Welcome to my new blog! I will be using this as a means to share my thoughts and ideas about music, games, and everything in between. T...
Welcome to my Blog!
January 19, 2014
Sound Guy Rant
February 27, 2014
Another text post this week. Don't worry though, there will be another vlog soon!
A couple weeks ago we read an article in Game Design that quoted Kyle Gabler in talking about his process for coming up with World of Goo. He mentions that in rapid prototyping it is necessary to gather concept art and music to create an emotional target for yourself. He reminisces about the inspiration of World of Goo and says that it came to him while he was listening to Astor Piazzolla's "Tango Apasionado." While listening to that music, he came up with what would be the seed of the idea that developed into World of Goo. Basically the entire game was created around this one "emotional target."
The thing is, this isn't some ground-breaking idea. Artists have been doing this forever. Listening to music helps the artist focus in on an emotion or a state of being (cultivate a mood) and helps to inspire their work. Film editors use inspiration music while they are cutting their films to shape the pace of their edits and to create the correct emotion in their edits. Directors often use placeholder music to quickly express the emotional tone of a film before a composer is brought in. In animation it's even more important that the music and sound be completed before any work is done. Animators use videos of the voice actors in the sound booth to help animate the faces of their characters. Or as was the case in WALL-E, the sound design WAS the voice of the character and the sound literally shaped the entire film. In cases of a musical animated film like Disney's Frozen, the songs had to come in early in the development process so that the animators could really capture the emotion and meaning of a scene. (See "Let it Go," duh).
So then why is it that so few video game creators bring in sound and music early for inspiration? I understand that for a long time, due to processing limitations and restraints, having sound at all was considered a special bonus. I get that. But in my opinion, game designers and developers have been stuck in that mindset. They think sound is good if we can get it, if not, no big deal. So music and sound is thrust to the end of production when there is hardly any time to develop the sound and it just ends up feeling insignificant. And yet, what I hear time and time again is, "Sound is the most important thing to make your game believable, real, and juicy, etc." Game designers say this, but I don't think they believe it.
Now I'm not saying that sound should be the first thing that a game creator works with, that doesn't make any sense. BUT I do believe that bringing sound and music in early in the process can help shape a game and its design, much like how film editors use music to shape the emotions of their work. Similarly, I think that the game design process can equally shape music and sound in a way that makes both feel very much like cohesive parts of the same whole and not something that was tacked on at the end.
Recently, thanks to advances in processing power of game consoles and the (much) larger budgets of some game developers, voice actors, sound designers, and music have been brought in earlier in the development process. And the results are clearly visible. For example, Naughty Dog's The Last of Us brought in the sound designers early in the process and their work helped really shape the emotion of their game. Here is a great video about that process:
Other games such as Journey focused in on the music from the very beginning and developed the music and the game simultaneously. Rather than a set of short looping pieces, the result in Journey ended up being a game with music that unfolds and develops as you play. And people responded VERY well to this!
Luckily, while studying at the ETC, I have gotten to work closely with the programmers and the animators and artists early on through the process. But I know that this is not how it will be in the industry. I guess my point is if you are a game designer, DON'T FORGET THE SOUND! It's actually very important. Like seriously.