Friday, December 16, 2011

Article Grab - The View is Incredible

wip view from the new desk
Sometimes it feels like the more you write, the more you write. But maybe I'm just saying that because I seem to have found myself all rolled up into a binge of black and white text lately that makes the idea of an everything milkshake sound like a good idea. While helplessly buried under a deluge of non-sequiters, hopeless metaphors, and witty gestural stabs that no one will get, I often turn to the writing of others to help prop up my feeble attempts and grand gesticulations.

Couple this with a fascination I've stumbled on recently for uncovering the secrets of game audio through the articles of yesteryear viewed through the filter of time from scattered corners of the internet, and within the many boxes of antique magazines I recently unpacked here at the new Kastle Kastbauer. Rather than dull the fine luster of these stone tablets of wisdom resurrected from the pressed pages of dead trees with my unwieldy commentary, I leave you to peruse the pontifications of others in area's of interactive audio from bygone era.

1994 Electronic Musician -  Big Game Hunting


1995 Mix Magazine: Multimedia Frontiers - Interview Scott Gershin


2007 Mix Magazine - Interview Scott Gershin


May your perspective on these ancient tomes allow you to decipher their message and allow you bring back the fruits of your labor to share with us all and lift up game audio on high with your generosity this holiday season and throughout the new year!


Monday, October 31, 2011

5 Years - Technical Sound Design

Nostalgia has a way of catching up with me, the effect of which is often reflected back on this space. Likely this is because I find myself blogging less frequently (with bolder proclamations) than within 140 characters or beneath an umbrella of another colour.  The 5 year anniversary of launching my professional career seemed like a good time to pull things together. I'm a big fan of taking things as they come and trusting in the universe to provide signposts and guides along the way to help carry things through. Looking back there have been so many things that seem to have magically fallen into place.

Since joining the AAA game space I've helped ship 23 titles across 11 studios, of which one studio has officially crossed over to the other side. I spent 3 years prior to landing my first gig trying a bit of everything having to do with game audio, which included things like: carnival music for a hippo spelling game (fail), building XMF for a location based mobile game (pain), and directing the audio team for an independent RTS that is still in production (0 A.D.). The first GDC I went to in the spring of 2006 with an over-engineered demo reel which attempted to bridge the akwardness of trying to demo implementation with a Olivia Newton-John voiced robot cat.

I was quick to identify what I didn't like about creating sound for games, but the process of understanding what I did like was a much slower road. I've often said that my formative years were spent scrubbing through the OpenAL API or HL2 Source SDK, because my thirst to decipher the art of game audio implementation was voracious and insatiable (not to mention, good resources were hard to find). Not that I understood the half of it, I'm not a programmer and don't aspire to be. Somewhere between the creation of content and the low-level language of today's game and audio engines I stumbled upon the emerging art of Technical Sound Design.

When I first started out on this career path, audio implementation seemed like little more than a stepping stone for content creators (both music and sound) to cut their teeth and eventually take them to their final destination. It continues to be a way into the industry, just like aspiring game designers coming up through QA, but it's also a legitimate aspiration in it's own right. Of course, it's not the kind of job you find advertised in the back of your local paper (even looking in the right places you might not necessary find it), but that doesn't mean it's not out there.

I can tell you with confidence that if you lead your search for a career by doing what you love, that there is place for your passion.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Game Audio Relevance - Launch

A year since the first installment and eight pages of game audio related goodness later and today is the dawning of a new day.

As a project of the IASIG, with the help of a team of volunteers, on the behalf of the Game Audio community, I'd like to introduce a new game audio related knowledge base:

Game Audio Relevance is all about providing game audio relevant links, articles, and videos in a curated and searchable means. While there are many other sources for game audio related articles and information, a “web search” does not always turn up reliable information. The purpose of this blog is to:

  • Provide content that is searchable using tags, with grouping based on searchable titles and the “tag cloud".

