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Game music: The next generation

Game music: The next generation

Mon 12 Aug 2013 2:00pm GMT / 10:00am EDT / 7:00am PDT
Development

Martin O'Donnell, Jesper Kyd and Jason Graves on making music for the biggest games in the world, and what PS4 and Xbox One mean for the industry

We may be entering a new era of the 'celebrity' game director and auteur, where the likes of Bleszinski and Kojima are household names uttered as casually as Spielberg or Scorcese, but there's another role in the game industry that's been growing, albeit more quietly, in stature over the past decade: the game music composer.

Speaking to Martin O'Donnell, the man behind the unforgettable sounds of the Halo series and forthcoming FPS MMO Destiny; Jesper Kyd, who in a vast career has worked on everything from MDK to Assassin's Creed and Borderlands 2; and Jason Graves, who composed the nightmarish soundscapes of the latest Tomb Raider and the Dead Space trilogy, I was given an inside view on the unique journeys of these artists, the challenges they've conquered and now face, and - not least - what next gen means for the modern composer.

Historical milestones

With leaps in processing power and visual fidelity so striking and momentous in the past decade, it's easy to forget - or simply not comprehend - the major milestones in game music composing and sound design that have come to shape how we hear our games.

"When Microsoft came out with the Xbox specs, for me, that was the siren call: to be on the same system people were watching movies on"

Martin O'Donnell

For Martin O'Donnell, Bungie's uniquely titled "audio director/composer", it was one game in particular that changed the way he saw game music. "Myst was the game that got me interested in the switch from film and commercial music into games," he says. "I saw an aesthetic shift from a constant soundtrack of music - like in the early Nintendo and Sony days - where games seemed to have this constant soundtrack telling you everything you needed to know because they couldn't do dialogue or convincing sound effects. It was all very MIDI-sounding, 8-bit things."

O'Donnell believes that Myst's revolution was - as with many innovations in the game industry since its birth - driven by the enabler of new technology.

"It was technology, I think, just holding it back," he says. "It was the coming together of technology and a creative vision that [revolutionised] game music at that time. When I saw Myst I saw something doing a more ambient score telling an emotional story rather constantly being music in my head. As soon as I heard that I thought 'ok, this is the time to check out this industry.'"

O'Donnell went on to work on Myst's sequel, Riven, in 1996, and while the PC was the industry-leader in terms of game audio at the time, it wasn't long before it had some competition: "Sony's machine started doing some interesting things," he explains. "I remember playing Final Fantasy VII and some other games... and I know everybody was [then] upgrading their technology [at that time]. When I started out on PC it seemed to be ahead of the consoles but then the consoles caught up and it was really a pleasure to jump to the Xbox."

That "jump" to the first Xbox was, of course, due to Microsoft's acquisition of Bungie and it's Halo IP in a bid to spearhead its fresh game industry ambitions. The platform brought a perk for O'Donnell that trumped any fame or fortune, too: "The fact that there was a 5.1 surround chip onboard, meaning you could hook up your home surround system to your Xbox, actually let us - as creators - deliver a surround sound environment for everything. It was a huge, huge jump. Back in 1999 working on PC and Mac there were lots of interesting things happening, but on the audio side you actually had to go out and fight, convince people to buy a sound blaster or something or other. Creative Labs had surround sound speakers but that was so, so hard to do. And it just seemed at that point we were so far away from a user-friendly way of just hooking up your home theater. And then when Microsoft came out with their specs, for me, that was the siren call: to be on the same system people were watching movies on."

"Game companies outsource music the same way they do wall textures: they literally have the choice of any composer in the world"

Jason Graves

O'Donnell's longevity and renown is rivalled by very few other game music composers working today, but Jesper Kyd is one of them. His journey into the industry has followed a similar timescale and trajectory; getting his break a few years ahead of O'Donnell (Kyd's work stretches back to the Amiga and the Sega Genesis in the early 90s) and as such Kyd experienced the Compact Disc revolution firsthand albeit as a Sega Genesis developer. "That was a huge step forward, suddenly we could use a live symphony orchestra, as we did for Hitman 2, and I don't like the expression but it became 'real music' after that point".

