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Bonus Feature: Talking Art, Noise, And Games With EA's Robi Kauker

In a new Gamasutra audio feature, EA Play and former Maxis audio director Robi Kauker discusses the evolution of data-driven sound models, and more.
The avenues for procedurally-triggered and blended music and sound are increasing -- and who better to explore them than a longtime audio director with Maxis, whose games fundamentally revolve around open systems and divergent player experiences? In a new Gamasutra audio feature, Robi Kauker, now with EA Play, discusses the evolution of data-driven sound models at Maxis and in video games generally: "Going back all the way to SimCity 4 -- actually going back to SimCity 3000 -- we started working with data driven models for how sound worked. Spore has made tremendous use of that. From their music, to their sound effects, to the voices, to the way their creatures interact with the world. "Their data-driven model of "this is what's happening in the world that needs to be translated into what's happening in the game" is not the interactive math model where something happens and it triggers something. It's these ten conditions that are happening and then these ten other conditions. "Going after those models, or the constant stream of information and tapping into it in an effective way is where Spore is, where The Sims is. Philosophically, it's where we've been. ...Letting the world tell us what it sounds like. We'll make bird chirps for these trees, and we'll make bird chirps for ten different types of trees. If you drop these ten trees in, it sounds this way. If you drop all of one type of tree in, it sounds a different way -- time of day, water, context, beaches. "Music concepts, where things are going well for you or things are going badly for you, have always kind of been there. It's actually the hardest thing. Spore, I think, is the first game that starts to represent it well." Among other topics covered in the full Gamasutra feature, Kauker also touches on the more technical aspects of data-driven audio, how to pleasantly subvert game soundtracks with the avant-garde, and the challenges of moving to Nintendo DS audio creation after a decade on the PC.

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