Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Saboteur - Pandemic R.I.P: Heavy Reflection

2009 is drawing to a close, the year is slowly slipping into memory.

The Saboteur recently shipped, and as I'm looking back on the last year I can't help but reflect on my involement with the now defunct Pandemic Software Inc.

During the almost 2 years of my involvement with the audio production traversing the early pre-production "get something in there" phase, through to the final finesse and polish of the systems we retained responsibility over, it was a conitunal pleasure working with the individuals responsible for bringing the sound of the world to life. Some of those sounds have been captured in various sound related gameplay video's that I've captured to highlight the involvement of Bay Area Sound on the project and can be found over in the Saboteur Video Album.

                            I'm wishing the best to those of you who might have found your particular boats rudderless in the current economy, and wishing everyone the best in the new year.

Into the future with 2010!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Force Unleashed - Stories from a Sound Guy

There's a nice post over at Stories from a Sound Guy that fills in some of the successes and failures involved in the creation and iteration of the physics sounds from TFU. Sound Designer Erik Forman did a great job of working with David to make sure the content sets were dialed in to the level of detail necessary to represent the system as it evolved over time. He does a great job outlining some of the technical challenges from a Sound Design perspective that he was able to overcome through iteration and top quality communication. Keep your ears peeled for some of his sounds in the TFU2 trailer!

Erik Forman - Stories from a Sound Guy: The Force Unleashed


Monday, November 30, 2009

Game Audio Podcast Launched!

Anton Woldek and I have recently Launched the Game Audio Podcast.

The general premise of the Game Audio Podcast is to provide an entertaining perspective into our little corner of the world, and shed some light on the challenges we're all facing through discussion topics, industry related news, the game audio showroom, gear news, and special guests.

The idea came from discussions that get started at conventions, in sessions, on forums, and in chat rooms throughout the year. Often we would find ourselves talking with peers about general concepts, techniques, creative solutions to limitations...and we found that, for us, it wasn't enough to just touch base once and awhile and throw around our experiences and opinions.

Our goal is to extend some of those conversations and share the idea’s and thoughts that come from mixing up a diverse group of professionals and engage them in a topical discussion.

Hopefully we will succeed in bringing together some good conversations!


Monday, November 16, 2009

The Bloop of Cthulu

Is real life turning into some kindof Videogame?
Make: Online - The bloop of Cthulu?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Conan - Melee System Overview

We did something interesting with the impacts and deflection for the 9 weapons and 8 melee types used in the X360/PS3 title Conan for Nihilistic Software.

For the uninitiated, Conan is a brutal hack and slash combat game that combines scalable abilities upgrades with strategized battle interactions. You can get an overview of the gameplay in this article: Edge Review - Conan

I'm attempting an overview of the melee specific weapon system we implemented using FMOD Designer and other Nihilistic proprietary in-house tools. Throughout the process, the overarching goal was to add diversity and brutality to what is the main focus of the game. The use of content level variation, pitch and volume randomization, and elemental layering allowed us tomake the sounds of combat non-repetitive over the course of the game.

In the system that we built, weapons were able to perform the following actions:

Blocked Break
Blocked Heavy
Blocked Light
Hit Heavy
Hit Light

In a game so heavily focused on combat where you spend each level mowing down enemies from start to finish, we knew that we had to make a combat system that reflected the core gameplay objective of giving the player diversity while making the sound varied enough to prevent fatigue.

Hit's are defined as actions that impact an NPC and cause damage, and we were tracking both Light and Heavy hits.

We used a game parameter for surface type that was passed from the games collision detection to FMOD in order to track what surface was being impacted. The FMOD Event that was triggered was based on the weapon type being used by either the player or NPC and whether the hit was Heavy or Light or Deflected, it then received it's material type parameter and jumped to it's correct position within the FMOD event where it then layered the impact sound depending on weapon and material type.

For a Hit Light or Heavy we layered the following things where applicable:
Base Layer (Weapon type specific)
-Axe Dull Heavy

-Axe Dull Light

-Axe Metal Heavy

-Axe Metal Light

-Axe Solid Heavy

-Axe Solid Light

-Sword Dull Heavy

-Sword Dull Light

-Sword Metal Heavy

-Sword Metal Light

-Sword Solid Heavy

-Sword Solid Light

-Sword Wood Heavy

-Sword Wood Light

Hit Accent (Material Specific)
-Flesh Heavy

-Flesh Light

Hit (Thud) Actor Specific
-Flesh Boss Specific

Hit Ringoff (Weapon type specific)


Hit Blood level
-Blood Splash Small

-Blood Splash Medium

-Blood Splash Large

-Blood Splat Small

-Blood Splat Medium

-Blood Splat Large

Hit Special Ringoff (Weapon specific)
-Used for special Conan ringoff


Piling up the above elemental content into an audio middleware tool where everything is recombined at runtime the effects of different weapons and material hit's randomized when trigered sound like this:

Combined Weapon Hit Impacts
-Axe Light Flesh

-Axe Heavy Flesh

-Axe Heavy Stone

-Axe Heavy Armor

-Sword Light Flesh

-Sword Heavy Flesh

-Sword Special Flesh

-Sword Light Stone


For non-damage causing hit's usually specifically involving weapon interaction with the environment, we used a different Event for deflections.

