Ten years of audio at Develop: Brighton

John Broomhall looks forward to the Develop Conference Audio Track’s tenth anniversary
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So, now we are ten.

Game audio has come a long way since the first Develop Conference arrived in buzzing Brighton. Two hardware generations, the explosion of handheld gaming power, a sea-change in publishing and now the alluring frontier of a brave new world called virtual reality.

It’s been a decade that’s seen us transmogrify in the eyes of our linear post-production cousins, from poor relation to exciting, vibrant new kid on the block, as evidenced by historic delegate lists.

Year-on-year, the Develop Conference has provided a platform for a myriad of audio creatives and programmers to help evangelise and advance the cause of high quality music, sound and dialogue for games. From Halo maestro Marty O’Donnell’s rallying keynote in the first year to Sony’s audio chief Garry Taylor’s vision statement in 2014. And who could have guessed that within a decade O’Donnell would have created video game music with Sir Paul McCartney, or that Taylor would have announced a PS4 SDK with an inline mastering processor?

Andy, Ali, Susan and Owain at event organiser Tandem Events surely deserve a noisy round of applause for recognising the importance of audio right from the outset. And a massive thanks to everyone who has ever attended and contributed to the audio track – whether a scheduled speaker or open mic session participant – you have engendered a strong sense of community and fostered a rare and precious generosity of spirit in the dissemination of ideas, advice, lessons learned and future visions.

Some of the tech case studies and tools development sessions we’ve hosted have been fascinating, even mind-blowing. And it’s clearly important to talk about planning, budgets and schedules. But for me personally, perhaps the greatest value of joining this annual collegiate exploration lies in those moments of pure inspiration regarding the creative use of sound design and music score – from movie guru Paul Moore, to the acclaimed Chinese Room.

The sound of 2015

This year promises both in-houser and freelancer alike a smorgasbord of varied and exciting sessions. We’ve got another stellar speaker line-up which, among others, includes Rockstar alumni, best of breed freelancers, Sony’s VR audio pioneers, Side’s director of operations, PlayDead’s audio auteur, and the winner of last year’s Develop Award for Creative Contribution: Audio, Stafford Bawler.

Their discussions will cover the future of freelancing, planning massive triple-A audio productions, sound and music for VR, dialogue best practice, melding audio into gameplay and game mechanics, and producing world-class foley.

It’s an exciting time for audio in games, right? Just think: it’s only taken three or four decades to get us from sid-chip to symphony, and from figurative to dramatic sound. Compared with the history of movies that’s actually not bad, and arguably, we can now have all the sound we want – although as a wise person once said to me, “when you can have all the sound and music you want, then you have to think about what to leave out…”

As technology issues and barriers become less dominant, surely our job becomes more about creativity and that crucial key differentiator: the power of ideas. As we peer into the future at another Develop Conference audio track, that’s what really makes me smile.

It’s an absolute honour to chair the day’s proceedings again and I sincerely hope I’ll run into you in Brighton this year.

‘Happy Birthday’, Develop Conference.

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