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Feature: 'Beyond The Button Press'

In today's Gamasutra feature article, LucasArts' Jesse Harlin takes a look at what new audio control possibilities technology has brought us.
What opportunities are there for games that innovate using audio? LucasArts' Jesse Harlin takes a look at what new audio control possibilities technology has brought us, in today's Gamasutra feature article originally published in a recent issue of Game Developer magazine. Gameplay designers continue to experiment with and explore the new interface innovations of recent years, and there's a relatively untapped fount of ideas for audio designers, too. One doesn't have to look hard for examples of avenues that could be explored further, Harlin says: Sit down with The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass and it won't be long before gameplay mandates that you yell at your DS. Surprisingly, this kind of user-created audio input is something that the DS does extremely well, which anyone who has taught their Nintendog to "roll over" or "sit" can attest to. At the heart of the gameplay mechanic is the DS's internal microphone. Yet, despite being available for use in every DS game by the very nature of its hardware, very few titles incorporate the microphone as a means of interactivity. Similarly, first person shooters and networked gameplay over PCs and Xbox Live have made headset microphones a must-have for online multiplayer. However, utilizing these nearly-omnipresent audio input devices as part of the single player experience is extremely rare. But it's not just interface that offers new possibilities, says Harlin. New methods of content delivery and storage should be considered too: The potential for broadening the sound experience of a game after it's been purchased is broader than updated playlists or a handful of new voice lines. Imagine an adventure game in which the most powerful weapons or treasure were hidden in-game and the only clues to their whereabouts were garbled pirate radio transmissions that could only be purchased and implemented via downloadable content. Imagine edutainment games for children with continually expandable vocabulary packs or a music game like MTV Music Generator that allowed for uploadable and downloadable user-created collaboration. The shipped disc isn't the end of the game anymore and audio designers should be considering the gameplay potential of hard drives, storage devices, and online delivery channels. You can now read the full feature at Gamasutra.

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