Similar to the Hit system outlined above, we layered the following things when a weapon type deflected off a surface:

Base Layer (Weapon type specific)
-Axe Dull Heavy/Light
-Axe Metal Heavy/Light
-Axe Solid Heavy/Light
-Sword Dull Heavy/Light
-Sword Metal Heavy/Light
-Sword Solid Heavy/Light
-Sword Wood Heavy/Light

Deflect Accent (Material Specific)



-Cloth Rip





Deflect LFE
Deflect Additional
-Used for extra heavyness

These were combined at runtime each time the sword deflected off a material in the environment. Additional limiting of the number of voices for the deflect event helped to prevent "stuttering" as the weapons blade tracked through an object. FMOD's Event limiting system is well equipped to handle this aspect of implementation by providing mulitple max playbacks, and max playback behaviors.

Deflect Combined


-Cloth Rip



-Stone 01

-Stone 02

-Stone 03

-Stone 04



The system we built for Conan built to the strength of the IP and the genre.

Conan - Melee Combat Sound from d k on Vimeo.

Fable2 - The Way of Layered Weapon Sound

Another game that successfully used the layered Weapons approach was Fable2 by Lionhead. (Microsoft game Studio's) In a talk given by Kristofer Mellroth at GDC 2009 titled: The Audio of FABLE 2: Large Scale Collaboration for Next Gen Games, the weapon system for Fable2 was outlined to illustrate the decisions that were made regarding content, and implementation. The basic building blocks of melee and ranged weapon combat were abstracted at the content level and recombined at runtime using a constantly shifting set of source material controlled by gameplay variables.

In Fable 2 there were 7 types of melee weapons with 5 levels of sound interaction: Swipe, Strike, Scrape, Ring, Block, and Flourish.

Swipe – the sound of the melee weapon swinging through the air.

Strike – the muted hit of the weapon striking any object.

Scrape – the sound of the weapon scraping as it passes through an object.

Ring – the pleasant ring of a weapon that has struck cleanly.

Block – a dissonant clang of the weapon as it collides with another weapon.

Flourish – a special longer, sweetened version of the weapon swipe to convey the sense of a move with greater power.

Sound for these different actions were combined and randomized according to type with weighting and some with the potential to not play when triggered.

For instance when the Player connected a hit on an NPC the game would play a Swipe, followed by a combination of Strike, Scrape, Ring in order to arrive at a coherent impact.

By breaking out the separate elements  of each melee type and allowing for content and parameter variation the diversity of swings and impacts are increased. As we continue to move forward with larger worlds that demand less repetition of often repeatable actions, the elemental approach to combat continues to be our greatest asset in driving toward less fatiguing audio.

Also see Video: New Fable 2 Developer Diary Talks Audio
Article: The Sound Design of Fable 2: How We Scaled to Beat the Clock

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Conan - Sound Examples

Finally gotten round to pulling together a set of gameplay and audio implementation related video's for the Conan project I was involved with some time ago.

Some of the tricks were outlined awhile back through this thread over at Game Audio Forum.

Most of these techniques have become commonplace in the current generation of game including things like: distance based LPF, game parameters tied to DSP, layered melee combat systems, and state based interactive music. It's always good to be able to look back on a project after some time has passed and fondly remember the good times.

Hope you find something of interest!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Orb-tacular Pixel Junk

The Pixel Junk series from Q-Games has been a consistently artistic venture since their first Monsters edition, through Eden, and now with the impending release of Shooter. Sitting in on a localized presentation with the primary artist of Eden was like watching a Japanese Hippy Mystic hold court over a kingdom of geeks while talking about Rorschach, dripping oils, and spaced out sea life.

With Shooter, Q-Games will be adding High Frequency Bandwidth as the soundtrack creator. Comprised of one half of The Orb, good things can be counted on for the music propulsion of this fluid simulation showcase.

Dylan Cuthbert on Q-Games Audio from Jeriaska on Vimeo.

Bonus Points:
Baiyon Interviews The Behemoth

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Fatale: Audio Only Trailer

In what can only be called a leveling of the playing field when it comes to video game trailers, Tale of tales has released an audio only trailer for their forthcoming game "Fatale":

"One of the cornerstones of our approach to design for interactive entertainment, is that all elements in the production are of equal importance," says the company's co-founders and designers Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn. "We do not single out any element above any other: 3D artwork, animation, interaction, text, sound and music all contribute in equal parts to the multi-sensory experience."

Thank goodness for the sanity of some people.
(although, can that truly be said after hearing the contents of the trailer?)

Great stuff, decide for yourselves!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Austin GDC - SoundWars: The Physics Unleashed REDUX

The conference is officially over now and after a few days of reflection I can say it was a brilliant return to form, from the smaller days of San Jose when a close knit group of audio people stumbled from the Fairmont into the wild fueled by discussions of Sound Design, Interactive Music, and Implementation Madness.

