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10 Tips: The Creation and Integration of Audio
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10 Tips: The Creation and Integration of Audio

May 29, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

4. Big Worlds Need Small Sounds

Open world games rely on streaming sounds more than most titles, so keeping audio file sizes down is important, says Volition's Gross.

"If the player is driving a car so the environment's streaming, and we try to call a sound because he starts shooting out of the window at 100 mph, we have to make sure those sounds get streamed off the disc at the same time as the world," he says. "So we make our sounds as small as possible."

But profiling the audio early is critical. "You need to profile constantly and as early as possible using DVD emulation on the 360 and actual Blu-ray disc on the PS3, rather than an installed copy of the game," he says.

"With Saints Row: The Third we found out frighteningly late that when we started playing on DVD emulation and Blu-rays that most of our sounds weren't even playing. We had to go back and optimize all our sounds, get rid of extra variations, and compress them further. It was a nightmare."

5. Sounds Should Serve Game Design

PopCap's sonic approach is to have sound effects that support the game's design, says the company's audio director Guy Whitmore. "The sound is always communicating something specific to the player that's very important to how you play the game," he says.

One example is how musical notes are used to signal progress in its recent Facebook game Solitaire Blitz, says PopCap's audio producer Becky Allen. "In the game multipliers are given for 10-card runs. When the player plays the seventh card in a row without interruption, a note on the glockenspiel is played. A different note is then played on the eighth card, then another different note on the ninth, creating a small three-note melody that plays well with the music. This progression of glockenspiel tones informs the player that they are progressing and on the right path."

6. Explore the Psychology of Sound

What we hear is not just a product of sound waves, but also of our state of mind, says freelance sound designer Alistair Lindsay, whose credits include Kinectimals and Defcon. "You might have big explosions for your game, but do they reflect how you would feel if you were a solider in the battlefield?" he asks.

"I've spoken to soldiers who've been in combat, and one guy said that your buddy can be right next to you firing his weapon, and it sounds like it's 200 yards away -- whereas the guy shooting at you sounds like he's right next to your head. Sound doesn't necessarily run on railroad tracks; it's not two plus two, it's two plus two plus perception."

Lindsay is hoping to take advantage of people's sonic perceptions with his work on Introversion's forthcoming jail boss sim Prison Architect. One simple example from that game is having the sound of a pistol being cocked will be played at a key moment in a cutscene involving a gruesome murder.

"That same sound effect is then used out of context in a later cutscene, the idea being that the dissonance between what the eye sees and the ear hears at that moment might re-trigger any emotion felt during the first gruesome scene. That idea has its root in neurolinguistic programming techniques," he says.

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