Posts Tagged: ‘Game sound’

Sensory Postcard: Galiano Island

October 20, 2014 Posted by Milena D

So once again, it was the time of my annual pilgrimage to Galiano Island, where I spent two weeks with one dog, two cats, and one girlfriend (one of the weeks). I have listened, thought and written about this before (including at the Acoustic Ecology journal), so nothing new…but this time around I had some new thoughts, because I spent even more time outside sitting with my thoughts, while the dog rolled around in the wet sand. This is something I hardly do any more, but used to do a lot when I walked my dog in my childhood – walk silently with my thoughts and experience the surrounding environment.

2014-09-27 13.22.44One obvious delight about the house where I stayed on Galiano was of course the massive expanse of acoustic horizon, the fresh air that I was really appreciating this time, and just all kinds of little bits of material things – weird field spider webs in the morning, crisp smell of morning dew, grass, pine trees. I also love the resident crows that make their daily circles at dusk sort of chatting (quarreling?) back and forth to each other. I’ve actually gotten to be really fascinated with crows lately…they are super intelligent, and I always feel like their behaviour and language is just beyond my understanding but so close I can tell it is intelligent and meaningful. It’s hard to describe how us humans as intelligent beings can recognize (or think we can recognize) and tell apart meaningful exchange from instinct-driven behaviour?…

Anyway, this post was meant to be a tribute to the materiality of existance, finding joy and awakening in smelling, feeling, listening, seeing beauty and life in nature, in its serenity and chaos. I love to just sit an observe small areas like tidepools, or ant-hills, everything has a place, and it’s a microcosm within the social construction we call ‘culture’ – as if, delusionally, we are the only ones here, or the only ones who matter.

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:


Groove Coaster! A proper Guitar Hero for the iThing of your choice

May 1, 2012 Posted by Milena D

Groove Coaster is a not so well known iPhone beat-matching game I heard about on … of all places, Feminist Frequency. Unlike the few other imitation Guitar Hero’s out there, like Rock Band, GH, Tapulous, etc. Groove Coaster is reminiscent more of the rhythm-point stylus game Osu! (original Japanese title Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! for Nintendo DS) and later reincarnated as Osu! the PC social network. I was an early adopter of the online Osu! and subsequently acquired the Japanese Nintendo version (which highly disappointed btw). But back to Groove Coaster. Don’t be fooled by its bit-art icon. I mean, I do wish they made a better one. But the game’s graphics are simple and beautiful with a simple 3D aesthetic, and the beat matching is inuitive. The tracks are fun and campy, kinda dancy, so far I’ve unlocked a bunch of content with more to come in-game (that’s right! you don’t have to immediately go purchase in-game content) and the game is pretty challenging to play.

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.

Audio gestures for gaming?

January 16, 2011 Posted by Milena D

Audio Gaming – a company who develops costom sound tools for game developers (?) has a new toy called Audio Gestures which is a plugin for the Wii or something like that where gyroscope info is  used to drive somewhat continuous sonic parameters. Now, experimental musicians and electronic music students have been doing this (badly) for years now, hacking a Wiimote to use its “gesture”-like characteristics to make it into a tangible instrument. Suprisingly – becuase it’s the first thing that comes to MY mind – I haven’t seen so much sound parameter dynamics using the Wii – engineering and computer geeks tend to use their own bend sensors and other gizmos. So, interesting culture-differences.

So, great idea, nice little video demo, happy to see this out there. I guess the only thing that’s grating on me is their suggestion that this tech will “cut down over 40% of sound design time” – did I fall asleep and the industry change and become game sound focused all of a sudden? I mean, I’m sure sound design takes a bit of time for any developer – oh, like 1/100 of the time it takes to do video and graphics design and animation?

Still, the possibilities of motion-controlled parametric audio change are only just beginning, and have to say that is an area that has always been of real interest given all my past work! I mean, the Kinect could be essentially the commercial version of socio-echo that we worked on back in 2004. I want a job there.

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!