Guest Contribution by Rob Bridgett
For the past 14 years I’ve been a proponent of sound as a deeply integral part of the video game development process, getting audio involved earlier, allowing it to become a part of decision making and concepting, allowing sound’s early presence, excitement and enthusiasm to influence the other disciplines involved in the collaborative sport of video game development.
Recently, you may have noticed a trend towards narrowing down the focus of what we consider to be multi-disciplinary game development, there are small team, minimal, retro, and almost inevitably towards audio-only games. At the Game Developer’s Conference Nicky Birch of Somethin’ Else’s spoke about their audio-only games (such as Papa Sangre) as did Brian Schmidt on a similar theme in 2013). These are games in which the player has little or no visual input or stimulus, but relies entirely on spatialized audio cues.
I recently came across the Frictional Games blog and have spent the last few weeks trawling through it’s archive. It provides a wealth of informaiton on game design, and in particular discussions on the point of game narrative. One particular post, 4 Layers, a narrative design approach, written by Thomas Grip, Frictional’s creative director, raised the concept of the mental model, and the impact this can have, not only on game design, but also on a players experience of a game.
As April comes to an end and we wrap up our topic for the month, “broken”, I wanted to take a moment and share something that I learned when I was first starting out, and something that I find myself having to remember quite often: how to react when everything starts to break.
We depend on a lot of complex technologies in our day-to-day lives, some more intricate and convoluted than others. As sound designers, we often find ourselves using even more complicated and specialized gear and equipment, adding to the complexity. While a lot of time and effort has gone into making these technologies work perfectly, the simple fact of the matter is that things have a tendency to break, often when you need them the most. As an old friend of mine likes to say, “Murphy was an optimist!”
Focal Press has recently released a new book on game audio entitled The Essential Guide to Game Audio. I know what you may be thinking, “Aren’t there already enough books on game audio?” This is a worthy addition to the plethora of learning materials already on the market. It fills a gap by focusing on game audio in the Unity Engine. It’s also co-authored by two well respected practitioners/educators: Steve Horowitz and Scott Looney. They were not content to just publish a book though. No, they had to go all transmedia on this topic.
Two other items have launched alongside the book. The first is a free iOS companion app. Well worth checking out even if you aren’t going to pick up the book; though I imagine you’ll get more out of it when the two are used in tandem. Additionally, the authors have launched a new website: Game Audio Institute. The site is just getting off of the ground now, and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the coming year.
If you’re currently learning game audio, or are considering it, you’ve got some new tools to add to your training arsenal.
Following fast on the news that FMOD will be free to independent game developers, now Audiokinetic have announced that the Wwise audio engine is also changing its licensing format in support of indies. The cross-platform sound engine will be free to users with up to 200 sound assets in their Wwise projects.
Audiokinetic Press Release