Sound adds a special dimension to the gaming experience. Game designers must document needed sounds for background (ambient sound) and sound effects for the gamer’s selection, as well as the in-gameplay sound effects and character voices. The game designer needs to know and understand the basic audio software and sound effects libraries that the audio specialist, sound engineer, and composers will use to make the game sound great.
The game designer needs to provide the audio staff with a complete list of sounds envisioned in the game. From this list, the audio people will estimate their completion time, milestones (deliverables in segments), and budget (what they will charge to make your game sound great). If the game designer can provide samples of music (the style, the mood to create, and the instruments involved) and samples of sound effects (even if they are borrowed from other mediums like film, video, or television), the sound creation process will be quicker and easier to complete since the audio specialists involved with new, original compositions and sound effects will be closely in line with the designer’s original vision.
SFX libraries (for a detailed listing see Appendix C) include collections from Sound Ideas, Warner Brothers, Hanna Barbara, Disney, Universal Studios, LucasFilm, 20th Century Fox, and Hollywood Edge (used by many famous filmmakers and their Academy Award-winning films). Audio software includes Cakewalk’s SONAR, Cakewalk’s SONAR XL, Cakewalk’s Metro 5, Sonic Foundry’s Sound Forge 6.0, Sonic Foundry’s ACID PRO 4.0, Sonic Foundry’s Vegas Video 3.0, and FMJ Soft’s Awave Studio.
The game designer must address sound issues and questions that will be asked by a knowledgeable audio or sound specialist or composer.
How much music, sound effects, and character voices are needed? Number of tracks? Length of each music and sound effect sample? Composition style that the designer envisions? Where in the game are the sound effects needed? Is there critical timing for animation or AVIs?
How soon do you need sound (timeframe)? Quicker means more money. More advance scheduling and better documentation of needed sounds could produce a better result or a selection of several varying choices to use.
What is to be the delivery method—CD or DAT (Digital Audio Tape)? Explain the theme of game or the mood the designer wishes to create. What are the storage considerations (space reserved or allocated specifically for audio)? Are there any samples of prerecorded music to emulate?
A general rule of thumb for sound is that 30 seconds of music requires four hours to compose from scratch, record tracks, and mix down.
In regard to licensed properties, must the character voices be that of the property’s actors, or can approved voice-over impersonators perform in their place? Using the Hollywood actors may have additional, expensive costs attached to the endeavor as well as difficulties scheduling the actor’s precious time to rehearse and record the audio script.
If the property is a sitcom, do the sitcom’s writers and/or producers get to approve the game’s script and gameplay? (This was a true situation for a game based on a sitcom having characters like Elaine, George, and Kramer.)
Research books on music, or listen to music from all genres such as baroque, blue grass, blues, classical, country, disco, jazz, Latin, new age, opera, punk rock, R&B (rhythm and blues), rap, reggae, rock and roll, and techno sounds.
Be familiar with the Game Ideas list of music composers and their work found on the companion CD. Music creates a mood and an atmosphere and can transport the player into your world. The next time you watch your favorite movie or go to the theater, pay attention to the sounds you hear. Listen to the movie and mentally record its sound effects, its ambience, and the actors’ technique for delivering their lines.
Researching audio Internet sites like Game Audio Pro (groups.yahoo.com/group/gameaudiopro/) can be a valuable endeavor. Game Audio Pro is an open forum for audio professionals who work in the computer and video game industry, as well as hobbyists, semi-pros, and game music fans.
Here’s a handy chart showing you the various file sizes depending on your sample rate (sound quality) and size of each sample (8- or 16-bit).