当你驾车驶于《Crackdown》中的Pacific City时，可以在枪击声、爆炸声、物理物体和车载广播中听出上述做法的效果。值得注意的是，出自Ruffian Games之手的《Crackdown 2》将于近期内畅销于各大商店，Realtime Worlds的新MMO游戏《全面通缉》也将如此。
根据不同情形，遗忘的世界可以充满动作和生命。这种“充满活力”的感觉大部分通过丰富的动态环境质感表达出来，Bethesda Softworks的音效团队细致地完成了这项工作。音效设计师Marc Lambert在发布前起在开发者日记上提供了环境系统的某些背景，具体内容如下：
“团队构建起真正出色的场景，有完整的昼夜循环和动态天气。这些环境的全音效细节需要系统化的方法，这点上我获得了程序员和Elder Scrolls Construction Set的帮助，基于游戏中的地理区域配上一整套声音，给予时间限制和天气参数。”
Bethesda Softworks音效设计师Marc Lamber还说道：“我认为环境音效强调是游戏音效中另一个强势点。相对从地下城入口处走出看到日光时带来的那种空间和新鲜感，令人毛骨悚然的寂静、遥远的呻吟声和隆隆声能产生恐怖的体验。游戏中无数地下空间的声音通过手工来处理，使用的并非系统性的方法。”
随着我们不断深化在游戏中呈现现实的方式，我们在这些世界中的音效也应当有所改变。在《孤岛危机》中，开发商Crytek取得了巨大的飞跃，他们向玩家提供了现实化的沙盘，以使玩家与周围的模拟世界互动。在2008年游戏开发者大会上，Tomas Neumann和Christian Schilling讲述了他们的思考方法：“环境音效通过在地图上标注各音效区域来实现，某些区域可能与其他重叠或位于其他区域中。Schilling认为自然环境应该根据玩家发生改变，但环境也要求动态行为，比如枪响后鸟叫声停止。”
在Namco Bandai的《Cook or Be Cooked》中，负责人Barker通过邮件说道：“我尝试在烹饪中加入音效，当牛排发出滋滋声时，这种效果确实比牛排随着时间变焦更具现实性。这让我改变了游戏中需要的音效，提供更具现实性的烹饪。这种设计很微妙，而且多数人从未注意到，但做起来确实很复杂。”
同样，使用FMOD Designer工具包设计Nihilistic Software的《Conan》时，开发商也可以基于物体接近玩家来使用远距参数来调整DSP设定。
在2008年的《蜘蛛侠：影之网》中，Shaba Games首席音效设计师Brad Meyer可以玩家角色的优良或邪恶本性以及每个关卡的动态情感来决定使用的声音和音效，使用的是Wwise工具包。
在为Playdead的《Limbo》制作音频时，Martin Stig Andersen使用了电声作曲。他说道：“我有电声作曲的背景，在这种方法中，并非编写管弦乐曲谱，而是记录音效，然后将音效拼接成音乐。为实现目标，我使用了与音效设计师相同的工具，但是我认为自己的做法更贴近于音乐和作曲。”
PopCap音频制作人Becky Allen说道，公司近期发布的Facebook游戏《Solitaire Blitz》中的音乐便是例证。“在游戏中，玩家共拿到10张牌。当玩家一次性出7张牌时，游戏就会播放钟琴声。出第8张牌时，又会播放不同的音乐，第9张牌的音乐也有所不同，这种音乐设计与游戏设计相配合。这种进展性的声调告知玩家他们朝着正确的方向发展。”
听觉很难被欺骗：如果你的音频做得不好，玩家很容易便会察觉。他们可能并不会意识到究竟是哪方面除了问题，但是他们知道肯定有什么地方不对。Alan Kraemer（游戏邦注：SRS Labs首席技术官）曾经跟我说过一个理论，与视觉等感知方式相比，音频有着相对较低的带宽。因而，大脑可以对音效做更加彻底的分析。这使得人们很难受到欺骗。
篇目4，音频设计师Van den Wijngaarden谈工作经历及经验
作者：Vlad Micu/Javier Sancho
在音频设计师兼作曲师Jonathan van den Wijngaarden的职业生涯中，幻象不时破灭，有些美好开局的故事最后却没有圆满收场。他曾经在荷兰两个最有前景的工作室工作过，却都因树立过高的目标而失败，但是他仍然保持着乐观心态，吸取自己此前失败的经验教训，转变成为独立音频设计师和作曲师。
在VCR属于最高端科技的年代里，Van den Wijngaarden是少数接触到家用PC的幸运孩子之一。他的父亲在IT部门工作，这使他及其家人成为荷兰首批接触PC的人。“他以前给我买过《吃豆人》和《Dig Dug》等游戏的软盘，不久之后我拥有了属于自己的PC，因此体验过众多共享件游戏。”
玩过一段时间的PC后，14岁的Van den Wijngaarden开始自行制作《命令与征服》的脚本和模型。他回忆道：“我过去常常将自己的磁带录音机放在PC旁边，录下《命令与征服》的音乐，这样我不玩游戏的时候也可以听到这些音乐。”通过《命令与征服》mod制作社区，他通过电子邮件联系了负责该游戏音乐制作的天才设计师Frank Klepacki。接下来的4年时间里，他们经常互发邮件，Klepacki在此期间为Van den Wijngaarden制作的音乐提出自己的建议。当时，他还参加了钢琴教授课程，但这并无法满足他自行制作音乐的愿望。“我放弃了钢琴课程，这样我就能全心全意地投入到音乐作曲中。Frank Klepacki成了我的正式顾问，在游戏音频设计方面给了我全面的指导。”
Van den Wijngaarden试水游戏行业是进入Coded Illusions工作。他接触了公司的创始人Richard Stitselaar。Stitselaar刚刚离开Guerrilla Games，创办了自己的游戏公司。他们两人都对游戏很感兴趣，尤其是《命令与征服》，当Stitselaar得知他曾师从Klepacki学习游戏音频制作后，觉得他对自己的公司会有帮助。
他们的首个合作想法《Nomos》（游戏邦注：项目早期称为《Haven》）未完成便已夭折，这是款带有宗教元素、《银翼杀手》风格的科幻游戏。他回忆道：“我们挤在一间小型办公室内，我常常戴着耳机制作音频，数米之外的其他员工用播放器大声放着猫王的歌曲。当时，我们显得并不专业。”当Coded Illusions获得首次投资后，事情有所改观。相对首批雇员的行为，工作室显得更为专业，许多新员工来自于Guerrilla。但是在工作室中，Van den Wijngaarden仍然需要负责多项事务，不仅要进行音频的设计，还要负责管理、关卡设计、挑选游戏设计想法和编写故事以及对话。
