Sound and Effect Design in Video Games

For the The Aquatic Museum app I’ll use the fmod audio middleware combined with the Unity Game engine. While this research is not about the technical aspects it is important though to give an overview in the methodology section about the tools used in my creative process. I’m using the same tools in my advanced teaching skills research by taking advantage of a software resembling traditional DAWs but designed for video games. In the media creation process differences to traditional audio workstations do appear though. This research is also directed towards one specific element or feature used in adaptive audio and in other music creation tools, randomness or aleatory features.

Composing music for games also requires a different approach to the more linear thinking in film music.

For the fmod creators their studio package is

“an end-to-end solution for adding sound and music to any game. Build adaptive audio using the FMOD Studio and play it in-game using the FMOD Engine."1

Three market segments are listed: sound designers, programmers, production the idea being to facilitate the video game audio and music creation process and task assignments between audio designer and coders.

Adaptive Ambient Fx Audio Example

Excellent tutorials can be found on youtube2 and for book recommendations please refer to the Game Music and Audio Book References section. The most simple entry into the technical aspects though will be by a personal example from a 2021 global game jam in Luxembourg. The setting is a spaceship, yes, exactly as you’d imagine one, dark, damp, menacing, claustrophobia inducing. Furthermore, dear reader, take note how stressful the absence of a stop button is. The ship’s soundscape was created with different sound samples some of them hand recorded with voice and paper and tube accessories.

Drag and release the slider to morph from a lighter to a darker ambiance.

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Here is the video of the actual simple project in FMOD Studio, the main design tool of the suite. Two important things to notice, first I’m not using the timeline in this example.3 The slider will trigger different sound objects called instruments in FMOD when moved by the user or triggered by code and some audio samples are triggered disjointly (async). Automation lanes, shown at the end of the clip control volume but also the parameters of the different instruments.

The audio designer can now collaborate with the coding team to implement this single athomisperic ambiance. This is a simple example with a single parameter, so the coding amount is limited but even for simple audio tasks the work required can grow exponentially despite the general tendency of software tools to rely more on visual designing and coding.

  1. ↩︎

  2. on youtbe: official FMOD channel and Scott Game Sounds ↩︎

  3. notice the visual similarities to DAWs (e.g. Cubase, Ableton) but with a fundamentally different adaptive audio logic. ↩︎