AES Section Meeting Reports

Los Angeles - May 30, 2017

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On May 30, the AES-LA Section hosted a discussion about Audio for Games. Moderated by Brian Seagrave, a lively discussion ensued between co-presenters Brad Beumont, Audio Director on "League of Legends" at Riot Games, and Christopher Denman, Senior Audio Designer at Disney Interactive.

Brad confessed he was the "wringed neck" for anything audio, responsible for coordinating the efforts of a 12-person team. As "League of Legends" is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game, audio plays a critical role in helping the players navigate their environment. "I don't want to say the sound design is musical, but it has a musicality to it," he stated. "And that's really making sure that there's clearly designed sound effects for every single champion. When you're designing sounds, a part of the process is determining whether something is going to be a global call that every player can hear from anywhere in the field, or a localized call going client-side."

Chris described his work: "We are starting to work on a lot of emerging technologies. Those are the most fun projects because we're really just using our experience with game audio and interactive audio, and then trying to take it to a different place. It's been amazingly fun to collaborate and maybe just brainstorm with the guys over in Imagineering. At Imagineering, those teams have been making the rides at Disneyland sound fantastic for so many years."

"I do a lot with managing the sound for the Disney franchises," he continued, "so we find ourselves going from Star Wars to Princesses to Marvel Comics within the span of a day. It's a boot camp test to represent a light-saber duel then dust off your chimes library. We're dealing with almost a century's worth of content."

Software tools in designing sounds are critical. Brad and Chris emphasized the importance of learning the various gaming engines. Knowing these platforms makes game development more consistent. Brad noted, "You really have to push yourself into testing out these game engines and seeing what [they] can do without any middleware. You need to see what kinds of sounds you can create, because that dictates how you're going to design everything within, say, a Pro Tools session." Chris and Brad also stated that C# and Python were extremely useful.

Video game sound design has significant differences from other narrative forms. "In the video game world you're not designing linearly," Brad offered. "It's not this one perfect scene that you can make that has this rhythm and flow to it. There are some games where you can end up with a terrible mish-mosh cacophony of sounds. You don't always know how the various sounds connected to the characters will ultimately play out in the context of the game." Chris noted: "For a long time I was at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) [...] and had access to all of [their] original sound library recordings, like R2-D2. To keep players connected to the franchise, you need to have the ability to take the iconic sounds and allow the player to be drawn into the game."

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