  • Broadcast these links across other social media as a game audio related stream of constantly updating information. (in particularly via the Twitter #GameAudio hashtag)

  • Replace static webpages that host links but don’t provide cross referencing, search, or tags.

    The name "Game Audio Relevance" is meant to portray that the information one will find is relevant to, but not necessarily exclusively about game audio. For example, many articles about audio recording or synthesis are relevant to game audio though not about game audio specifically.
    Subscribing via RSS or Twitter @IASIG_GamAudRel will keep you up to date on new posts and keep you in the loop on developments as we move forward.

    What started as a monthly round-up of links culled from the net, and increasingly from the fine contributors to the #gameaudio hashtag on twitter, turned into a serious endevour that only partially succeeded in providing a resource for those seeking knowledge. I say partially, because on more than one occasion I found myself scrubbing through my own pages to try and find that one link that was somehow tangentially related to the topic posted in the title heading linked in the post. What I found was that, once posted, these links became lost on the page and ceased to provide any function other than as a static post of interesting stuff spat out in a single place.

    If you've been hanging around game audio for awhile you'll know that good information exists, but can sometimes be hard to find. While there are a ton of great historic game audio resources and related link piles, internet search is still the most powerful way to begin digging into a specific area or topic in order to find relevant links within a narrow focus. Besides that, there are so many corners of the web where content experts are sharing their experiences in an open an honest way that may never fall into the widely cast net of research but possibly holds a critical perspective.

    Or maybe you just like watching the waterfall of information as it rushes past the RSS feed.

    With over 800 links already tagged, clouded, and cross referenced across the site you might find it interesting that:

    78 Posts Tagged with Synthesis
    69 Posts Tagged with Procedural Audio
    50 Posts on the ever elusive Interactive Music 
    and another 32 Posts Tagged with Adaptive Music

    Rob Bridgett edges out Alexander Brandon with 33 and 22 Posts respectively that mention or were written by them. (I'll wager there are darker corners of the world hiding other texts from each of them that have yet to be cataloged)
    And a whole bunch of other stuff that can be found through the Tag Search.

    Whether you find yourself nostagically researching Koji Kondo, Middleware, or wanting to dig deep into the history of MIDI, Game Audio Relevance should be the jumping off point for your research.

    If you are an author who is interested in having your game audio related writing cataloged and referenced or if you have time and interest in helping to grow this project, drop a mail to the address on the about page and we'll set you up with a streamlined web interface for contributing relevant links.  

    Keep those links coming and let's all ride the wave of knowledge in to the beach together!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Game Audio: Set Your Priorities

    Unfortunately not part of the Magic Eye series!
    I'm saving up all of my wordy goodness for a forthcoming post, but in the meantime I just wanted to get this off my chest:


    Here's a suggestion for where to start:

    VO_Important2D    95
    VO_Important3D    95
    Music        90
    HUD        90
    UI        90
    VO_Player    85
    Player_Effects    80
    Boss_Effects    75
    VO_Boss        75
    Vehicles    65
    Movers        65
    Wep_Explosions    65
    Wep_Guns    65
    Wep_Impacts    65
    NPC_Effects    60
    NPC_Vox        60
    UnImportSpeech    60
    Player_Foley    55
    Boss_Foley    55
    NPC_Foley    55
    Physics        50
    Env_Ambience    45
    Env_Emitters    45
    Default        40

    Any additions/subtractions/discussions/attractions?

    Into the future!

    Tuesday, June 07, 2011

    Audio: What Went Right

    Just a few words on the magical postmortem and a look as some developer relations. Hopefully those of you working at a a games company throughout the years have had the opportunity to reflect on the previous development cycle and strive to work smarter and carry forward solved problems into your companies next title. It should go without saying that within your department this institutional knowledge can contribute to building smoother pipelines and creating better sound for future projects.

