Future Of Game Audio Asbjoern Andersen


What’s ahead for game audio? That’s the question we’re looking to answer with this brand-new interview series, with some of the leaders, heroes and influencers in the game audio world. And to kick things off, we’re excited to share this interview with Matthew Smith.

Matthew Smith spent more than 11 years at Rockstar North, as audio director overseeing the sound for legendary franchises such as Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption and more. Now, he’s branched out into the non-audio side of games, while still continuing to work with audio plug-in development at Krotos, Ltd.

In this exclusive interview, Matthew shares his insights on what’s next for game audio:


Interview by Jennifer Walden



 

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

Matthew Smith (MS): Modelling the effects of an environment on a game’s audio, and how it reaches the player’s ears, has long been a passion of mine, and while there has been much work done on this over the years, it’s always remained a little niche. HRTFs, binaural, Ambisonics — they all seem to pop up every few years and then never properly take hold. The rise of VR seems to be finally changing that. I hope in a few years we’ll take far more immersive (which is not to say realistic) audio for granted.
 

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

MS: I think a bunch of the traditional audio tech concerns are borderline solved at this point. I might be expelled from the secret society of sound designers for saying this, but in-game I can’t tell the difference between a 48 kHz/256kbps mp3 file and the uncompressed 96 kHz file it was created from. Likewise, increasing simultaneous channel-count is a game of diminishing returns.

Instead, I think the fun and the challenge is increasingly in the tools — enabling the creation of huge quantities of crazy-detailed interactive SFX, and giving sound designers control of the huge resources available to them.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with Krotos over the last year, makers of Dehumaniser. And what drew me to work with them wasn’t the tech behind the scenes, it was how instantly intuitive and natural their tools are for sound designers. Using it, you think, “Awesome Monster!” not “Awesome DSP!”
 

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

MS: Audio still gets dragged along by the rest of game development all too often, having to react to changes rather than being thought about as a core part of a designer’s toolset. Music and dialogue far less so, but certainly the overall sound design. And when you play a game like Inside, where that quite clearly wasn’t the case, it’s obvious how much sound design can offer beyond just the nuts-and-bolts of matching the visuals.

For years I thought it was a 99% cultural problem, but perhaps there is a tech route through it too

But enough whining, what’s the solution? No one single thing, for sure. For years I thought it was a 99% cultural problem, but perhaps there is a tech route through it too. If audio tools were good enough that mere mortals could create passable placeholder audio trivially easily, maybe people would experiment more in the early stages of design?
 

In terms of your own work, any exciting stuff on the horizon you can talk about?

MS: The team at Krotos have some amazing products in the pipeline. One thing we’ll be showing at GDC is Dehumaniser running real-time in-game. You get so used to most voice-changing tools sounding cliché and comedic; it’s a breath of fresh air to hear something sound totally natural and yet super-flexible. In a VR environment especially, where your sense of presence is that much greater, sounding like you really are someone/something else is incredibly powerful.
 

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

MS: It’s a huge opportunity, in lots of different ways. What surprised me most about VR was the level of intimacy it brings to seemingly mundane things. I was instantly absorbed just blowing up balloons in the Vive setup tutorial, in a way a non-VR experience couldn’t possibly replicate. That level of detailed interaction lends itself so well to creating realistic, interactive sound design that will make or break the reality of a VR experience.

VR opens up a whole order of magnitude of useful detail you can go into and the interactivity is even more important, because you feel able to gently poke everything in the world, not just blow it up.

In my Rockstar days, we were blessed with the resources and talents to create super-detailed and expansive soundscapes, and I felt like the raw detail of the SFX we’d create had almost hit a wall. At times there was no need to make things any more detailed, as it would be lost. The challenges started to become interactive mixing, and higher-level problems. But VR opens up a whole order of magnitude of useful detail you can go into and the interactivity is even more important, because you feel able to gently poke everything in the world, not just blow it up.
 


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

 

Latest releases:  
  • Destruction & Impact Fighting Game Play Track 2500 sounds included, 73 min mins total $96

    Fighting Game includes 2500 SFX & loops – After months of sonic conflict, 14 voice acting warriors, and countless source recording and editing sessions, we happily present you with Fighting Game – fight scene and close combat sound effects library. Never surrender or retreat from a sound design battle again. Now YOU get to become the ultimate fighter and master sensei to almost any type of game audio project where combat sound effects, aggressive voice articulations, are needed. It’s the most supercharged, conflict-generating sound FX library available. Strike now and get this highly versatile and wide-ranging production suite, a genuine knockout with Mortal Kombat & martial arts styled sounds effects, male and female karate voice vocalizations & royalty-free production music loops. All game-ready.