But where O'Donnell says he's seen no equivalent revolution since the milestones of CDs and 5.1 surround, Kyd identifies a more delicate trend shaping the way composers go about their work today:

"The game industry is definitely driven by production quality now, certainly in the last five or six years, and it makes sense. There's the drive towards the best graphics and it's the same [with music]. It's not always about the best game or gameplay. And it's started to happen to game music, too, where production quality has really become a focus. It's very much part of the game industry, pushing things so they just sound more impressive."

Jason Graves agrees: "Around 2007 I saw it become less about how much music you could fit on the disc and purely about how much a developer could afford to implement. The big part of it, actually, just becomes about 'how much can we afford to buy?' It takes man-power to implement. It's man-power dependent, not [entirely] technology dependent [now]."

This new age of superior technology and competition, driven by the race towards higher fidelity, means the opportunities available to composers have never been richer: "There's no limit anymore," says Kyd. "Chip music was all about limitations. We have unlimited channels now, unlimited RAM, you can write a piece of music and deliver it in CD quality. You can always compress it down. It's about bit-rate now, not RAM. And I'm hoping with these next generation consoles we can get really high bit-rate."

"The technology just supports whatever direction you want to go now," adds O'Donnell. "It's getting better all the time."

The fact that a composer's tools have never been so advanced or open brings with it one caveat for jobbing, freelance composers like Kyd: the competition gets stronger and the door to the industry is open wider than ever before. Graves is a fellow freelancer and identifies the job security issues of next-gen composing: "the way game music currently works is very much like the early years of the Hollywood movie system, where you'd have people brought in, in-house, for specific roles. It works great for me - it's liberating from a creative point of view. But the fact is the technology is now allowing freelance composers to work with anybody in the world. The tech we have now means you can compose amazing quality audio, maybe not as good as I can do in the studio, but 99 per cent of people wouldn't be able to tell. You're getting into minutiae. It's so accessible that anyone with a laptop, headphones and the right software can start writing music. Game companies outsource music the same way they do wall textures: they literally have the choice of any composer in the world they want to work with. They're not tied down."

Open-world audio

"The more choice you give players the more difficult giving them a seamless audio environment is"

Martin O'Donnell

The stories and styles of O'Donnell, Kyd and Graves may be as unique as the soundscapes they craft, but there's another challenge that they're all facing together besides stronger competition: the new wave of videogame design. We may not have a technical revolution as obvious as the compact disc or 5.1 but gameplay itself is presenting music composers with the next major transformation of their work and challenge to their methodology.

If there was a message to come out of E3 this year it's that open-world, always-online gaming with emergent play is where most developers are headed. For game music composers this poses an intimidating question: how do you compose around random play? As bold and intimidating as the shift from a constant music track to the likes of Myst's ambient, narrative-focussed audio design, composers are now faced with a transition from more linear experiences to free-form worlds where anything can happen and there are more ways to play than ever before. And, consequently, more ways for your music and sound design to get lost in all the noise.

"[Before] you had adaptive sound, adaptive play and you could sort of test everything, most peoples' experiences," says O'Donnell. "As games get more and more complex, and with a game like Destiny which people are going to keep coming back to, experiencing in different ways, and there are elements that are persistent, we just don't know all the ways people will experience things so we have to come up with systems that will adapt to peoples' preferred way of playing."

Kyd believes the solution to the problem of designing open-world audio for next-gen may be solved by software: "One thing I'd really like to see would be companies like Cubase developing software for the next-gen. So maybe you could import a whole session from Cubase. Imagine mixing 200 channels of music in real-time... you could change and mix it depending on what the player's doing at the time, that would be really cool."

A real-time mixing method is also top of O'Donnell's wishlist: "Me and my guys want the experience to feel unique and personal and scored," says O'Donnell. "From the audio to voiceover, the emotional journey you're taking that the music enhances, the satisfying sounds of weapons and vehicles and so forth. But you need a system that can mix it real-time and give each person their own individual experience and they don't lose anything. The more choice you give players the more difficult giving them a seamless audio environment is. We're working on it right now and we'll see how it works..."

