Asbjoern Andersen


What's next for game audio? We got the chance to speak with Becky Allen - head of audio at PopCap/Electronic Arts, and keynote speaker at GameSoundCon - about just that. And here, she shares her insight on the current challenges, advancements, and future opportunities in the game audio industry:
Written by Jennifer Walden
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GameSoundCon is coming up quickly — Nov 7-8th in Los Angeles. The two-day conference explores tools and topics relevant to sound designing and composing for games, VR, and AR. This year’s keynote speaker is Becky Allen, head of audio at PopCap/Electronic Arts in Seattle, WA. She has over 20 years of experience in sound, composing and sound designing for companies like Microsoft, Soundelux Design Music Group, and PopCap Games —where she recently handled audio direction for Plants Vs. Zombies Heroes.

Allen doesn’t just simply work in the game audio industry. She also facilitates the expansion of the craft. Allen is a founding volunteer of the Audio Mentoring Project — a mentoring program in which game audio veterans use their extensive networks of contacts and industry experience to encourage the learning and development of less experienced members of the game audio industry.

Here, Allen shares her thoughts on GameSoundCon, as well as gives insight on current challenges, advancements, and opportunities in the game audio industry. Find out what she sees for the future of game audio.

 

What’s one advancement you’ve seen in game sound in the past year that you’re excited about?

Becky Allen has pink and blonde hair and sits in front of her workstationBecky Allen (BA): There’s a renewed focus on the importance of accurate 3D spatialization of audio through VR/AR and a lot of excitement around that. VR/AR is still the new frontier for audio and our fellow sound designers and creators are tackling new and interesting issues. I look forward to hearing their work as it advances.

Audio in VR/AR is a key and essential part to maintaining the illusion of a virtual world and if audio isn’t working well, the experience breaks. Because of this, we see more emphasis on the sound and its significance for this new platform.

 

What’s the biggest challenge for game audio at the moment? How do you see that resolved in the future? Tech wise, what would you want to see for game sound?

BA: Regardless of the size and scope, systems for delivering dynamic and captivating content are becoming more complex. The complexity of systems requires deeper understanding of scripting and at some points coding. These skills are becoming more important for a sound designer to develop.

Tech-wise, it’s the same that we have been developing for decades — more and better tools in the hands of the sound designers and composers. Our tools have made great advancements and we continue to drive these innovations through new ideas and creative desire.

GameSoundCon in Los Angeles, 7-8 November

Creatively, what would you like to see in the future for game sound?

BA: With the increased amount of data collection that we now see coming from gameplay, we are able to craft individual experiences for each player on a finer level. We can drive unique experiences for each player that is different, believable and compelling each time — much like our real-world experience. Creatively this opens up many possibilities for designers in all areas: sound design, music design, and voice.

 

You’re the first female keynote speaker at GameSoundCon. Can you tell us a little about that conference and why you would recommend it to your peers and newcomers to the industry?

BA: GameSoundCon (Nov 7 – 8, in Los Angeles) is a conference specifically for audio people. It’s a great conference to learn about new tools, share skills and knowledge, and also to network.

This is a smaller conference than GDC, which is wonderful but can be overwhelming. At this conference, you have more quality time with the participants and can really dig into deeper topics and have more substantial connections with individuals.

Also, to acknowledge your statement above, yes, I am delighted to be the first female keynote speaker and I hope the first of many.

 

Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

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How is the game sound industry preparing for/handling the VR format (workflow, tools, staff skills)?

BA: I am not currently working in VR so I do not have first-hand experience with this. However, companies are emerging with new tools, new headphones, and new ways of listening. I find it intriguing that people are finding audio acoustic programs (Masters and PhD level) with an emphasis in psychoacoustics. Some of these students coming out of school with this knowledge now have a place to apply their education where perhaps before that wasn’t quite possible.

 

What opportunities do you hope VR will offer game sound pros?

BA: With the emphasis on the immersive experience being more pronounced, there are many opportunities for sound designers, in particular, to find a footing here.

More insights on the future of game audio:

 
Want to know more about what awaits in game audio? Be sure to check out the interviews with former Rockstar North audio director Matthew Smith here, and senior audio director/sound designer Ben Minto at EA DICE here.

Beyond VR and AR, any other major trends you’re seeing?

BA: Yes, culturally I see that corporations are now discussing and developing programs addressing gender gaps and diversity. I’m really happy to see these changes happening and being addressed.

However, change happens on all levels – individual to individual, within team groups at work, etc. True change of this kind is something that has to be looked at systemically as well as based on individual effort. I hope that we will continue to address the issues through discussion, initiatives, and conference roundtables, etc., until balance is attained (yes… an idealist!).

 

For game audio pros, how do you see the landscape changing in terms of job opportunities, must-have skills, platforms to focus on etc?

BA: The deeper and more complex systems that are being developed on all platforms suggest that sound designers, or any in-house audio person, have skills in scripting and coding as it applies to implementation. Knowledge in Python scripting, XML, and C++ are helpful but not currently considered a requirement. These skills and a person’s ability to “problem solve” through technological solutions and tool building are areas for growth and ways for young designers to focus and find more opportunity.

