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Introduction to Game Audio

The gaming industry is one of the most promising and exciting ones today. The complexity of a digital game goes beyond any previous form of entertainment. In this article, we'll understand the basics of audio for games, something that usually doesn't have the proper recognition or understanding by the public, but that makes all the difference.


Making effects or soundtracks for high-end digital games is not like composing or designing sound in its primordial vision. It involves a number of other variables and in reality it is a growing technology and field of study. Get ready to work with codes, acoustics and test bugs.

Game audio is more important than people think. It provides unseen hints and feedback for player control inputs, as well as playing a key role in conveying emotion. The sonic pillars of a game and its aesthetics are fundamental above the technique or program used, keep this in mind as the sound must serve the game designer. It's a process of creation, and then continuous iteration with the different departments of the studio (art, design, programmers) to introduce the sound of a game.


As soon as possible the sound designer should have access to the game and start testing the sounds. Most important, like everything else in this industry, is teamwork. Depending on the scope of the project conditions vary, especially when differentiating a 2D and 3D game, which is much more complex. In this one, you will probably be in direct contact with the programmer. It will provide you with a series of codes referring to events that will trigger the sounds to happen.

In implementing the sounds you optimize, change, randomize (randomization is super important to give the necessary variety for a game that can be hours or days) and mix it up at your leisure. In mixing, just like in movies, we're usually going to want something very dynamic, unless it's a casual game. In this case, even the memory used for the soundbank is reduced to the maximum in order to perform well on mobile devices.


Let's consider a 2D game. You will probably have background ambiences and some sound effects for when the player dies, wins or collides with an enemy, for example. Or, some constant sound may increase or decrease in volume depending on how close the player is to the object emitting the sound. However, in a 3D game, we will already be working on the acoustics and virtual reverberation of the places as well, which is very interesting. As for dialogue, imagine an RPG game of 200 hours or more. If the studio decides to voice over all the texts, it's certainly hard work!


The main difference here is that we are going to work with dynamic and/or interactive music. It means that depending on the map, where you click or the event that is taking place, the instrumentation or the music as a whole will change. This is mostly done through loops and sound hits. Once you have assorted loops of the instruments on a track, you can arrange them and sequence the layered arrangement according to what you want, in real time!


Just with a programming language or in game creation software, it can be difficult or limited to implement interactive audio. It really depends on the project, but using audio software for games tends to decrease memory usage, increase productivity, performance and expand artistic horizons. Basically there are three big names in the software industry for this purpose. Wwise, FMOD and Fabric. We also call them middleware when they play an intermediary role with the main game engine software. They even usually have intelligent integration systems with the main programs (Unity, Unreal, CryEngine etc...) We will present them in detail below:

Audiokinect Wwise

Wwise is the big name in the professional industry and used in most AAA games. It's robust and has incredible potential. It may be a little scary at first with its complex and different interface, but there is no other program that has its ability to match. Here you will find advanced spatial audio rendering control, also used for VR, AR, automotive industry and simulations.

FMOD is most used among indies. It has a user-friendly interface as it resembles a typical DAW interface. A little easier to learn than his brother Wwise, but with a little less possibilities. A smart and fast solution for adaptive audio.

Fabric is the least used of the three, however it can still serve you well depending on the project. It's actually made to work in perfect sync within the world's most widely used game engine, Unity.


But after all, if you are a sound designer but don't know or don't want to create your games from start to finish, where can you find a project to participate? How to create a portfolio and enter the gaming industry?

Two main tips, obviously in addition to studying, qualifying and understanding the tools:

1- Networking. Join groups on social networks, follow pages, send messages and emails to relevant people until you find a project that suits your interests.

2- Game Jams. For those who don't know game jams are events in which participants try to create a game in a short period of time, pre-determined, as a team or alone. There are face-to-face and online game jams, find out! Some last 24 or 48 hours and bring together designers or programmers who may need a hand in sound.

Fun fact: according to a brief market research, the budget for the audio of a modern digital game usually varies from 5% to 20% of the total, depending on the amount of soundtracks and full voice-overs of the dialogues.

What games have marked your life? Can you remember the soundtrack and sounds? If you have any doubts, leave it here. If you are already a sound designer, share your experience with us! What tool do you use? What websites and databases do you usually consult? Any relevant techniques or insights? Gaming audio may seem challenging at first, but if you've got a taste for it, it's a bright future and very rewarding to see a job finished. Good luck!

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