    In addition to a previously excerpted (audio related) postmortem from the delightful Game Developer magazine, I'd also like to highlight a couple of additional postmortems that specifically called out audio as part of "What went right" during development:

    Dead Nation:

    I guess it's just always nice to see the audio team appreciated for their unseen contribution to the style and atmosphere. In addition to the congratulatory nature of being seen as part of what went right, I also hope that the postmortem process helps move forward the potential for sound at a company and allows for an opportunity to improve on existing things that work.

    Summer is here...and it's hot!

    Stay cool,

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Video Game Binge Weekend

    If you work in games, the above flowcharted representation of time management will probably ring a bell for anyone who has ever committed themselves to the consumption of these shiny interactive objects of mystery. In 1999 I implemented a mandatory binge weekend during the Thanksgiving holiday that involved little more than 5 consecutive days of hardcore gaming.  This was my allowance for the year and it was understood that I would be regressing deep into the worlds created by others.

    Life would have to continue of course, and you'll see plotted in the flow other things that would be filling up my time off. My priorities were split during the break between my family, house projects, and another pursuit that has dominated my life: rock and roll. This commitment to music was also reflected in that my wife holds down double duty as Bass Guitar and Flute Player in the unified pursuit of noise making. You'll see, deftly slotted, a casual reference to "Band Practice" which ended up represented over on the music side of this site.

    I hadn't owned a system since the Sega Genesis and so each year I would rent the console du jour, a current crop of interesting titles, then have at it for an extended visit back to the pixelated days of my youth. Through these brief skinny dips into the modern gaming culture of the day I experienced some great (and not so great games): Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong Country, Parasite Eve, Rez, Final Fantasy X, Myst, Tempest 2000, and countless others that have been lost to the slippery slope of memory.

    When it came time to get serious about a career (something that most people do early on in their life) I was already in the throes of fatherhood, a homeowner, and working a 9-5 to make ends meet. Out for a walk one day my wife asked me a deceptively simple question "If you could do anything and get paid for it, what would it be?" My answer was more than a little abstract, and I said "Make weird noises" and her response was "Well aren't there people who do that, and make a living?"

    It took months to calculate the simple equation that had been adding up all of my life:

    Games + Sound = Game Sound

    From there...well, you can read all about it on the home page. It's hard to say exactly how I got from there to here, impossible to retrace the steps, but looking back it all fell into place after that simple question was answered in the most naive way possible. After that was determined, it was all about figuring out what it meant and what needed to be done to make it happen...not exactly a straight line, that's for sure.

    For anyone out there following your bliss, the road isn't always easy but it comes with great rewards.
    Keep chasing the butterflies!


    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Game Audio Re-Education

    Turns out I've been at this for awhile (if you measure things in game years). I took a moment and paused this morning as I found myself on an archeological dig through a folder simply marked "Game Audio Presentations". Only it's not quite that simple (it never really is).

    Digging back through the documents I began to see my career unfolding with each slide. The fundamentals of my education read between the lines in technical documents and whitepapers. So many words written by so many influential people who I truly owe my grasp and understanding of interactive audio to. Thanks to everyone who ever spoke, wrote, or pontificated on the art sound in and/or around games.

    So without much (more) blubbering, and only a tiny bit of editing of the contents within the folder, I've zipped up the monsterous tome of game audio related madness and stuck it online in a convenient to download pile of pseudo-randomness. Many, if not all, of these can likely be found online given the resourcefulness of people in this day and age...but I've done the hard work for the past 7 years so you don't have to!

    If you find something in there that shouldn't, if you're the original author and would rather go unread, if there's something buried within a presentation that offends you...please drop a line and let me know. It would be great to hear about unearthed treasures and sparks of wisdom gleaned from these papers, please feel free to share your epiphanies and recommendations in the comments section.

    Otherwise, please go forth and learn:
    Download 700MB: Game Audio Presentations


    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Game Audio Relevance 008

    Infinite Jest - The Lung
    I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is a tremendous amount of Game Audio news spewing forth from the interwebs on a daily basis. While this series attempts to wrap them all up with a shiny bow every month, the never-ending march of time is constantly stomping on my "leisure" time. I've recently launched an IASIG working group with Jory of and we will be attempting to bring these links to a easily searchable, heavily tagged, and constantly updating content management system.

