Game Critiques

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The Sound Design Of: REDOUT

What Is Redout? Redout is an Anti-Gravity Racer from 34Big Things, a company from Turin, Italy. My first experience with AG Racers was playing Extreme-G on the Nintendo 64. Every race felt like riding a futuristic roller coaster at a breakneck pace. Later on, I became re-acquainted to the genre as an adult with WipeoutHD. I spent a lot of time with Wipeout and really loved the imagination that went in to the design of the racecourses. When I discovered Redout I felt as if I reconnected with an old friend I had nearly forgotten about. The words to describe what it’s like roaring down a track at over 1000kmph, on a track that could only exist in the dreams of the bravest hyper-coaster architects, are hard to find. “Fun” doesn’t do the game enough justice. While Redout does a lot of things incredibly well – namely, racing fast – it’s sound design unfortunately falls a bit short. With just a few small improvements, the developers can leverage the sound design of the game to truly complete the experience.

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Plugins: The Great Free And Cheap VST Round-Up

Plugins, Plugins, And More Plugins! So let’s talk plugins: The sheer expense of getting into sound design is one of the largest hurdles that beginners must overcome. But, it doesn’t have to be a dead end! If the Sound Design Santa didn’t leave all the plugins you wanted under the tree, I’ve pulled together a list of free and cheap plugins to get your sound design juiced up without breaking the bank. These are some great tools, at an affordable $50-or-less price point. It’s important to keep in mind however, that the plugins don’t make the designer! These are tools, and at the end of the day, how you use them is more important than what you’re using. Nobody ever got a gig simply because they owned the Decapitator. With that in mind, and without further ado…here’s what I’ve got for you! Bundles: Off the bat, here are some excellent vendors who have generously given out either cheap or freeware bundles of their software: Blue Cat Audio – Blue Cat Audio has a superb freeware pack that includes 6 plugins. Among them, the Frequency Analyzer is particularly important to any toolkit, and the 3-band EQ also boasts a frequency response chart. I also appreciate the Gain Suite for the ability to link multiple instances of the plugin together, providing easy control over multiple tracks. Melda Production –  Melda Production also has a generous freeware pack. The pack includes a whopping 30 plugins, with some standouts: the MCompressor, a 6-band EQ, noise generator, tuner, and an excellent utility rack. It can be upgraded for €49 to add a few extra features. Variety of Sound – VOS offers sixteen free plugins. Of note, the FerricTDS tape saturation and ThrillseekerVBL compressor are great. Most importantly, the preFIX preamp/alignment tool should not be missed if you ever work with mic arrays. Toneboosters – For about the cost of a large two-topping pizza, you can grab the Toneboosters Essentials Suite. It includes a saturation module, all-in-one modulation plugin, bitcrusher, 6-band EQ (with spectrum analyzer!), de-esser, noise gate, reverb, and compression unit. An absolutely outstanding set of plugins for only €20. Willing to pay for a subscription service? The Slate Digital “Everything” Package costs around $20 a month as well. I love being able to turn off my subscription when I don’t need it at a given time. It’s also nice to purchase perpetual licenses for the plugins that are consistently relied upon. I also HIGHLY encourage checking out Stillwell Audio. Stillwell offers an impeccable lineup of tools that are both fairly priced and cripple-free. Of course, though, please do the right thing and pay for them if you like them. EQ EQ is arguably the most important category of them all. There’s a ton of stuff out there, as you’re probably aware…but here’s a few that caught my eye, and that I rely on on a regular basis. Tokyo Dawn Labs “VOS Slick EQ” (Free / $30) – the VOS Slick EQ is an excellent 3-band […]

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A Tutorial Look at the Unity-FMOD Example Code

A Look at the FMOD Example Code: Lately, I’ve been working through drafts of how to best write code modifying parameters in FMOD through Unity C# code, but, honestly, I’m way out of practice and I still don’t have the best answer yet. To re-familiarize myself, I wrote this up for some of the folks who have been emailing me about how to work with Parameters in code. I suspect that many of those questions have to do with not completely understanding some of the best coding practices with FMOD so I wrote this up using the included FMOD Tutorial file. It is a heavily commented, re-organized and restructured version of the FMOD StudioEventEmitter.cs document which is imported into your project as part of the Unity-FMOD Integration package found on the FMOD website. Please forgive any formatting errors – I tried to pretty-ify this as much as possible to ease in readability, but I’m painfully aware that other desktop monitors might display this differently. In any case, without further ado here is the FMOD Example Code, re-structured and described in detail:

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Miller Puckette’s “The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music”, Ch. 1 Exercises

