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  • Getting The Best From Your Audio Department

    [10.24.19]
    - Elliot Callighan

  • Your Game!

    No, you don't need to wait until the game is almost done to bring in an audio person. Quite the opposite, actually! But you do need something to help you communicate your game and the world you're creating to your audio people, even if the game is in its early stages. 

    (Quick side note, you should totally bring in your audio collaborators as early as possible. You will be so much happier with your end audio experience. If you do this already, YOU ROCK!)

    For more emotional types of audio such as voice acting and music, having character, concept or environment art can be a fantastic resource if actual gameplay isn't available. Also, if you have a significant backstory or lore you've created, this can be great for helping decide how this character should sound and/or how the world should "feel."

    But even with these, audio folks need to know a basic outline of what the gameplay is going to be like and any sort of progression to it. There are many ways we can tailor audio to closely "fit" the game and gameplay experience, but we need to know these considerations as early as possible.

    Consider a stealth-action game: knowing that there is a stealth mechanic with different stages of intensity can open up a world of possibilities for composing and implementing an interactive score.

    For less-emotional audio, the best thing is to have video of animations or events. When I worked at a large corporate developer in the past, sometimes I would literally walk over to an animator or programmer's desk and take video with my phone to begin the sound design. Because of the processes in place, they couldn't send the animation to me as "final," but I could begin the experimentation process. Plus, 90% of the time, it was the final version anyway.

    Realistic Expectations

    Audio and music are both a process - and that's ok! It rarely happens that the first version of a sound or piece of music is ready to go into the final game. Exploration, experimentation and sometimes failure are just part of the gig. Knowing that you are always getting closer to your goal is important - especially when you're excited to hear what your audio people have been cooking up, but it doesn't quite hit the mark.

    That being said, if version 15 basically sounds the same as the previous 14 versions, that's just a terrible audio person or serious lack of effective communication. Each version needs to be trying another interpretation of your notes or adding to what they had before. Creating multiple versions and using the differences between them can also be very helpful to communicate. But in order to do that, we first need to create those couple different versions.

    Overall, if you take the time to think about and purposefully communicate with your audio person instead of improvising descriptions and goals on the spot, you should be in great shape. Pair that with good references, some basic audio vocabulary and game materials (art, animations, gameplay) and your audio folks should be able to dive right in.

    Be sure to check out Unlock Audio!

    Want to reach out? [email protected]

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