Speaking with the community, I’ve managed to identify 16 things game audio people want to see in 2016.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. More cohesive dialogue performances.
2. More projects using a real-time music or hybrid streamed/real-time music approach – projects that push ‘procedural music’.
3. Getting further away from ‘gamey’ sound by bending rules, increasing complexity to the point that the ear can no longer decipher what’s going on technically, and creating asymmetry. This will reduce decisions based on game logic and make them more active instead.
4. More stepping away from the screen. Creative ideas don’t necessarily happen when you’re sat in front of a computer. They happen when the routine is broken and you ‘forget’ about work.
5. More custom tools to give external sound designers full control over all aspects of adding and testing sound in-game. Plus, more middleware or tools designed specifically for games’ non-linear processes and pipelines – especially for dialogues.
6. Engines supplied with more advanced audio features ‘out of the box’, rather than a bare integration.
7. Generally, more processing in middleware – with greater plug-in choice.
8. Better sound design/game audio workflow support in DAWs. One example is integrated tools for generating sound variants, taking composite chunks of sound design and making them reusable within a session while keeping the source ‘live’, rather than having to repeatedly bounce things down, pull into a sampler and so on, with all the attendant clunkiness in terms of making changes to earlier stages. Even with simple stuff like naming and export workflows, game dev requirements are very different to those of linear audio folks.
9. Much better DAW and middleware integration, plus tools that integrate sound design and implementation further. There have only been some first baby steps in that direction so far. Just like how ProTools works in films – sound design and ‘implementation’ (sync to image) go hand-in-hand. Current middleware generally still relies on ‘assets’ or sound effects to be created externally.
10. Smarter tools that know what you want to do with the audio file you’ve just imported. The sonic characteristics of a sound can usually give away its intended use. In an ideal world, no-one should have to go through multiple steps in order to get content into a game.
11. Universal adherence to loudness standards across all titles and platforms – TRCs and even runtime enforcement.
12. More cross-disciplinary collaboration. Collaboration is the key to everything, so choose your teammates wisely.
13. That we don’t move to a fully subscription-based model for all audio creation software – managing a ton of licences for an in-house team is painful.
14. More women working in audio and the games industry, from management to creative design to programming.
15. More focus on the creative side of development. More games that are fun and innovative creatively – not just games that show off the new tech. A cool idea coming first, then using the technology as a means to achieve it – rather than fitting a game around some technology.
16. Sound involved from the beginning of a project, influencing all parts of the game – even the game tech. Plus, a proper post-production period as with film – it’s still the dream.