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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    For a discounted total of only $67.99 (Originally $136 if bought separately)

    44.1 GENERAL LIBRARY (VOLUME II) (2.06 GB, $32)
    A hand-picked variety collection of 1,000 sound effects covering numerous categories at 44.1kHz and 16/24-bit stereo recordings. Here are some sound categories that can be found in Volume II:

    85+ Seamless Loops
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    Ice: Impacts (Small, Moderate, Large), Gathering
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    Trains: Arriving, Leaving, Passing, Idling, Doors, Clip-Clop
    UI: Dialogue Text Scrolling
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    Vinyl Record: Glitching, Needle On and Off
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    Cancel: A cancellation sound useful for backing out of a selection, or returning to a previous page.
    Confirm: A confirmation selection sound (more intense and fancier than the “Select” sounds) useful for a final confirmation or selection.
    Error: A negative error alert useful for a problem or issue.
    Loading: A loopable sound for a mechanical device that is loading, processing or analysing.
    Move: The quick, small movement sound as you move between different options in a menu or list.
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    Select: A simpler selection sound for general confirmation and selections.
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    Turning On: A turning on or booting up of a machine or device.

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Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

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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A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
  • Footstep & Foley Sounds contains 511 high quality professionally recorded footstep sounds. Surfaces included: concrete, dirt, grass, gravel, metal, mud, water, wood, ice and snow. Plus 141 Foley sounds covering a variety of character movement sounds. A perfect addition to add realism to your footstep sounds.

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Welcome to “MOTION MODE”, an intense collection of sounds to induce movement and evoke excitement in your production.

    You will find whooshes, transitions, noises, granular textures, movements, stutters and hits with a powerful Sci-fi feel.

    Special attention was put in the dynamics of the sounds to ensure the creation of an energetic pack aimed to enhance atmospheres, add movement and enrich musical compositions.

    If you liked some of my previous libraries like “Dodge this” and “The Transition” you are gonna love this one.

    29 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597183199
  • Huge deep and textural organic whoosh by’s. These are un-altered but a total blast. Want more fun, just (again) compress and pitch to fit, and hell, maybe add a little distortion.

    A great collection of organic sliding whooshes. They sound great, have lots of movement and are almost always complicated movements not just simple whoosh by’s.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597183199
  • Assorted firework recordings, ranging from individual explosions to multiple fireworks going off at the same time.

    This collection has lots of nice sharp bangs, and includes a variety of firework sounds recorded close up and from a distance.

  • A small collection of horror sting sound effects, ideal for spooky, scary, Halloween and horror uses.

  • Bundle 2019 InspectorJ Bundle Play Track 4150 sounds included, 337 mins total $67.99

    4 InspectorJ SFX libraries created in 2019 at a permanent 50% discount, including:

    44.1 General Library (Volume II) (2.06 GB, $32)
    Party Pack (1.98 GB, $40)
    Sewing Machine (2.73 GB, $32)
    Toilet Flush (381 MB, $32)

    For a discounted total of only $67.99 (Originally $136 if bought separately)

    44.1 GENERAL LIBRARY (VOLUME II) (2.06 GB, $32)
    A hand-picked variety collection of 1,000 sound effects covering numerous categories at 44.1kHz and 16/24-bit stereo recordings. Here are some sound categories that can be found in Volume II:

    85+ Seamless Loops
    Ambiences: Deep Abysses, Train Stations, Seaside Waves, etc.
    Camera: Shutter Clicks, Flash Lifts and Falls
    Dialogue: A creepy, deep male voice
    Fireworks
    Ice: Impacts (Small, Moderate, Large), Gathering
    Roller Coasters: Full Rides, Chain Hill Lift, Screaming
    Screaming: Crowds and Roller Coasters
    Toilet Flushing
    Trains: Arriving, Leaving, Passing, Idling, Doors, Clip-Clop
    UI: Dialogue Text Scrolling
    Vacuum Cleaner Hoovers
    Vinyl Record: Glitching, Needle On and Off
    Water: Streams, Bubbling, Swirling, Splashing, Movement
    Weather: Rain, Hail, Wind, Thunder
    Whooshing
    Many, many more!(See the sound list below)

    PARTY PACK (1.98 GB, $40)
    An extensive collection of party-related sounds, “Party Pack” brings you 2,000 96kHz/24-bit stereo recordings of balloons, party horns, matches, sparklers, party poppers, confetti, various toys and more!
    SEWING MACHINE (2.73 GB, $32)
    This library brings you 800 mechanical sounds created entirely from an electronic sewing machine, including: 20 different rhythmic seams all recorded at up to 5 different speeds with 2 microphone positions; over 200 seamless loops; various gradual revvings, ramping up and down, clicks, ticks, movements and warm-up checks – all recorded at the standard 96kHz 24-bit stereo.
    UI – MECHANICAL (381 MB, $32)
    This library brings you 350 intricately designed user interface sounds with a mechanical aesthetic, recorded at 96kHz/24-bit stereo. These sounds were crafted from various machines, clockwork, buttons and switches alongside several other gadgets and tools. The library covers 10 UI categories, including:

    Cancel: A cancellation sound useful for backing out of a selection, or returning to a previous page.
    Confirm: A confirmation selection sound (more intense and fancier than the “Select” sounds) useful for a final confirmation or selection.
    Error: A negative error alert useful for a problem or issue.
    Loading: A loopable sound for a mechanical device that is loading, processing or analysing.
    Move: The quick, small movement sound as you move between different options in a menu or list.
    Notification: A notification alert useful for popups and messages.
    Select: A simpler selection sound for general confirmation and selections.
    Text Scroll: A loopable sound to accompany the scrolling of dialogue in a conversation or upon reading text
    Turning Off: A turning off or shutting down of a machine or device.
    Turning On: A turning on or booting up of a machine or device.

 
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