At Freeplay 2011, Stephan Shutze, director and sound designer for Australian company Sound Library, demonstrated procedural sound effects using FMOD Studio.
Shutze believes that thinking small in terms of memory allocation for sound effects doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing good quality ambient audio.
He demonstrated on-stage how placing a random amount of time in between playing the same cricket chirp sound could create a realistic nighttime ambience using the same 1 second file.
Shutze said: "We can do this with anything, and I would almost insist that we should be doing this with anything that involves footsteps."
"One of the things which bothered me about playing Fallout 3 recently was that I had this big companion giant thing which followed me around. I think it had two footstep sounds. It drives me nuts. We need pitch variation in anything we do!"
Shutze explained how the brain disregarded that it was hearing identical footsteps if at least 8 sounds came between them, and that game developers were drawing attention to their sounds by allowing the brain to recognise the same exact piece of audio played too closely to itself.
He then went on to show how even a slightly randomised pitch of only 8 water noises could be used to deceive the ear into believing that it was hearing one constant stream of water lapping against the shore, and repeated indefinitely without a problem.
Shutze continued: "The sounds that you put into your games should never be an afterthought. The earlier you think about sounds, the better they'll be."
"If you think about sounds as another useful tool to help drive your story, you'll have a richer narrative. Quite often in films you'll hear a helicopter and even though it's not on screen anywhere, you remember that scene as though there were a helicopter in it."
"We can use those same methods to intensify chase sequences and heighten the tension in top-down perspective iPhone games."
"I once had a guy come up to me and ask 'Why do you care about sound so much? Great sound doesn't make a AAA game.' That may be true, but I defy any of you to name a AAA game which doesn't have great sound."
FMOD Studio is an interactive audio middleware program from Firelight Technologies in Melbourne, Australia.
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