The Sound Design of Ghost of Tsushima: Dogs

May 24th, 2021

The dogs in Ghost of Tsushima are fun to talk about because, like so much of the soundscape of the game, we started with a lot of research and then recording them was a blast. Let’s just ignore the fact that Jin kills so many dogs in his journey and rewind a few years when we first started talking about having dogs in the game. The impetus for adding dogs was to have a unique enemy type that was also more adept at hunting Jin than the Mongols. Like everything else in the game, we did a bunch of research and found that Mongols did indeed use dogs and that from Genghis Khan on, their dogs were ancestors of the breed now known as the Tibetan Mastiff (which technically is not a mastiff, but I’m not here to get into a discussion about dog breeds). So the art team began working on models of Tibetan mastiffs, which meant we needed to find some sounds for them! We started looking online and these dogs looked and sounded fierce, but also fairly unique. So I started looking to see if there were any Tibetan Mastiff breeders in the area and I struck gold: there were actually a handful within a few hour drive from Seattle!

We ended up connecting with Debbie Parsons of Dreamcatcher Mastiffs. She mentioned they had several Tibetan Mastiffs and we were welcome to come record them. So Josh and I packed up our mics and recorders and headed out to Graham, WA, just an hour south of Seattle on the way to Mount Rainier. As soon as we showed up, we were greeted by 3 VERY large, scary and seemlingly angry dogs. We started recording immediately and got some terrific barks and growls (unfortunately interspersed with chain link fence rattle as they were pretty excited). Debbie was super helpful and started taking most of the dogs inside and allowing us to record each one individually. We got a good range of growls, snarls and barks. Debbie even ended up putting on a hooded sweatshirt and acting like a prowler to get them riled up. After getting all these great barks, we went into the property to record more and these dogs transformed into the cuddliest, sweetest bears (seriously they looked like bears in dog suits).

We were able to get panting and breathing and even chewing on bones as they had settled down and got used to us. From there Josh took the recordings, cleaned them up and got them in game. Rob Castro did a final polish pass towards the end of the project to make them even more terrifying. As you can hear from this video we created for a company meeting, the were already pretty scary before the sonic magic was applied.