Saturday, November 9, 2013

The judgement predicament of audio and graphics.

The answer to this blog is probably going to be that the game business dug this hole all by themselves and that we now have to reside with it.

Because we released the very first teaser of Penumbra: Overture in 2006 we have often received the expected comments "the graphics suck", "looks dated", "hmm, is this running on the Wii?" and so on and on. This has also echoed back in testimonials, only with a bit much more elegant phrasing.

Now four years later, the exact same pattern (slightly less to be fair) repeats for the teasers that we have released of our upcoming game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We have upped our graphics game, not only in technical fidelity, but also tremendous efforts has been made with the design and style and creation of the graphics, far above any of the Penumbra games. Positive, the game industry has taken the graphical technology and fidelity even additional during this period, so our efforts are minimized by this. But even so, we have at least attempted.

In the course of the same period we have also enjoyed comments such as "the voices are wonderful", "ideal music evah!", "the ambient noises scared me shi*beep*significantly less"... again, repeated in critiques only with more elegance. For the Amnesia teasers so far this continues, with an nearly one hundred% successful comment ratio for the audio. This is great! But it also puts a core dilemma out in the bright light, how various the audio is judged compared to the graphics.

I am not going to attempt and come up with any concepts as to why. That would be going beyond the introduction I make in this weblog post. Even so, as the individual in charge of the audio for our games, I really feel compelled to give some details about the creation and technology behind it all. How the audio is produced, who makes it, what sources we have to devote and what sort of technologies that is used. As an independent developer, the sources are really limited, for graphics and even a lot more so for audio.

For Amnesia I do most of the sounds, Mikko Tarmia creates the music and a new friend of ours, Tapio Liukkonen, makes the sounds that calls for more time and skill. We also operate with AudioGodz to get the voice acting carried out for the game. The income that we spend on audio is the bare minimum that we can afford to hire these men and women for as a brief timespan as feasible.

In the course of a entire project I commit much less than 20% of my time creating sounds, this is extremely little when considering about the significance of the sounds in our games. I have to cut down on how cautiously I create these sounds, I have a library of sound effects that I use to mix and I also record my own raw sounds. If any skilled sound engineers had been to see how I worked, they would laugh and take pity on me. At instances I record things in the room where I have my laptop, occasionally straight in front of it, from a noise ratio point of view this is a huge NO. But with tiny time at my disposal, that is what I do.

With this in mind, I would say that the creation of the sounds can be quite sloppy, but in my own defense, getting carried out sounds for games given that my very first attempt (menu music) in 1997, I think I have some encounter and tricks in my pocket to rely on for an improved result.

The principal computer that I use when I work with producing levels for Amnesia, which includes implementing the sounds into the game, is quite old. The sound card is a Soundblaster Reside! from 1998, generating it comparable to what a Geforce 1 is for graphics cards. It has some capabilities that could be comparable to those of graphics cards, such as hardware assistance for effects like EAX (echo for instance) and it can do 5.1 Surround sound. Other than that it is effectively, pretty old.

The sound technology is rudimentary in our games - play, cease, fade, pan, output 32 or so channels and apply some simple effects (the echo, all challenging this is not implemented in Amnesia however). That is basically it. Attempt to sum up the graphical features of a game engine this swiftly if you can!*

I could possibly go on, but I think that the picture is acquiring very clear, that from a resource, effort and technologies perspective we are genuinely restricted in the audio department. But regardless of this, the ideas, design and how we implement the audio in the game has so far been quite effectively received. I would argue that we are carrying out the precise same issue (ideas, design and style and implementation as essential) for the graphics, only with more care and resources, but to an extent in vain.

For a 1st particular person type of game it seems that the audio is judged practically purely by the impact, mood and objective, whilst the graphics are as far as I can inform, practically solely judged on a basis of technology and production value. There is also a side of it exactly where the audio in comparison to other games does not matter as significantly for the general "judgement". Even though for graphics, the important comparison is how it compares to other games, regardless of development budget.

Why is this? Is it like this? Does it matter? Any comments except very good job on slamming the audio of your own game?

*In all ego-fairness we DO have a lot of sound effects in our engine, for instance a pretty advanced system for physics sounds. But these characteristics do absolutely nothing particular to the sounds other than changing volume and pitch. It is quite a lot like possessing cool water effects in 2D pixel graphics. However, given that it does the job, no one seems to bother.

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