It is Monday morning. So I thought i’d put something together that i’ve been meaning to do for a while, and that is a process document which details some of the high-level decision making and processes that go into the creation and implementation of sound for a game from the asset to the code.
Doing this highlights the importance of a generalist skill set in game audio (for those either looking to get into game audio, or those looking to improve/grow skill-set areas). Not only do you have specific areas/groups of very specific processes, like the recording and editing block at the top of the document (in RED), and the implementation block (in GREEN) towards the bottom, but you have the need for a complete interconnectedness that involves social relations and collaboration in order for the model to work at all (decisions, reviews, communication).
Now, this document was put together thinking of sound design and implementation, but I think this is every bit as applicable to MUSIC and VOICE production. I also think that viewing the processes and decision making like this makes it very clear how our production and collaboration processes can be improved (e.g. less implementation steps using separated software is always a goal). A Voice workflow, for example often works in an iterative way at the RECORDING stage (getting many takes of the same lines in different ways to give more choices later on), rather than at the REVIEW stage (although callbacks and re-writes have become more commonplace), meaning that hearing voice IN CONTEXT and making review decisions and direction decisions is less based on a context-led-rationale than it is in sound FX design. There are many industrial reasons why this is different, but opening up the FX iteration path visually, certainly allows us to perhaps see where we can innovate and improve some of the more rigid industrial structures that are imposed, rather than designed.
Another area I wanted this to highlight, is the ITERATION process. This is the most fundamental part of the whole process, in fact, it is the REVIEW & ITERATION cycle that drives the whole model. Until you get a sound into the game, triggering, playing back, you can never know if it is doing its job or not. Chances are 9 times out of 10, that it is not, or that it could be improved in some way with a tweak of some kind. There is always something that needs to be done. Sometimes it is the re-recording of new material, which results in a journey back to the beginning of the process. Sometimes it is re-visiting assets in the sound library, and sometimes it is down to tweaking in the run-time realm of the game and audio engine. The more this process is repeated, the idea is that the less times you have to revisit the areas nearer the beginning of the process and spend more time refining the run-time game parameter side of the process. All iteration processes aim to refine what is there, and the sooner you can get ANYTHING into the game, the sooner you can start the process of getting closer to the run-time.
Another thing to note is that, there is no ‘finished?’ or ‘complete?’ stage in this process. That is simply because I don’t think the process ever really ends until the game is ripped out of your hands, it constantly gets ‘closer’ to finished, particularly the more time you can go through the latter trigger stages of the flow… but it never really ends. Another reason for this is that the game itself is changing underneath your feet, and so sounds & implementations are often required to change to ‘keep up’ with current architectural and optimization snapshot of the game.
I was also writing about a hybrid procedural audio model on Friday, and this is not accommodated in this flow, but would either be a new path of procedural sound object creation and testing (to replace the RED path), or become a part of the implementation (GREEN) path – ideally replacing the recording and editing stage entirely and shifting heavily towards a more implementation and iteration-based flow.
I made the document in Lucid Chart. It is awesome, free and very easy to use.