Asbjoern Andersen


Back when I started doing sound for games, implementing game audio was essentially a question of delivering a bunch of .wav files and triggering them in-game. That’s not how it works anymore. Today, audio middleware, dynamic environments and scores rule the day.

To find out where things stand – and where we’re headed – I invited sound designer and game audio advocate Stephan Schütze to do a guest post to give you an overview. Here is Stephan’s post:

 

Game audio has come a long way in recent years. Its profile, tool sets and outlook are stronger than ever. Game audiences have high expectations of the audio that accompanies their favourite games and developers are investing more time and resources to audio production. This is a perfect time to take stock of exactly where game audio is currently at and consider some of the possibilities for the future in how we develop audio content across the many platforms we play games on.
 

Middleware Solutions

The term ‘middleware’ essentially refers to software solutions for game process management and asset implementation. There are various middleware applications that deal with audio, but I would consider the four main game audio tools to be (in alphabetical order):

• CRI ADX2
• Fabric
• FMOD
• WWise

Each application has its own methodology and feature set and choosing the best solution depends a lot on the needs of a project and the personal preferences of the audio team. It is safe to say, however, that the sophistication of the available tools has developed dramatically over recent years. All four of these applications have supported multiple significant titles across a wide range of platforms.

While the individual choice of which toolset best suits a particular project is a more individual one, the overall question of “why use middleware?” is still a common one. This question is not often asked by audio teams, but more usually by their development leads or studio heads, who require confirmation that the time, effort and expense of using an audio tool set will be advantageous to their project.

The game audio industry is still often asked this question, and I have a very simple and very direct response to the question.

Why should we use audio middleware?

• Your game will sound better
• Your game will use less resources
• Your game will require less programmer time to achieve equivalent results with your audio

Just to spell it out, that last point means using audio middleware will also save you money.

My personal opinion on this is that any studio that considers itself to be a serious developer of interactive material should be using audio middleware

My personal opinion on this is that any studio that considers itself to be a serious developer of interactive material should be using audio middleware in the same way they should be using source control software, debugging tools and all the other advances in development tools that are now considered essential.
 

Games are dynamic; so is game audio

Games are different to film and TV. I have said this so many times in articles, at conferences, in training and to students. The non-linear domain in which games reside means they are created in very different ways to film and TV. Non-linear media is experienced in very different ways to linear media. Game audio still lags behind in some aspects of non-linear development. This means, we have room for some great improvements.
Generative and dynamic audio is so much more than just cueing the music to respond events within the game. The toolsets available to audio teams have the power and control to create incredibly detailed and dynamic audio material.
 

Dynamic Environments

Game environments can be created from the smallest of audio assets that trigger with defined behaviour to fill a region of a 3D world. This can provide vertical, horizontal or even spherical depth of field. As the player moves through an environment they pass through layers that blend together and react to the player, other environmental factors as well as day/night and seasonal cycles.

A game audio environment is not made from a single recording of a forest or a jungle; it is built from the individual elements that would exist in that jungle. An insect can be positioned individually in 3D space and can be programmed to respond to the player’s proximity just as a cricket in real life will fall silent if it detects movement nearby. Birdsong is generated in real time to create a unique song every time it is heard, that song can alter to a birds warning calls if it detects a threat in its territory and ultimately resolve with the sound of wings as the bird flies off.
 

Music

Large orchestral scores with even larger budgets are a more common feature of AAA game projects. Equally, music generated in real time, controlled by properties that define the behaviour of music over time in relation to events and in response to player actions, are becoming powerful tools for narrative support.

There is a secret about these two approaches to game music that many people do not seem to have realized

There is a secret about these two approaches to game music that many people do not seem to have realized: The two methods are NOT mutually exclusive!

Audio teams seem to choose on method or another. Live musicians with strong thematic material or generative musical structures crafted and implemented carefully to produce a dynamic score during gameplay. I would argue that the best possible world is a combination of the two forms. Dramatic thematic material that accompanies significant events within a game, that underscores cut scenes and defines our wonderful characters AND evocative generative sound/music ambiences that accompany the many hours of exploration and highlight the underlying emotional content of an environment or expand on the threats that may exist in the shadows.
 

Sound Design

Even our sound effects can be created in dynamic ways that utilise the available assets to maximise on resources as well as sonic impact. Each sound file that we add to a project can become a building block to be used again and again across multiple sound events. This gives us incredibly efficient resource usage on all platforms. It also offers the opportunity for an explosion to be subtly different each time it is triggered, or footsteps that sound organic when implemented.
 

How do we do this?

