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Developer Interview Part III: Audio Engineering

When it's time to start a video game project, it’s important to remember, you can’t do it alone. Like with every company, you need a team to work alongside you with many different skills in order to make your game a success. Every member of your team has to be knowledgeable or an expert in their field. We will explore the third skill set in game development, Audio Engineering. When it comes to gaming, sound is imperative to creating the perfect atmosphere you want for the player. Whether it's a beautiful lament during a character's death or the creaks and footsteps in an otherwise abandoned house, sound is an important tool to how a game progresses and always the first thing the player notices. In order to write this article, I called in another expert from our own team. He is our Audio Engineer at Sonder Games. He will give us an insight about the importance of sound for video games. Here is an interview with Faysal Sultan.

How important does sound plays into video games and why?

Faysal: Sound, whether it is music or sound effects, plays a major role in conveying the emotion, time, feel, impact, genre, seriousness, and value of a game. It’s the first thing, along with visuals, that players generally experience and most of the time it forms that initial bond between the player and the game.

Can sound be overused in a game?

Faysal: Definitely. This is a genre sensitive thing but generally audio needs to know when to cut back, when to play in the background, and when to rise up the intensity and take all the attention.

So depending on the genre, less is more? Can you give a few examples? How does sound in a horror game would be vs. sound in a more action-packed game?

Faysal: In my opinion less is always more no matter the genre. When I see a game soundtrack reach three hours, I wonder to myself ‘what if that was just one hour of great memorable audio?’ To answer your second question, generally, in a modern action game, sounds tend to be highly processed and impactful with tons of layers and effects added on top so you feel it whenever a sound is triggered.

In a great horror game (like the one Sonder Games are working on) the audio is closer to reality with no over-layered, stereoized sound effects constantly playing. The aim is to get the recording just right so that minimal processing is required and using the super processed audio for necessary parts of the game only.

How do you produce realistic sounds? Do you physically make the sound you want or are there a stockpile of sounds?

Faysal: Generally, if the sound I'm after is something I'm able to record myself I'll do that and if I need to use third party audio, I'll change/layer it so that it doesn't sound close to the original source. You gotta do what you gotta do.

What software do you use for your audio?

Faysal: I mainly use FL Studio for all my music production and sound design and use Audacity on the side to quickly track/edit stuff.

Do you have any advice for a beginning audio engineer?

Faysal: Don't over-complicate the entire mix.

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