"Sound still seems to be the underdog, even though it is one third of the overall immersion and feel of the game." - Joonas Turner
Sound is as much of a key element to game design as the visuals and mechanics are. Without one or the other, yes a game could still work but, the immersion and sensual link towards the game is broken. For me, good sound design is when I don’t notice the sound directly but when it heightens the experience without taking away from it.
This is a great example of how sound just adds to gameplay. Try watching this gameplay muted and then with sound. Although the sound is being done on the fly verbally it instantly adds to the immersion of the gameplay; bringing it to life.
It’s not just adding sound that is important; it’s how you use it. The building of tension, dramatisation of events, etc. are all climaxed by the use of sound and it’s the change in audio that builds to events and differentiates them from what was previous. For example the use of a full orchestra for the battle music gives the sense of grandeur that isn’t felt compared to the other game audio.
Even though sound in games is somewhat still seen as not as important, it is being more and more recognised by the industry and its wider audience. Program developers are starting to introduce more audio editing capabilities in to their software packages. For example the new Unity 5 has a full audio suite built right into the engine. This brings an entirely new audio pipeline that is more flexible and efficient, as well as a new Audio Mixer providing the power to create highly complex and dynamic soundscapes in game.” Going forward, this should allow for more in-depth and interesting sound design; making it easier to compose and implement sound for games.
Personally I find that good music and sound design resonates outside of its original boundaries just as much as it does when in the game. One of my favourite albums is that of the ‘London Philharmonic Orchestra’ playing music from video games. Even though the music wasn’t intended to be heard in this way then it was written it shows how well it was designed by the fact it still works as music on its own when played by the orchestra. I don’t know whether it’s the nostalgia from some of the tracks but I think it’s just the simplicity of the music that echo’s and really makes it work when played at such a large scale. For many of the pieces it was down to the limitations of the original platform that brought this, but hopefully with the new technology coming and the increase in recognition sound is getting as its importance to games we will start to see more great music and sound coming out of the industry.
I am Elliott Pacel, a Technical Artist at Reflections, Ubisoft.