For some people these ideas may sound challenging at best, unachievable at worst, but the technology to utilize many of these production techniques has existed for some years. What we need to be doing is educating our fellow developers and demonstrating the possibilities. The incredible potential for game audio is already being demonstrated by some teams, we need to realize across the industry that this is something we can all be doing if the desire exists and the determination is applied.

There needs to be a shift in thinking to understand that outstanding audio is not just reserved for AAA games

I have spent a lot of time over the years investigating three of the four middleware solutions I listed (Fabric, FMOD and Wwise) and to my knowledge they are all capable of far more than many audio teams realize. There needs to be a shift in thinking to understand that outstanding audio is not just reserved for AAA games.
 
Some recent independent games have clearly illustrated just how much you can achieve. Limbo, Braid, Machinarium, The Stanley Parable are all examples of small teams achieving incredible audio results.

I think we all need to be multi-skilled to work in game audio. Where film and TV often have a single specialist for each role, game audio is better served if we at least have a strong understanding across all aspects of audio production. Location recording can make you a better sound designer, understanding sound, music and dialogue processes will ultimately make you a better mixer. Even developing an appreciation of how sound design is implemented can make the creation of a sympathetic musical score more achievable. Above all else, passion and patience are critical, and a good set of ears is a big advantage.
 


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

 

Latest releases:  
  • Mechanical Gearbox Play Track 3551 sounds included, 279 mins total $149.99

    We've ventured to obscure boutiques, prop houses and vintage shops to capture mechanical contraptions from around the world. Ranging from bizarre creations, to steampunk gadgetry, gizmos and machines, GEARBOX clocks in at over 10 GB of high definition, precision mastered sounds spanning across 2987 construction kit sounds and 584 designed sounds.

    GEARBOX equips Sound Designers with a literal toolbox of mechanical gadgetry. Ranging from tiny to huge, GEARBOX's machines and gizmos provide coverage for interacts, mechanism, machine or device in your scene or game.

    INTRODUCING BUILDING BLOCKS

    In addition to CONSTRUCTION KIT and DESIGNED SOUND content, GEARBOX features BUILDING BLOCKS. This category of sound consists of designed phrases and oneshots utilized for our designed machinery, empowering Sound Designers with maximum flexibility when trying to get that particular phrase from an existing DESIGNED SOUND. GEARBOX features over 468 BUILDING BLOCKS ranging from levers, hits, grinds, snaps, and more.

    Video Thumbnail
    Add to cart
  • This is a unique bicycle library that captures this characteristic bike in clean, quiet, nicely performed true exterior rides. Including multiple perspectives, speeds and actions. From fast passbys on asphalt to slow onboard recordings and smooth stops.

    The UglyBike is a typical old bicycle that’s working fine, but needs some TLC. It is a bicycle that’s just average, a little rattle a gentle scrape, a bike that everyone has had but got traded in for a newer one. A story of unrequited love.. :)

    Speeds and actions:
    Three speeds. Departures from slow, medium to fast getaways. Arrivals from slow stops with gently squeaking handbrakes to heavy stuttering skids.

    Five perspectives:
    1. Onboard Front: captures the whirring tire and surface sound.
    2. Onboard Pedal: nice overall combination of pedaling, crank creaks, chain rattle, tire and surface sounds.
    3. Onboard Rear: close up sound of the rear axle, with chain, sprocket and switching of gear.
    4. Tracking shot: mono recording of the passby, keeping the bike in focus while passing by.
    5. Static XY shot: stereo recording of the passby that emphasizes speed.

    Overview of perspectives and mic placement:

    Onboard recordings are 2-3 minutes long depending on speed. Higher speeds > shorter duration.
    All 3 onboard mics are edited in sync with one another to make layering easy.
    All Passbys, Arrivals and Departures move from Left to Right.

    Metadata & Markers:
    Because we know how important metadata is for your sound libraries we have created a consistent and intuitive description method. This allows you to find the sound you need easily, whether you work in a database like Soundminer/Basehead/PT Workspace work, or a Exporer/Finder window.

    However, we are aware that some people have different needs for different purposes, so we’ve created a Metadata Reference Guide that explains the structure. And because we’ve automated the metadata proces, you can be confident that a ‘find & replace’ command will always replace all instances.

    Download our Metadata Reference Guide

    Download complete metadata PDF

    If you have any questions about this, contact us!

    Additionally, we added Markers to some wave files, so specific sound events are easy to spot in Soundminer or other database apps.

