Monday, February 05, 2007
Diversity and Non-Standard Randomization
The limitless potential of diversity and non-standard randomization.
We've all been there, several hours into a game and we just can't take it anymore. The same gunshot over and over, a signature spell or power-up...whatever the case, we've all been bitten by the repetition bug at some point in our gaming marathons. Some of these cases seem to have been deliberately crafted to impart their sonic signature on your brain in no uncertain terms, others were simply due to space and budget constraints. For example; the famous Zelda chime, Pac-Man's gobble, super Mario's jump...all have left a lasting & pleasurable impression in my mind as the quintessential sound of each action they represent, whereas the same four footsteps looping for several hours in any RPG have not.
It is now becoming standard to introduce randomization and weighted prioritization of sounds of the same type in order to introduce an amount of further believability.
The case for the use of these techniques should not be underestimated as the savvy gamer will quickly be pulled out of the moment by the ceaseless repetition of the exact same sound over and over. Unless this repetition is meant as a sonic-branding of the sound in order to promote its singularity, the sound will quickly grow tiring in a game that uses it often.
Another way to combat repetition is though the randomization of adjustable parameters such as volume and pitch. Most audio engines support this ability, and if a sound is assigned an acceptable range within which to randomize, you will get a large variable of potential sounds playing back with a high degree of diversity.
Figure out a way to turn four footsteps into forty, or multiply the number of different explosions by ten. Build a system that uses and recycles layers of sound that are combined in-engine, resulting in a random selection of sounds in each layer. Break down your ambiance into a combination of long loops and randomized stingers, instead of settling for a stereo mix.
In todays game design culture it is often taken for granted the large number of assets needed to create an appealing world that remains interesting throughout the course of game play. Even as available space continues to grow on todays consoles, it still remains a necessary task to do as much with as little as possible. As sound designers, we can plan for, and extend the use of sound using implementation tools in order to diversify the audio landscape of the game world.