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  • Founders of the Game Audio Alliance Discuss The Benefits of Audio For Games

    Posted on September 30th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Founders of Game Audio Alliance discuss the benefits of audio and music for games

    You can download the podcast here…

    Or listen to it here…

    Show Notes:
    Interviewer: I’m here at Casual Connect in Seattle, and with me today are some special guests. How about you introduce yourselves?

    Greg: Greg Rahn.

    Aaron: I’m Aaron Walz.

    Jesse: I’m Jesse Holt.

    Interviewer: You guys have a booth called Game Audio Alliance. What’s that about?

    Aaron: So, we are the Game Audio Alliance. We are a collaboration of different studios that has come together to form an umbrella company. Myself, I’m from Walz Music. Greg Rahn is from Soundmindz. And we also have two members, Kevin Tone and Barry Dowsett from Sound Rangers. And Jesse Holt here, was the in-house sound designer for Game House for about 10 years. And he’s JesseHolt.com.

    We’ve known each other for a few years now, and we have similar kind of artistic viewpoints, and we collaborated in the audio tracks here at Casual Connect which are all the educational tracks.

    Interviewer: Sure.

    Aaron: And in doing so, we discovered that there aren’t too many large audio providers in this space. And rather than competing against each other and having all these small, different companies, we thought collaborating as one larger group with more to offer together. You know, the sum is larger than all the parts. So, far that’s been very successful.

    Interviewer: So, people can go to your website and just have a list of all the audio options or people that can create audio or sites where they can buy audio. Is that what you mean by combining everything together?

    Aaron: So, what I mean by combining everything together is developers can come to our website, GameAudioAlliance.com or through our number, 888-400-3511. And we’re also on Facebook, Twitter and all of that. And they can work with us as one company.

    They send us all the game development information. We can look through it and send them a quote and work on the project as one company.

    Jesse: Basically, and also in addition to that concept, we’ve got five people that have vast years of experience and knowledge of creating audio content. And all of us have our special little niche, and when you combine that under one roof, under one business, you’ve got an extremely powerful company that can do anything in game audio. And that’s not hyperbole, that’s the truth.

    Interviewer: Let’s talk about game audio in games. Basically, for most developers audio is usually an after thought or something at the end. Can you, first of all, distinguish between music versus sound design in games and the benefit of both and stuff like that?

    Greg: Well, it’s all sound design because music is sound as well. I think, of course, music is going to be the mood setter. It’s going to have a strong mood setting effect on the whole game, and then when we talk about sound design we’re usually referring to sound effects, ambient sounds that are just in the world, interface sounds just like that.

    Aaron: Which I think also are very important for setting the overall atmosphere and tone in the world, especially engaging the players and bringing them in.

    Jesse: To me, sound design is something that I think a lot of players, maybe, developers and designers, we do things that they don’t understand and they just take for granted. For me, a lot of times when I would sound design for video games, I would create music and I would create sound effects and work with it. It would be harmonically cooperative with it. I would create sound effects that were equed [?] to work well with other portions of the game.

    So, there’s a lot to think about, you know, to place audio in certain compartments and to have it function with the other parts of the game, even the graphics, to have a tone that sounds good with this. It sounds weird, but have sounds that look good with this color or this type of graphic or these types of movements. That’s sound design.

    Aaron: And also, I would add that I think sound design is especially beneficial. A lot of developers use sample libraries, sound libraries because it’s very cheap. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that or anything. So, they go in but if they don’t have a trained ear and they don’t have this experience, especially working with games, and they just plug in sounds willy nilly.

    These sounds are recorded in different rooms. They’re recorded in different, like, spatially away from a mike. So, things like that where they’re plugging them altogether and they aren’t in the same category, they are going to sound unrealistic. And so, therefore, they aren’t going to draw on the players as much. And that, to me, sound design is an art form. It’s hard to understand some of those things.

    We can just listen to hundreds of cat meows and tell you all about that cat. We can tell you how far the mike is away from the cat. We can tell you what kind of mike it was recorded with, sometimes, and all that kind of thing. That’s the value of sound design. It’s very hard to explain.

    Interviewer: Can you talk about specific examples of how sound has impacted games that you’ve worked on and, of course, some of the challenges you’ve experienced when you’ve worked on specific games and, maybe, how you’ve seen users respond once you’ve actually modified sound as you’re iterating and developing the game.

    Jesse: For me personally, when the hidden object games really started taking off several years ago, one of the challenges with doing hidden object games is they take so long or, for instance, the adventure games. But, specifically hidden object games, they take a long time, and you’re sitting here staring at a screen for minutes, if not, hours at a time.

    So, my approach as a sound designer was to try and create music and sound effects that worked well with each other, but also didn’t get in the way of the game play but also supported the game play and still was interesting.

    It’s a lot to consider to try and make that happen because you want some melody in there. You want some calming vibes. You want to make the user appreciate the game and make it comfortable for themselves. And you try to take that into consideration. It can be a challenge. It takes skill.

    Interviewer: When you talk about music composition, what’s wrong with just using Lua? Is that something you’d consider?

    Jesse: I think a lot of times when you’re creating music for video games, you’re not necessarily writing songs. You’re writing background sound scapes that have a lot of melodic content. For me, it’s like more than a song. It’s not only connected to the ambient sounds. It’s also connected to the sound effects. It’s not just a sound.

    Interviewer: What’s the difference between a game audio designer and a film audio designer?

    Aaron: There’s a lot of differences. So, I don’t want to sound too opinionated here. So, I’ve been playing video games since the Atari 2600. For me, I was a gamer. I am a gamer although I don’t have much time anymore. You know, I’ve played every single system, all the way up from the very beginning.

    I knew I was going to be a sound designer and composer for games. When I was eight years old, that’s what I wanted to do. So, I’m very familiar with the genre. I know what it feels like to play a game, and when new composers come from different fields, like film, they don’t necessarily understand some of the differences.

    The biggest differences I could say right off the bat is that film is linear. It happens once and it moves on, and it goes on to the next scene. Video games are very circular, and the same scene is repeated many times, and you have to make music very carefully so that it’s very interesting and doesn’t take too much attention away from the player. But it’s subtle and interesting, and they don’t get tired of it.

    Interviewer: Any last words then or pieces of advice for these small game developers who are doing these games in terms of how they should perceive audio?

    Greg: It’s all a trade-off. You weigh cost versus value all the time. When you go with custom sound, you’re basically creating an audio brand, an audio icon for your brand. That’s really important. That’ll help set you apart from everybody. That’s help identify you. So, that’s definitely put you in the custom realm. It’s going to cost you more, but it’s going to be worth it.

    Interviewer: Any other last words? And so, what’s the website again that people can go to?

    Aaron: GameAudioAlliance.com.

    Interviewer: Thank you very much.


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