    Need more?
    The UglyBike library is part of the complete ‘City Bicycles’ library package available at www.frickandtraa.com. It consists of all 4 bicycles and includes additional surfaces and extras ranging from one-off  bicycle passes captured in the city and bounces and rattles. The extra bicycles surfaces and additional effects are also available seperately here on ‘a Sound Effect’. If you’ve bought a single library and want to upgrade to the full package, contact us for a reduced price on the complete City Bicycles library. Every part of City Bicycles that you paid for will get you an extra reduction on the full package.

    Video Thumbnail
    Responses:

    344 AUDIO:City Bicycles has a plethora of content, for a great price. The perfect balance between a great concept, great presentation and outstanding execution, lands them an almost perfect score of 4.9..

    The Audio Spotlight: City Bicycles is worth getting if you are in need of great sounding and well edited bicycle sounds.

    Watch a video created by Zdravko Djordjevic.

    Video Thumbnail

     

    Add to cart
  • Environments Museums & Galleries Play Track 272 sounds included, 800 mins total $100 $80

    This library features a wide range of recordings from various museums and galleries, each differentiated by the nuances of their size and space. All recordings feature pristine echos, walla and movement. The library includes stereo & 5.0 recordings from:

    • War Museums
    • History Museums
    • State Museums
    • Science Museums
    • Art Galleries
    • Photography Galleries
    • State Galleries

    All sounds were recorded using a stereo pair of DPA 4060s, DPA 5100, Sound Devices Mix-Pre 6 and Sound Devices 788T.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1556056800
    Add to cart
  • The American M5 High Speed Tractor includes over 20 gigabytes of recordings of a WWII US military vehicle with a Continental 6572 six-cylinder petrol engine with 207 horsepower. 188 sound fx document a full suite of performances from M5, also known as versions M5A1, M5A2, M5A3 and M5A4.

    The performances include starting, idling, departing, arriving, and passing by from 6 exterior perspectives at slow, medium, and fast speeds. 10 additional perspectives feature motor, interior, exhaust, tracks, and other locations that capture idles, driving, and steady RPMs from onboard the tractor.

    Includes extensive Soundminer metadata.

    Add to cart
  • Cars Volvo 242 DL 1975 Play Track 364 sounds included $249

    The Volvo 242 sound fx collection includes 271 sounds in 13.51 gigabytes of audio. The 242 is a DL 1975 version of the car, also known as models 240, 244, and 245. It features 25 takes of recordings from the Swedish vehicle and its 4-cylinder B20 A, 82 horsepower engine.

    16 synchronized perspectives capture both onboard and exterior performances. Eight onboard perspectives (12 channels, including 4 in AMBEO) recorded driving at steady RPMs, with gearshifts, and ramps using microphones mounted in the engine, interior, and exhaust. Eight other exterior perspectives (18 channels) showcase driving at fast, medium, and slow speeds approaching, departing, and passing by. There are also steadies in neutral, blips, and performed effects, as well as an Altiverb impulse response.

    All clips have 18 fields of Soundminer, BWAV, and MacOS Finder metadata.

    Add to cart

Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

The Future

HRTF, Dolby Atmos, procedural audio design: these are all ‘new’ areas of game audio that are still somewhat on the edges of our radars. Often we are just struggling to get all the audio into a project in the time we have. What formats, features and functions become more common in the future is, however, up to us to decide. An audience cannot appreciate a new format if we do not explore it and make the most of its potential. All the middleware developers will continue to advance their toolsets and functionality to allow the audio teams to achieve greater results.

How we use our time is important. Dedicating even a small portion of time to test and assess new tools allows us to glimpse potential futures and be inspired to attempt new things. The nature of our creative work means that many of us will constantly work towards improving our art form for our own satisfaction and for the enjoyment of our audience.

For new technologies such as the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus to be truly successful, they MUST have audio that supports them.

The future of game audio may be interesting, but the present is amazing!

Those devices will succeed or fail based on how the audience responds to the experience and the audio will be a critical aspect of that success or failure.

The future of game audio may be interesting, but the present is amazing! There is so much potential in what we have right now that we just need to embrace a few scary new concepts and dive in as deeply as possible to really benefit from how the technology can support us in creating truly unique and engaging audio experiences within our game projects.
 

Thanks a lot to Stephan Schütze for this game audio overview!
 

 

Please share this:


 

ABOUT STEPHAN SCHÜTZE:
Stephan Schütze is considered the world’s leading authority on working with FMOD Studio, and is the director of the Sound Librarian project. Find out more about him on the Sound Librarian website, his Facebook page – and meet him on Twitter.
 


