Audio Engineering Society

Chicago Section

Meeting Review, March 2003


other meeting reports 3/18/03 Meeting Highlights
by Bob Zurek

On March 18th AES Technical Committee on Audio for Games Chairman Martin Wilde gave an overview of Game Audio to the AES Chicago Section.
Mr. Wilde began by discussing the resources available to early game systems which utilized 4 or 8 bit sound chips with little to no RAM. These games either ran on slow general purpose computers or in a fractured hardware market. The legacy of MIDI equating to bad music can be traced back to these days.
Martin went on to discuss the changing landscapes in both the PC and console game arenas. Major breakthroughs that he discussed in the PC market were the advent of multimedia extensions in 1991 and device independent software abstraction in 1995, which removed the task of writing directly to the sound hardware. Other PC advances have been the increased speed of the machines, and better sound hardware, that is often integrated at this point. Some of the major points in the console landscape that Mr. Wilde discussed were the stability of hardware platforms, no need to write to a subset of sound cards, as well as separate audio processors and memory maps.
Mr. Wilde continued his presentation with discussions of three-dimensional audio and the three major console platforms on the market today. He discussed the details of each of the platforms’ audio systems, and pointed out both the increase in capability, but also the lack of commonality between the platforms. This discussion led to the discussion that proprietary solutions prevail and there is a need for industry-wide cooperation to maximize the end-user benefit of the systems.
Mr. Wilde then discussed the lack of consistent recommended practices for the production and reproduction of games. The fact that game manufactures are under the gun to ship on multiple platforms with differing audio capabilities, leads to a process dictated by economics in which the consumer loses out in the end. Mr. Wilde’s sees the role of the AES as one to provide standardization and consistent implementation in the audio mastering and playback environments. He sees products being specifically designed, engineered, and matched to the audio demands of the system, and the role of game development studios to put out a more consistent product so that the full potential of the systems can be used. He also went on to bring up the up and coming markets of car/”backseat” gaming, as well as wireless and mobile devices doubling as game platforms.
Mr. Wilde next directed the presentation toward the role of education in the game audio field. He stated that there is a marketplace for trained professionals. There is currently a need for skilled audio content and technology providers. He stated that there have been advances in graphics and art training programs, and there is a need for similar programs in the audio community.
Before closing with a question and answer session, Mr. Wilde discussed industry alliances geared toward solutions of the aforementioned problems such as the AES TC on Audio for Games, the Midi Manufacturers Association (MMA), the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group (IASIG), the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G), and Project Bar-B-Q.