Thursday, May 01, 2014

Our lives are like the wind...or like sounds

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Hayao Miyazaki
"Our lives are like the wind...or like sounds. 
We come into being, resonate with each other..."

Thursday, March 06, 2014

To All The Audio Toolsets I've Loved Before...


Early on I compiled a couple of lists of Audio Implementation Toolsets as part of my Audio Implementation Greats series over at DesigningSound.org

Audio Implementation Greats #1: Audio Toolsets [Part 1]
Audio Implementation Greats #2: Audio Toolsets [Part 2]

These gave an overview of the available audio middleware and proprietary toolsets which had been discussed across the burgeoning web of knowledge that is the internet. At the time, it was harder than you'd think to come across this kind of information (and one of the reasons I started feeding Game Audio Relevance with game audio related links).

I have some opinions about proprietary audio tools. From an article I wrote for Game Developer Magazine entitled "Death Of An Audio Engine Pg. 47":


If the continue reading, you'll find I can be forgiving when it comes to the specific needs of a project when it comes to "rolling your own" (and there is still work to be done between the audio toolset and the game engine, make no mistake). But generally speaking I would rather take the speed-up of purchasing something off the shelf to "get there faster" than go through the (unnecessary?) exercise of creating an audio toolset from scratch.

After seeing an article tweeted to #GameAudio called "The 16 Best DAW Software Apps in the World Today" it got me thinking about how great it would be to have 16 "Best" game audio middleware solutions to choose from.  That was, until Karen Collins chimed in asking "Do you really want to learn 16 of them?"

The burden of choice.

That got me wondering how many different game audio tools I have learned over the last 7-9 years of learning and development.  Which brings me to today's task.

A list of the Game Audio Toolsets I've had the privilege of working with during my time in game audio:

ISACT: Creative Labs 
Ambient Cow Demo

Source Engine (HL2)
Valandil/ Age of Chivalry (Mod)

Direct Music Producer: Microsoft
Gatheryn (Unreleased)

Proprietary: Open Source Developed - 0 A.D. (Wildfire Games)
Proprietary: Telltale Tool - All Telltale Episodes (Telltale)
Proprietary: aIMUSE - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (LucasArts)
Proprietary: Cubase - RockBand Unplugged & Lego RockBand (Harmonix)
Proprietary: Scream - Uncharted 3 (Naughty Dog)
Proprietary: Dead Space 3

FMOD Designer: Firelight Studios 
Conan (Nihilistic)
A Vampyre Story (Autumn Moon)
Faxion (True Games)

Wwise: Audiokinetic
The Saboteaur (Pandemic)
Star Wars: The Old Republic (Bioware)
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 (LucasArts)
Infamous 2 (Sucker Punch)
XCOM - The Bureau (2k Marin)
Marvel Heroes (Secret Identity)
Plants vs. Zombies 2 (Popcap)
Peggle 2 (Popcap)

Here are some other game audio audio tools I haven't shipped with but have fiddled around a bit:

Miles 9
CRI Middleware
Unity Audio
Fabric
Sectr Audio
Unreal Audio

Total Unique Game Audio Tools I've Loved Before: 11

After all of these years and great experiences stepping into Other Peoples Projects as a freelancer, I might be biased in saying that the emergence of audio middleware has brought a welcome stability to the shifting-sands of game audio. There are many comparisons to be made between the world of DAWs and Game Audio Specific tools. With both FMOD Studio and Wwise (beginning in 2013.1) the addition of "DAW like" functionality brings the two closer in functionality. Will we see a full crossover in the future? Will there be a day when we are presenting the 16 Best Game Audio Middleware Toolsets?

Stick around, I can't wait to find out!

