In this specialist course, a more in-depth look is taken at complex sounds, as we delve into the sound amalgamates that constitute realistic aural feedback and inadvertently improve immersion. Paying special attention to minute sonic details that at a glance would go unnoticed, can vastly ameliorate gaming experience, as does expertly crafted yet creative interpretation of prevailing game sound conventions.
An example may help to elucidate. Arguably nothing is as important in a first-person shooter as the quality of the gun sounds. As, for instance an AK-47 is an iconic weapon with a fairly typical and recognizable sound, it can sound either very bland or completely kick-ass, solely dependent on the sonic construct and context. If the straightforward sound is face-value taken from a library and rendered invariably as such, chances are that it will become stale and boring real quick due to unaltered and frequent repetition. If, however, it is presented in a context with a hitmarker, the mechanical sound of the weapon, rapidfire vs. single shot, the actual bullet explosion, the whizzing bullet trajectory, the impact and kill-confirmation sounds, the empty clip and reload noises, the shells dropping, changing rapid fire-dynamics and environment-specific reverbs, boredom and/or annoyance with the game’s sound design will take a lot longer to set in. Comparable examples can be given for a car engine revving in racing games, explosions and their respective type, size, location, material, debris, …, as well as for the guitar parts in Metallica albums.
The aim of this course is to train students to conceptualize and build readily applicable sound libraries that can take conceivable sonic variations of any event that need to be integrated in the engine into account. At any given point in a game, a character and its surroundings have a set of characteristics that inform the sonic construct; health level, terrain-specific elements, position (crouched, prone, standing, running, elevated, jumping), space-informed reverbs and echoes, … Those parameters are generally set in the middleware in such a way that with every game call, the engine can trigger and/or loops the correct set of sounds and effects based on gamestate and conditions in the most immediate and CPU-efficient way possible.
The semester will have various intermediary submissions, both focusing on the sculpting of usable sounds as well as on building specific types of game sound taxonomies. The exam will consist of a project submission of self-generated usable library of effects to be implemented into a game by means of middleware.
The aspired outcome of this course is that students know how to expand the player experience with sound, and are able to generate their sound ideas as they envision them. This means they should be able to employ advanced sound processing, looping, sound stacking and spatialization properly. Also, then need to be able to create functional and enjoyable sound effects, premeditate all aspects and eventualities in which sounds will occur, group and organize them, and – if so requested – elaborate on those ideas and creatively build a dedicated sound library autonomously.