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production and implementation are the same from big studios to small ones. The primary difference to understand between the two extremes of the industry is simply one of scale: less content, shorter experiences, shorter development cycles and smaller development teams on the mobile/indie side of the garden. However the approach, the overall goal of audio is the same on any scale of project: How can sound convey the experience to the player? And how can it accomplish this in a polished and non-annoying way? WHERE NEXT FOR TRIPLE-A SOUND? As the sector is so risk-averse due to increasing production and marketing budgets, we can’t expect too much on the horizon in terms of innovation, certainly not on a design, franchise-model or production style level. However, we can expect many smaller incremental changes. IMMERSIVE AUDIO It is now entirely possible, indeed just around the corner, that the already object-oriented 3D positional audio sources will begin to take advantage of the recent object-oriented surround formats like Dolby Atmos, more specifically in their ‘home consumer’ incarnations. With the addition of a run-time translation layer, these technologies will allow 3D positional sound sources that already exist in the game engine – say the positional sounds associated with a game object like an enemy sniper – to be localised as audio objects in such technologies as the Dolby Atmos RMU at run-time. Introducing height speakers (overhead helicopters, footsteps of an enemy overhead as you crouch under the floorboards) and much finer localisation through multiple speaker arrays will certainly be the next big thing in immersion technology and mixing and will be used to produce some incredible moments akin to ‘ride-films’ for those who have this technology installed at home. From a marketing standpoint, we’ll no doubt be seeing the likes of the Dolby CP850 in theatres being able to receive the objectbased surround output of a video game console’s sound via HDMI and the game experience could be enjoyed in a fully equipped Dolby Atmos movie theatre – perfect for big game promo events and exclusive reveals, and the like.

integrated, improvisational style of performance and writing – overlapping dialogue, hesitations, magnifying all the flaws of natural everyday speech and bringing these performances into a convincing video game scenario, with transparent, real-feeling AI. This could forever change the way narrative -driven games sound. Imagine a GTA-like experience but with The Wire’s (TV) documentary feel, looseness and believability. WHERE NEXT FOR INDIE AUDIO? As for the mobile and Indie sector, I’m sure we’ll see things continually and very quickly changing in terms of experimental game styles and tools. Available horsepower will certainly increase much more quickly in this sector than in the console sector. The game creation engine Unity’s most recent update, which will provide much-needed extension to the engine’s audio tools, could also be a game changer in terms of built-in audio scripting and more deeply integrated interactive sound, a gap that has so far been ably filled by the likes of Fabric, Wwise and FMOD.

I see game and art style as being the driving force behind these kind of games, as new, novel and quirky experiences seem to continually drive discovery in this segment of game development. In terms of implementation, this is the segment where I see the most benefit from MIDI and procedural sound creation, not only in terms of memory saving, but especially in terms of more stripped back game aesthetics and timbres. I see developers in the third-space benefiting from both the increments in triple-A console technology and being able to more quickly assimilate rapid design innovation occurring in the mobile/Indie sector – in fact, the studios that are in the fortunate enough position to be able to leverage an Indie approach with console and mobile technology may be where we see the most innovation and interesting applications of game audio over the next five years. No matter which area of game development you are involved in, the sector as a whole is thriving and growing increasingly diverse. I, for one, am excited to experience what’s next on all fronts.

PROCEDURAL CONTENT Procedural sound propagation (the creation of sounds at run-time by purely synthesized means) remains a hot area for growth. GTA V boasted a large percentage of its sound effects being created procedurally, and as the techniques and tools become more accessible for designers and content creators to work with, these techniques will almost certainly start to take more of a foothold in the everyday lexicon of game sound designers and composers – perhaps even moving into convincing run-time voice content. MIDI RESURRECTION On a similar theme to procedural sound, MIDI controlled music is already making a comeback. Games like Peggle recently made excellent use of this with their re-appropriation of older MIDI controlled sound instruments to accommodate lots of musical variety in a small memory footprint. Expect to see more of these older systems undergo a similar resurrection as the game teams on mobile platforms rediscover these forgotten memory-saving techniques. PERFORMANCE From an aesthetic/style viewpoint, the triple-A sector is still crying out for a revolution in how voice-over is written, approached and performed. Even the most carefully produced and meticulously directed efforts still somehow manage to feel stifled, flat and instructional. A game changer here would be a well-executed, deeply February 2015


AMI February 2015 Digital  
AMI February 2015 Digital