2004年，Coded Illusions的未来似乎很光明。在随后的4年半中，团队极有抱负地工作着，Van den Wijngaarden亲切地说道：“我们像朋友般合作，制作很棒的东西。虽然我们的经验尚有欠缺，但是我们充满了激情。”不幸的是，团队的激情并没有挽救公司的失败局面。2008年末，Coded Illusion在短时间内便倒闭了，这群人还没反应过来就发现自己已经失业了。到底是哪里出了问题呢？Van den Wijngaarden说道：“刚开始事情进展得很顺利，我们自行为游戏构建引擎。但是在2004年夏天，某些公司管理人员参加了GDC，首次见识了虚幻引擎3。当时，Xbox360刚刚发布，因此开始采用新引擎制作游戏似乎显得格外诱人。”他解释道：“行业正处在转折点，我们认为应当为下一代主机游戏的开发做好准备。”于是，虚幻引擎3成了工作室新的倚重工具。他回忆道：“它确实非常吸引人。但虚幻引擎3却并没有让项目的成长受益，因为我们在项目中添加了过多超过我们开发能力的新想法。《Nomos》不再是个小型游戏，而是让开发团队精疲力竭的虚幻引擎3游戏。”团队的激情使他们想要通过该引擎来实现各种新功能，在游戏中添加RPG元素、更多的动作和更多的故事，而这个面向射击类游戏的引擎根本无法承载如此多的内容。换句话说，代码已经无法处理团队编织的过高幻想。
现在，较小的游戏，包括内容被削减后的较大项目，可以很容易地利用数字化销售渠道，获得广大的休闲玩家市场。Van den Wijngaarden解释道：“但是在当时，数字化独立游戏市场还未受到重视。”所以，整个团队不知道要如何继续发展这个抱负过高的想法，而资金上的问题进一步加重了公司的困境。Van den Wijngaarden承认：“如果公司从小型项目开始做起，应该算是更为睿智的选择。从预算较低的项目做起，然后逐渐加大前进的步伐。作为公司，我们不可能在短时间内就突飞猛进，当时付出的许多精力现在看来都是徒劳。”
2008年秋，Coded Illusions整个团队的梦想彻底破灭了。创始人Richard Stitselaar成功保住了IP，创办了新公司Vertigo Games。他雇佣了旧公司的部分团队成员，开始开发《Adam’s Venture》。和许多前团队成员一样，Van den Wijngaarden选择前往Playlogic Game Factory，这个工作室全力开发其首款跨平台游戏《Fairytale Fights》。“我很容易便进入了工作室。在Coded Illusion的工作中，我获得了丰富的虚幻引擎和音频方面的经验，因此我几乎无需面试就进入了公司。”当时，他在Playlogic的工作并不轻松。他在休假的时候进入公司，而《Fairytale Fights》必须在夏季发布。Van den Wijngaarden对此很担心。“在计划还未完善和没有音频设计文件的前提下，我怎样才能在8个月的时间内完成这个项目呢？与新的团队合作会遇到什么问题呢？我决定先放下这些想法和忧虑，尽全力完成项目。”Van den Wijngaarden花了很长时间才回想起这段经历。“这个阶段的工作确实很紧张，几乎形成了我记忆中的黑洞。”
他回忆道：“最主要的方面是，它已经不再是‘我自己’的项目，这也是我必须习惯的地方。其他人已经规划出了《Fairytale Fights》的概念，而且该项目的原型已经塑造了很长时间。”游戏离上架只有8个月的时间，而且现在还没有任何音频成分，Van den Wijngaarden只能挖掘程序说明书来寻找游戏的潜在想法和感觉。“对于这个项目，我的主要专注点在于培养自己同项目间的联系，让它感觉起来像是自己的项目，同时在音频上展示出游戏的特色和个性。”《Fairytale Fights》的独特艺术风格已经成形，看起来就像是塑像黏土版的《Happy Tree Friends》。“《疯狂世界》这款游戏给了我最多的灵感。我努力借鉴其场景方面的多样化设置，在音效上体现出《Fairytale Fights》角色间的差异。为所有武器设置独特的射击和携带移动音效，尽管这个方面的工作量很大，但却是游戏特色中至关重要的环节。”这也是Van den Wijngaarden从其顾问和导师Klepacki身上学到的经验，他说道：“Klepacki曾告诉我，努力在音乐和音效上体现出自己的风格。这也是我崇拜Klepacki的原因，他总是知道如何在设计中坚持贯彻自己的风格。即便我不知道游戏的制作人，我也可以通过游戏的音频识别出这款游戏是由他制作的。”
那么，这次又出了什么问题呢？问题还是出在抱负这把双刃剑上。“我们在时间上有很大的压力，最后我们不得不削减25%已经制作完成的内容。否则，我们无法在规定时间内完成游戏的制作。削减的内容中包括游戏的最后一个章节，共有4个关卡。这意味着我们必须制作新的终极BOSS。起初，我们还想要在游戏中添加某些RPG元素和NPC间的对话。但是，制作NPC对话就意味着我们还必须将这些内容本土化，我们根本没有足够的时间。游戏在短时间内被削减了大量的内容，使《Fairytale Fights》最终成为单纯的打架游戏。”至少，这次团队实现了游戏的削减，而且游戏成功上架了。游戏得以成功地准时面世，主要归功于主管Olivier Lhermite。“他的表现堪称奇迹。不仅制定出合适的工作流程，而且让团队将注意力放在最重要的方面：游戏设计。”Van den Wijngaarden承认，项目的游戏设计启动得太迟了。在之前的时间里，项目的主要侧重点和精力都放在美术风格和场景上，却忽略了游戏最本质的内容。“Olivier确保所有团队成员都理解了游戏玩法，而且全天候工作，保证所有开发进程正常运转。”
在这段充满艰辛的职业生涯中，Van den Wijngaarden时刻铭记Klepacki的另一条经验。“作为创意工作者，在艺术创造和娱乐产品制作间取得平衡是件很困难的事情。作为艺术人员，你的主要注意力应当放在制作出最高质量的作品上，但同时依然要确保有足够的数量。因而，你必须在质量和数量间找到平衡点，确保每个音效都同样卓越。你无法将所有的事情都做到完美，重要的是，你制作出的所有成分间应当和谐一致。这便是我在制作《Fairytale Fights》过程中获得的经验教训。”
篇目1，The Next Big Steps In Game Sound Design
It’s a great time in game audio these days. As we move forward in the current console generation, several emerging examples of best practices in audio implementation have been exposed through articles, demonstrations, and video examples.
Even though in some ways it feels like the race towards next gen has just begun, some of the forward-thinking frontrunners in the burgeoning field of Technical Sound Design have been establishing innovative techniques and pulling off inspirational audio since the starting gun was fired over four years ago with the release of the Xbox 360.
