The Game Audio Tutorial

You might also be looking our old book : "The Game Audio Tutorial", or new book : Game Audio Implementation.

Nobody likes to hear 'it's in the post'

In a recent article in gamasutra by Alexander Brandon 'Next Gen Audio Square-off', Gene Semel, audio director of SCEA says,
'I foresee more robust real-time logic systems that will allow sound designers and production directors to actually make decisions and mix the game at a "post-production" like stage of development. '
Looking at examples like Scarface (Rob Bridgett Gamasutra postmortem, + mix magazine article here) the opportunities for 'mixing' the game audio soundscape, as opposed to treating it in the fixed way that has traditionally been the approach up until now, are really exciting.....

Scarface GDC 2007

(Another interesting discussion on game mixing on gameaudiopro here)

However we need be be careful not to wish the 'post-production' role upon ourselves anytime soon. (I'm pretty sure this is not what Gene really meant but let's discuss it anyway...). As I discussed in my related blog post what is needed is better , earlier integration with the planning and development stages, not to ape the unhealthy practices of many films.

Over on 'Sound-article-list' Randy Thom suggested reading an article from Film Journal International,
'Setting the scene : Inside the world of the production designer'
'Below is a link to an article on Production Design. Trying to imagine what it would be like as a sound designer to be taken even ten percent as seriously as a production designer, I think it's useful to learn as much as possible about their process with the director.'
(Read the full thread here)
Bob Kessler sums up a typical scenario,
'I work primarily on lo/no/micro budget projects. Most of the time I am retained after the first edit is completed, and that happens when the client realizes that there is more to sound than having an unpaid first-time PA with nothing better to do hold a cheap mic on a broomstick somewhere in the vicinity of the talent. That being the case I spend the bulk of my time doing noise reduction or incredibly painful ADR sessions and then adding what touches I can before a quick mix. On those rare occasions when I am consulted before shooting begins I mostly spend my time lobbying for them to hire a competent production sound team.'
Dave Stone also describes how the structure of film-making and the concept of sound as a post-production process mitigates against creative involvement.

It was refreshing to read Sande Chen's excellent article on Gamasutra and the call for a multidisciplnary approach.
'By espousing this multidisciplinary approach to narrative design, developers can elevate the art of game development as well as increase the bottom line. Meaningful games require advance planning, but players benefit much from the integration of story, art, gameplay, sound, and music. Using themes, narrative designers ensure that each play experience is not only immersive, but also a meaningful one....
If we're going to build really powerful games, we need interdisciplinary teams," says Sheri Graner Ray. As a freelance game designer and production consultant, Ray knows firsthand the level of collaboration that can occur when artists, writers, designers, programmers, and composers work together....

As with the narrative designer, Ray recommends bringing in a sound designer and/or composer early as part of an interdisciplinary team. She understands fully the power of sound and music in games. Just recently, she heard the notes from a once-favorite game and experienced an emotional pull back to those times. "I almost got misty over it," she recalls. "It was like a family reunion." Truly, the emotional heartbeat of a game can be heard through its music and sound design. Narrative designers can work with composers and sound designers to strengthen the emotional connection so that players always have a powerful and meaningful experience.'
So at a time when the technology seems to finally be there to allow us to play an equal role in the storytelling within games let us not be relegated to the 'post' production model of film.

I'll leave the last words to John Broomhall from this Music4games interview.
'I believe game audio pros have always taken inspiration from all other media. Looking at movies in particular, and thinking about the craft and artistry of sound design, there’s 80 years of development that I’m sure all of us in audio have drawn upon. It’s very exciting that, as technology barriers and constraints fall away, we’re all on more of a level playing field technically - and it’s the power of ideas that really matters. Whether film or games, we are all creating stories, emotional moments, intense action and drama – and sound is an amazing tool to deploy. ........

A few years back, it was a huge blast simply to bring virtual worlds to life – and realism was the watchword. As time progressed, we became able to create a dense literal description of the world with carefully placed sound emitters and x, y, z co-ordinates in 3D geometry spaces, sporting scientifically accurate acoustic reflections and reverberation. ......But what about the subjectively chosen sound treatments that are used purely to enhance and underscore drama and narrative? How many games have fully explored the potent force of sound that tells a story, provides exposition and characterization, leads navigation and drives primal emotional responses – sound that works beyond the literal using metaphor and suggestion?........
It seems to me that we have a job of evangelization to do and that’s something that needs to happen in every developer all over the world, week-to-week.'
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