Feature: The Next Big Steps In Game Sound Design

In an extensive Gamasutra feature examining game audio, Damian Kastbauer looks at past examples of innovative game audio, such as Crysis, Crack
In an extensive Gamasutra feature examining game audio, Damian Kastbauer looks at past examples of innovative game audio, such as Crysis, Crackdown, and Oblivion in order to project the next big steps in the audio arena. "It's a good feeling to know that there are people out there doing the deep thinking in order to bring you some of the richest audio experiences in games available today," says Kastbauer, a freelance technical sound designer who's worked on games including The Sabateur and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. "In some ways, everyone working in game audio is trying to solve a lot of the same problems." He adds," Whether you're implementing a dynamic mixing system, interactive music, or a living, breathing ambient system, the chances are good that your colleagues are slaving away trying to solve similar problems to support their own titles." Kastbauer said that there are certain games this console generation that have really pushed the audio envelope. One example is Realtime Worlds' Crackdown, which innovated sound with the implementation of realtime convolution reverb. "You can hear the results of their effort in every gunshot, explosion, physics object, and car radio as you travel through the concrete jungle of Crackdown's Pacific City," he says. Kastbauer also spoke of ambient sound, and how the subtle sounds of every day life--or the environment of a virtual world--can add to a video game's sound texture. "The world of Oblivion can be bustling with movement and life or devoid of presence, depending on the circumstances. The feeling of 'aliveness' is in no small part shaped by the rich dynamic ambient textures that have been carefully orchestrated by the Bethesda Softworks sound team." On Oblivion, he added, "In a game where you can spend countless hours collecting herbs and mixing potions in the forest or dungeon crawling while leveling up your character, one of the keys to extending the experience is the idea of non-repetitive activity. If we can help to offset that from a sound perspective by introducing dynamic ambiance it can help offset some of the grind the player experiences when tackling some of the more repetitive and unavoidable tasks." For more examples of strong game design this generation, and thoughts on where it's going from here, read the full Gamasutra feature, available today.

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