    This is an official call for assistance!

    If you are web savvy, looking to help build a database of Game Audio Relevant articles, and have some free time to spare...please do drop a line so that we can coordinate our efforts and round up this pile of content and get it out there for people to benefit from.

    Until then, the spice must flow!

    The Oxford Handbook of Interactive Audio Call for Papers April 1st Deadline rapidly approaching! 

    Vancouver Computer Music Meetings: 

    'Four Guns West' panel about Audio in multiple AAA fps games up on +

    What, @IASIG facebook Group? 
    Now with Pictures from the #GameAudioGDC Mixer!

    Did you know that the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group @IASIG is now on twitter? 
    Well now you do!

    .end of line.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    #GameAudioGDC 2011 Tweet Wrap & Photo Gallery

    Outside the Audio Sessions
    In the ephemeral stream of consciousness, it can often be hard to pin down the flow of a twitter stream. Here today, gone tomorrow; unless you were there, it may not have even happened. In an attempt to reel in some of the epiphanies shared by the community during GDC I'm rounding up a slightly modified chronological list of tweets as the came across the #GameAudioGDC hash tag.

    For any of you on the fence about this whole twitter thing, it can be a fascinating way to get specific content delivered to directly to your virtual doorstep. A curiosity for the time being, but no less fascinating for it's constant ebb and flow.

    You can find me on twitter @lostlab and the #GameAudio hash tag is usually on fire with news, musings, and relevant links to Game Audio related goodness.

    Thanks to everyone who throws out a comment, shares an article, or pontificates on the state of interactive audio. We're all moving forward together to learn and digest what we can about this emerging artform. It's great to be part of it all!
    Frank Bry, Robin Arnott (hat), Chuck Russsom (plaid), Howard Mostrom (back of head)
    GDC 2011: Tuesday

    Strategy: Meetings today with PSAI, FMOD, and Gigantic Software. #GameAudio Boot camp first to cheer for the new blood.

    Badge acquired, schwag disseminated, eazy duz it. Who's in the house at #GameAudioGDC ???

    Squeaky cart just rolled by, thought it was the pied piper, followed it down the rabbit hole.

    The room here at #GameAudioGDC boot camp is full of awesome Game Audio people. So much potential in this room!

    Scott Selfon currently dropping Game Audio science with excellent examples. Halo 3 IWHBYD Easter Egg changing rare dialog weight.

    Fallout 3 VR segment: either kill everyone or play the correct sequence of sounds to get out of it. Game Audio player choice.

    SSX Tricky ducks drums in the music during in-air jump multiplier as example of interactive Game Audio

    PSAI: Emotional Music AI behind the curtain pulls invisible strings to adjust soundtrack dynamically.

    FMOD Studio: Only showing interactive mixing functionality running in-game using @DoubleFine Stacking while tweaking realtime.

    Gigantic Software: Here comes something slightly different. One to watch.

    So many great people tonight at the Chieftan, the un-official #GameAudioGDC meetup so far. So open, so honest, so good.

    #GameAudioGDC Sessions officially begin tomorrow, Expo opens, mayhem officially ensues. Those of you on the ground: Bring your A game

    (?) , Steve Johnson, Stefan Strandberg, Simon Poole
    GDC 2011: Wednesday

    Strategy: Rounding up with folks from Audiokinetic in a few, wobbling the Expo floor, then fun starts. Today is lit to pop!

    Wwise still bringing their A game in an impressive combination of intelligence, personalitity, and raw power. Absolutely sublime.

    Miles: completely revamps their tool UI and makes impressive strides towards being a viable alternative.

    Miles: They've got this wired up to a USB control surface mixing in realtime. Not pretty, but functional.

    @DefactoSound "Visuals are a window into an immersive audio world" Brian Schmidt on #GameAudioGDC

    4 Guns West Panel: Orchestrated powerhouse of experience/creativity from source to in-game delivered rapid-fire by rock stars.

