Although we came ready to conquer, we only made it to the first day of Develop before someone we were with tested positive for covid, so we made the sad decision to return home, cancel interviews and cover audio day remotely. Thankfully Develop has a wonderful online platform and streams all the talks, but apologies to those we were due to interview, have truly missed seeing everyone, but there’s always next year!
As always the audio track was curated by John Broomhall but this year Kenny Young chaired the day for us all.
An Exploration of Wwise’s Impressive WAAPI/WAQL Features – Michael Cooper
Kicking off the day was Michael Cooper, who has been a software engineer for 10 years, and started his talk by going into features of the Wise Authoring API. One of the interesting features was showing us how to set up a MIDI instrument by loading in wavs for each note (essentially setting up a sampler within Wwise), which is a really cool feature starting to blur the line between DAW and middleware. Michael also showed how you could write custom scripts (in Python) to do things like set note values based on filenames. He also showed us ways of searching with WAQL to look for specific events, and with set criteria.
Seeing with your Ears: The Unique Challenge of Audio and Interactive Storytelling in “As Dusk Falls” – Ross Stack
Next up was Ross Stack introducing his talk with a timeline of the game’s development. Soundcuts joined 2 years into development of the game “As Dusk Falls”. The game sits somewhere between TV and Games as an experience so they had a challenge in how to approach the audio. Ross said when you’re actively involved and holding the controller, the audio experience is different. They kept the voices mostly front and centre but mixed the 3D ambiences much higher than how they usually are in a traditional TV context. There was an additional effort to emphasise any key moments and create a real contrast in quiet intimate scenes. As Dusk Falls will be released next week and available on Game Pass for anyone that would love to experience it for themselves.
Post-Pandemic Directions for Game Audio Employment – Alistair Lindsay, Adele Cutting, Jim Croft, Andy Gibson
One of the topics discussed in this panel, was how to attract experienced audio developers. Jim Croft’s advice was to offer a good work/life balance, and a wider package aside from the projects you’re working on. On top of this investing in training so the people you train can then train more people, that’s Frontiers main model, and one of the main problems is there’s very few audio internships. Alastair also added that people are sometimes going to smaller developers or outsourcing places rather than studios to get more credits and variety. When it comes to getting talent Adele Cutting said that it’s the mid level that’s hard to hire, when getting hundreds of CVs from juniors, it’s important for juniors to try and do something more or unique, they’re looking for people who’ve done game jams and active engagement in the community. Greg from Soundcuts has also started a website to help people trying to break into the industry: https://www.gameaudiolearning.com. Andy also says when training juniors up he keeps them off projects for the first 6 months while they learn from the other staff.
What Voice Actors Need from Game Developers – Mark Estdale, Alix Wilton Regan, Katy Schutte
Sadly due to technical issues we weren’t able to stream all of this talk, however what we did catch involved audience members shouting out words, mostly related to the sweltering heat this year, and an improv piece of a student wanting to hand in an assignment late. A book recommended by Mark Estdale is “Directing Actors” by Judith Weston. When discussing getting the best out of actors, Alix Wilton Regan says there’s 3 groups actors tend to fall into: The seasoned pro, who is able to tell you what they need, the drama school graduate who may not know the best way to communicate what they want and so can be helped by offering what they may need such as air con on between takes, or giving them options, and then lastly the actors who don’t want to be there (who she said may as well not be!). Alix also said it’s really helpful to tell actors what you want, not what you don’t want, for example if they are mispronouncing a word, use the correct pronunciation, don’t repeat the incorrect version as it will be hard for them to stop thinking about it as it’s repeated!
Field recording Pokemon – Malin Arvidsson
Ok, so I was initially expecting a talk about field recordings that were used in the Pokemon games, but while the talk actually wasn’t related to Pokemon at all, it was really interesting and had a lot of really good explorations into field recording. Here were some of Malin Arvidsson’s top tips for getting the best out of your recordings: Good to record at night if you don’t want bird sounds, plan ahead for the weather, the same type of creatures can sound different in different locations, animals make more noise when they are about to be fed (or during mating season), using a 32 bit recorder can cover for incidental sounds at any level and for busy nature ambience, dawn and dusk in spring is best (northern hemisphere). Malin played us a lot of amazing recordings she has made over the years, but the coolest she had was a Bombina Bombina, which is a kind of frog with a bell like quality to its call!
Returnal – The Sound of an Alien World -Loïc Couthier, Peter Hanson, Ash Read, Lewis Everest
This talk started off looking at the 3D audio functionality in Returnal, and showed us the debugging process of where emitters were placed in the world. We then had a really detailed look from Peter Hanson at how the weapon sounds were built up and each layer that made them up the sound as a whole. The plugin “Disperse” also came highly recommended as many a sound designers favourite. Then Ash Read took us through the creature sound design, that he said was completely new to him, but he was trusted to dive in head first and give it a go. The resulting sounds are incredibly stylised and he showed us through his process of making tweaks with different settings with the plugins “Filter Freak” and “Speakerphone” as well as his techniques for making a roar sound complete, by adding a kind of intro and outro to the sound. Lastly we got a look at how the audio was designed with the haptic feedback from the PS5 controller in mind, and how it was driven by the audio.
Tom’s Clicks and Glitches – Tom Colvin
Tom Colvin opens by telling us he’s going to address mistakes and failures in his talk. He says your own creative opinion is super important and if something doesn’t feel right, your voice is important. Working too much or rigidly focusing on perfectly scheduled hours doesn’t always work. If something at work isn’t nurturing your personal taste, make sure you do something outside of work to get that need fulfilled. If you don’t personally love something, gauge if other people do. Sometimes it’s the journey not the destination that counts. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail, we all learn from failures and if you have a team, everyone should feel comfortable in being able to make mistakes safely!
Open Mic & Closing
The open mic session at the end of the day wasn’t streamed to allow the discussion between the panelists and audience to be a little more open, helped along by the delivery of some beer! Joining Kenny Young were prior speakers Tom Colvin, Malin Arvidsson, Adele Cutting and Jim Croft, plus additional guests Phil Kovats (Playstation) and Simon Barford (Sounding Sweet). There was further discussion and questions surrounding the challenges of hiring and retaining staff in the current market, some questions and advice for entry level folk including the importance of demo reels, a bit of music chat and discussion about the emerging role of music designer, and an emotional closing address from Kenny.
That’s it for 2022, and after minor chaos with incredibly hot weather, refurbishment of the Hilton, and many people missing out due to covid infection rates spreading, we hope next year will bring Develop back as we know it, and especially all the game audio folks back to our usual room!