It’s a good feeling to know that there are people out there doing the deep thinking in order to bring you some of the richest audio experiences in games available today. In some ways, everyone working in game audio is trying to solve a lot of the same problems.
Whether you’re implementing a dynamic mixing system, interactive music, or a living, breathing ambient system, the chances are good that your colleagues are slaving away trying to solve similar problems to support their own titles.
In trying to unravel the mystery of what makes things tick, I’ll be taking a deeper look at our current generation of game sound and singling out several pioneers and outspoken individuals who are leaving a trail of interactive sonic goodness (and publicly available information) in their wake. Stick around for the harrowing saga of the technical sound designer in today’s multi-platform maelstrom.
Reverb is one area that has been gaining ground since the early days of EAX on the PC platform, and more recently thanks to its omnipresence in audio middleware toolsets.
It has become standard practice to enable reverb within a single game level, and apply a single preset algorithm to a subset of the sound mix. Many developers have taken this a step further and created reverb regions that will call different reverb presets based on the area the player is currently located. This allows the reverb to change based on predetermined locations using predefined reverb settings.
Furthermore, these presets have been extended to areas outside of the player region, so that sounds coming from a different region can use the region and settings of their origin in order to get their reverberant information. Each of these scenarios is valid in an industry where you must carefully balance all of your resources, and where features must play to the strengths of your game design.
While preset reverb and reverb regions have become a standard and are a welcome addition to a sound designer’s toolbox, there is still the potential to push further into realtime. By calculating the reverb of a sound in the game at runtime either through the calculation of geometry at the time a sound is played or through the use of reverb convolution.
Leading the charge in 2007 with Crackdown, Realtime Worlds set out to bring the idea of realtime convolution reverb to the front line.
“When we heard the results of our complex Reverb/Reflections/Convolution or ‘Audio-Shader’ system in Crackdown, we knew that we could make our gunfights sound like that, only in realtime! Because we are simulating true reflections on every 3D voice in the game, with the right content, we could immerse the player in a way never before heard.”- Raymond Usher, to Team Xbox
So, what is realtime Reverb using ray tracing and convolution in the context of a per-voice implementation? Here’s a quick definition of ray tracing as it applies to physics calculation:
“In physics, ray tracing is a method for calculating the path of waves or particles through a system with regions of varying propagation velocity, absorption characteristics, and reflecting surfaces. Under these circumstances, wavefronts may bend, change direction, or reflect off surfaces, complicating analysis. Ray tracing solves the problem by repeatedly advancing idealized narrow beams called rays through the medium by discrete amounts. Simple problems can be analyzed by propagating a few rays using simple mathematics. More detailed analysis can be performed by using a computer to propagate many rays.” – Wikipedia
On the other side of the coin you have the concept of convolution: “In audio signal processing, convolution reverb is a process for digitally simulating the reverberation of a physical or virtual space. It is based on the mathematical convolution operation, and uses a pre-recorded audio sample of the impulse response of the space being modeled. To apply the reverberation effect, the impulse-response recording is first stored in a digital signal-processing system. This is then convolved with the incoming audio signal to be processed.” – Wikipedia
What you end up with is a pre-recorded impulse response of a space being modified (or convoluted) by the ray-traced calculations of the surrounding physical spaces. What this allows the sound to communicate in realtime is a greater sense of location and dynamics as sound is triggered from a point in 3D space, and sound is reflected off of the geometry of the immediate surrounding area.
You can hear the results of their effort in every gunshot, explosion, physics object, and car radio as you travel through the concrete jungle of Crackdown’s Pacific City. It’s worth noting that Ruffian Games’ Crackdown 2 will be hitting shelves soon, as will Realtime Worlds’ new MMO All Points Bulletin.
With a future for convolution reverb implied by recent news of Audiokinetic’s Wwise toolset, let’s hope the idea of realtime reverb continues to play an integral part in the next steps towards runtime spatialization.
Listen, the snow is falling… In addition to that, my computer is humming, traffic is driving by outside, birds are intermittently chirping, not to mention the clacking of my “silent” keyboard. Life is full of sound. We’ve all spent time basking in the endless variation and myriad ways in which the world around us conspires to astound and delight with the magic of its soundscape.
Whether it is the total randomness of each footstep, or the consistency of our chirping cell phones, the sound of the world lends a sense of space to your daily life and helps ground you in the moment.
We are taking steps in every console generation toward true elemental randomization, positional significance, and orchestrated and dynamic ambient sounds. Some of the lessons we have learned along the way are being applied in ways that empower the sound designer to make artistic choices in how these sounds are translated into the technical world of game environments.
We are always moving the ball forward in our never-ending attempts at simulating the world around us… or the world that exists only in our minds.
The world of Oblivion can be bustling with movement and life or devoid of presence, depending on the circumstances. The feeling of “aliveness” is in no small part shaped by the rich dynamic ambient textures that have been carefully orchestrated by the Bethesda Softworks sound team. Audio Designer Marc Lambert provided some background on their ambient system in a developer diary shortly before launch:
“The team has put together a truly stunning landscape, complete with day/night cycles and dynamic weather. Covering so much ground — literally, in this case — with full audio detail would require a systematic approach, and this is where I really got a lot of help from our programmers and the Elder Scrolls Construction Set [in order to] specify a set of sounds for a defined geographic region of the game, give them time restrictions as well as weather parameters.” – Marc Lambert, Bethesda Softworks Newsletter
In a game where you can spend countless hours collecting herbs and mixing potions in the forest or dungeon crawling while leveling up your character, one of the keys to extending the experience is the idea of non-repetitive activity. If we can help to offset that from a sound perspective by introducing dynamic ambiance it can help offset some of the grind the player experiences when tackling some of the more repetitive and unavoidable tasks.
“[The ambient sound] emphasizes what I think is another strong point in the audio of the game — contrast. The creepy quiet, distant moans and rumbles are a claustrophobic experience compared to the feeling of space and fresh air upon emerging from the dungeon’s entrance into a clear, sunny day. The game’s innumerable subterranean spaces got their sound treatment by hand as opposed to a system-wide method.” – Marc Lambert, Bethesda Softworks Newsletter
It should come as no surprise that ambiance can be used to great effect in communicating the idea of space. When you combine the use of abstracted soundscapes and level-based tools to apply these sound ideas appropriately, the strengths of dynamics and interactivity can be leveraged to create a constantly changing tapestry that naturally reacts to the environment and parameters.