“The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music” – Miller Puckette, Chapter 1 Hey folks! I recently came across the phenomenal book, available for free online, “The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music” by Miller Puckette, renowned designer of Pure Data the open-source cousin Cycling ’74’s famous Max/MSP environment. It’s a fascinating subject and I highly recommend checking it out here! I wont lie, a lot of this book has the tendency to go straight over my head in a lot of places if I don’t read and reread sections of it, so I’m doing the exercises here, publicly, so that I can hopefully make sense of what Mr. Puckette is saying and to maybe elicit feedback and correct the places where I’m not understanding some of the mathematics and relationships being presented, since there’s no answer key given. I’ll attempt to work through the answers in as long a form as possible to break it down to the simplest level and explain/show all of my work along the way. Though the book appears to be geared more toward using the concepts in the context of PD or Max, I’m more interested in more wholly understanding digital audio, so just for the heads up: somewhere down the line, I may skip a PD-centric question or two 🙂

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An Introduction To FMOD, part 5: Integration Into Unity

Lesson 5: Integration Into Unity Alright! Now it’s REALLY been a while since last time! I think it’s finally time to start wrapping up these lessons by answering the one question that everyone has: “Alright Chris, I’m now a master of FMOD thanks to you, but now I need to shove this thing into Unity and make them work so that I can be the master of Interactive Audio!” Well first, that’s not a question, but point taken – to the folks who have e-mailed me, prodding me into finishing up, I can only offer my sincerest apologies because life has gotten way busy this past year. Thanks for the outreach. 🙂 We’re gonna do this. Right here, right now. If you’ve followed along with the set of tutorials so far, you should be able to efficiently bring your ideas into FMOD using the tools available to you. If you need a refresher, you can check out the overview of all the lessons at this link here or hop back to the very first one here. Unlike the last four lessons, this lesson will not build on previous concepts directly since this lesson will focus on integration concepts in tying FMOD into Unity. However, it is still crucial to know the inner workings of FMOD before you try tackling integration, so review if you need to. The instructions are the easy part – it’s knowing the concepts that will take you far. Let’s get started. And as always – if you have any questions, require further explanations, or wish to suggest further topics, email me at Hello@ChrisPrunotto.com or reach out to me on twitter @SoundGuyChris!

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An Introduction to FMOD, part 3: The Logic Track

Lesson 3: FMOD Control How To Think Like A Time Lord, And Other Useful Tips For Everyday Sound Design Welcome to my third lesson on the Audio Middleware Engine known as FMOD. If you’re new here, jump on back to week 1 by clicking here to get the basics down. This week will deal with how to further control FMOD events using the Logic tracks. It bears repeating the analogies I’ve been making (that are hopefully apt!): Everything in FMOD is an Event that details something. Parameters are sort of like adjectives. I don’t have any parts of speech up my sleeve to describe the Logic track, but if Parameter’s provides a description about an event, then the Logic control describes when it happens in time, and how often. Remember how the Timeline in FMOD is just another Parameter, as we covered in the second lesson? Did knowing that bother you a little bit last week? As a Parameter, shouldn’t we have some sort of control over it, like the rest of the Game Parameters we can create? Last week’s lesson dealt primarily with controlling events which spanned just one single scenario. For instance, explosions were the primary example, and while we were able to create a nearly infinite amount of variations of that explosion, they’re only good for whenever you have…well…an explosion happening. While useful, our game will also have events (such as music) that need to work to move fluidly back and forth between different states and levels of action. This is most tidily accomplished by skipping around the Timeline of your events, sort of like skipping back and forth between tracks on an album to suit your mood. The good news is that FMOD does allow you to control the Timeline Parameter. The bad news is that just letting you run wild by stopping, rewinding, and skipping around in time at will would create paradoxes and could literally ruin the space time continuum and tear the fabric of space and time itself…it’s just a LOT of responsibility, for even someone so well disposed as a sound designer. But you DO get some tools. And this week, I’m going to focus on explaining the concepts behind how you can utilize the timeline itself to offer some more advanced and complex control of how the game deals with events that span that can span many different kinds of scenarios (like, say, footsteps, which can happen on dirt, gravel, wood flooring, carpet, etc.) or single, constant events that need to react fluidly depending upon a scenario (for example, music tracks which react to the parameters of the game.) So, read on to continue, and as always – if you have any questions, require further explanations, or wish to suggest further topics, email me at Hello@ChrisPrunotto.com or reach out to me on twitter @SoundGuyChris!

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An Introduction to FMOD, part 2: The Parameter

If Everything is an Event in FMOD, then parameters are how you describe everything. Parameters are adjectives that describe the scenarios that take place in your game world.

