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Planet of Sound: Talking Art, Noise, and Games with EA's Robi Kauker
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Planet of Sound: Talking Art, Noise, and Games with EA's Robi Kauker

April 13, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

What do you think of the middleware approach to solving problems?

RK: Middleware is like defining your orchestra. Here are your limits; this is what your middleware does. You picked it, now run with it. I think that middleware solutions are absolutely necessary. You as a small developer are never going to be able to develop a PS3 title, if you have to write all that code, debug and fix, all of those solutions. If you're spending your cycles doing that...we don't do that in EA. For Sims 3, I'm taking the best of what Spore offered audio-wise, and reapplying it to Sims 3, very little changes.

SimCity 4 took the best of what SimCity3000 had to offer. Because it was five years old, they refactored it, made it better, made it smarter, and added a lot of really cool stuff to it, so they could do their game. It's a continual cycle of growth. Actually The Sims 2 took from SimCity 4. So it's a constant cycle of development. I don't reinvent the wheel; I steal more tech from the Need for Speed team, or the ideas from Medal of Honor, or the Harry Potter recording chain, versus the Sims recording chain. They're different tools, but the ideas are similar to each other.

How did you take advantage of some of the technology that Spore was using?

RK: Going back all the way to SimCity 4 -- actually going back to SimCity 3000 -- we started working with data driven models for how sound worked. Spore has made tremendous use of that. From their music, to their sound effects, to the voices, to the way their creatures interact with the world.

Their data-driven model of "this is what's happening in the world that needs to be translated into what's happening in the game" is not the interactive math model where something happens and it triggers something. It's these ten conditions that are happening and then these ten other conditions...

EA/Maxis' SimCity 3000

Is that an aesthetic choice or are there practical reasons?

RK: It's practical because there's really no other way to make it interesting. We could play a big loop, and the ambience would go [hums] all the time. That's lovely and it works for some types of games, but for our games that are user-developed, we have to vary the world constantly. With Spore and The Sims, you don't know what the world looks like beforehand. You don't know what's going to be in the world beforehand. The only thing you know is that there is a world! That makes it different by the very nature.

Going after those models, or the constant stream of information and tapping into it in an effective way is where Spore is, where The Sims is. Philosophically, it's where we've been. Kent Jolly, who is down at Spore, and I going back to our very beginning together on SimCity 3000, have been fighting that continual execution.

Letting the world tell us what it sounds like. We'll make bird chirps for these trees, and we'll make bird chirps for ten different types of trees. If you drop these ten trees in, it sounds this way. If you drop all of one type of tree in, it sounds a different way. Time of day, water, context, beaches...

Music concepts, where things are going well for you or things are going badly for you, have always kind of been there. It's actually the hardest thing. Spore, I think, is the first game that starts to represent it well.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

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