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How To Get Into Game Sound Design

Adam Scott

To succeed in this field, you must take what you know about sound and apply it to game creation. We will cover the fundamental steps to making a great game sound.

What is game sound?

Game sound design is essentially sound applied to video games. This process involves coming up with sounds for your game’s characters, environments, and gameplay.

Sounds can be tied to events in the game, giving it an ambient effect.

Music is only the starting point of a game. Sound design brings a huge effect in adding to the immersion and the character of your game.

So, knowing how to do it is crucial to your success in game sound design.

What is game audio?Low angle view of lighting equipment on shelf

Game audio is sound made for a game. What we will discuss here is game audio as applied to video games.

It means the audio production process that happens between your game’s script and the sound it generates.

Game audio goes hand-in-hand with music. Your game’s audio is based on the music’s audio.

They go together because the music dictates how your game’s sound should sound.

Well, the music dictates how the sounds should sound, and if your game is a video game, that’s all the sound design you need.

But there are some players who need more than music. There are some players who need more. Some players want more sound in their games.

They’re people who need voice actors, sound effects, and many other elements for the sound design of their games. So, in short, to get into game sound, you need to know how to incorporate game audio.

There are many styles and levels of game sound design, which will be discussed in the following sections.

Sound effects

Game sound effects are those that you use while playing. These are very basic sounds that you’ll want to use in order to give your game a unique feel.

Examples of game sound effectsSelective focus photography of gray stainless steel condenser microphone

Trebuchet

Players are pounding on these little metal balls. The trebuchet will slam into enemies in an explosion. You could put this sound effect at the start of the game, before the first enemy is spawned.

Tsunami

This is the music that would play when the Tsunami hits your enemies.

Spraygun

When you’re firing at enemies, this is the sound effect that would play.

Battlefield

In Battlefield, this is the sound you would hear when a helicopter was coming in for a landing. It’s a pretty intense piece of audio.

You can find the same sound effect in other Battlefield games.

Every game sounds different and has their own audio signature that they want to give to players. These sounds should help set a mood, as well as help define your game’s atmosphere and theme.

Audio programming language

There are many different audio programming languages that can be used for games, and each has its own nuance.

At the core of game sound design, game audio programs are called audio programming languages or A.P.L.L.s.

In the video game industry, you’ll find most games using one of the following two or three game audio programming languages:

  • Pro tools – the most common program that is used in the video game industry
  • Audition – is the only game audio program that can be used on macOS, Windows, and Linux
  • Pulse – is the only game audio program that can be used on iOS, Android, and many other mobile platforms

What the pros useRecording studio with ultra violet florescent

I’m not a professional game audio programmer. I have written games before, and I did a lot of work for the engine company for SimCity.

But, I’m more than an ordinary audio programmer, so I researched the pros and cons of each of these different types of programs to see which one could meet the needs of game sound design.

In this section, I’ll list the pros and cons of each program and explain what I think makes it a good choice.

X-Lib

I’ve found that the programming language that makes most sense is one that is built for game programming. In other words, it’s a language that is used for development.

X-Lib is based on C++, so it’s highly accessible to game developers. It’s easy to pick up and get going on, and it provides the potential for a large library of ready-to-use sound effects and music.

Plus, it’s open source! That’s a pro in my book.

But I have to mention that X-Lib is what I would call a lightweight programming language. In other words, the types of programs that are built with X-Lib are still written in C++.

So, they are somewhat larger than the C++ programs that can be built with X-Lib.

I’m also not entirely sold on the music package that is built into X-Lib. Music is generally a minor part of a game.

You can’t use all of X-Lib’s sound effects or have your music play when you enter the game. This can be limiting for game developers.

Audition

Audition is the best tool for music programming that I’ve found. It’s fully built on C++, and it comes with a robust library of sound effects and music.

Audition is a full-fledged programming language. It has a wide array of sound effects and music instruments.

Unlike X-Lib, Audition is also highly portable. It has an open-source community of over 2,200 developers that create sound effects and music for Audition.

They also share sound effects and music resources.

The benefit of this is that it’s a ton of variation to your sound design. If you’re using a limited library of music and sound effects in your game, you could find yourself in a situation where your game sound design won’t sound as good as it could.

One thing to note is that Audition is not open source, which can be somewhat limiting in some situations. However, if you’re making a commercial game, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to rely on that.

What I recommend

I like the X-Lib system because of its good coverage of all the audio design needs that you’ll need for a game. However, I recommend Audition for your first or second game.

If you’re like me, then you might feel like you’re over-engineering your game sound design. Audition allows you to have a bit more freedom when it comes to what you can do and how you can do it.

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