    Don’t get caught with your hands down to a client again or compromise on quality work – now it’s easier than ever to exchange blows to the face, create fight scenes with weight & emotion as well as inflict high levels of audio precision on your projects! With the Fighting Game, the battle has already been won. Kick off an action-packed adventure today! Hi-yah!

    Fighting Game Includes:

    • 2500 sound effects & loops
    • 600+ designed game ready – combat sound effects
    • 900+ source/organic sound effects – build your own combat sounds or sweeten
    • 800+ fighting voice sound effects (from 14 voice actors)
    • 100+ royalty-free gameplay & menu music loops
    • Over 2.5 GB of audio samples
    • Over 73 minutes of game audio & SFX
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  • Water & Oceans Flowing Water Play Track 90 sounds included, 135 mins total $80 $64

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    • Fast Flowing Rivers
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    • Rivers Flowing Over Driftwood
    • Water Flowing into Plunge Pools
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  • Screaming Vol. 2 is a sequel to one of our most popular sound effect libraries to date. Unlike other libraries out there, we recorded small loop groups of voice actors covering situations where a single voice is not enough and a large crowd is too much for the scene. Furthermore, we captured extended performances in each file, giving sound editors the flexibility to use these effects in a large variety of situations. This collection contains group screams and shouts, covering everything from party and gig crowds all the way to battles and massacres making it a great addition for sound designers to their general audio collection and can be used in films, video games, TV productions and other projects.

    Our Audio Craftsmen recorded performances of our in-house voice artists using mono and stereo microphones to give you maximum flexibility. We have captured various screams and shouts of a TV audience, crowds at parties, gigs, sports stadiums, armies fighting battles, teens being massacred, people burnt alive, a crowd being attacked by bees, a group falling to death, people being trampled by an elephant, couples fighting each other and much, much more. We have also included additional variations of long and short group screams and sequential screams.

    All of the sounds are meticulously edited, meta tagged and UCS compliant, so you can find the right sounds you need and drag them straight into your projects. In addition, all the files are available in 24 Bit 192 kHz (without reverb) for further sonic manipulation and design (you can pitch and time stretch to create monster voices or high pitched creatures).

    We have used a variety of male and female voices, capturing different variations of almost all types of group screams needed for your projects, which saves you from hiring expensive voice actors and loop groups.

  • “8bit Game Madness” by SpillAudio consists of 163 8bit music loops inspired by different video games and arcades, combined with a touch of modern melodic and harmonic concepts. These tracks will provide your projects with a sought-after authenticity, rhythmic stability, and melodic diversity which could elevate your track to the desired level. This pack includes 23 distinguishable melody tracks which add color and articulation with a specific sense of originality.


Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:

 

We’d also go to great lengths on Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption to try and capture the acoustic effects of an environment — helping to make a subway feel oppressive, or a sweeping vista seem grand, but in non-VR games it’s all about the space and relatively little about the player.

In VR, that whole world of super-subtle spatial audio clues is available to sound designers

The subtle differences in audio that everyone’s brain subconsciously reads with a simple tilt of the head, or moving close to a wall, are impossible to capture with the blunt movement of a third-person character, or even in first-person. In VR, that whole world of super-subtle spatial audio clues is available to sound designers.

On the same theme, the scope for conflict between visual and motion senses to cause nausea are pretty well understood at this point. I wonder how much we have left to learn about the role audio has to play in creating a complete feeling of presence.
 

 

What advice would you give to game audio pros, both those already in the industry and those looking to join it?

MS: I spent a good chunk of last year working on the non-audio elements of game development, making whole games from scratch with a tiny team, and it was a real eye-opener working hands-on in so many different disciplines.

It’s difficult of course to make the time to do that while you’re buried deep in the detail of a specialism, but these days it’s so easy to download a AAA-quality game engine for free and just dive in, following some YouTube tutorials. The perspective and empathy it gives you is incredibly valuable. So I’d encourage anyone in or wanting in on the game audio community to carve out a wee chunk of their time to find out what it really means to be an animator or a physics programmer, and hopefully become a better audio professional as a result.