Similarly, in Fable II, the sound designers were able to “paint ambient layers” directly onto their maps. In a video development diary, Lionhead audio director Russel Shaw explains: “I designed a system whereby we could paint ambient layers onto the actual Fable II maps. So that as you’re running through a forest for instance, we painted down a forest theme, and the blending from one ambiance to another is quite important, so the technology was lain down first of all.” – Russel Shaw, posted by Kotaku
In what could be seen as another trend in the current console cycle, enabling the sound designers to handle every aspect of sound and the way it is used by the game is just now becoming common. The ability to implement with little to no programmer involvement outside of the initial system design, setup, and toolset creation is directly in contrast to what was previously a symbiotic relationship requiring a higher level of communication between all parties.
In the past, it was not uncommon to create sound assets and deliver them with a set of instructions to a programmer. A step removed from the original content creator, the sounds would need to be hand coded into the level at the appropriate location and any parametric or transition information hard coded deep within the engine.
It is clearly a benefit to the scope of any discipline to be able to create, implement, and execute a clear vision without a handoff between departments to accomplish the task. In this way I feel like we are gaining in the art of audio implementation and sound integration — by putting creative tools in the hands of the interactive-minded sound designers and implementation specialists who are helping to pave the way for these streamlined workflows.
As we continue to move closer towards realistically representing a model of reality in games, so should our worlds react and be influenced by sound and its effect on these worlds. In Crysis, developer Crytek has made tremendous leaps towards providing the player with a realistic sandbox in which to interact with the simulated world around them. In a presentation at the Game Developers Conference in 2008 Tomas Neumann and Christian Schilling explained their reasoning: “Ambient sound effects were created by marking areas across the map for ambient sounds, with certain areas overlapping or being inside each other, with levels of priority based on the player’s location. ‘Nature should react to the player,’ said Schilling, and so the ambiance also required dynamic behavior, with bird sounds ending when gunshots are fired.” – Gamasutra
In a game where everything is tailored towards immersing the player in a living, breathing world, this addition was a masterstroke of understatement from the team and brings a level of interactivity that hadn’t been previously experienced.
Audio Lead Christian Schilling went on to explain the basic concept and provide additional background when contacted:
“Sneaking through nature means you hear birds, insects, animals, wind, water, materials. So everything — the close and the distant sounds of the ambiance. Firing your gun means you hear birds flapping away, and silence.
“Silence of course means, here, wind, water, materials, but also — and this was the key I believe — distant sounds (distant animals and other noises). We left the close mosquito sounds in as well, which fly in every now and then — because we thought they don’t care about gun shots.
“So, after firing your gun, you do hear close noises like soft wind through the leaves or some random crumbling bark of some tree next to you (the close environment), all rather close and crispy, but also the distant layer of the ambiance, warm in the middle frequencies, which may be distant wind, the ocean, distant animals — [it doesn't] matter what animals, just distant enough to not know what they are — plus other distant sounds that could foreshadow upcoming events.
“In Crysis we had several enemy camps here and there in the levels, so you would maybe hear somebody dropping a pan or shutting a door in the distance, roughly coming from the direction of the camp, so you could follow that noise and find the camp.
It was a fairly large amount of work, but we thought, ‘If the player chooses the intelligent way to play — slowly observing and planning before attacking — he would get the benefits of this design.’”
In this way, they have chosen to encourage a sense of involvement with the environment by giving the ambient soundscape an awareness of the sounds the player is making. The level of detail they attained is commendable, and has proven to be a forward thinking attempt at further simulating reality through creative audio implementation.
If we really are stretching to replicate a level of perceived reality with video games, then we must give consideration to every aspect of an activity and attempt to model it realistically in order to convey information about what the gameplay is trying to tell us. When we can effectively model and communicate the realistic sounds of the actions portrayed on screen, then we can step closer towards blurring the line between the player and their interactions.
What we are starting to see pop up more frequently in audio implementation is an attempt to harness the values of the underlying simulation and use them to take sound to a level of subtlety and fidelity that was previously either very difficult or impossible to achieve due to memory budget or CPU constraints.
It’s not uncommon for someone in game audio to comment and expound on the “tiny detail” that they enabled with sound to enhance the gameplay in ways that may not be obvious to the player. While previously encumbered by RAM allocation, streaming budgets, and voice limitations, we are now actively working to maximize the additional resources available to us on each platform. Part of utilizing these resources is the ability to access runtime features and parameters to modify the existing sample based content using custom toolsets and audio middleware to interface with the game engine.
In the Wii version of Ghostbusters, the Gl33k audio team handled the content creation and implementation. Some of the ways that they were able to leverage the real time parameter control functionality was by changing the mix based on various states:
“The ‘in to goggle’ sound causes a previously unheard channel to rise to full volume. This allowed us to create much more dramatic flair without bothering any programming staff.” The PKE Meter was “Driven by the RTPC, which also slightly drives the volume of the ambient bus.
“Ghost vox were handled using switch groups, since states would often change, but animations did not. Many of the states and sounds associated with them that we wanted to happen and come across, did not actually have any specific animations to drive them, so we actually ended up going in and hooking up state changes in code to drive whatever type of voice FX we wanted for the creature. This helped give them some more variety without having to use up memory for specific state animations.” – Jimi Barker, Ghostbusters and Wwise, on Vimeo
In Namco Bandai’s Cook or Be Cooked, says Barker via email, “I tied [RTPC] in with the cooking times, so when a steak sizzles, it actually sounds more realistic than fading in a loop over time. This allowed me to actually change the state of the sound needed over time to give a more realistic representation of the food cooking as its visual state changed. It’s totally subtle, and most people will never notice it, but there’s actually a pretty complicated process going on behind that curtain.
“I (had) roughly four states per cookable object that went from beginning, all the way through burned. There were loops for each of those states that fed into each other. These were also modified with one-shots — for example, flipping an object or moving it to the oven. We tried to provide as much variation as we could fit into the game, so almost every sound has a random container accompanied with it.”
Similarly, with the FMOD Designer toolset on Nihilistic Software’s Conan, the developers were able to use the distance parameter to adjust DSP settings based on the proximity of an object to the player. In one example, a loop was positioned at the top of a large waterfall far across a valley with a shallow LPF that gradually (over the course of 100 meters) released the high frequencies.
As the player approaches, the filter gradually opens up on your way toward two additional waterfall sources, placed underneath a bridge directly in front of the waterfall. The additional sources had a smaller rolloff with a steeper LPF applied and were meant to add diversity to the “global” sound.
The shifting textures and frequencies of the three sounds combined sound massive as you battle your way across the bridge which helps to add a sense of audio drama to the scenario, which you can view here.
Whereas parameter values have always existed behind the screen, they have not always been as readily available to be harnessed by audio. The fact that we are at a place in the art of interactive sound design where we can make subtle sound changes based on gameplay in an attempt to better immerse the player is a testament to the power of current generation audio engines and the features exposed from within toolsets.