"What I'm hearing today is everyone likes Hans Zimmer - and he's a great composer - but... everyone sounds like Hans Zimmer"

Jason Graves

O'Donnell, like Kyd, also sees tools as a crucial weapon in the war on next-gen development, especially now he's in the business of cross-platform games.

"There's a lot of thirdparty tools out there that are really helping us," he says. "It's not that we're even thinking about 'well, we can do this specific thing on an Xbox and this on a PlayStation' more we're thinking 'what should the user experience be?' And it'll be pretty much the same on each platform. We've got seven audio studios here at Bungie and all outfitted with the same [tech]. Pro Tools and other Apple stuff is what we use to actually produce the music and audio itself, in terms of implementation we're working with a thirdparty company called Wwise. Using their tools is helping us implement across all the platforms we want to work on."

For a long time now Kyd has been working on games that have planted the seed from which today's open-world ambitions have arguably blossomed, from Hitman and Freedom Fighters to Assassin's Creed, Borderlands 2 and most recently State Of Decay. And one thing he isn't keen to return to is the composing method of "layers", where "you deliver a track and it's in layers, and you just remove a layer when someone does something [in the game]. It's like these layers are associated with stealth, these are associated with action and we ramp it up and down. And that's fine, but people aren't using it as much as they used to. My perspective is that music [like that] isn't then designed to be played all at once... you end up taking things away. And in most cases I've experienced with layering is it feels like something's missing. So you're doing stealth and it's like 'wait, something's missing'. That's the hard thing to figure out..."

The problem may be complex but Kyd's solution is gloriously simple and obvious: "I think we might just need a lot more music", he says dryly. "It's not unusual to have two, three hours of music for an open-world game now, but I can see that doubling or even tripling depending on the size of the game. It's important the music all interacts with each other in a seamless way, not just with more bridges and layers - that would become very complicated very quickly."

"You're reacting to the gameplay, that's the best thing a score can do: react to and support gameplay"

Jason Graves

Graves, who's had his own brief daliance with open-world scoring in this year's Tomb Raider reboot, agrees, having moved on from the layering approach himself in Lara's latest: "The interactive aspect has always been the most exciting part of working with games, for me. Before Tomb Raider, with Dead Space, it was four layers that would come in and out depending, essentially, on the fear factor. But with Tomb Raider I sat down with the developer and played the game. We would take every encounter and approached every single situation on its own and never scored the same way twice. Sometimes there's be layers, but sometimes there'd be stems or stingers, with everything done on an encounter-by-encounter basis. You're reacting to the gameplay, that's the best thing a score can do: react to and support gameplay."

A layering approach would also require a different recruitment approach: "You'd need composers who specialise in that skill of layering, it's a very specific thing, and as more and more film composers are getting into games I don't think it's going to go that way."

A little less conversation

Designing sound for open-world experiences may be the next obvious frontier for composers, but O'Donnell also believes there's one crucial area still holding the profession back; a relic from the past that just won't go away: voice-chat. "I've been saying this for a few years now, that voice-chat is the lowest fidelity audio in a game, and it gets in the way. I think the next generation will be a step towards a better quality of audio chat, but just a step."

Kyd has his own bug-bear with the way game music is evolving at the moment, but it's more of a creative concern: "There's a lot of looking towards Hollywood right now and just saying 'let's take that sound'. That's not really pushing it as much as we can, that's taking something pre-existing, not doing something 'next-generation'. You can do things in unusual ways, you don't have to follow what's expected. When a developer's on board with that it becomes interesting and you can start pushing in interesting directions..."

Graves concurs with Kyd's frustration at the current me-too approach of some composers: "What I'm hearing today is everyone likes Hans Zimmer - and he's a great composer - but... everyone sounds like Hans Zimmer. The downside is everyone's music sounds the same. And there are so many people wanting to get into the industry now, whether it's film, TV or games, and I think games has gotten a lot more attention from kids straight out of school - you can get degrees in game music now - and the competition is ten times what it was when I got started. My advice to anyone today is: stop listening to film music, stop listening to the Dark Knight; folks are looking for something different."

