Indie Game Development - "Having fun, making fun"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dev Log - Diving into Audio

I love sound effects in games. Without sound and music, games or movies simply don't hold my attention. I like to start with great music that really captures the action and character of the game. Both Ultimate Dodgeball and Kick'n It had great music. This was a bit of a dilemma for me this time as First Person Shooters rarely have in-game music. I compromised by having a powerful, inspiring soundtrack at the menu when the game loads and the player gets his first glimpse of the level. Then in-game, I switch to different ambient tracks that play based one what part of the environment the player is in. One of these is a mysterious, melancholy tune that I absolutely love, and that I hope players feel works well within the shooter.

I have probably twice as many sound effects in this game as I did with Ultimate Dodgeball. As has been my policy for years, every action or reaction in a game gets its own sound effect. Since I have three character classes and multiple powers, that adds up to a lot of sound effects. But the number of sounds didn't turn out to be a problem. Tracking down real-world sounds like the sound of a dodgeball hitting a wall or the screech of a sneaker on the gym floor is often more challenging than fantasy sound effects such as summoning a fire wall, which can be created from all sorts of different sound clips. The real challenge with doing sound in an FPS is that it is 3d sound.

  In Ultimate Dodgeball, the camera was relatively fixed in the stands while all the sounds came from the action on the court - which was in front of the camera. In an FPS, sounds are being generated all around the player's camera position. Therefore, the sounds need to seem like they are coming from the left, right or perhaps behind the player. Also, while in Dodgeball the distance from the camera to the action didn't change much, in an FPS, some sounds are being generated by action that is close to the player, while other sounds are coming from action that is far away. Therefore, the volume of the sounds needs to trail off over distance. In addition, games often implement a Doppler effect for objects moving quickly by the player's camera. None of these effects are actually difficult in themselves, but it does mean that managing the sound effects is going to take much more effort. And writing that sound effect manager is my next task...

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