AHEAD OF THE GAME
Producer Rob Bridgett oﬀers his thoughts on this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, which is now considered an essential trip for game audio professionals worldwide.
his year’s Game Developers Conference ran from 2-6 March at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The event attracts around 25,000 attendees from among the many disciplines of video game development – programmers, artists, designers, production and, of course, audio professionals – from triple A to self-published and from experimental and niche to blockbuster franchises. Everyone has equal billing and relevance at GDC and it is an opportunity for developers from all across the globe to come together, exchange ideas, be inspired and share knowledge. In terms of the conference itself, the audio track talks this year (and the Audio Bootcamp, a day of audiofocused sessions), drew together an exciting and stimulating cross section of the latest thinking and production postmortems from some of the year’s most compelling games. Dialogue, Sound Design, Music and Mixing all feel like they are given equal billing, and there is something for everyone, no matter what your particular interest might be. From weapon design to advanced adaptive music composition techniques, to dialogue direction techniques and even how to ﬁnd work in the industry, the array of audio talks is staggering. 22
sound for VR and audio integration One of the big themes creating excitement in the industry right now is the VR technologies on display in the accompanying expo from Oculus VR, Sony (Project Morpheus) and Valve (SteamVR/HTC Vive). Everyone is talking about how important the audio component for these experiences will be. Another theme is that almost everyone you talk to about these kind of VR experiences thinks of them as being something completely diﬀerent to traditional games that we play on our TV sets, in our living rooms or on our mobile devices. When you consider the power of these technologies to completely transport a user into a diﬀerent environment, it becomes immediately apparent how important the audio is to completing the audiovisual contract for the user in order to achieve and maintain ‘presence’. There are a lot of technologies emerging on the audio front to take care of the many technical elements of the spatialisation in these experiences. One such technology is 3Dception by Two Big Ears – it’s well worth listening to the demos on their website to get an idea of the immersive possibilities of VR audio – and it is certainly not going to be long before we get to experience these things for ourselves as consumers. Back to production realities, and another talking point this year was seamless integration of workﬂows between various audio production tools – and Steinberg’s Nuendo 7 integration with Audio Middleware giant Audiokinetic’s Wwise has everyone excited. Rounding out the initial feature set are perforce version control, drag/ drop/cycle-marker export directly into Wwise, and the ability to directly reopen Nuendo sessions associated with wav ﬁle assets in Wwise (Nuendo stores project session information inside the ﬁle headers, which Wwise can read). Even though it was an early implementation on show, the features
Picture: Damian Kastbauer
and just as importantly the intentions behind these workﬂow integrations focused towards game audio developers had everyone excited for the future shape of the game audio production landscape.
game audio community When I attended my ﬁrst Game Developers Conference in 2007, the default mode of attendance was to go along with a few other members of your development team, and stick with those people for the whole conference, from hotel to lecture, to dinner, then bars and after parties. Today, things are very diﬀerent. This is where one of the most positive movements in video game audio needs to be mentioned. The Game Audio Podcast, set up by Anton Woldhek and Damian Kastbauer, has for the last few years been running daily morning meetups and discussions from 7:30 to 9:30 at Sightglass Coﬀee on 7th. This allows attendees to join in and further fuel the discussion from the day’s conference highlights over awesome coﬀee, and also allows those who are not able to attend the ability to listen in daily (thanks to Anton’s incredibly fast editing) and get the latest information and trends, both inside and outside the conference.
This year the podcast meet-ups felt like they have become something a bit more than that; a friendly and safe place for everyone to meet up and exchange ideas, but the platform and the structure that Anton and Damian provide via their podcast setting is also an amazing launch-pad for all kinds of interesting side conversations. For me, belonging to and engaging with this open-format, freeform community – one that includes everyone, whether you are yet to start in the industry, or whether you’ve got 20 years of experience – has become the highlight and deﬁning structural element of each and every GDC I attend. The walls have come down in many ways over the last few years, and the recent ﬂourishing of the game audio community is one of the most positive movements I have ever seen anywhere inside any production community. Rob Bridgett is audio director and producer at Clockwork Fox Studios in Canada. Inspired by the work of the Sony ASWG group and the lectures of sound advocate Julian Treasure, the Clockwork Fox team have been working on developing adaptive loudness switching and runtime LRA attenuation for child-friendly mobile ed tech products for the past two years.