 


 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
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:
 
 
  • Destruction & Impact Bodyfall vol 1-4 Play Track 929 - 3804+ sounds included From: $35

    Bodyfall is an exhaustive multi-volume sound library, designed in collaboration with prize-winning French Foley artist Florian Fabre, and recorded in the famous Hiventy foley studio.

    Each volume features 2 different falling surfaces. On each of them, sounds of different parts of the human body:

    Chest (simulated with 4 textures of distinct densities, labeled M1,M2,M3 and M4), feet, knees, and hands, have been separated.

    All recordings were made from 3 distances (close, mid, distant) with 3 strength levels (hard, medium, soft). Finally, this huge toolbox provides you with infinite combinations to make your own and unique bodyfalls.

    Bodyfall vol 1: Generic / concrete & Hard Metal:

    Files included: 972 .WAV, stereo & mono files , 24 bit / 96 kHz (416 MB)
    Bodyfall vol 2: Wood / Rustic & Metal Grid:

    Files included: 974 .WAV, stereo & mono files, 24 bit / 96 kHz (438 MB)
    Bodyfall vol 3: Dirt & Wood / Hardfloor:

    Files included: 929 .WAV, stereo & mono files, 24 bit / 96 kHz (433 MB). No distant files for Dirt soft impacts.
    Bodyfall vol 4: Metal / Composite & Wood / Parquet:

    Files included: 929 .WAV, stereo & mono files, 24 bit / 96 kHz (433 MB)
    Bodyfall Bundle:

    All files & surface variations from vol 1-4 included
  • Destruction & Impact Bullet Impacts Play Track 320 sounds included
    Rated 4.00 out of 5
    $35

    Prepare for impact! This EFX Bullet Impact collection features a huge number of impacts into cars, metal, walls, water, body impacts, as well as passbys, ricochets and underwater passbys.

    A must-have for for actual bullet and combat sounds – and for adding oomph to many other types of impact sounds too!

    Add to cart
  • Introducing Artillery, a new powerful sound library covering a wide range of elements including cannon shots, electric systems, mechanical parts, distant artillery barrage, impacts, whooshes, grenade launchers and more.

    The sounds are organized in the following categories:

    • Artillery: Falling rubble, explosion impacts
    • Beeps
    • Grenade Launchers
    • Howitzer: Electric System Background
    • Howitzer: Falling rubble, explosion impacts
    • Howitzer: Mechanical Parts Handling
    • Howitzer: Shot Metallic Parts
    • Howitzer: Shot Distant Explosions
    • Shell Trajectories

    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Mechanical Gearbox Play Track 3551 sounds included, 279 mins total $149.99

    We've ventured to obscure boutiques, prop houses and vintage shops to capture mechanical contraptions from around the world. Ranging from bizarre creations, to steampunk gadgetry, gizmos and machines, GEARBOX clocks in at over 10 GB of high definition, precision mastered sounds spanning across 2987 construction kit sounds and 584 designed sounds.

    GEARBOX equips Sound Designers with a literal toolbox of mechanical gadgetry. Ranging from tiny to huge, GEARBOX's machines and gizmos provide coverage for interacts, mechanism, machine or device in your scene or game.

    INTRODUCING BUILDING BLOCKS

    In addition to CONSTRUCTION KIT and DESIGNED SOUND content, GEARBOX features BUILDING BLOCKS. This category of sound consists of designed phrases and oneshots utilized for our designed machinery, empowering Sound Designers with maximum flexibility when trying to get that particular phrase from an existing DESIGNED SOUND. GEARBOX features over 468 BUILDING BLOCKS ranging from levers, hits, grinds, snaps, and more.

    Video Thumbnail
  • This is a unique bicycle library that captures this characteristic bike in clean, quiet, nicely performed true exterior rides. Including multiple perspectives, speeds and actions. From fast passbys on asphalt to slow onboard recordings and smooth stops.

    The UglyBike is a typical old bicycle that’s working fine, but needs some TLC. It is a bicycle that’s just average, a little rattle a gentle scrape, a bike that everyone has had but got traded in for a newer one. A story of unrequited love.. :)

    Speeds and actions:
    Three speeds. Departures from slow, medium to fast getaways. Arrivals from slow stops with gently squeaking handbrakes to heavy stuttering skids.

    Five perspectives:
    1. Onboard Front: captures the whirring tire and surface sound.
    2. Onboard Pedal: nice overall combination of pedaling, crank creaks, chain rattle, tire and surface sounds.
    3. Onboard Rear: close up sound of the rear axle, with chain, sprocket and switching of gear.
    4. Tracking shot: mono recording of the passby, keeping the bike in focus while passing by.
    5. Static XY shot: stereo recording of the passby that emphasizes speed.