Becoming legend

The blessing and support of a developer, the wider studio, is something each composer views as vital to the success of their work. As game music becomes more integral, and revered, the composer's role is, finally, becoming more important and ubiquitous in the overall game production workflow. A composer working today needs to have a wide view of the production, says Kyd: "You need that constant feedback. You need to be around the lead designers, in communication, that goes for film, TV, whatever - its vital you're involved in the whole production. You can't just sit there, do your music and send it in."

O'Donnell - as an audio director - is emblematic of the composer's more inclusive role in video game production. But this idea of the all-powerful and knowing composer could dissuade rookie, up-and-coming musicians hoping to get their foot in the door at a lower level. It's an issue that's set to be addressed in September by the inaugural Game Music Connect event which O'Donnell, Kyd and Graves are headlining in a bid to raise the profile of the profession and lift the lid on a role that's been previously maligned. As one of the event's organiser, John Broomhall reminds: "What used to be an afterthought is now an integral part of AAA development with composers and audio directors working together earlier and more closely. And many games use the best recording studios, conductors and orchestras/musicians on the planet. It's a rich, vibrant world of creativity which ultimately has a profound influence on the gaming experience of millions."

Inaugural events like this show game music's star rising at the dawn of the next generation of consoles, and as composers like O'Donnell, Kyd and Graves pioneer new modes and methods of music-making for a new wave of emergent, interactive experiences, the profession's profile is only going to - figuratively and literally - get louder.

David Valjalo is a freelance writer and game consultant

26 Comments

Ruud Van De Moosdijk
VP of Development

40 45 1.1
It is a good article with some interesting stories, but to say Marty's longevity is rivalled by few is not knowing what you are talking about. He is basically one of the first of the newer generation to jump on board but the old generation is still around. Allister Brimble, Jesper Kyd, Peter McConnell, Jeroen Tel, Chris Hülsbeck, Rob Hubbard (although retired), Frank Klepacki...and apparently you forget the 40-50 Japanese composers that were already active in the 80s and still are today. Uematsu and Kondo of course the biggest of the lot, but Kinuyo Yamashita, Motoi Sakuraba, Tappi Iwase, Noriyuko Iwadare, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Michiru Yamane just to call a few have been composing game music for 30 years or more. Absolutely love Marty's work, but his longevity is rivalled and surpassed by a LOT of composers.

Posted:11 months ago

#1

Kenneth Bruton
Producer

38 8 0.2
Well done article, and I appreciated the links to the great music the composers produced! I hope that my works will soon be used on AAA titles, but we all have to get there eventually...

Posted:11 months ago

#2

Randy Marr
Customer Service Representative

12 37 3.1
I feel like this is a little too western focussed. It's a great article and all, but I'd love to see more from the point of view of the likes of Nobou, Akira Yamaoka, and Koji Kondo, as well as the unstoppable Shoji Meguro, who I believe to be one of the best composers of video game music world wide.

Posted:11 months ago

#3

Edward Buffery
Pre-production Manager

148 96 0.6
I'm going to bookmark this for the fantastic soundtracks embedded in the article! Wonderful stuff.

Oh, and the article is nice too ;-)

Posted:11 months ago

#4
I understand people's complaints that this article is western focused, but the fact is, very few Japanese composers are super relevant to the game industry as it stands today. Uematsu was the reason I got into game music, and I still have great reverence for his Final Fantasy scores, but you can't possibly say that Uematsu (just to use as an example) has written anything in the last decade that you could say was influential or important to the game industry as a whole. He left his mark in the 90s. It is 2013. Most people in the industry now probably don't even know who he is, or were babies during his peak.

I do agree, however, that calling O'Donnell's longevity "unrivaled" is a bit ridiculous considering game music was growing and evolving decades before Marty entered the scene. Not to mention, he works for one company and only scores those games. He is not your typical game industry composer in the slightest.

Posted:11 months ago

#5

Ruud Van De Moosdijk
VP of Development

40 45 1.1
Fair point Chris, fair point indeed. It has been a while that a Japanese composer that was truly influential. Nevertheless it were the Japanese composers that created game music as a genre and were the most influential in the 80s and 90s...perhaps only rivalled by two Western composers namely Rob Hubbard and Chris Hülsbeck. My point was more - and you also reference to this - that except for Rob, all these composers are still active so his 'longevity' is easily rivalled and surpassed by many composers.