In 2008′s Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Shaba Games lead sound designer Brad Meyer was able to use the player character’s good/evil affinity, in addition to the dynamic “mood” of each level, to determine the sound palette used, as well as the sound of the effects, using the Wwise toolset.
By tying the transition between Spiderman and Venom to a switch/state in Wwise, a DSP modification of the sounds triggered could be applied. The change could be easily auditioned with the flip of a switch within the Wwise toolset, allowing for prototyping in parallel and outside the confines of the game engine and gameplay iteration. This ability to mock-up features is a key component in the current generation, where iteration and polish allow for the development of robust audio systems and highly specialized sound design.
“To explain what I [ended up doing] on the implementation side… was drop the pitch of Spider-Man’s sounds by a couple semitones when he switched to the Black Suit, and also engaged a parametric EQ to boost some of the low-mid frequencies. The combination of these two effects made the Black Suit sound stronger and more powerful, and Red Suit quicker and more graceful.
“The effect was rather subtle, in part because it happens so often I didn’t want to fatigue the player’s ears with all this extra low frequency information as Black Suit, but I think it works if nothing else on a subliminal level.” – Brad Meyer, via email
It makes sense that with a powerful prototyping toolset at the sound designer’s disposal, the ability to try out various concepts in realtime without the aid of a fully developed game engine can be a thing of beauty.
By enabling the rapid iteration of audio ideas and techniques during development, we can continue to reach for the best possible solution to a given problem, or put differently, we can work hard towards making sure that the sound played back at runtime best represents the given action in-game.
In the field of Technical Sound Design there is a vast array of potential at the fingertips of anyone working in game audio today. Under the surface and accessed directly through toolsets, the features available help bring sample based audio closer towards interactivity. In what can sometimes be a veiled art, information on implementation techniques has at times be difficult to come by.
We are truly standing on the shoulders of the giants who have helped bring these idea’s out in the open for people to learn from. It is my hope that by taking the time to highlight some of the stunning examples of interactive audio, we can all continue to innovate and drive game audio well into the next generation.
篇目2，10 Tips: The Creation and Integration of Audio
Sound is crucial to any game, but what do you really have to concentrate on to reach the heights of the video game medium? Gamasutra caught up with audio directors to pick their brains for 10 juicy morsels of sound advice and ideas.
1. Focus on Sounds That Matter
“One of our mantras during the development of Saints Row: The Third was ‘is this sound going to be meaningful to the player?’,” says Ariel Gross, audio director at the THQ-owned studio Volition.
“Some sounds just need to be there and sound right. If you hit a dumpster, then it needs to sound close to a dumpster, but is that sound meaningful to the player? Usually not. They just need to be there. So we spent less time on object impact sounds than the unique sounds for the big moments in the missions.”
“We had to keep asking ourselves ‘How important is this sound?’ and ‘Would the player care?’ If they did, we would put our time, money and resources towards that sound, but if the answer was ‘Well, yeah, it’s kinda important’ or ‘Not really’, then we would spend a lot less time designing those sounds.”
2. Blur the Boundary Between Sound Effects and Music
Martin Stig Andersen drew on the concept of electroacoustic composition when creating the audio for Playdead’s Limbo. “My background is in electroacoustic composition, where instead of writing scores for orchestras you record sounds and then make a sound montage or collage that would become a piece of music,” he says. “To do this I use the same tools as sound designers but I think of my work in a more musical, compositional way.”
The moment in Limbo when the boy nears the spider is a good example of how this works, he says. “Instead of putting in traditional music, I used sounds from the environment to create the same effect. So when you approach the spider, the wind sounds stand still, because that gives a tense feeling equal in suspense to using an instrument like a violin. But instead of having this abstract orchestra sound dropped in, I work with the sounds from the actual game space.”
3. Be a Good Housekeeper
“Maintaining your library of sounds is not the sexy part of the job but it is one of the most important, and it’s one of the places where you can fall down the worst,” says Jeff MacPherson, the audio director of EA’s FIFA games.
“When I work with or hire people, one of the things I value most is good housekeeping skills. If you cannot manage a database of 50,000 samples, you may make a mistake that could result in a lot of bad things happening. Something that is not licensed could make it into the game, so you could get sued, or bad content like swearwords get in, and you get into trouble with the ratings board.”
“You could also lose stuff or not put the right stuff in. We’re paying a lot of money to get a lot of different audio content, and so if you don’t manage it properly in the databases and backup systems, you could get into trouble, and there’s really no excuse.”
4. Big Worlds Need Small Sounds
Open world games rely on streaming sounds more than most titles, so keeping audio file sizes down is important, says Volition’s Gross.
“If the player is driving a car so the environment’s streaming, and we try to call a sound because he starts shooting out of the window at 100 mph, we have to make sure those sounds get streamed off the disc at the same time as the world,” he says. “So we make our sounds as small as possible.”
But profiling the audio early is critical. “You need to profile constantly and as early as possible using DVD emulation on the 360 and actual Blu-ray disc on the PS3, rather than an installed copy of the game,” he says.
“With Saints Row: The Third we found out frighteningly late that when we started playing on DVD emulation and Blu-rays that most of our sounds weren’t even playing. We had to go back and optimize all our sounds, get rid of extra variations, and compress them further. It was a nightmare.”
5. Sounds Should Serve Game Design
PopCap’s sonic approach is to have sound effects that support the game’s design, says the company’s audio director Guy Whitmore. “The sound is always communicating something specific to the player that’s very important to how you play the game,” he says.
One example is how musical notes are used to signal progress in its recent Facebook game Solitaire Blitz, says PopCap’s audio producer Becky Allen. “In the game multipliers are given for 10-card runs. When the player plays the seventh card in a row without interruption, a note on the glockenspiel is played. A different note is then played on the eighth card, then another different note on the ninth, creating a small three-note melody that plays well with the music. This progression of glockenspiel tones informs the player that they are progressing and on the right path.”
6. Explore the Psychology of Sound
What we hear is not just a product of sound waves, but also of our state of mind, says freelance sound designer Alistair Lindsay, whose credits include Kinectimals and Defcon. “You might have big explosions for your game, but do they reflect how you would feel if you were a solider in the battlefield?” he asks.
“I’ve spoken to soldiers who’ve been in combat, and one guy said that your buddy can be right next to you firing his weapon, and it sounds like it’s 200 yards away — whereas the guy shooting at you sounds like he’s right next to your head. Sound doesn’t necessarily run on railroad tracks; it’s not two plus two, it’s two plus two plus perception.”
Lindsay is hoping to take advantage of people’s sonic perceptions with his work on Introversion’s forthcoming jail boss sim Prison Architect. One simple example from that game is having the sound of a pistol being cocked will be played at a key moment in a cutscene involving a gruesome murder.