That idea of a T-shaped person is nothing new, but in an industry that changes so quickly, it feels more relevant than ever.
 

A big thanks to Matthew Smith for his insights on the future of game audio – and to Jennifer Walden for the interview! As mentioned, we’re just kicking off this new series, so stay tuned for more thoughts and insights on the future of game audio.
 

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Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Destruction & Impact Fighting Game Play Track 2500 sounds included, 73 min mins total $96

    Fighting Game includes 2500 SFX & loops – After months of sonic conflict, 14 voice acting warriors, and countless source recording and editing sessions, we happily present you with Fighting Game – fight scene and close combat sound effects library. Never surrender or retreat from a sound design battle again. Now YOU get to become the ultimate fighter and master sensei to almost any type of game audio project where combat sound effects, aggressive voice articulations, are needed. It’s the most supercharged, conflict-generating sound FX library available. Strike now and get this highly versatile and wide-ranging production suite, a genuine knockout with Mortal Kombat & martial arts styled sounds effects, male and female karate voice vocalizations & royalty-free production music loops. All game-ready.

    Don’t get caught with your hands down to a client again or compromise on quality work – now it’s easier than ever to exchange blows to the face, create fight scenes with weight & emotion as well as inflict high levels of audio precision on your projects! With the Fighting Game, the battle has already been won. Kick off an action-packed adventure today! Hi-yah!

    Fighting Game Includes:

    • 2500 sound effects & loops
    • 600+ designed game ready – combat sound effects
    • 900+ source/organic sound effects – build your own combat sounds or sweeten
    • 800+ fighting voice sound effects (from 14 voice actors)
    • 100+ royalty-free gameplay & menu music loops
    • Over 2.5 GB of audio samples
    • Over 73 minutes of game audio & SFX
    • All in 96k/24bit .wav

  • Water & Oceans Flowing Water Play Track 90 sounds included, 135 mins total $80 $64

    Featuring;

    • Fast Flowing Rivers
    • Lightly Flowing Rivers
    • Moderately Flowing Rivers
    • Rivers Flowing Over Pebbles
    • Rivers Flowing Over Driftwood
    • Water Flowing into Plunge Pools
    • Raging Waterfalls
    • Small Waterfalls
    • White Water Rapids
    • Streams

    All sounds were recorded using the Schoeps CCM4/CCM8 MS and Sound Devices Mix-Pre 6.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1623967199
  • The sounds of grinding, skidding, windscreen groaning, rumbling and hooting – a complete sound effects library of the UAZ-469.

    33 %
    OFF
    Ends 1624139999
  • Screaming Vol. 2 is a sequel to one of our most popular sound effect libraries to date. Unlike other libraries out there, we recorded small loop groups of voice actors covering situations where a single voice is not enough and a large crowd is too much for the scene. Furthermore, we captured extended performances in each file, giving sound editors the flexibility to use these effects in a large variety of situations. This collection contains group screams and shouts, covering everything from party and gig crowds all the way to battles and massacres making it a great addition for sound designers to their general audio collection and can be used in films, video games, TV productions and other projects.

    Our Audio Craftsmen recorded performances of our in-house voice artists using mono and stereo microphones to give you maximum flexibility. We have captured various screams and shouts of a TV audience, crowds at parties, gigs, sports stadiums, armies fighting battles, teens being massacred, people burnt alive, a crowd being attacked by bees, a group falling to death, people being trampled by an elephant, couples fighting each other and much, much more. We have also included additional variations of long and short group screams and sequential screams.

    All of the sounds are meticulously edited, meta tagged and UCS compliant, so you can find the right sounds you need and drag them straight into your projects. In addition, all the files are available in 24 Bit 192 kHz (without reverb) for further sonic manipulation and design (you can pitch and time stretch to create monster voices or high pitched creatures).

    We have used a variety of male and female voices, capturing different variations of almost all types of group screams needed for your projects, which saves you from hiring expensive voice actors and loop groups.

  • “8bit Game Madness” by SpillAudio consists of 163 8bit music loops inspired by different video games and arcades, combined with a touch of modern melodic and harmonic concepts. These tracks will provide your projects with a sought-after authenticity, rhythmic stability, and melodic diversity which could elevate your track to the desired level. This pack includes 23 distinguishable melody tracks which add color and articulation with a specific sense of originality.

 
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