Trip report: Satsop nuclear power plant (Glass recording)

October 18th, 2015

On October 6th, I had the privilege to join a few other sound designers (James Nixon, Kristoffer Larson, Pete Comley and Andy Martin) on a trip to the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant out in Elma, Washington about a half hour west of Olympia. While we bore a ridiculous number of radioactive jokes afterwards, the plant was never finished and thus never had any actual nuclear material near it. Construction began in the 70s during the energy crisis and in 1983, after falling $60 million over budget, they canned it. It was apparently about 75% complete. The county of Grays Harbor has now turned the complex into a business park, so there’s a handful of businesses out there and various films, music videos and performance groups also rent it out from time to time. James Nixon had wanted to record some large glass breaks, and when he opened up to the group to see if anyone would be interested in breaking shit at a nuclear power plant, the sentiment was “I would be completely insane to say no!”

We had the run of the place from 8am until 4pm on a gray, overcast Tuesday. I’ve seen the cooling towers from the freeway on the way to the Olympic Peninsula, but it was a completely different thing to be standing right under one. They were huge! We signed releases to climb up the stairs along the outside all the way to the top, but alas, we didn’t have time. We did walk around though, scouted out a space to do our glass breaking and also scouted some areas to capture impulse responses and the like. The picture below shows one of these spaces: what was meant to be a cap to an unfinished containment unit is now a parking garage with some insane reverbs inside.

Andy walking into the bat cave, aka the cap of a containment vat turned into a parking garage.

Andy walking into the bat cave, aka the cap of a containment vat turned into a parking garage.

We burned the morning trying to figure out how to rig the glass. James wanted the break sound isolated from the debris that would come with just throwing the panes on the ground. While he was working on figuring that out, Andy and I did a little exploration into a side alley which had some amazing reflections that changed radically from the entrance to the back of the alley. In the back of the alley were some 15 foot long pieces of rebar that we started playing with. Andy grabbed one and started dragging it along the floor and the sound was insane! So we recorded a bunch of that and some other rebar in the alley fun.


By then, we had gotten the maintenance crew to bring a man basket lift (a silly, sexist name if there ever were one) and we began figuring out how to get the glass set up so it could be broken safely with a few milliseconds between the impact and the shard fall. The plan was to have 2 people on the roof of the moving van we rented, but the roof was fiberglass with a few metal support ribs. Good thing Andy is a small human! He was volunteered to be the man on the truck breaking the glass. The rig called for a rope running from the truck with 2 suction cups attached to it, going up through the man basket and back down to the back of my car where we tied off so we could easily hoist new panes of glass up for each break. Andy would break each piece with a hammer or crowbar and await the next one to be hauled up.

We set up a ton of mics through Kristoffer’s Nomad recorder, 4 Sound Devices 702’s and a couple other field recorders. I think in the end we had a Sennheiser MKH8040 stereo pair on the truck pointing toward the impact. James and Pete and I each had 8060s pointed at the impact areas. We had Pete’s Neumann binaural head (aka Fritz) near the impact area as well as a few other close mics. I had a Shure KSM141 stereo pair pointed at a concrete wall just off from the impact zone to capture the reflections and Andy had his Omni M/S rig in the alley we were playing in. We also had a couple contact mics set up in interesting places (attached to a small satellite dish and one to the rental truck) which actually got some pretty decent recordings. Kristoffer ran the main recording area, capturing 8 tracks from around the impact site into his Nomad. Pete and James were both operating their booms, Andy was destroying, and I was tucked into the cab of the truck recording with my 8060 and monitoring Pete’s rig. In between breaks we all ran whatever tasks were needed: Pete would sweep out the existing glass, James would prep the next pane, Kristoffer logged the recordings and helped me with stopping some of the remote recorders, and I would stop the remaining remote recorders, get in my car to lower the rope and raise a new pane, then run around in a tizzy turning the recorders back on and hopping in the cab to do it again. Chaotic sonic fun!

Satsop is a business park and there’s some other industrial areas nearby including a power plant, so it is not a completely quiet place. We were plagued throughout the day by truck backup beeps, riding lawn mowers, strange radio squawks, wind, etc. But we got some surprisingly clean and diverse recordings of a broad range of glass from mirrors to plate glass to bottles to wine goblets (which made an awesome whooshing sound as they traveled through the air) and lightbulbs which sounded way more powerful and percussive than their size betrays).

It was a super successful day, but unfortunately we had no time left after breaking all the glass and cleaning up to record anything else. We’re planning another trip soon hopefully to capture impulse responses of various rooms, buildings and spaces (1000 foot tunnels!) and whatever else suits our fancy. Here’s a compilation of some of the breaks I captured with my Sony RX100 camera. The recordings via our Rycotes sound much cleaner (no wind) and as far as those truck beeps, well that’s what RX is for!