    Overview of perspectives and mic placement:

    Onboard recordings are 2-3 minutes long depending on speed. Higher speeds > shorter duration.
    All 3 onboard mics are edited in sync with one another to make layering easy.
    All Passbys, Arrivals and Departures move from Left to Right.

    Metadata & Markers:
    Because we know how important metadata is for your sound libraries we have created a consistent and intuitive description method. This allows you to find the sound you need easily, whether you work in a database like Soundminer/Basehead/PT Workspace work, or a Exporer/Finder window.

    However, we are aware that some people have different needs for different purposes, so we’ve created a Metadata Reference Guide that explains the structure. And because we’ve automated the metadata proces, you can be confident that a ‘find & replace’ command will always replace all instances.

    Download our Metadata Reference Guide

    Download complete metadata PDF

    If you have any questions about this, contact us!

    Additionally, we added Markers to some wave files, so specific sound events are easy to spot in Soundminer or other database apps.

    Need more?
    The UglyBike library is part of the complete ‘City Bicycles’ library package available at www.frickandtraa.com. It consists of all 4 bicycles and includes additional surfaces and extras ranging from one-off  bicycle passes captured in the city and bounces and rattles. The extra bicycles surfaces and additional effects are also available seperately here on ‘a Sound Effect’. If you’ve bought a single library and want to upgrade to the full package, contact us for a reduced price on the complete City Bicycles library. Every part of City Bicycles that you paid for will get you an extra reduction on the full package.

    Video Thumbnail
    Responses:

    344 AUDIO:City Bicycles has a plethora of content, for a great price. The perfect balance between a great concept, great presentation and outstanding execution, lands them an almost perfect score of 4.9..

    The Audio Spotlight: City Bicycles is worth getting if you are in need of great sounding and well edited bicycle sounds.

    Watch a video created by Zdravko Djordjevic.

    Video Thumbnail

     

  • Environments Museums & Galleries Play Track 272 sounds included, 800 mins total $100 $80

    This library features a wide range of recordings from various museums and galleries, each differentiated by the nuances of their size and space. All recordings feature pristine echos, walla and movement. The library includes stereo & 5.0 recordings from:

    • War Museums
    • History Museums
    • State Museums
    • Science Museums
    • Art Galleries
    • Photography Galleries
    • State Galleries

    All sounds were recorded using a stereo pair of DPA 4060s, DPA 5100, Sound Devices Mix-Pre 6 and Sound Devices 788T.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1556056800
  • The American M5 High Speed Tractor includes over 20 gigabytes of recordings of a WWII US military vehicle with a Continental 6572 six-cylinder petrol engine with 207 horsepower. 188 sound fx document a full suite of performances from M5, also known as versions M5A1, M5A2, M5A3 and M5A4.

    The performances include starting, idling, departing, arriving, and passing by from 6 exterior perspectives at slow, medium, and fast speeds. 10 additional perspectives feature motor, interior, exhaust, tracks, and other locations that capture idles, driving, and steady RPMs from onboard the tractor.

    Includes extensive Soundminer metadata.

  • Cars Volvo 242 DL 1975 Play Track 364 sounds included $249

    The Volvo 242 sound fx collection includes 271 sounds in 13.51 gigabytes of audio. The 242 is a DL 1975 version of the car, also known as models 240, 244, and 245. It features 25 takes of recordings from the Swedish vehicle and its 4-cylinder B20 A, 82 horsepower engine.

    16 synchronized perspectives capture both onboard and exterior performances. Eight onboard perspectives (12 channels, including 4 in AMBEO) recorded driving at steady RPMs, with gearshifts, and ramps using microphones mounted in the engine, interior, and exhaust. Eight other exterior perspectives (18 channels) showcase driving at fast, medium, and slow speeds approaching, departing, and passing by. There are also steadies in neutral, blips, and performed effects, as well as an Altiverb impulse response.

    All clips have 18 fields of Soundminer, BWAV, and MacOS Finder metadata.

 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER:
 
The A Sound Effect newsletter gets you a wealth of exclusive stories and insights
+ free sounds with every issue:
 
Subscribe here for free SFX with every issue

One thought on “Overview: The Current State of Game Audio – and What Lies Ahead

  1. A great summary of the state we’re in.

    Besides other technologies, I believe Procedural Audio will strongly shape our near future. It’s already being used successfully in many games (GTA V has it’s %30 of audio content in physically modeled procedural generation), and it’s a vast area we’re yet begin to explore. I’m sure that real recordings will always have their place in our soundscapes, but this Procedural approach feels like the 3D revolution of 1990’s happening in interactive audio.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *