Category: ‘Game sound’

Skylanders Lost Islands

February 21, 2014 Posted by Milena D

So I’m addicted to a new little game – a pretty, catchy ‘farming’ game. The graphics and joyful atmosphere do a lot to draw one in, and if I may add, the game mechanics are clever and do a lot to hook you. Before I knew it, I had been playing for 4 hours and had spent $20 of my own dollars on in iOS game!

But this is about the game soundscape. I have been fascinated for a little while by the soundscapes of farming games. Like the brightly colourful graphics, naive world in which happy workers plow fields and the sun is always shining, the sound usually contains matching elements – a mellow, uplifting melody in some form of polyphonic orchestration in major tonality; the sound effects are sparse and typically triggered by click or touch. They are usually a variation between representational sound (e.g. liquid sound for interacting with water) and a timbral riff or blimp – some sort of abstract short sample that affectively represents the game action. What hasn’t clearly been given much thought is the flow of game sound – since sound samples are triggered in close succession in farming games this results at times in a bit of a harsh cacophony  of interrupted sound samples. Some of the sounds that are likely to be most common are most shrill-sounding by nature, which again isn’t the smartest design. That said, the overall feel is addictively joyful and uplifting.

Pitchfork – Intel Soundplay

June 27, 2012 Posted by Milena D

Someone sent me a link to this a little while ago so I’m not positive if this is a game sound engine by Intel, run by the Unity browser, or just a catchy product title, but the two features audio game projects on the Intel site are quite wonderful. To call them games is really a stretch because one is a free-flow mouse-trajectory based ambient exploration (with a basic obstacle-avoidance course) and the other one is an interactive narrative. Both feature a musical track as a base soundscape making them more interactive game-based music explorations, sort of vehicles for music promotion. Not unlike, I’d like to muse, RJDJ being a mobile music promotion engine, providing interactive musical experiences.

Below are screenshots from one of the interactive pitchfork projects, We Were You:


Review – Dimensions: The Sonic Adventure Game

December 13, 2011 Posted by Milena D

Ok, here are my super precious and wise thoughts on Dimensions the app, from the makers of RjDj and Inception. I am a long time RjDj user, love it, used Inception, it’s neat, so I was naturally really looking forward to Dimensions. An alternate reality ambient sound environment, for the iPhone? Yes! And here are my thoughts in detail:
– nice sleek interface, cool overall narrative idea of space and dimensions, alternate reality
– it’s nice to have soundscapes that (unlike Inception) are neutral and not commercial tracks, so generative audio
– it’s nice to have a game component to make it an option to just passive listening, a bit more interesting
– the game mechanics have NOTHING to do with sound or location, which turns DImensions basically into a really really boring farming game. At first I thought the artifacts would be actual ‘discoveries’ in space, maybe related to sound evens, thresholds etc. Certainly the map view suggests it, but then it becomes just about mining space for points.
– I would NEVER pay money to buy points and it is frankly taken all the fun and excitement out of the game for me to be “reminded” to purchase them. Feels like a cash grab. I would be happy to pay a one-time fee of say 4.99 for the game and never be bothered to buy anything within it again.
– the soundscapes for each ‘level’ so far have been pretty boring. I mean I appreciate the difficulty in making a generative soundscape that is neutral enough to work in a variety of environments, but the baseline here – a bit too understated. Overall I have not been motivated to go into that universe at all.
Sorry for the scathing review guys, I’m sure it was hard work to make, and more than one person’s precious baby project. I still LOVE RjDj, but Dimensions is kinda of a disappointment. I really wanted to see more of an alternate reality game and instead feel like I got a farming game.

Aural postcard – LANcouver

July 24, 2011 Posted by Milena D

It’s been a little while for aural postcards for me … And I’ve actually collected some good ones but haven’t put any up. This weekend was LANcouver, a LAN gaming event at an old warehouse behind Great Northern Way campus…It was a rich and amazing aural atmosphere that included pretty much drag queen techno from the 90s blaring over the general hum-drum of excitement over various gaming events, mixing in with the muted soundscapes of each major game – Starcraft II being the, well, star of the show, Mario Cart, as well as the new Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II. To the side were the magic and warhammer miniture figure battle games, encased in a curiously quiet, introspective soundscape broken only by the sound of flipping pages through large paper instruction manuals, measureing precise angles and moving around the change physical perspective.

One of the recordings I made on the last day (hear below) was inspired by the early morning atmosphere of a Counter Strike (or Halo or something rather) raid in the back of the space where one guy – the “leader” presumably periodically shouted either platitudes or colourful insults and exclamations at the game and his co-gamer friends. This organic soundscape was – from where i stood – mixing in with a front display of a Counter Strike walkthrough on a large projection screen, narrated live by a game commentator, amplified and played through speakers to a small audience, and at the same time being recorded for subsequent broadcast. The simultaneous naturalness of live-amplified speech and its redundancy only contributed to a uniquely gaming space sonic environment, in addition to the very particular vocal style of narrating a walkthrough. A unique and interesting acoustic community with obvious strain of power dynamics of voice in the case of co-op mission players, and an un-imposing style of game narration; the mixture of situated aurality and broadcast-ready voice; and a backdrop of techno, along with generous helpings of pure guarana energy drinks – errr..unforgettable! 🙂


Aural Postcard: Sounds of PAX

October 20, 2010 Posted by Milena D

PAX was an absolute aural candy as far as documenting goes…I probably drove my companion nuts recording, taking video, constantly measuring the environment.

Inventory: The space was around four adjacent open-concept high-ceiling halls, as big as stadiums it seemed that housed games expos, vendors, gigantic individual company exhibits (Disney’s was particularly notable) complete with their individual mini-stages, and miked announcers. Lack of physical/material separation between the booths and exhibits resulted in a constant ocean of amplified music, announcers, sounds from game soundtracks and games being played, probably the fans of zilion computers and consoles, crowds cheering and clapping, walking and buzzing of converstions. I would venture to say in this case the dB reading is probably fairly accurate. What is striking me as I am writing this now is that I really could NOT hear any equipment hums and fans – only assuming they were there. It was THAT loud with other sounds.

Reflections: What to say here (writing this a good month and a half later) other than it was an experience like no other. There was an incredible energy in the space and I have no doubt in big part supported and maintained by the vibrant, crazy-busy, hyper-stimulating soundscape of hi-def amplified game soundscapes, and the high-energy voices of announcers, in addition to the acoustic counterparts of excited gamers. Once of the most notable features of this whole soundscpae for me was the bleedover from booth to booth, exhibit to exhibit, announcer to announcer, because of the open concept presentation floor. This resulted in a lightning-fast switching between “moods”, “spaces” and “feels” that different games create in their own “corners”. It was like multitasking on crack. Overstimulation, high energy. Exciting, overwhelming. Interesting how different the different games are, and how “unique” companies want to make them seem – how artificial and designed that experience is. And yet in a recording, I always find it hard to distinguish one set of game sounds from another, probably because of common use of sound banks, etc. Advertizing/Promotion and actual game sound reality – quite different things.

Game Sound Machinima – HL

July 22, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Quite amazing game sound machinima from Half-Life, found on YouTube…wow! There are a few others that are cool from Fallout 3 or Halo, which use gunshot sounds to create complex beat melodies, but this one is particularly interesting to me because it actually uses a human voice making vocal sound effects, dubbed over a silent copy of HL gameplay. Well done, sir!

Aural Postcard: Video Games Live

May 25, 2010 Posted by Milena D

This was my first Video Games Live. Even though I went to a Final Fantasy – themed concert, I hadn’t been to VGL. Wow! What a great, fun, interesting event. Where do I begin – the demographic of 80% pimply teenagers filling the Queen E Theatre, the guitar hero competition in the lobby, the whistling and cheering the orchestra, even while it is playing, the Mulroney-esque smarmy host, riling up the audience, the appearance of a Fender Stratocaster and an amplified acoustic guitar. Best of all – the audience collectively chanting the Mario theme song: “Bap, bap bap….ba-ba-ba-ba….bababa-baba-ba-bababa.” Nothing like a full house of gamers roaring a Mario tune, screaming at the beginning of each song.

Annotation: the usual – i Phone recording, dB reading on (bad quality) iPhone picture.

Narrative: One of the really amazing moments was a live segment where two players from the audience were called on stage to play a game live – and get sonified by the orchestra, in real time! In other words, they played Frogger (my *fave* game of all time) and the orchestra played a symphonically-mastered version of the game soundtrack, trying to stay true to the actions on the screen. The audience was wild – screaming encouragements, booing loudly when a player lost a frog, cheering ecstatically when they scored a point. The culmination was when the girl gamer scored her last frog on the split second, winning the game level with standing roaring ovation. Historic….in so many ways!

The other amazing moment was another live segment where the winner of the lobby GH competition came on stage and performed a song live with the guitar controller, accompanied by the symphony orchestra, while the host of the show played the solo on an electric overdrive. It is obvious but I’ll still say it – the mixing of acoustic music and amplified music and canned game music was a delicious simulacric experience 🙂 Nomnom.

Game Sound Journals – Harry Potter UK

March 12, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Ever since I listened to a talk by one of the lead sound designers at the UK-based Electronic Arts about their work on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, I’ve been impressed. The actually took the time to incorporate stealth mode with sound (i.e. moving the character slowly enough so that their footsteps are soft enough not to be overheard by the guards) Even rudimentary, this is still more than a lot of other, more serious RPGs can say for themselves. That game also featured, as I recall, an affect-driven musical composing real-time algorithm – e.g. if you are doing well as Harry, the music subtly takes on a more major tonality, more victorious, happy overtones; if you are not progressing well the music takes on darker, minor tones.

The video below is a short overview of the basic sound design process that the UK Harry Potter team has gone through in the latest version of the game. It’s refreshing to see a female audio professional there too for a change!