Asbjoern Andersen


Damian Kastbauer has worked with technical game sound design for seven years as a freelancer, on titles such as Uncharted 3, Dead Space 3, Tales of Monkey Island and countless others. About a month ago, he became the Technical Audio Lead at PopCap Games – and in this exclusive post, he shares his golden rules for technical sound design:

 

There’s a gap between the creation of a sound and its playback. From creation to reproduction, from microphone to speaker, there are countless steps that must be taken in order to realize our craft as sound designers.

Whether you’re doing the field recording, pulling from sound libraries and layering in a DAW, or working to play back sounds as part of a game, there is always a process that must be followed to get between the start and final execution of an idea.

As a technical sound designer, my interest lies primarily in the final aspect of bringing a sound recorded in the field or designed in a DAW and getting it to play back in a game appropriately.

And as games have grown in complexity, so has the potential to represent actions and events within the game with increased dynamism and variation, allowing for repetition and believability.

Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when working to bridge the gap:
 

Systems Serve Gameplay

Whatever you’re working on, however you go about achieving the results, always find the core of gameplay and aspire to support it in the best way possible. Understanding the principals of what gameplay is trying to communicate should be your guiding light when designing audio playback systems.

Imagine stealth without obstruction/ occlusion, physics with limp, laggy, or inappropriate impact sounds, ambient without dynamism and randomization;

Get to understand the fundamental aspects and make sure they get the appropriate attention from an audio system-design perspective.

The majority of the time, this will end up being the biggest win and most satisfying!
 

Know What You Want

Understanding the needs of a game is a good first step, how you get there is another question.

While some people choose to feel their way around to a solution through countless hours of experimentation and (possible) head-banging, there is a divine beauty in thinking your way to a solution and executing on it immediately.

You may have heard tales of people solving problems: in their sleep, while jogging, or scrolling a tumblr of cat pics. Once the destination you’re trying to reach is clear, the path often opens itself in front of you like a bob-sled run.

That said, there is a beauty in fumbling around in the dark looking for the light switch. Knowing when to take a step back and shift focus to allow for side-ways inspiration is a skill that can be developed over time.
 


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

 

Latest releases:  
  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles Card Game Play Track 503 sounds included, 20 mins total $59

    Create an outstanding fantasy card gaming experience with Epic Stock Media’s hottest new game sound effects library 'Card Game'. Inspired by hit fantasy card games like HearthStone – Card Game brings you the energy of online card gaming mixed with the epicness and adventure of World of Warcraft.

    Features sounds such as:

    • 33 Abilities, Poofs, Pops, Water Missles, Wind Blasts and Movement, Shimmers, Shields
    • 26 Achievements, Chimes, Glimmer, Grand, Poofs, Shimmers, Twinkles, Wisps
    • 61 Game Actions, Bashes, Blocks, Breaks, Deflects, Cracks, Health Packs, Releases, Fire Wall
    • 22 Alerts, Advances, Turn Passed, Time Freeze, Next Round, End Turn, End Round, Cursed Winds, Your Turn
    • 8 Game Ambience Loops, Beach, Cave, Dungeon, Forest, Pasture, Snowy Mountain, Swamp, Underwater
    • 33 Card Movements, Deal, Shuffle, Tap, Cycle, Deck, Bets, Light, Singles, and Multiple Card Movements
    • 52 Special Effects, Bless, Shrine Buff, Expose, Fracture, Liquify, Lock, Miniaturize, Poof, Puncture, Slow Down, Tear, Fire, Rush, Shimmer
    • 33 Items, Boulder Slam, Cork Pop, Glass Break, Potion, Pour, Stone Breaks and Smacks
    • 34 Magic, Crackle, Punches, Smash, Shield, Glitter Missile, Launch, Pierce, Shot, Shimmer, Seal, Ice, Earth, Reinforce
    • 38 Plays, Bop, Hush, Mech Arms, Punch Metal, Shield, Skip Turn, Slam, Water, Swirl, Switch
    • 49 Upgrades, Buffs, Crystals, Earth Strength, Flutter, Long, Medium, Shimmer, Enhance, Power Up
    • 114 UI, General, Silly, Light, Heavy, Bubbles, Pops, Clicks, Thunks, Shimmers, Mechanical, Dings, Percussion, Menu Collapses, Gentle, Bells
    • + so much more!