    @fbpsound Psychoacoustics Mixing talk: especially the LFE part of this presentation rocks. Lots of good info

     Steve Johnson, Charles Maynes (back of head), (?) , (?) , Chuck Russom

    GDC 2011: Thursday

    Capcom: How well integrated audio tools saved the game or How to re-build your Game Audio engine w/ some cool real time functionality.

    Into the belly of the beast to hear @richienieto drop casual game music science on an unsuspecting crowd.

    Just in time to hear @richienieto advocate for experimental music outside the norm in casual games

    @kidkoexist: Martin Stig Andersen is an audio poet

    @GL33kler: Limbo audio talk was awesome. Best talk I've seen at a GDC in a long time

    @LampEightAudio: Eye-opening lecture on the decisions behind LIMBO..crossing ideas of acousmatic/ real-life sound.Loved it.

    @patrickbalthrop: Limbo audio talk=blown away....far away

    @fbpsound Just looking at Thief's musical in-house tool GRAMPS. Generative music goodness. Infinite amounts of spaced out soundtrack.

    @fbpsound Gramps is linked directly to wwise. This program can make wonderful textures out of just one sample, and never repeat exactly

    GDC speaker party = skipped, Kill Screen event I had ticket for = skipped, late night debauchery = skipped.

    (?) , (?) , Ellen Meijers, (?) , Caron Weidner
    GDC 2011: Friday

    I'll be the guy moving in real-time today at #GameAudioGDC. It's the the secret to giving todays improv presentation without flailing.

    Thinking about whether to kick it in gear for the last day of #GameAudioGDC? Joanna Orlands talk @ 9am on ambient sound for GoW3 is gonna rock!

    For those of you that make it to Footsteps, stick around for Brian Mins talk on choppin' up Chopin for @doublefine stacking.

    #GDC Is not over yet, so many great Game Audio sessions today. Go outside your discipline and soak up some sonic goodness on the 3rd floor!

    There are TWO procedural #GameAudioGDC talks today, and at least 8 professionals working in the field here this week. What does it all mean?

    @emilyindustries to deliver the ROCK later today at #GameAudioGDC She always brings the A game, if you're still around @ 3:30 best reprazent!

    There are an inspiring amount of people here at #GameAudioGDC this morning.

    @chuck_russom: Audio peeps at GDC. You are all going to Damian's footstep talk at 10am. That is not a question or request. Fucking go.

    Thanks for the kind words and support from the #GameAudioGDC peeps. It was great sharing my experience, and thanks again for sharing yours!

    IASIG Town Hall @ 12:30 3rd Fl West. Find a way to brown bag it!

    Footstep wisdom from Peter @pryamind - Uncharted puzzle only solvable by listening to footsteps walking on (buried) trapdoor.

    Footsteps Retro Sound Study Video - Part of my #GameAudioGDC Game Audio presentation:

    Education panel at the IASIG Town Hall is seeding the future of Game Audio with their recently published curriculum guideline.

    Comments from Ben Minto after my talk re: Mirrors Edge was insightful and an example of the beauty of #GameAudioGDC Props to @_KoiN as well!

    Mind being blown: Crackdown 2 uses procedural audio for all physics impacts, why wasn't I notified until now? Brilliant!

    The researcher previously worked at GAMMA.

    Let's blow the doors wide open: Crackdown 2 uses procedural audio for footsteps...and they sound pretty darn good!

    Someone once told me this, but I forgot/ didn't believe it. #thefutureisnow

    Now reeling with pre computated wave simulation for obstruction/ occlusion. Comparisons are staggering in their beauty.

    Keep em' peeled for the slides and audio from the Crackdown 2 Procedural Audio session. This work is leading the charge!

    Nice to hear Angel from #MassiveAttack used in the environmental simulations. Classy choice!

