The Question: What are the most fascinating recent innovations when it comes to sound design in games and what could they mean for the wider dev community?
Having recently shipped Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the experience of implementing and thinking about true 3D spatial sound, (Dolby Atmos Home Theatre, Atmos for Headphones, Windows Sonic for Headphones, and Sony’s 3D audio for the platinum headset), has given me a true moment of reflection as a director and sound designer for where the medium of games are headed and how sound contributes to that future.
My initial thoughts - before - hearing spatial audio were that it was just going to be a gimmick, an ‘effect’ that made things feel slightly different, that didn’t change the fundamentals of the experience we wanted to put on screen... however, after first hooking everything up in our pipeline, and adding height speakers to our small audio room, and playing the first jungle environment in our game, moving the camera around the environment - the visceral impact was clear, immediate, and jaw-dropping. It was one of those extremely rare, and genuine, “wow” moments. I recall grabbing folks from the development team to also come in and listen, to gauge their reactions - and it’s something I’ve been doing at every chance I get ever since - you just can’t beat that feeling of seeing someone go from cynicism or disinterest, to a ‘wow’ moment. It never gets old.
In terms of development, the way we built our levels completely changed in terms of sound, we moved every sound object we could to a 3D point - we were now actively looking for moments and spaces where we could add sounds above the player, high up above ambiences, or more immediate and threatening sounds created by the presence of enemies or predators. Not only this, but as a team we were now actively also looking for opportunities to exaggerate the sounds in the environments above the players... what we came to refer to after-the-fact as ‘vertical spectacle’.
As we move into a development environment where spatial audio is available on more platforms and with technical breakthroughs constantly pushing the fidelity of what it is possible for our audiences to hear, I believe developers are going to continue to push the spatial elements in the games themselves, from increased vertical navigation (away from flat environments) in 3D games, and even into developing more tools and techniques to indicate with total accuracy if a sound is close by, in the mid distance, or far, far away. The medium of 3D games has such an advantage over other storytelling media such as film when it comes to spatial storytelling- our Audience can participate in and navigate our spaces to find the source of sounds around them - and the more technical and hardware resources are made available to support this wonderfully immersive and spectacular art form, the more games experiences will be able to define themselves as separate from cinema.
Rob is giving the Audio Keynote - Game Audio Culture: The Big Picture - on Thursday 11 July.
Find out more...
Develop:Brighton brings together the game dev community to share ideas, learn and be inspired by each other. So if you have an idea for a conference session we'd love to hear it. Hurry - the deadline for submissions is 19 February!find out more
Building games is hard and it’s taxing physically, mentally and emotionally. So being around a community that understands that is great – there’s a comraderie here.
A lot of the opportunities that come from being here are speaking to other developers who are doing exactly the same thing as you. And there are some good parties – it’s very much a pleasurable work experience!
Develop:Brighton is especially unique - it’s by the seaside and there’s a lovely relaxed tone that goes with that.The talks are cool, the networking is cool and having the opportunity to catch up with people – that’s always the excitement for me!
There really is a huge mix of people at Develop - loads of peers that you can learn from and the perfect blend of every element of game development as well.
We are so lucky to have Develop here in the UK. It’s a unique event where you can come and discover new things with people who care passionately about video games. It’s a sea full of new ideas.
Develop is the must-attend event for the games industry in the UK. It’s where we all come together and learn from each other. It’s the best way into the industry and it’s the best place to learn from your colleagues.
Develop is a really great way to network, it’s also great for going to talks and finding that little tip that you didn’t know before and thinking – oh I’ll bring that back to the team!
It’s really nice to see some of the younger people in our studio come to Develop, interact with other people in the dev community and make new contacts. I think it’s really important to learn from other people.
Develop is an excellent way of catching up with people – there’s a really nice community feel here.
Mike Bithell Games
One of the things I like about Develop is it brings people together from across Europe and the whole world. There is a very high level of professionals here, so you have company leaders having drinks with juniors from their community.
Dr Mata Haggis-Burridge
There are many ways you can be part of Develop:Brighton 2020 - including speaking in the conference, taking a booth in the Expo or becoming a sponsor.Find out more