Posted:11 months ago

#6
I think the only "western" music I remember much of in the 90s are the LucasArts adventure games. Broken Sword too. Other than that, Japan was king. To stay on point, though, I think composers in this industry are going to need to have skills in multiple areas. Not just audio, but in game making and storytelling in general. This is definitely the case in the film and television industry, where the successful people are not just good at their specialty, but excel in other relevant areas as well.

Posted:11 months ago

#7

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,033 912 0.9
Into the ring of longevity contenders I enter:

David Whittaker

Posted:11 months ago

#8

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

868 1,273 1.5
Martin O'Donnell deserves his mention several times over. There hasn't been a bad Halo soundtrack yet as far as the fps games are concerned. I haven't checked out the Halo Wars soundtrack since I barely touched that game.

Posted:11 months ago

#9

Jeremie Kermarrec
Translator & Project Manager

1 1 1.0
Dear Chris, I think summing up Japanese game music to Nobuo Uematsu only is a bit short-sighted. I do agree that his peak is long past (his recent work is mostly forgettable), but new composers with very unique styles emerged during the 2000s. I think Shadow of the Colossus (Kow Otani), Persona 3/4 (Shoji Meguro) or Nier (Keiichi Okabe et al) are some examples of soundtracks that stood out in different genres and still have some legacy. Indeed, none of them are revolutionary, but my feeling is that Japanese composers are fresher and more imaginative than most people would think, even some old timers like Yuzo Koshiro or Yoko Shimomura. I'm usually sad Japanese game music is regarded as a niche, when there are so many gems here and there.

In any case, thanks for this article. I agree it's too Western-centric but I don't think it's such a big problem; it's pretty obvious it focuses on O'Donnell, Kyd and Graves.

Posted:11 months ago

#10

Chris Sweetman
Sound Designer/Audio Director

18 21 1.2
Agree with a lot that's been said here, especially the lack of in depth research regarding video-game musical history and opening up on the musical influence of Japanese composers, but the reason it's been centred around these guys is they are all speaking at Game Music Connect in a few weeks time !
Some things I disagree with, mainly regarding real time mixing which has been around in one form or another since around 2002 yet people seem to laud this as the next big step ! (I think Criterion was one of the first to utilise a snapshot based mixing solution for the Burnout Series and it evolved into the solution we used for Black)
And Voice Chat seriously ??? I can think of many things that would raise the bar and evolve the medium far more than voice chat.
I play multi-player games a lot having worked solely on them in one capacity or another for the past 5 years or so, but only use voice chat in a private group, quality is not the issue its the testosterone fuelled rage you need to content with when turning on public voice chat ! : ) trying playing COD with voice chat on and see how long you last !
And Marty's role at Bungie is not unusual there are many many in-house Audio Directors involved in every facet of a production.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Chris Sweetman on 13th August 2013 5:49pm

Posted:11 months ago

#11

David Serrano
Freelancer

298 270 0.9
@Chris Tilton

In a strange way I loved the Final Fantasy XIII score. Play the game for more than 20 hours and the main theme and Chocobo track will be permanently seared into your brain lol.

Posted:11 months ago

#12

Ruud Van De Moosdijk
VP of Development

40 45 1.1
Klaus: David is really not composing anymore nor has he composed anything significant for over a decade. As far as I know he is still with TellTale so he is still around, but longevity as composer...not really. Lazy Jones is still one of my favorite theme songs though =)

@Paul: I never said he did not deserve this mention, I love Marty's work.

Posted:11 months ago

#13

Edward Buffery
Pre-production Manager

148 96 0.6
The Magic Carpet games back in the 90s had separate combat and non-combat BGM tracks playing simultaneously all the time, and the volume would fade between them depending on what the user was doing. I remember being very impressed at how natural and unobtrusive the fades were and what a great way to design the music. LucasArts' iMuse in Monkey Island 2 also did a fantastic job of smoothly fading or segueing between multiple music tracks depending on the player's actions and movement.