    Crackdown 2 research, papers, demo's:

    At @emilyindustries #GameAudioGDC talk. Takeaway: Publishers think kids love phat beats. Emily says no, gives them Bernard Herman as temp!

    @lostlab Just made a cameo when Emily's phone buzzed after that last tweek. Soooooooo meta!

    @emilyindustries Music shouldn't be just another implementation flag for game play. All about emotions.

    Absolutely track down the slides from this presentation. They are full of cheeky comedy, hilarious anecdotes, and 100% personality.

    @emilyindustries Brutal Legend music design mantra: "Wouldn't it be cool if..." Yes, it would be VERY cool!

    @drenmc just made a cameo at the talk via vibration. I'm proud to be in the company of so many tweeps.

    Been poaching electricity in this room from side wall everyday during GDC. Today, bad ass soundguy ran me an extension cord. Can you tell?:) 
    Joe(?), Justin Mullens, Hilary (back turned), Stephan Baker, Dallas Taylor
     @woldhek: @lostlab gdc_outr_0010 lostlab "yada yada yada heart gdc" vol:1.0 min:5 max: 30 wet:1.0 Game Audio geekery ftw

    Procedural Game Audio was ON FIRE at #GameAudioGDC this year!

    Chuck Russom, Paul Fox, (?) , Howard Mostrom (back turned) Frank Bry, Steve Johnson

    GDC 2011 Pictures:

    @sklathill (Vincent Diamante) GDC 2011 Photo Stream:

    Nobuooo's 2011 GDC flickr photoset:

    Nikunj Raghuvanshi, Francois Thibault, Kenny Young, Matt Piersall, Bobby Arlauskas, Tom Bible, Neil Wakefield, Ben Minto, Chris Sweetman
    Charles Deenan, John Byrd, Adam Levenson, Scott Gershin (with cap)
    Matt Piersall, Aaron Brown, Frank Bry, Tom Bible (back turned), Howard Mostrom, Steve Johnson (back turned)
    Frank Bry, Howard Mostrom, Tom Bible
    Jeff Edward Ball
    Kurt Larson
    Stephan Baker
    Justin Mullens
    Howard Mostrom
    Matt Piersall
    Tom Bible, Aaron Brown
    So many good people, so many great conversations, such a great community to be a part of.
    Until next year!

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Attention All You Bearded and Mustached Men of Marvel

    Why? Just cuz!

    GDC 2011: Game Audio Middleware

    Coming to you Hot off the expo floor last week from this years GDC is a round up of distributed materials and public knowledge gleaned while Hot on the trail of the new Hotness in Game Audio Middleware. (HOT HOT HOT!) These sell sheets efficiantly summarize this years offerings from Firelight's FMOD and RAD Game Tools Miles. Always a step ahead of the curve, this info doesn't seem to have made it up on their respective websites yet, but that won't stop me from sharing them with YOU right NOW!

    FMOD Studio Specifications and News Update

    Miles Sound System 9

    But that's not all true-believers, behind closed doors the interactive audio community was a-buzz. With new offerings from Gigantic Software (be sure to see the Ken Burns UI teaser on their site) and PSAI (Periscope Studio Audio Intelligence), good conversations with the teams at Audiokinetic and Firelight, and the technology on display throughout the sessions; you couldn't ask for a better barometer on the state of Game Audio.

    For those of you just tuning in at home, the technical side of Game Audio is ALIVE and KICKING!
    So many people working together to enable those of us in the industry who are constantly reaching for the magic button or hidden feature that will help to sell the interactive experience with sound.

    Thanks to everyone working out there to make life easier and better sounding in games!

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    #GameAudioGDC Party Calendar #GDC #GDC2011

    Time to get on the Merry-Go-Round.
    These are the Game Audio related and otherwise GDC worthy events I know about. Got more? Post em up here or tweet em over to the #GameAudioGDC hash tag.

    Can't wait to hear about the cool things people are doing with sound and interactive.
    Looking  forward to seeing you all there!

    Make sure you find me,