Sound For Games: Loving The Alien
Early in this BBC "exclusive" on sound design for games, we're reminded of George Lucas's assertion that "sound is half" of the movie-going experience, and that it's "where you get the most bang for your buck", and let's assume he means as both filmmaker and audience.
In this quite lengthy piece on the BBC's Technology website, some of the industry's top audio guys, Byron Bullock, who worked on Alien, Jeffery McPherson (FIFA 15), C Paul Johnson (Destiny), Tony Gronick (Far Cry 4) and Tchae Measroch (Assassin's Creed Unity) explain the discipline of designing sound for such a dynamic environment and how it compares to making movies.
Unlike linear media, games sound designers don't have the luxury of knowing what will happen next, but, to keep players engaged, everything has to sound, or feel, absolutely real, even it's taking place in space and the player is in charge of how the action will develop. The same goes for sports. With football, games companies work closely with the world's sports broadcasters to make sure they capture the matchday atmosphere, right down to the songs and chants from the terraces, as long as all the expletives are deleted, which hasn't always been the case.
Other developers start with a completely blank canvas and create exotic soundscapes from scratch, often taking their inspiration from the strangest of sources.
However the sounds are captured or created there's an obsessiveness about the way these sound designers work that may or may not find a parallel in the world of linear content. There's also a difference in terms of the number of people contributing audio elements for inclusoin in the finished game. When combined, these factors seem to point to a way of working that many reading the article will will find, ahem, alien. As Tony Gorick puts it:
"What happens is that everyone is rushing to get their work in at the end, and sometimes you end up after two years of work just trying to get the systems that were working a year ago fixed. Sometimes you just lose that polish phase. It can be frustrating, but it's also a challenge."