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An Introduction to FMOD, part 1: The Interface

Lesson 1: Welcome to FMOD Hello! It’s been a while! A long time ago, I may or may not have promised a tutorial on FMOD, and in either case it’s been on my to-do list, so I’m gonna begin the process in striking it off here, right now. Welcome to the first post in my series on the use of FMOD. I was inspired to write this tutorial after meeting some of the FMOD/Firelight Technologies crew in March 2014 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. You may have noticed, if you’ve come across my blog before, that all of my previous writings on game audio engine tutorials were written about Wwise. So why am I climbing aboard the S.S. FMOD now? Well, I’m not really doing that. I’m actually trying to just ride both horses. Why start now? Approximately five years ago, I rather disliked FMOD. The program felt kind of nebulous, it’s usage (which either I misunderstood, or it did not explain) went over my head, and the documentation for the software was notoriously under-developed and sparse. In short, the choice to use Wwise was made for me when I simply could not access the program, and so Wwise was what I stuck with. Fast forward to 2014, the FMOD Designer is now replaced with FMOD Studio and, even more excitingly, it is now absolutely free for indie designers to use in their games. Because of the flexibility that FMOD offers, there can be no excuses anymore. Any and all interactive audio designers should be expected to know FMOD, and Wwise, inside and out. These programs are no longer just for the big boys, and are no longer out of your budget or your reach. I would dare be the person to make the bold claim that you should never again be working on a game that is not using some sort of audio middleware ever again. What gives me the authority to make such a claim? Because, as the FMOD manual so succinctly describes it: The sound file is not the sound that the game needs. A game designer, and certainly a game audio designer, does not live in the linear world. You only have so much space on your CD/DVD/hard disk for menial footstep samples. We can do so much more, with so much less. Especially in the indie games world, the lines between the sound creator and implementer are blurred and you will make your job so much more rewarding, while also increasing your value as an audio designer when you know and understand how to not only create the sounds your game needs, but how to implement them – something FMOD allows you to do quite easily. It is no longer acceptable to simply be satisfied with delivering folders full of .wav files to programmers and expecting them to put them in the game for you. You are much more than that. Before we get down to business here, I want to stress […]

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A Glance At Audio Sprites In 1,000 Words Or Less!

In working on a current project, the Twitter-fueled HTML5 -powered game Squirrel Sqript (Which is almost ready to launch, by the way!), I’ve learned a lot about cross-functionality. I acted as a programmer on this team, and as all programmers must do, I had to overcome certain unique problems presented by the platform and the project. Because the game is HTML5, our team encountered an issue in that browser-based games (particularly mobile browser-based games, and especially mobile browser based games) don’t necessarily support audio in the way you want them to. And no single codec is accepted by every browser. AND the performance hits are dramatic for even some of the simplest of audio related functions. AND the list of quirks goes on. It’s maddening! Not even sites specifically built for audio like SoundCloud offer great usability on mobile because putting your phone to sleep not only kills playback, but also the player itself in many instances on awake, forcing a refresh of the entire page. The logic is that most mobile users pay for data per gigabyte/kilobyte, and overage gets expensive, so the browser will take any chance it gets to kill your audio. That’s where audio sprites come in.

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The Pen Challenge!

Every once in a while I come across (or create!) some cool little audio exercises, and I’ve got one today for you to take a crack at! It’s called “The Pen Challenge”, and as the name would have you believe, it involves simply a pen (and a microphone, of course). I very much like restriction, so I’ve put a ton of them on this one. Every part of a pen makes noise, so let’s see what is in there! Step 1) Record up to five minutes of any sounds you can make using your pen and your pen alone (don’t write or hit it on other things – things you do to it are fine though). Be creative – take it apart, find what makes it tick, blow across tubes, etc.  You cannot go back and record more later! Step 2) Take your recording into a DAW (I used Audition), and cut it up into small little beats and patterns. Do not use any processing unless it’s room noise reduction. Step 3) Organize your clicks and pops and sounds into…something. I chose to make a beat pattern out of them. Use panning, gain control, and bussing to affect the mix. YOU CANNOT USE ANY DSP HOWEVER (No reverb, distortion, compression, etc). I preferred working with a time limit so I took two hours. Step 4) Upload it and show me the link! 🙂 Variations: Allow re-recording of additional sounds You can only add sounds by overdubbing entirely new recordings – you cannot edit the recordings however once they are made. Allow other objects to be incorporated (Write on paper, hit parts on different materials, etc) Using VST’s Avoid making patterns, so that you create some sort of soundscape. Using several pens with different  tonal qualities to get different timbres. Create a dry version with no DSP according to the instructions above, but then go back and make a DSP’d version without changing the placement or track bussing routes. Anything else you can think of. Here’s two of the ones I made: In this first one, I focused on a short set of clicks which I used sort of like a drum pattern, then layered other stuff around it. In this second one, I got a little more complex. I used a lot of the FFT filter that I discussed last week (that’s the chimes you’re hearing) and some other reverby and stretchy goodness. Anyway – that’s what I got this week. –Chris