I thinking this might be a shorter one but a little more concrete. But I do tend to go one once I get rolling. What I want to talk about this time around is working from two kinds of pools. A sound pool. What I mean by a pool is a curated set of sounds that all your subsequent game sounds will come from. And a plugin pool. Which would a similarly curated set of plugins for a project.
So first the sound pool, the most concrete area I do this is for HUD and UI sounds. I can really spend to much time over thinking my HUD/UI feel for a project. I always want something uniform that all flows together and feels of the world in question. One of the ways I’ve found to help me in this is to spend time before I create anything to create or curate a bunch of sounds that will be the basis of all my HUD/UI for the project. I’ll record some synth stuff. Record some real world items, switches, rattles, small hits. I’ll source from my libraries sounds I can’t record that feel will fit. The whole time thinking about the world of the project and what I want to say with the end HUD/UI sounds. Once I’ve got that pool of curated library sounds and custom recordings, any HUD/UI sounds I make for the project come only from that source. That sets the baseline commonality for all the sounds in this area. Now of course you can do some severe processing and get pretty far from the source as needed but it still creates a link. Possibly a subtle one in the end but all those subtle decisions along the project still all add or take away from the overall vision.
The other pool I’ll set myself to work from is plugins. The same way I’ll curate my samples to work from, I’ll curate a plugin list for certain areas of a game. Some times it’s an inclusion pool, only use these plugins, and sometimes it’s exclusionary, use anything but these plugins. I’ll usually setup these in and out plugin sets for different areas of a project. Sometimes these define each other in conjunction. While working on Invisible, Inc we came up with the idea of Mainframe Mode which was where the hacking parts of the game happened. I decided that the sounds in this mode should be related to counter part actions in the real world but need to feel “in the computer”. The idea I went with was everything in Mainframe Mode would be processed with bit crushers and ring modulators. And as well I wouldn’t use those two effects in any other part of the game. I still allowed my self to use any other plugins as well but the sounds always had a least a little of those two effects as well. And was unique to that part of the game.
Those are two “pool” ideas that I use to help unify areas of my sound design. Hopefully you can use them as a starting point for your own workflows.