“That same sound effect is then used out of context in a later cutscene, the idea being that the dissonance between what the eye sees and the ear hears at that moment might re-trigger any emotion felt during the first gruesome scene. That idea has its root in neurolinguistic programming techniques,” he says.
7. Peer Review Unfinished Sounds
“Something that we advocate at Volition is peer review,” says Gross. “We involve each other while we are designing sounds, before they are done. Showing your work when you’re halfway through it is something that audio people can find challenging or frustrating, but this is a way that we can gradually talk about the sounds before we actually implement them in the game.
“So by the time they go in we’ve already had gone over them two or three times. By creating an environment where it is safe to share your sounds while they’re in progress really helped us nail it before implementation because we knew there wasn’t a lot of time to iterate.”
8. Mount a PR Campaign
“Audio is one of the areas with the biggest disc footprint, and there are a lot of people vying for resources — whether that’s the CPU, RAM or disc footprint and rightly so it does become a bit of PR campaign to get those resources,” says EA’s MacPherson.
“It’s important to evangelize upwards the importance of audio, because it’s not as tangible a discipline as graphics or gameplay. With graphics you can pause a picture, and anybody can look and see if something’s wrong immediately, but it’s not the same for sound. Unless you point something out specifically, people maybe think it’s because the graphics or gameplay is better. They only really notice audio when it’s not good.”
To help win support, FIFA’s audio team uses AV comparisons where they show footage from the game with poor or limited audio and then explain or show how giving more resources to audio could improve the experience.
9. Defy Logic
“In games people often go for the more logic-based approach, where if an object is in this place then it should make this sound. It’s like a machine: you put sounds on objects and then they just mix themselves,” says Playdead’s Andersen.
“I am much more into a subjective mix. I mix it so that you always hear what you are approaching, and as soon as the objects are no longer important to the player, I get rid of them. I found it important to have the boy in Limbo at the center of sound perspective at all times, even if he moves away from the center of the screen. I think it makes perfect sense, because the player takes on the role of the boy in Limbo, so the sound follows the boy, not the environment.”
10. Get Included and be Inclusive
Audio teams need to get involved earlier in the development process, says Volition’s Gross. “There’s a perception that because a lot of the audio work comes at the end that we don’t need to be involved until the end,” he says. “But by being involved from the very beginning, we can expose hidden work in other people’s plans and sometimes change these plans.”
It’s not just about audio muscling in; it’s also about audio opening up. “People can be a little intimidated talking to audio people because they don’t know the language that we use, but they don’t need to,” says Gross. “We need to stop thinking of ourselves as separate and get involved in the planning. We need to talk to people, invite them into our offices, and just get this rapport going. A lot of it is on us in audio to go out and insert ourselves. We need to say to people that we are part of the team, and we’re going to make your stuff sound amazing.”
篇目3，Opinion: Why Audio Matters
There are two kinds of people who are reading this article. First are the people who saw the word “audio” in a game industry site and got excited because that doesn’t happen very often. And then there’s the people who I am actually writing this post for.
If you fall in the first group, don’t fret. You should still keep reading. I am sure you will learn something new. If you are in the second group, be brave and venture forth. This won’t hurt too much.
Current State Of Audio
Audio is probably the most under-rated element in a game. Granted they are a few companies that value audio a lot but generally speaking it does not get the respect it deserves.
More often than not audio is treated like a checkbox that you have to check before you ship. It’s not something that everyone looks at with a fine tooth comb and tries to get 110 percent right.
However, things are changing…slowly but surely. It’s tough to quantize the amount of buzz audio is getting around the industry, but I’ve seen more people are starting to get into it lately. It’s not over-whelming but it is increasing from the bottom up.
This article hopefully will show you why audio is important and simple steps you can do to improve it in your games.
The Impact Of Audio
Audio has more of an impact to the game than most people think. For some reason people forget about the sense of hearing. It truly baffles me. How can someone think that a human sense doesn’t play much of a factor in a gamer’s experience? It doesn’t make sense (yep…that’s a bad pun and you just read it. Sorry). What does make sense (sorry again) is for game developers to take a step back and look at what audio is actually doing.
Below is a list of things about audio that you may not know. Hopefully, you are able to take away the point that audio is an important element in games.
WARNING: I am posting some information below that are not really referenced…unless you count the word on the street as a valid reference
Ear Is Hard To Trick: If you have bad audio, people are going to notice. They might not realize what it is but they will feel something is wrong. One theory that I have been told by Alan Kraemer (CTO of SRS Labs), is that audio has a relatively low bandwidth compared to other senses like vision. The brain is able to do a more thorough analysis of the sound waves as a result. This makes it tough to trick.
Audio Makes Things Look Better: There is a famous study in the consumer electronics industry where they actually tricked people into thinking a TV looked better by only changing the quality of the sound. They took two TVs that were exactly the same except for the speakers. When asked what they thought about the video quality, more people said that the TV with the better audio looked better. I am sure that this also applies to games. Who would of thought that one could improve a game’s graphics simply by improving the sound.
Movie Industry: The movie industry has known the value of audio for a long time now. A lot of the emotion and thrill is actaully in the sound track. Imagine a scary movie without erie sounds followed by a sudden screech. Or think about what Star Wars would be like if you replaced the sounds a crappy free sound library and generic music. The movie industry has invested a lot into sound because they know it helps them make money.
The Whole Brain Is Involved: Music has the ability to activate the whole brain and even trigger the production of certain chemicals. If audio wasn’t important than clearly the brain would just filter it out.
Audio Is Something That People Need Even If They Don’t Demand It: Just like with every other misconception in psychology, a person might not know what they actually need. Just because someone doesn’t ask for something doesn’t mean that it’s not important.
Good Ol’ Fashion Shotgun: The shotgun is everyone’s favorite weapon. Why? Because it goes BOOM! QED.
How Do You Fix This
First off, audio is not hard. Its not. Really. The amount of energy and man hours it takes to get good audio is far far less than what it would take to get good graphics, game play or physics. Usually the biggest road block in adding audio features is realizing that there are other audio features to add besides playback.
Below I have a list of other small steps a company can do to help out their audio:
Get good sounding assets. You can’t make something out of nothing… Well you can but it’s crap.
Hire at least one engineer that knows audio. He/she doesn’t have to work on audio 100 percent of the time, but he/she should have a knowledge of sound effects, music, or interactive audio.
Try to get an in-house sound designer. This might break the bank for some, but it’s worth it if you can afford it. This will speed up integration time and can offer up ideas for new audio features.
Listen to your game’s audio and critique it like you would a new game mechanic. If it doesn’t sound right, send it back to the cook and have it remade.
Put your energy into the music first and then the sound effects. Music is played ALL the time and carries most of the emotion. Make sure that it resonates with that game and sets the environment that you are aiming for. Once you get that, you can then focus on the sound effects.
Audio Effects To Think About
To conclude my post, here is a quick list of simple sound effects that you can do to enhance your game. These may be things that you have not thought of before but are trivial to setup with an API like OpenSL ES.
EQ of Death – Lower the 3D effect and apply a low pass filter (ie cut the treble) when the player is low on health. This will lower the clarity and disorient the player just like blurring the screen does in the graphics world.
Cinematic Stereo Widening – Widen the sound during cinematic points. For instance, if the player is walking down a small hall way into a big room with a boss or dramatic cut scene, you can start off with a narrow sound stage and then widen it as the room opens up.
Bigger Explosions – Apply a bass boost effect to enhance the explosion’s boom (note that bass boost is different than just increasing the bass). Afterwards apply a low pass filter for a short time afterwards to shock the player audibly.
Engulfing Sounds – Apply stereo widening on sounds that encompass the player like crowd noise, fire, rain, bees, etc.
Thanks for reading! If you know of other cool things about audio, please share them in the comments. I (and others too) would love to hear about them.
篇目4，Composer and Audio Designer Jonathan van den Wijngaarden on How Ambition can Kill Your Project, Coded Illusions, Fairytale Fights, his Mentor and his Love for C&C.
Vlad Micu/Javier Sancho
Audio designer and composer Jonathan van den Wijngaarden has had a career where illusions got broken and fairy tales did not really end happily ever after. After working at two of the Netherlands’ most promising studios that failed for aiming too high, he remains optimistic and takes the lessons learned into his own endeavors as a freelance audio designer and composer. Van den Wijngaarden gives us a first quick post mortem look of Fairytale Fights. The final project of the fallen Dutch game studio, Playlogic Game Factory.
Long Distance Mentor
In the era where the highest tech in the house was probably the VCR, Van den Wijngaarden was one of the first few privileged kids to have an expensive PC in his household. His dad worked in IT, which made him and his family one of the early adopters in the Netherlands. “He used to bring me floppies with games like Pac Man and Dig Dug but soon enough I got my own PC to mess around with and play a lot of shareware games”.
A few PCs later, 14 year-old Van den Wijngaarden found himself making his own scenarios and mods of Command & Conquer. “I used to put my taperecorder next to the PC to record the Command & Conquer music so I could listen to it even when I wasn’t playing,” he recalls. Through the C&C modding community he decided to get in touch through email with the musical genius behind the game, Frank Klepacki. They started exchanging emails for about 4 years in which Klepacki gave feedback on Van den Wijngaarden’s music. He followed keyboard lessons at that time, but that never satisfied his craving to make his own music. “I quit the lessons, so I could pour my heart into tracking (sample based music, red.) and composing music. Frank Klepacki took me under his wing and became my official mentor giving me something close to a full scholarship in game audio design.”
Van den Wijngaarden’s first professional job in the game industry was at Coded Illusions. He got in touch with the founder, Richard Stitselaar. Stitselaar had just left the upcoming Guerrilla Games to start his own company. They shared the same interests in games, especially Command & Conquer, and when Stitselaar learned about his “scholarship” with Klepacki, he was as good as hired.
Their first idea became the illusion they never got to finish, Nomos (in the early days also called ‘Haven’): a sci-fi, Blade Runner-esque game with religious elements. “Huddled together in a small office, I used to work on the audio with my headphones on while the rest would sit a few meters away listening to Elvis loud through the speakers. We didn’t take things very professionally then,” he recalls. When Coded Illusions got its first funding, things started to get more professional with its first official employees, many of them coming from Guerrilla. Van den Wijngaarden remained as an all-rounder in the office not only doing audio design but also being involved in management, level design, pitching game design ideas, story and dialogue writing.
Illusions Breaking the Code
In 2004, the future for Coded Illusions looked bright and for four and a half years the team worked very ambitiously as what Van den Wijngaarden fondly remembers “a group of friends making cool stuff. What we lacked in experience, we definitely made up for in enthusiasm.” Unfortunately the team’s enthusiasm is what may have put an end to the illusion. In the end of 2008, Coded Illusion went bankrupt quite instantly and the close group of friends found themselves on the street before they knew it. What went wrong? “Things started well building our own engine for the game,” Van den Wijngaarden says. “But in summer 2004, some of our managers went to GDC and got their first taste of the Unreal Engine 3. At the same time, the Xbox360 had just been announced and things looked very tempting to start working with a new engine.” His explanation: “the industry was on the front of a major turning point, getting ready to develop for next-gen consoles.” The new promosing tool in the studio became the Unreal Engine 3. “It was too tempting,” he recalls. “The Unreal Engine 3 made our project grow disproportionately because it enabled us to pour in so many ideas we could not develop. [Nomos] wasn’t a small humble title anymore, but a full blown Unreal Engine 3 title.” The enthusiasm made them want to add an endless list of features that this shooter-oriented engine offered, including RPG-elements, more action, more story. In other words, more illusions than the code could handle.
“What we had was not bad, but there was no way of getting our project sold to a publisher.” The team’s enthusiasm and creativity ironically started to become a burden. “We couldn’t sell this to publishers, because it was not finished enough and no one was willing to admit that the game needed a lot of cutting.”
Nowadays, smaller games, including bigger projects that got cut down, are easier to market through digital distribution and a broad market of casual gamers, “but in that period the market of digital indie games was not taken seriously yet”, Van den Wijngaarden explains. So he and his teammates got stuck with an overambitious project that had nowhere to go and an economic crisis that did not make things easier. Van den Wijngaarden admits: “it would have been a lot smarter to think and start small. Starting with a lower budget and consequently attempt to take a bigger step. We were not able to build a track record as a company and a lot of good work has gone to waste.”
Fighting for Fairytales
The whole team of Coded Illusions ended up on the street at the beginning in fall 2008. Founder Richard Stitselaar managed to keep the IPs and start another company, Vertigo Games. He was able to hire some of his old team members to start developing Adam’s Venture. Like many of his former team members, Van den Wijngaarden wound up at the Playlogic Game Factory, a studio that was set full sail to release its first next-gen cross-platform title, Fairytale Fights. “I got in there very easily. I had built up a lot of experience with Unreal Engine and audio at Coded Illusion and I hardly had to do a job interview.” Working at Playlogic at that time was not that easy. He started at the company in holiday season and Fairytale Fights had to go gold after the summer. Van den Wijngaarden had his worries. “How was I going to finish this project in eight months with no plan ready yet and no audio design document? What problems am I going to encounter in crunch time in a team I’m not used to work with yet? I decided to get all those thoughts and worries out of my head and go for it.” Van den Wijngaarden has to dig deep into his memories to recall how that process was. “It was such an intense period, it kind of turned into a black hole in my memory”.