 

Do you have any advice for the next generation of game sound professionals? What should they be prepared for if they’re entering the industry in the next year?

BA: Immerse yourself in networking with local communities and connecting with other working professionals. You will find it a friendly and encouraging community. No need to be discouraged if you go to just one meet-up and nothing material seems to happen. Keep going and introduce yourself multiple times. The people in the industry remember when an individual continues to show up to networking events. It shows commitment and tenacity. People are prone to help individuals after they have seen you over the course of many networking events.

A big thanks to Becky Allen for all her great advice – and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

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    Looking for UI sound effects? The Advanced UI collection gets you a wide range of interface sound effects – from natural, organic and minimal pops, beeps and chirps to 8-Bit, hybrid and highly processed, electronic and digital SFX that will complete almost any project where UI/UX sounds are required. + Includes embedded Soundminer meta data.

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Vehicles Skate on Board Play Track 112 sounds included, 22 mins total $49.99

    Skate on Board is an SFX library with the purpose of bringing alive the hidden sounds of skateboarding. This library has 65 stereo recordings with the best sound quality of actions such as jumps, pass by, and grinds over different surfaces like concrete banquets, and rail tubes. Furthermore, this library contains 47 mono audios of P.O.V perspectives which were reordered with different microphones attached to the skateboard to capture the full maneuvers and details of skateboarding.

  • The west is still wild.  A collection of clean and loopable natural ambient atmosphere elements – each 3 minutes long. This collection represents my best content and works great in multitrack layers.

    The core of this collection are natural sounds captured in the wilds of Oregon, USA – Western North America. The wildlife in the forests, streams, lakes, coast, and deserts of Oregon are a good substitute for most US and Canadian states west of the Rocky Mountains, including Washington, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, British Colombia, Alberta, Alaska, and Wyoming.

    These recordings are from a pristine environment that avoid any human caused sounds.

    22 %
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    Ends 1566943200
  • Animals & Creatures Broken Robot Play Track 87 sounds included $12.99 $6.99

    This library is a small “utility” collection of sounds great for use as Robot/Machines but also great for UI and Weapon design elements.  Servos, various metal objects and analog synths were recorded as source material to create this library.  The library includes raw servo recordings and meticulously performed or designed robotic/machine-like sounds.

    Bonus – Forge Sound Design Tool Sample Map

    If you own the Forge Sound Design Toolkit this library also comes with a specially curated sample map.  The sample map can be loaded into the sampler for randomization and the creation of more complex sounds.

    46 %
    OFF
    Ends 1566943200
  • Electricity Electric Arcs and Energy Play Track 266 sounds included $39.99 $19.99

    Electric Arcs and Energy is essentially two separate collections of sounds.  The first, Electrical Arcs are more raw.  These arc sounds can be manipulated and mangled to be used as design elements in your project.  They are highly flexible and can easily be pitch-shifted -48 semitones or more.  They remain remarkably useful and clean giving each sound multiple “dimensions”.

    The Electrical Energy collection is a series of more specified design elements that I created – Impacts and Powerups.  Meant to be used in Weapon or UI design they should be flexible enough to be used as stand-alone effects or layers in more complex sounds.

    Recording and Editing

    This library was designed from scratch by recording highly unconventional metal sources with a cello bow and processing them (see one example in video). Great care was taken during the recording and editing process to ensure maximum flexibility of these sounds.  The recording was done at 24/192kHz using the Sennheiser MKH 2050 mic which captures frequencies up to 50kHz.  All processing and design was then performed at 192kHz.

    Bonus – Forge Sound Design Tool Sample Map

    If you own the Forge Sound Design Toolkit this library also comes with a specially curated sample map.  The sample map can be loaded into the sampler for randomization and the creation of more complex sounds.

     

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1566943200
  • Whooshes liftFX Play Track 275+ sounds included $89 $71.20

    AWE YOUR AUDIENCE WITH RISERS, BUILD-UPS, DROPS AND MORE.
    Risers, build-ups, drops, breaks, downlifters, swells, sweeps, falls – it has never been so easy to hype your audience. Forget samples, just turn the knob or let liftFX even do that for you, automatically, in beat sync at the length you need it to be.

    KEY FEATURES:

    • Playable in real-time with instant auditive and visual feedback
    • Any length, tempo, pitch range and root note possible
    • Tempo sync or time (s) duration
    • Control key parameters independently or automatically (+ reversed)
    • Automation and modwheel (cc1) support for each parameter
    • 275 nifty presets included
    • Optional time lock and control lock to try different presets with current setting
    • High cut and low cut filters, reverb and delay
    • Lightweight plug-in, as it relies on synthesis
    USE CASES:

    • Build captivating uplifters, downlifters, drops, rhythmic, percussive builds and more effects out of the box
    • Any electronic genre such as EDM, Trap, Dubstep, Pop, Hip Hop, Drum’n’Bass, House, Techno, and more
    • Cinematic and experimental sound design
    • Beef up your synthesizers with tonal layers or harmonic overtones to achieve a fat, rich sound
    • liftFX requires a free iLok account (click to learn more)
    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1567116000
 
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