Audiokinetic talks to Develop about the year ahead

Kinetic Energy

The latter part of this decade has seen FMOD and Miles’ dominance of the audio middleware market seriously challenged by Montreal-based Audiokinetic’s Wwise. Ed Fear spoke to Simon Ashby, the firm’s VP of product strategy, to see how this year’s new products have gone down and what’s next for 2010…

Develop: How has the past year been for Audiokinetic?
Simon Ashby: It’s been a good year. We’re growing our market share and expect this to accelerate in the year to come. I think the fact that we are seeing more Wwise titles shipping is helping undecided customers to make the jump to Wwise.

You’ve recently signed a long-term deal to work together with High Voltage – how is that partnership going to work and shape the future of your products?
Long term agreements such as this one are a confirmation that what we offer today is in line with what developers expect. This kind of partnership is key and will allow us to work closely with our users to shape the future of interactive audio.

Would you consider similar deals with other studios or is it an exclusive thing?
Absolutely. As long as it’s mutually beneficial, we are open to different kinds of partnerships.

What’s new in v2009.3 of Wwise that addresses issues developers are facing?
We partnered with McDSP, a high-end developer of effect plug-ins for the music and post-production industry, to make some of their effects available in Wwise. Having third party effects available for games through Wwise has been a long term goal of ours, so we are pretty proud of this accomplishment.

In addition to that, a lot of triple-A titles are using Wwise and we have added several features to help these clients deal with large scale projects. For example, the Profiler Statistics view was introduced so that our users can track the real usage of dialogue in their games. Another example is how we’ve optimised our Ogg Vorbis implementation. Each compressed file now has a much lower memory footprint. We’ve also created a new File Packager that helps developers to efficiently manage and ship DLC.

You launched the first SoundSeed products this year as well – how have they been received so far?
We have received good feedback so far with SoundSeed Impact even though the barrier to entry has been relatively high. The real birth of the SoundSeed product line arrived this past summer when we shipped SoundSeed Air. Our users love the product and are using it for all kinds of situations.

Are you planning any future versions of SoundSeed beyond Impact and Air?
Without a doubt. I truly believe that sound synthesis is one of the areas of interactive audio that will evolve the most over the next few years. The CPU resources are now available and the sound synthesis algorithms offer more flexibility than pre-recorded wave files, especially when it comes time to shape a sound at runtime.

What will 2010 hold for Audiokinetic’s stable of products and the company as a whole?
2010 will see new highly advanced DSP products, such as new SoundSeed plug-ins and a convolution reverb running on the different gaming platforms. This is the branch that consolidates our position as the innovative leader for audio in this industry.

On the other hand, most people adopt Wwise for the quality of the feature set, the stability, the performance, our support, and for the entire development pipeline solution Wwise provides. These are all elements we will continue to enhance over the coming year.

Do you think that developers can continue to get more out of the current generation of consoles audio-wise, or do you think it’s a case of waiting until the next generation before any major advances?
The next generation of platforms will certainly facilitate certain aspects of audio development. That being said, I feel that a fair number of games use just a fraction of what is available with the current generation of platforms. There are game developers that are still producing relatively simple audio designs for a number of reasons, including a lack of technical or financial resources, production cycles that are too short, or simply because they are just starting in the business and don’t have a lot of experience. So I think there’s definitely space to expand on the current systems.

In focus: SoundSeed Air

One of the big introductions that Audiokinetic made this year was SoundSeed, further extending its Wwise plug-in line up. Envisioned from the beginning as a series of modules, the SoundSeed series looked to take audio in games beyond pre-recorded clips and, thanks to the power of the current generation of consoles and PCs, finally bring dynamic sound generation into the mix based on advanced DSP techniques.

Beyond just being technologically pretty cool, generating audio dynamically means that memory footprint is dramatically reduced – if at the expense of CPU cycles, admittedly – but also that the audio can be much more closely tied in with what’s actually going on in the game as it’s being played.

While we’ve covered the introduction of the SoundSeed series in these very pages before, and even Realtime Worlds’ experiences integrating the first module, Impact, into APB, we haven’t yet looked at the second module in the series – SoundSeed Air.

While Impact focused on the run-time generation of impact sounds, Air similarly focuses on air noises. It’s actually divided into two Wwise plug-ins – SoundSeed Wind and SoundSeed Whoosh. In the firm’s own words, Wind generates sounds based on how wind blows across wind deflector objects, and is useful for creating outside ambiences, aircraft engines, and special effects based around air displacement.

SoundSeed Whoosh, on the other hand, generates sounds based on how those wind deflector objects themselves travel through the air, making it suited to close-combat swooshes, bullet fly-bys, and other motion-based sound effects. Both plug-ins use parameter-based synthesis, as opposed to Impact, which used modal synthesis techniques.

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