-lcl

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Going In-House: 7 Years A Freelancer


Since I first made the giant leap into the games industry 7 years ago, I've always been a contract resource for studios to hire when their titles needed a little help in the technical sound department. Under the wing of Bay Area Sound during my first 4 years it was always clear what my role and specialty was within their tight-knit network of professionals. Much credit goes to Julian for recognizing my passion for the technical-side of game sound and constantly finding ways for me to flex that muscle on various projects. My aspirations to create a position for myself where I could bridge the gap between sound content and games was made easier by my focus on implementation. This specialty turned out to be something that, during the previous console generation, was just beginning to gain acknowledgement as a legitimate career path.

After 7 years of fire-fighting and acting the #GameAudio "Mr. Wolf" for projects in various states of completion, I've just accepted a full-time in-house position as part of a large development team as a "Technical Audio Lead" (a job which would've been hard to imagine all those years ago). In this role I'll be helping to inform, create, and help lead the technical focus of audio across a variety of projects and platforms with the goal of building a unified way of integrating sound in games. While the edge of the chasm that separates a WAV file from the game has closed considerably thanks to companies like Audiokinetic and Firelight, there remains a gap that still must be bridged. Some of this gap is unique to a specific game and some of the solutions apply across all games, things like: animation systems, game-objects, game-state systems, or physics sound. I'm really excited to have the ability to affect long-term change and hopefully create a pipeline that will enable the creative use of dynamic sound for the audio team I'll be working with.

With that in mind, I'll be moving the family across the country from Minneapolis (Reprazent!) to Seattle this summer. The game audio community in Seattle has been extremely inviting over my past year of travels. I've met a ton of great people and connected face-to-face with many colleagues who I had previously only corresponded with online. I'm really looking forward to starting a new chapter of my career and getting to know the Pacific Northwest a bit better.

I want to take a moment to thank all of the teams, people, mentors, and visionaries that I've had a chance to work with over the last 7 years. The opportunities I've had, and access I was granted, to help make peoples audio-visions a reality has been an incredibly formative experience.

I hope this find you all well in the new year!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Technical Sound Design - Illustrations


Illustrating the art of technical sound design can be a tricky thing. Fundamentally the role I play is usually as a supporting actor for the lead role of content creator. My job is to make other peoples sounds sound good, so to speak. How that get's done from project-to-project can be a bit of a mystery. A little bit of pipeline, some animation tagging, ambient placement in a level editor, text file hackery, code spelunking, maybe some audio middleware wrangling? I've always tried to expose the inner workings of the process: from my first title rocking FMOD on Conan, unleashing mad physics on StarWars: The Force Unleashed, complicated vehicle simulations of The Saboteur, and now Uncharted 3.

Game audio demo's for technical sound design are inherently difficult to create. How do you express in a video the  process of finding and unifying the implementation across over 300 doors in a game like Dead Space 3? Or what about the look of the producers face when one morning, after weeks of preparation, you flip the switch on the impact implementation for 150 physics objects in Uncharted 3? Pushing thousands of lines of dialog through the pipeline on Marvel Heroes was no small task, but how to show the work?

If you're lucky enough to have survived the development of a game you at least have the pixels on screen and the sound from the speakers to tell the tale, but in the case of technical sound design that is usually only half the story. So it's always a challenge when I try to put together something that represents the work that I've done. Thankfully I've gotten to work with some amazing sound designers (on some amazing projects!) whose work helps carry some of the explanatory text that seems like a necessary evil in these long-form video exposés. Hopefully the side-effect of creating these is that people can gain a greater understanding of the work that goes into making great sounds sound great in-game. It should be clear (by now) that sound for games is nothing like film. Nowhere is this more true than in the role of technical sound design.

Uncharted 3 - Technical Sound Design: Physics Set Pieces from lost lab on Vimeo.

Uncharted 3 - Technical Sound Design: Procedural Animation from lost lab on Vimeo.

Uncharted 3 - Technical Sound Design: Physics Impacts from lost lab on Vimeo.

Uncharted 3 - Technical Sound Design: Animation Set Pieces from lost lab on Vimeo.

Star Wars - The Force Unleashed:
The Saboteur: Conan: