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Game Audio Design

Updated January 5, 2022
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Game Audio Design essay

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Sounds in games are one of the most important assets in video games. Without sounds video games won’t be as immersive as they are. Very often game developers begin to develop their games without a clear idea for a game audio. In many cases it is one of the last things to do for video game. If you think about indie developers, any small project teams or even individual developers, we can see that they are using licensed, premade stock music to save time, or even produce the music themselves when they want to make it better in order to get audio work done for their game ready.

However, video game AAA companies in big development teams are teams with big composers which are conducting massive instrumental orchestras. This process of last-minute job places each sound developer under big pressure for a perfect sound game design and unique gaming experience for all senses and for every audience. When a video game developer starts thinking about and planning their new game idea it is matter of trust to video game sound composer because them (developers) need to give composer whole idea about what the game is about, who is it aimed for etc.

In modern days most of the video games are made by massive group of people that work together toward final release of their product in their offices or when co cooperated with other offices this work is done online. There is nothing more important than trust and the ability to work together in order to fit in the project team as a team player making anything for example: animation, 3D models, sounds anything for the game. As you all know and have probably noticed the sounds in games have massively evolved from simple “beep” sound effects for example in game called: Pong to massive soundtracks like were used in game called: Red Dead Redemption 2.

All of those changes have been made in the last 40 years. Video game music is the soundtrack that accompanies video games and helps the player understand what is going and currently happening in the game. Music in video games can be heard over a game’s title screen, menus, as well as during the entire gameplay. Modern soundtracks can also change depending on a player’s actions or situation, such as indicating missed actions in rhythm games. There are many types of sounds in every video game nowadays such as: dynamic sounds are the sounds that react to change in the gameplay, environment or input from the user. Within those sounds we can also categorize them into Adaptive Audio and Interactive Audio.

Adaptive Audio is sound that occurs in the game environment reacting to the gameplay rather than input from the user. Interactive Audio is sound that is reacting to gameplay but is responding to the users input. Those sounds can simply be called sound effects. Sound effect is an artificially created or enhanced sound used to emphasize artistic or other content of film, animation, video game and much more. An example of a sound effect can be absolutely anything from picking up a weapon by a player to car’s engine sound effect driving around the level. Another type of sounds which are commonly used in games are Foley sounds. Foley is a process of reproduction of everyday sound effects that are lately added to the project. Those sounds can be anything from the swishing of clothing to represent wind, footsteps to simply represent footsteps. Foley artists are trying to recreate those sounds as realistic as they can. The best Foley art is so well integrated into a film that it goes unnoticed by the audience.

The next type of sound which will be described in this essay will be dialogue. Dialogue is simply a conversation between two or more people in a movie, game, animation etc. Those sounds are used when there are people talking, singing doing anything in terms of voice activity. The last type of sound which I want talk about are musical assets. The most common example of musical assets can be: background music. Background music is a music that accompanies an action, dialogue, situation in video game or film. Sound design is a powerful asset because it can change many things within the game and player’s gameplay for example: level of immersion, what decision he/she makes during gameplay.

If you work in games studio, you should think about its capabilities for your project, or work with someone who understands what effects it can have and all the ways it can be used. A single sound can be doing many things at once. I have talked about few main types of sounds in media let’s now talk more about psychology of sound. Sound in games and not just in games works in many ways and can make the player feel a certain mood while listening to it. This use of music can increase player’s immersion while playing the video game by giving him/her a more interactive experience by making him/her more in touch/interacted with the game.

The music can also set the scene and makes you feel how the developer wants you to feel. Horror games are usually good examples of a sound use because every sound effect, background music etc. used in those games is perfectly used. Even the silence called “Ambient Sounds” in those games can be a fantastic use of a sound because it can add some much pace. The audience approach in terms of sounds in the video game is very important as well because it has to be something that doesn’t just necessarily appeal to one culture, to one scene. Game music has to affect every person that will play the game, lead them throughout the game world and to help immerse the player with the game even more. I have talked about different types of sounds and psychology of them now I will be talking about the project that I have made for this unit.

For this unit I have made four different types of sounds: Foley, sound effects, dialogue and musical assets. Most of those sounds can be classed as procedural audio this means that they have been generated by computer. All sound effects and musical assets have been made by computer software like: Ableton or FL Studio. Another examples of sounds which can be classed as procedural sounds are: interactive sounds/music or adaptive sounds/music such as: repetitive sounds (footsteps, impacts), large footprints (wind, rain), those which require a lot of control within video game world (car engines, creatures sounds). Another good example of procedural sounds are sounds made using Pure Data. Pure Data is a visual programming language developed by Miller Puckette in the 1990s for creating interactive computer music and multimedia works.