The presentation that David Collins and I did went really well, our combination of creative vision and technical knowledge really helped keep things entertaining during what could have been a dry recounting of challenges and our particular solutions to the Physics Sound conundrum.

What I am constantly reminded of at GDC, is the idea that usually those of us in the community are all working towards solving some of the same problems in parallel. You get the great insight when talking to other Game Audio heads that there is no right way, and you are limited by your creativity, memory budget, and programming resources. During a console generation where we are still striving toward bringing the best experience to the player, we need to all try and remember to focus on Sound and Systems to support the game that is emerging from development.

I think we had it easy on The Force Unleashed, this was a game that was all about kicking ass with the Force. The expectation is that the big stuff would be really big, but I'm also glad we spent time making sure that the fidelity was there for when the player lets off on the gas pedal.

To anyone out there wrestling with the game Audio puzzle, know that there are dedicated and passionate people in the world working hard to do great and artistic things for our medium. I was lucky enough to meet a few down in Austin this year.

For a brief and accessible overview of the Physics sound refer to Jesse Harlin's majestic article from Game Developer Magazine where he outlines each of the systems, and some of the challenges we faced.

If you  weren't on the Ground in Austin this year, and are interested in the slides from the presentation which present a deeper understanding of the technical side of each of the can grab them here:
Sound Wars: The Physics Unleashed - Presentation Slides

The example video's highlighting the different systems and material types can be found here:

Keep dreaming it,

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


In case you did'nt know:

Always a pleasure: PlayBeast

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Austin GDC - SoundWars: The Physics Unleashed

In September I'll be headed down to the Austin Game Developers Conference to give a presentation with David Collins (LucasArts) on the Physics sounds and systems implemented in StarWars: The Force Unleashed.

Thankfully very early on in the development of the project, the different physics Middleware providers were decided on. This distributed the task of making them all play nicely together over the full course of the project. There was alot of solid iteration time on the audio side that allowed us the ability to maximize the sound content, resources, and implementation used to bring the sound of destruction a sense of scale and reality. It was a great challenge with a tremendous amount of big audio brains crunching on the solutions that led us to the final product.

Drop me a line if you're headed down that way!
September's not so far away.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sound of Kong

I was reminded while skimming through some old pictures of some scans I grabbed from a book on the making of the original King Kong that talked a bit about the sound design process. It's always fascinating to find these nuggets of wisdom!

King Kong Sound Scans

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ball Droppings

Another cool noise toy for yr browser physics experiments.

Ball Droppings

See also:
World of Sand


Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Feed it a YouTube Video and watch it go!

yooouuutuuube Murakami


Thursday, April 09, 2009


Piggybacking off the posting over at the music of sound, and coming hot on the heels of my last post on the Hobnox:'s the ToneMatrix.

Also recently added as part of the Hobnox Toolset!


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hobnox: AudioTool

Maybe I'm late to the party...but if I had something like this when I was a youngster, I might not have spent thousands of dollars on equipment:

Hobnox: AudioTool

Web 2.0, indeed!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

fl0wer - The Beautiful Game

A great interview with a game maverick:

Q: Why don't you play games anymore?

Jenova Chen: I still occasionally play games, but I don't play a lot of new games because I feel that games have to be - for adults like me - more relevant to my life. When you go out to an art gallery or go to see a movie, you're expecting the film [or art] to either inform you on an intellectual level about certain aspects of life or entertain you on a deep emotional level.

I think a lot of games fail to educate you on an intellectual level, and the emotions they evoke are relatively primal. They are too shallow. Games are very good at making you feel excited, feel thrilled, and feel addicted, but these are the feelings that are very primal - that younger kids or teenagers will respond very well to. As adults we expect to feel something more complex and more sophisticated.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

So you want to work in game audio?

Project BBQ has recently released the 2008 reports, including one on the topic of Game Audio Careers and the different titles and skills that are currently at large.

Included is a Game Audio Skillset Matrix that attempts to pull all of this info together for easy digestion.

Bob over for a list of resources, courses and programs in Game Audio, and a snapshot of what the Game Audio industry looks like.

Group Report: So you want to work in game audio?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

wWise: SoundSeed

You better believe it!
We all need new tools in our tool box once and awhile, and Audiokinetic has really come through with their new Sound Seed plug-in.

While the process is currently a bit academic, the finished results and size thereof are a true testament to a creative bunch of people trying to solve the industries foremost current challenges: memory & diversity.

It starts with a bang and a pow, lets see how we end up after some experimentation.

Check it out: SoundSeed

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Game Developer's Front Line Awards 2008: FMOD

Here's a nice write up of the FMOD audio middleware solution I did for Game Developer Magazine recently.

Game Developer's Front Line Awards 2008: FMOD

I have to say that tools like FMOD Designer, AudioKinetics wWise, and in-house tools that scale across the digital divide are totally enabling my particular niche and profession within the game industry.

Now if someone could find a way to work some knobs into an interface for implementing sound, I think I'd be all set! then again, maybe I'm just nostalgic for hardware?

Happy New Year!