“The main thing I had to get used to was that this was not MY project anymore,” he recalls. “Others already mostly worked the concept of Fairytale Fights out and was long past its prototyping.” With only eight months time to get the game on the shelves, there was no audio yet and Van den Wijngaarden had to dive into the documentation to get submerged in underlying ideas and feeling of the game. “My main focus on this project was to make it feel like my own project and give this game its own identity in audio”. Fairytale Fights already had its unique colorful art style, looking like a plasticine version of Happy Tree Friends. “Psychonauts was the game that inspired me the most. I tried to convey its diversity in settings to give Fairytale Fights its distinct character in sound. Especially giving all the weapons unique firing and handling sounds was a huge workload for me but crucial in giving the game its own identity.” This was one of the many lessons Van den Wijngaarden had learned from his mentor and inspiration, Klepacki: “always try to put your own signature on the music and sound. That’s what I admire about Klepacki, he always knows how to stick to his own style and sound. I can recognize the games he has worked on immediately, even without knowing he worked on it.”
So, what went wrong in this process? Again, it was the double-edged sword of ambition that killed the cat in boots. “We were under a lot of time pressure and in the end we had to cut about 25% percent of what we had made. Otherwise we never would have made it. Among the things we cut was a final chapter with four levels. This meant having to come up with a new final boss and invent a new main villain. Originally we also wanted to add some RPG elements and conversations with NPCs. There was absolutely no time for spoken dialogue, since that meant we had to localize it too. All kinds of drastic changes were made in a short time which stripped Fairytale Fights down to a pure brawler game.” At least this time the cuts were made and the game went gold. One of the main forces for getting the title shipped on time was managing director Olivier Lhermite. “He performed miracles. Not only by creating the right workflows but changing the focus on what was needed the most: game design.” Van den Wijngaarden admits that the game design aspect came late, maybe too late. During the process, the main focus and strength of the project had been its art style and setting, but somehow it lost it focus on the kind of game it should be. “Olivier made sure everybody picked up on the gameplay and worked fulltime on making sure everything worked and felt right.”
Another of Klepacki’s wise lessons that echoed through Van den Wijngaarden’s mind throughout the tough process is one seems applicable for any game development process. “As a creative person it can be difficult to balance the fact that on one side you are making an artistic creation and on the other side you are working on an entertainment product. As an artist you are primarily concerned with creating the best quality, but at the same time you will have to deliver a certain amount of quantity. Therefore you have to find balance between quality and quantity and make sure that each sound is equally great. You can’t make everything as perfect as you want it to be, it is more important that all the components you make work in harmony and offer a complete package. That’s a lesson that I got to experience very closely while working on Fairytale Fights.”
篇目5，Weapon Sound Design for Sci-Fi Shooters
by Michael Bross
Some of the more interesting and challenging sounds to create for a video game are found in weapon audio for Sci-Fi-based shooters. In the sound design process for this genre, there are many intriguing facets to consider.
Most importantly, the audio needs to feel gratifying for the player when shooting the weapon. What’s more, it needs to feel that way over and over again since player may use their weapons hundreds or even thousands of times over the course of their experience within a particular game title.
Sound design for games can be as much about the technical as it is about the creative. In this article, we’ll look at each aspect, and how they are intertwined throughout the process.
Generally, we work within a two-phase process–pre-production and production, as described below.
Pre-Production: Discovery and Planning Stage
This is the phase where we ask a lot of questions. It’s a discovery and planning stage. It’s where we first conceive the technical design so we are able to move forward on content design. Generally, this is done for all audio and music across a game’s experience (not just weapons).
Audio is driven by the game design itself. And also by the limitations of the technical pipeline (and how we can cleverly get around those limitations). In the case of weapons, how a sound is created is also heavily influenced by the animations to which the sounds will be attached.
From a creative standpoint, we are gathering reference. This is for inspiration and also to generate ideas of approach beyond what our own brains may drum up. We are looking at other games on the market (along with film). What supercool weapon designs are we hearing? Doing this helps us to establish a bar and then we figure out what we can be inspired by and aim to exceed.
What’s the creative approach to the weapons that would best serve the game? For example, is it something with more of a “laser” vibe like Star Wars? Or would it be better to do something that models modern-day weapons while adding “futuristic” enhancements? The beauty of creating for sci-fi weapons is that it leaves a lot of room to be creative.
From a technical perspective, many details need to be defined in this phase.
–What type of weapon is it? Maybe it’s a plasma rifle or some kind of gravity grenade. What are the parameters of the weapon? Does it have a high ROF (rate of fire) or is it slow but powerful like a sniper rifle. What’s the scale of the weapon? Is it a turret or a handheld weapon?
–What are the “event types”? In games, because we are not dealing with a linear mix and instead, we’re thinking about what the player-driven possibilities are, we tend to break it down into “events.” A weapon’s events could be: “fire”. “reload”, “fire empty”, “secondary fire”, “overheat”, “low ammo” and so on. Approaching it this way allows for all aspects of a weapon’s audio to be covered.
–What is the distance model? It’s the behavior of the weapon’s sound over a distance (also known as “falloff”). For more complex weapon designs, the sound designer will need to come up with near-distance sample sets that flow seamlessly into far-distance sample sets.
Though there are many other questions to be asked, those above represent a good starting point.
Production: Making it Happen
Once the weapon’s tech and creative approach have been conceived, creation of the content itself begins. The best place to start here is with mockups of the weapon which are usually done to gameplay video captures or animation exports. A mockup helps in conceiving how all the layers and events of a sound will work together. It also aids in selling the idea of what the weapon will sound like to the rest of the team.
A good game sound designer will keep the idea in the back of his/her mind as to how these assets might be stemmed out as game-ready assets.
Variations on certain sound events are essential. Shell casings dropping to the ground is one such event where this is important. Employing variations adds life.
This is the point where implementation of these assets can begin (after the material is stemmed out). We then would import the material into the game-side audio tool (such as Wwise or FMOD). This process will typically involve collaborating with other departments such as code engineers or animators to align the sound events with the actual game events that these sounds are matched to. Once this happens, we can finally hear the weapon working in the game. This is rarely the end of the work and involves further iteration on the both the content and the tech to refine the weapon’s SFX.
And in the big picture, this sound would also be dialed into the overall soundscape in regard to mix.
As you can see, the process of creating sci-fi weapon sounds involves much more than crafting a couple of sound files. It’s a unique, challenging experience that requires us to find solutions to tech and creative challenges that manifest throughout the process of creation. That’s the most exciting part, though! And when we finally hear the game audio in action, and see from a player’s perspective how much depth the sound design adds to the overall gameplay experience, we know we’ve hit the mark spot-on.