AES Technical Committee

Audio for Games

Chair:    Michael Kelly      Send Email
Chair:    Steve Martz      Send Email
Vice Chair:    Gavin Kearney      Send Email
Vice Chair:    Kazutaka Someya      Send Email
Forum:    Committee Discussion Forum

This Committee is the portal through which the AES becomes more widely informed of and responsive to the needs of Audio for Games. We will be proactive in defining recommended game audio practices, capabilities, services and standards. Our mission is to cooperatively influence hardware and software design, to leverage the combined skills of the diverse audio community and to improve the performance of audio across all gaming platforms and applications.

Would you like to contribute?

If you are interested in participating in the committee's work please send an e-mail to any of the committee chairs. Please indicate in your e-mail that you are interested in the AESTC-AG. We welcome those interested in joining the committee to attend a future committee meeting. AES and non AES members are always welcome. Please Note: You do not have to be an AES member to join this committee, however you must be an AES member to serve as Chair or Vice-Chair of the committee. The committee communicates by means of an e-mail reflector site. This committee meets approximately evety 6 months at alternate European and US conventions.

Areas of Concentration

  1. Evaluation and Assessment of Game Audio Quality
  2. Recommended Technical Practices
  3. Interactive Audio Systems
  4. Game Audio Education

Recent/Planned Activities

AES 143 NYC 2017 - Game Audio, VR & Spatial Audio

Game Audio at the AES is bigger and better! This year we have 2 FULL Tracks. Click the links below to plan your journey.

AES 143 Game Audio & VR Sessions

AES 143 Spatial Audio Sessions

Technical Committee on Audio for Games Meeting:

Thursday, October 19, 12:30 pm — 1:30 pm

Emerging technology trends

New console technology and increasing resources in PCs have made significant amounts of processing power and memory available to games and other interactive applications. Previous trends in game audio have revolved around squeezing audio solutions into low memory and designing effects with minimized processor usage. In contrast, current trends arise due to the vast flexibility available for interactive audio given by high processing power and more memory.

Some general trends are:

  • Interactive audio was dominantly the domain of games, but increases in processing power and wider availability of high-level audio APIs have opened up more possibilities for research, training, and educational applications.

  • There is still little understanding of multimodal interaction and coordination: how do the aural and visual components of a game interact and how well do they match?

  • Standardization of audio within games is still not a reality. Interactive file formats such as AudioBIFS in MPEG-4 or interactive XMF have seen little take-up. There are no industry-wide standards for mix levels, listening levels, or mastering techniques.

  • The growth in high-definition (HD) formats and media, such as Blu-ray and HD-DVD, has pushed consumer expectations of audio. It is now feasible to represent the majority of audio assets using bit resolutions of 16 and sample rates of 48 kHz and potentially higher over the next few years. Use of compression reduces storage requirements but raw uncompressed data used within applications at runtime, even on modern platforms, can still strain resources.

  • Use of HD formats and widespread acceptance of multichannel audio has led to 5.1 channels becoming a standard specification on many computer games. Support is also strong for up to 7.1 channels and other formats such as binaural sound over head-phones. With increased processing power, developers are even looking to new possibilities including the potential application of ambisonics in games. The industry is unlikely to exploit this over the next few years, but this interest illustrates the keenness of game developers to make good use of new hardware. Clearly, outside of the games industry ambisonics, wavefield synthesis, and other spatial audio techniques are commonly used in applications where they are suitable.

  • Greater proliferation of audio codecs is currently having a big impact on the games industry. Developers are no longer forced to use codecs that are tied to a particular hardware platform but are free to implement their own in software. Greater understanding of audio codecs means developers can choose from a number of options with regard to quality and means of delivery. However, cost and complexity of licensing agreements is an important factor in this choice.

  • Sound design tools for interactive audio remain primitive compared to their linear audio counterparts. More powerful interactive audio tools would help during the design of applications with many audio assets and help to ease the task of creative management. Such tools are beginning to appear from middleware providers and platform holders.

  • The technical knowledge and skills required for all game professionals is rising. Academia and industry need to teach and prepare students specifically in game-audio skills. Details of game-audio careers, job opportunities, necessary skill sets, and institutions that offer game-audio courses would be valuable to people starting game-audio careers. The industry also needs to work with such institutions to ensure that course content is relevant. Educational facilities that do offer game-audio curricula would be likely to benefit from certification by recognized bodies.

The significant shift from performing audio processing on dedicated hardware to processing on general purpose DSPs that are also used for graphics, physics, artificial intelligence, and other tasks has a number of effects:

  • While more power is theoretically available, shared use of processors does not offer guaranteed cycles for audio. Processing budgets for audio must be carefully balanced with other elements of a game or application. Understanding and appreciating the role of audio is now a necessity for chief technology officers and other nonaudio team members when balancing processor loads on projects.

  • Physical modeling and sound synthesis are potentially possible in real time using current technology. Such techniques would provide an ideal means for generating truly dynamic content for interactive applications. Common use of such techniques is still some time off as there is currently little knowledge of these areas within the games industry.

  • Creative management of audio poses new challenges. In modern systems the number of voices is virtually limitless. There is a trend in some games for a very large number of on-screen objects or nonplayer characters. In these situations the sound designer must imply the quantity of sound sources that the user expects while retaining creative control of the mix. Again, appropriate tools are required to allow the sound designer to dynamically emphasize certain individual sources and group or prioritize others.

  • Real-time processing of sample data may lead to greater use of plugins in interactive audio applications. Developers of audio processing plug-ins and plug-in formats may see an opportunity to explore newer emerging markets.

  • Greater quantities of audio data place high demands on the bandwidth of modern platforms. Data transfer from mastered media (DVD, Blu-ray, etc.) has not increased with the newer hardware systems, thus creating a need to prioritize and balance data bandwidth usage among all game data, not just audio.

  • The more data seeks to the media, the less efficient the data reads and therefore the data transfer bandwidth becomes less efficient. Streaming audio data from mastered media may require multiple seeks, therefore creating an efficiency loss in data transfer.

  • As nonaudio data vies for this bandwidth, the balance between streaming audio and nonaudio data becomes more difficult to achieve and often audio data is given lower priority.

  • Generating guidelines or technical specifications for audio data bandwidth(s) for specific hardware devices would help to provide game developers with the metrics needed to initiate audio technology designs.

  • Acceptance of online gaming and trends towards downloadable games or episodic game content place extra bandwidth requirements on audio assets, with downloadable games being typically under 50 MB.

AES - Audio Engineering Society