Posted:11 months ago

#14

Chris Sweetman
Sound Designer/Audio Director

18 21 1.2
@Edward
Totally, Michael Lands work on creating IMuse initially for the Monkey island series was ground breaking !
Not to mention his score for "The Dig" being one of the greatest video game scores ever.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Sweetman on 13th August 2013 6:15pm

Posted:11 months ago

#15

Aaron Johnson

21 34 1.6
Although better known for his movie scores, Danny Elfman has Fable, Lego: Batman and, of course, the Simpson's theme to his credit. Plus, who doesn't love Oingo Boingo?

Posted:11 months ago

#16

Jacek Tuschewski
Audio Director, Producer and Sound Designer

6 0 0.0
Think some people are missing the point what the article is about 'Game music: The next generation' not about who the best composer is or was or will be... I think that game audio (including music) has not evolved much at all. Yes we have more disc space, more memory and more CPU. But I do not see many generative audio engines being used in games or any other envelope punching techniques being employed. Possibly Will Wright and Brian Eno collaborating on Spore was the last time that I can remember something new happening in terms of game-audio. Todays game-audio-engines are just glorified sample players. This is one of the many things that needs to change before we can call anything The Next Generation (in audio).

Posted:11 months ago

#17

Chris Sweetman
Sound Designer/Audio Director

18 21 1.2
@Jacek
Not sure I agree with all of your statement : )
Lot's of areas in audio have evolved due to the fact we have more disc space, memory and CPU time.
Real-time Mixing, HDR, Frequency Domain mixing, Convolution reverbs/reflections.
Have a listen to something like BF3 and tell me its just samples being played back ! there's incredible amounts of ground-breaking tech that go into making titles sound like that.
I agree that generative audio is still in its infancy and I'll be honest its because it just doesn't suit the majority of games as the tech isn't there yet.
I've heard some demo's of generative music and it doesn't work (yet) IMHO (or it just can't be applied to titles)
I was at GDC a few years back and attended a talk on completely random generated music, it was cool as asound design bed but would struggle to call it "music" in the traditional sense and you definitely wouldn't get it passed as a score for a title.
I've heard demos of synthetically modelled sounds which sound less realistic than the "real sounds"
We had this whole next gen thing last gen ! what is next gen audio on the 360 before that the xbox and before that on the Dreamcast !
My hope is that tools and tech continue to evolve and audio teams continue to experiment.
Each new generation brings us more toys to play with and its up to us to use em !
I'm just after a engrossing, emotional, rich tapestry of audio that works in tandem with all other areas of production not just a afterthought.
That would be my next gen : )

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Sweetman on 14th August 2013 9:41am

Posted:11 months ago

#18

Jacek Tuschewski
Audio Director, Producer and Sound Designer

6 0 0.0
Well Chris, yes BF3 sounds amazing but it has has some (technical/acoustic) issues/problems/limitations... Frostbite has still a while to go before it is the revolution you think it is; anyway that is another issue. And yes Frostbite hints at next generation audio but it is still mostly just playing/manipulating (low quality) samples. I do not see more whatever it may be as next gen and terms like ground-breaking, real-time, HDR are (marketing) BS terms for processes that we have used for many years.

I think the next generation in audio is something that is happening very gradually but while we are working in 44.1-96kHz 16-24 bit and have not (cheap/usable) solution for digital summing we are listening to (very) low quality/bit audio. Please read up about that happens to a multitrack digital signal when it gets sumed to a 44.1/16 stereo or surround system.
A small portion of next gen audio can be experienced while listening to DSD or SACD on high quality converters on class A analogue equipment.

Posted:11 months ago

#19

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

427 403 0.9
But what if the next generation of audio could be achieved through sampling?

I've spent many years improvising live with choirs and other musicians, but I've seen some amazing things being done by composers who sample. Maybe we're overestimating the effect generative audio at the per-note basis would have, when a good sampling AI could piece together the great compositions of real musicians while tailoring it and even creatively modulating effects on the fly to create new audio experiences.

Besides many composers bring their key motifs with them throughout the entirety of their careers, weaving them into the fabric of every project they come across (at least that's what I see). An example, I listened to one of Wada's Kingdom Hearts pieces and could hear immediately the elements that were also used in 3x3 eyes.

