To help inspire submissions for the GDC 2012 call for papers, the event's advisory board members for the Audio track spoke out on the challenges facing modern audio professionals, and outlined what they hope to see at the upcoming March 2012 San Francisco-based event.
Seasoned industry professionals such as Media Molecule's Kenneth Young, HUGEsound.com's Chance Thomas, Microsoft's Scott Selfon, Brian Schmidt Studios' titular Brian Schmidt, and Video Games Live/Game Audio Network Guild founder Tommy Tallarico all discussed the most significant accomplishments, challenges, and trends facing audio production as part of their drive to encourage submission ideas for the GDC 2012 Main Conference.
As GDC advisory board members, these industry veterans oversee the show's Audio track and ensure that each of its sessions remain relevant and hold up the high bar of quality that GDC attendees have come to expect.
The call for papers for GDC 2012 will close on September 6, with a list of audio-specific topics available on the official website. In the following interview, the advisory board members discuss key issues they'd like to see addressed at next March's show.
What do audio professionals have to keep in mind when working on titles for the web or mobile devices? How do these platforms influence the use of audio?
Kenneth Young: Download size and available storage space certainly have a big impact on the approach -- for example, you don't have the liberty of throwing an abundance of streaming music, ambiences or voice assets at the project. On the positive side, such limitations force the developer to really consider whether wallpapering their game with music or thousands of lines of clunky, information-heavy and exposition-heavy dialogue is a good idea. Here's my obligatory Angry Birds example -- it only uses music when it is needed, in the menu and as a payoff upon level completion.
Chance Thomas: You need to remember the range of device capabilities. The mobile marketplace has a wide array of devices and capabilities, and today's audio pro needs to understand this range. For instance, a game developed for the hypothetical iPhone 5 will be sold at the same app store that old G3 users are still buying from.
Therefore, today's games still have to sound good on the minimum spec platform. For example, a cool interactive music design that works great on the iPad 2 using let's say, three stereo streams, is useless on earlier phones with only a single music stream available. It's important that audio designs still do the game justice on the minimum spec platform.
Brian Schmidt: The style of game you'll do for a mobile is most often very different from a console or PC title, as Kenny alludes to. You don't need the big choir-orchestra so much as tasty simple bits to complement the game.
In addition to download size, for web-based games, sometimes the developer is extremely concerned with "time to play" -- that is, from the time the user clicks on the game icon, they want to start playing the game within seconds. A game that requires lengthy downloads won't hold the user's attention, and they'll click and go do something else rather than wait even 60 seconds for a download or install.
A phone or web game will have a far smaller team and you will probably be the only audio person, so if you're a composer, get used to doing sound effects -- and not hacky, crappy ones! SFX is probably more important than music in many of these games. The SFX for these gmaes are much more likely to be abstract -- or non-diegetic -- than on consoles, so get good at knowing how to inform the player with sound without annoying them.