Pd has been designed to process sound and MIDI events like: noise, loop, volume etc. When you are making sound effects for a video game you know that the audience will only hear what will be seen on the screen for example: when the explosion will appear on the screen, the player will most likely hear the explosion sound effect. And then after synchronizing process editing and layering different audio elements process can begin in order to get the sounds to what you want. Most video games are about the skill and mastery so the player will be repeating similar actions many times throughout the gameplay like: shooting a weapon or open a door. This is when your job will be to make him/her consequently hear the same audio, of the same action again.

The only risk that can go in line with the repetition of those sound is that we people are very sensitive to this type of repetition as it just does not happen in real life as everything sounds different each time. Simple solution to this risk is to have lots of sounds that represent the same thing or action, but they sound slightly different, remembering limitations like: disk storage we have to remember how much information/content we can fit on a disk. If we bring our explosion sound again, you as a sound developer know that the final sound is made up of different components so then the main idea is to starting think about procedural approaches to sound design. This once again means that you as a sound designer have to decide what components of those sounds want to keep and what to separate before you start importing them into game engine.

A lot of the sounds in games are not sounds at all, they are systems of sounds. This kind of procedural approach requires a different idea of thinking and sometimes different kinds of sound assets, since we often want to isolate the individual components that make up a sound. When we bring those components together into a sound cue using for example: Unreal Engine we can build a system of playback, and by having a few different versions of each component we can randomly combine them to create, new completely new variation. During planning and making this project I had to create some sort of Game Audio Design Document.

A game audio design document is a large list of all the sounds effects, Foley sounds, background music’s etc. which will be lately included in your project/game. Organisation those sounds according to the various sections/placement in the game, this document will clear display and plan those sounds by their name, priorities, update throughout design process, implementation and any additional descriptions or comments. Be keeping all of those sounds in my spreadsheet, having naming conventions for each one of them I can easily manage them and know how each one of them sounds and where it will be used in the finished video game (SFX for sound effects for example: SFX_Lift meaning sound effect of a lift or VX for dialogue effects for example: VX_Line_8_Polish_Matt meaning line 8 in Polish language read by Matt etc.).

Another important aspect which I have tried to include in this project was folder organisation. It doesn’t matter if you are working alone or in a small team as an indie developer/s on your own machine/s or you are working with many people which will have access to those audio assets a clear way of organising files is very important. In order to make everything nice and clear I have stored all Foley sounds in Foley folder, all sound effects in sound effects folder, all dialogue recording in dialogue folder having different folders for different language and all musical assets in musical assets folder. However, not all sounds and not everything went well in this project. For example: firstly, I was planning to have four different languages for my dialogue recording but I have ended up having two because the people that were responsible for other two languages didn’t communicate quite well with person from our department.

Another failure that I have approached making dialogue sounds was the quality of them this is because I do not have a high-quality microphone and suitable, well muted room like I could use high end microphones and have well-prepared rooms at dBs. By using those microphones, I could record my dialogue lines at much better quality without having any background noises which then those sounds could be used straight away in the game/film etc. Overall, I was relatively happy with what I have produced for this unit, but as I said before it could be better however I also fell that the situation like this was a good life lesson for me and for the students that I have work with to get work done.

References

  1. Annesoaudio | Annesoaudio website. (2016). Retrieved May 5, 2020, from Annesoaudio website: https://annesoaudio.com/2016/07/07/game-audio-asset-naming-and-organisation/
  2. Jahmelcoleman.wordpress | Jahmelcoleman.wordpress website. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from Jahmelcoleman.wordpress website: https://annesoaudio.com/2016/07/07/game-audio-asset-naming-and-organisation/
  3. Makinggames.biz | Makinggames.biz website. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from Annesoaudio website: https://annesoaudio.com/2016/07/07/game-audio-asset-naming-and-organisation/
  4. Medium | medium.com website. (2018). Retrieved May 5, 2020, from Medium website: https://medium.com/@chelseacariota/the-importance-of-sound-in-games-cd6e38ccb390
  5. https://annesoaudio.com/2016/07/07/game-audio-asset-naming-and-organisation/
  6. https://medium.com/@chelseacariota/the-importance-of-sound-in-games-cd6e38ccb390
Game Audio Design essay

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