that will jump out and scare us a little bit, I guess.

VYacheslav Pakalin: It’s not far from release, so you’ll likely experience everything soon.

David Burdett: Well, we definitely want to thank you for your time. Thank you for spending some of it with us. I’m very excited to play Sherlock Holmes The Awakened, which for anyone listening, comes out on April 11th and will be available on PlayStation, Xbox and PC platforms. Also, is it coming to Nintendo Switch?

Vyacheslav Pakalin: Yes, too.

David Burdett: Great, it’s coming to the Nintendo Switch, so go ahead, pre-order it. Get ready to jump right in and enjoy your time with Sherlock Holmes. Once again, thank you Viacheslav for spending some time with us.

Vyacheslav Pakalin: Thank you. Have a nice day.

Stay tuned to Gaming Trend for more news and information on Sherlock Holmes The Awakened!

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