22 Years of Making Sound for Games

I started making sounds for games just as Game Audio was about to enter the digital age.  After creating sound drivers for Sound Blaster (FM) cards on a few games I became the digital audio expert, using my sampling skills to create 8 bit digital sounds for CPU Bach, Colonization and Civilization for Windows and Mac.  Digidesign’s Sound Designer was turning into Pro Tools and had a whopping 4 channels of playback.  Digital meant recording and editing VO and creating Soundtracks for Movies and Logos as well.  

 

Four channels turned to eight, and then Sixteen.  Dolby started getting interested in games, eager to see the quality improve.  Movies were now mixed in Pro Logic - a matrix surround with a center channel and 2 rear speakers which eventually became 2 independent rear speakers, paving the way for 5.1 Mixes. Matrix encoding brought steering issues into the mix, making monitoring a ProLogic II mix in real time mandatory. 

 

Game engines were keeping pace, able to position sounds in 3D in real time and bringing new challenges to mixing the non-linear aspects of game audio.  Additional tools began to appear in order to meet the demands of game audio - real time dsp effects like reverb and EQ could now be used to enhance the realism of games without gobbling up vital resources like memory or disk space.  Special audio engines capable of generating physics sounds like wind and impacts, or more complicated systems to generate realistic car engines are commonplace these days but we still lag behind Visual 3D capabilities in one aspect:

 

Audio that is synthesized, never sounds organic.  We’re getting closer and we might get there some day.  I hope to live to hear it.

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© Mark Reis