    Also, check out War UI, or Modulated Movement for complementing sounds and designed sounds.

  • Sci-Fi Electromagnetic Fields Collection Play Track 600 sounds included, 113 mins total $39 $33

    This library has a unique selection of electromagnetic sounds, recorded and edited with the utmost care.

    Includes over 600 Electromagnetic Field sounds, 200 raw stereo 24Bit/192kHz recordings of more than 40 different electronic devices. Only the most interesting have been selected for this collection

    Inside you’ll find different kinds of Noises, Glitches, Whooshes, Passbys, Beeps, Mechanical Movements, Hum, Buzz, Clicks, Crackles, from simple smartphone to carving machine or laser engraving machine, eco-solvent printer, cutting plotter, touch screen terminal and much more.

    Includes embedded Soundminer metadata.

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  • Game Audio Packs & Bundles Gliss Bliss Play Track 100 sounds included, 4 mins total $10 $5

    Perfect for blissful moments in game audio or in tv/film! 100 glissandi with a wide variety of different instruments performing a wide variety of different gliss, slides, swoops and flourishes. Great for magical moments, chest opens, surprise elements, transitions, and much more.

    Music is only heard in the demo. Downloads are high resolution and without background music.

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  • From the mundane to the oddly fascinating, this collection of caps spinning, lids cracking and corks popping, screeching, scraping and twirling will elevate your next dinner, kitchen or pub scene with something exciting and different.

    Recorded with a variety of household objects as well as creatively found items, this selection of sounds were recorded in studio and in house. The emphasis was to capture only the tops being removed from the products, with effort made to pickup as little handling noise or finger touches as possible.

    Objects recorded include:

    • beer bottles
    • soda cans
    • jelly jars
    • cookie jars
    • jewelry containers
    • champagne bottles
    • milk cartons
    • liquor bottles
    • shampoo bottles
    • soap bottles
    • teapots
    • and much more!
  • Mechanical Personal Cassette Player_Pack 01 Play Track 700+ sounds included, 29 mins total $7

    Before streaming, before the mp3 Player, before the portable CD Player, the Portable Cassette Player reigned supreme. Now you could walk and listen to your favorite tunes!

    Personal Cassette Player_Pack 01 is the first in the Personal Cassette Player collection. Pop in that cassette and listen to the GPX Cassette Personal Stereo Player. Included are various buttons with and without batteries in, with and with out the tape in, open and close of both the tape compartment and also the battery compartment. Flip that cassette to the b side and pop it in. Maybe shake it a bit and squeeze first.

    Over 700 sounds fills out the 30 files. They were recorded with the Sennheiser MKH8050 and MKH30 microphones and exported in stereo. Recored at 24 bit, 192kHz and metadata tagged using Soundly and Bashead.

    Play and run the tape, or fast forward to the good part, plug in those headphones and enjoy!


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Collaborator Co-Conspirators

The old saying “you can get more done with a team than you can by yourself” is truer today than ever in game audio and the game industry at-large.

Whether it’s within the audio department, the game team, or the world-wide community there are people whose greatest gift in life is the ability to collaborate and share knowledge.

Game development in general always feels like it thrives on the creativity of collaboration

While there are great examples of lone-wolf artists working in isolation to create left-field masterpieces, game development in general always feels like it thrives on the creativity of collaboration.

This runs throughout the process where people are relied upon for the speciality and expertise, as well as their experience to help solve problems.

Finding ways to foster communication and creative solutions between people can only lead to a more refined and informed experience for everyone.

Knowledge Share

We’re all solving the same problems, often in very similar ways. One of the greatest developments of my (short) time in game audio is the amount, and accessibility, of information about the dark art of technical sound design.

I spent countless hours on my way into the industry manically scrubbing SDK documentation for OpenAL, Source Engine, and countless others that even mentioned audio in relation to interactivity to even begin formulating a semblance of the way audio was played-back by a game engine.

Fast-forward to today where audio middleware can be downloaded and connected to a game running in real-time and manipulated on-the-fly. Couple that with the wealth of individuals who have been humble enough to share their processes and experiences and you’ve got the potential to begin (or extend) your understanding exponentially.

I hope someday you do the same!

 

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Thanks to Damian Kastbauer for sharing his insights! For more discussion on what Technical Sound Design is, check out the latest Game Audio Podcast #38 – or this interview with Damian at Gamasutra.
 


 
 
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