Maybe generative audio will be best achieved by training an AI to 'compose', but using a composer to direct its style to be like theirs. So in effect the AI will really be playing the work of the original composer, but will be able to creatively tweak and invent new ideas built upon the basic foundation given to it.

Or maybe keep it really simple and just have it firing out loops like Dance Ejay, with some chart of compatibility.

Posted:11 months ago

#20

Chris Sweetman
Sound Designer/Audio Director

18 21 1.2
@Jacek
Marketing BS ??Ship a title using a HDR solution and you'll change your mind ! (I did)
Takes a huge load off real-time mixing problems, especially in the FPS genre which can become extremely noisy !

Posted:11 months ago

#21

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

427 403 0.9
@Chris: I just took a peek at an article on HDR, just sounds like a levelling amplifier with (I would imagine) pre-emptive anticipation since the volume levels of audio can be indexed.

That being said it is more than just a compressor, which I think Jacek was alluding to.

Posted:11 months ago

#22

Chris Sweetman
Sound Designer/Audio Director

18 21 1.2
@Keldon
Yeah its not really a compressor.
At its most basic it scales volumes in real-time dependant on listener position (and window size)
Its also a priority and culling system.
It's the fact you're doing in real-time with it adjusting to game play as it happens, it can be combined with a snapshot mixer to give you the best of both worlds.
I agree a lot of these things are routinely done in various ways in a linear environment, but interactive is a 1000 times more tricky and expensive (cpu wise) : )
Real-time mixing is a supremely difficult task on a AAA console game that has potentially hundreds of different elements playing in a short space of time and HDR helps out considerably : )
It's also a technical springboard to things like real-time frequency domain mixing

http://dice.se/publications/how-high-dynamic-range-audio-makes-battlefield-bad-company-go-boom/

this is the article I used to create a bespoke HDR solution a while back with my audio programmer

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Chris Sweetman on 15th August 2013 3:38pm

Posted:11 months ago

#23

Jacek Tuschewski
Audio Director, Producer and Sound Designer

6 0 0.0
Well it looks like I am not coming across as clear as I should... English is my third language :P
Frostbite and all of it's process/features are very useful. And yes samples are essential in game audio/music. We need to use samples 100%. Generative audio is interesting but I was not saying that it will revolutionise game audio, what I was saying that generative audio pushes the envelop and is trying to move us away from the norm.

btw real-time mixing is not a difficult task on AAA, indie or any other game? making a mix sound good/believable is.
and HDR... well it helps but next gen it is not... that is all I was trying to say.

At the end of the day we have hundreds of files (samples) all playing at once and a software/CPU mixing is not the best solution but it is the only solution on the table right now. I can imagine something like Fairlight's Crystal Core technology in every PC/MAC or console... http://fairlightinstruments.com.au/cc1_brochure.pdf

Posted:11 months ago

#24

Chris Sweetman
Sound Designer/Audio Director

18 21 1.2
@Jacek
"Real time mixing is not a difficult task on AAA"
We'll just agree to disagree then : )
Mixing on Black & Burnout Paradise was extremely difficult for the team as the tech didn't exists and had to be written.
There's also the issue with having multiple game mix states running concurrently, mixing for different setups, diff consoles etc !
HDR allows you to have a "mix" throughout development allowing zero mix crunch time at the end of a title.
I'd love to have something like fairlight tech in a console or PC but it ain't gonna happen any time soon ! cost would be way to prohibitive for a consumer product at this present time.
One day perhaps ! :)

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Chris Sweetman on 16th August 2013 10:08am

Posted:11 months ago

#25

Jacek Tuschewski
Audio Director, Producer and Sound Designer

6 0 0.0
:)... well Chis happy to agree to disagree... and I know that a good mix can be a lot of hard work. What I was saying is that mixing: real-time or offline is not something that is (technically) hard. Most engines (fmod, Wwise...) have almost unlimited or very high track/file play at once counts and will easily mix it all down to a stereo or surround bus, without any significant CPU impact.

Posted:11 months ago

#26

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