Best practices in using the PS4 Dualshock controller speaker

April 6th, 2015

The controller speaker in the Dualshock 4 is pretty damn cool, though it’s by no means the first of its kind. The Wii Remote famously had a speaker in it which was used occasionally. The archery and fishing sounds from Twilight Princess were the first time I really noticed its use. In the Wii version of Spider-man Web of Shadows we played Spider-man’s web flings out of it. It was a fun novelty, but not the best quality speaker. The Wii U has not one, but two speakers!  Stereo sound on a controller. Now that’s awesome! (or possibly overkill). The PS4 DualShock controller has a single speaker, but it’s a nice quality one (the same as the Vita speakers). In my time playing with it, I’ve come up with a set of best practices I would like to share. I think these concepts apply to the Nintendo controller speakers as well, and probably any environment where you have a “special” speaker close to the player, yet separate from the normal sound field:


Mind the (Latent) Gap

The Dualshock 4 controller connects via bluetooth and with bluetooth comes inherent latency. For this reason, you really shouldn’t try synching the controller speaker with the game speakers. It just won’t work consistently well. Maybe it will one time out of a hundred, but every other time, it’s going to be off by some amount, which can be a little disorienting. The discrepancy between the timing of the controller speaker and game speakers is fine for more amorphous sounds, but for anything the player needs sample accurate cognition of (like critical dialogue) choose one or the other. There are some really cool techniques you can do with dialogue, which I’ll touch on further down.


Treat it like an LFE

The LFE channel of a surround system is commonly known as the subwoofer (the speaker it plays out of), but LFE itself stands for Low Frequency Effect.  The key word here being “Effect.” If you’re constantly hitting the sub with sounds, not only does the mix start to feel muddy and fatiguing, but you also dilute the power of the LFE’s intended purpose: to emphasize key, special moments or events. I strongly believe the controller speaker should be used in the same manner. Make sure what you’re sending through it has purpose and reason. Generally speaking the best sounds to send through it are UI/notification sounds and “first person” sounds, or those that make sense to the player when they emanate directly in front of him/her instead of in the landscape of the room speakers. By no means are these the only categories of sounds you can use the speaker controller for, but it’s good practice to ensure you’re not breaking immersion through its use (unless of course that’s your intention).


Avoid using it for critical sounds

As designers, there are a lot of unknown factors we need to consider when deciding what to pump through the controller speaker. Listening environments vary greatly and sometimes the noise of a child crying, a dishwasher running, or a friend yammering endlessly about how awesome they are can completely overshadow the sounds coming through the controller speaker. Furthermore, users can adjust the speaker volume in the system menu, and while there are now ways to query that volume and ideally use that information to determine whether to route a sound through the controller speaker or the main mix, it bears considering that sounds you want to emanate from the controller speaker may not be heard by the player. For this reason, I recommend not using it for any critical sounds that the player absolutely must hear. Whether or not you follow this advice, always design a contingency plan for any controller sounds you want to ensure the player hears. If they’re using headphones, if the controller is turned down, etc. In a perfect world, the PS4 would know via its HDMI connection what the audio setup of the user currently is (headphones, stereo, 5.1, etc.), and with a microphone attached to the system, we could be sampling the ambient noise of the room and adjusting the mix dynamically as Rob Bridgett suggested in his recent GDC talk on adaptive loudness. If these two concepts were achieved, the engine could determine when to send your controller sounds to the controller speaker and when they need to be diverted to the main mix instead. But until we get there, have a plan in place for controller sounds the user must absolutely hear.


Be creative!

The speaker controller is a fun tool and can really add an extra level of immersion beyond the normal mix. We received a lot of positive feedback for our use of it in inFAMOUS Second Son: from the ball shakes of the graffiti can to the way we used it for draining powers (the drain sound started at the source of the power in the world and slowly moved into the controller speaker as Delsin absorbed the power), and there’s tons of other developers out there doing neat stuff with it. I loved how Transistor played the narrator’s voice through it (only if you select to use the speaker in the options menu), but still sent the reverb sends to the main mix. It created a fantastic sense of your sword intimately talking to you, but still being in the world (and by only having the dry mix go through either the mains or the controller they avoided the sync issues of sending the VO through both). The Last of Us Remaster did a similar feature with their audio logs. Shadow of Mordor had a great example of a first person notification in playing a bush rustle sound whenever the player would enter high grass. It helped communicate to the player that they were in cover using an in-world sound rather than a possibly-immersion-breaking UI sound. The bush rustle sound also brings up one last point: while it is a decent quality speaker, it’s still a small speaker in a plastic housing, best to keep it relegated primarily to mid and higher frequencies.

Perhaps we need to give the speaker controller a fancy acronym akin to LFE to help explain its best uses, something like Personal Mid-to-High-Frequency Effect (PMtHFE). Although that’s more syllables than “speaker controller,” so let’s just remember to use it wisely.

The Sound Design of inFamous Second Son: Video Powers

March 21st, 2015

Of all the powers in inFamous Second Son, Video powers may have been the most esoteric. I mean smoke at least has an analog in fire (and we used some fire elements in both the visual and sound design), but video? You think video, you may think laser, but we already had a neon power (which was even sometimes referred to as laser). So how the hell did we get something sounding as unique as our video powers without treading on the other power sets?

Part of the answer is interestingly with how the power set itself was initially conveyed to the team. Video power was actually called “TV power” internally for most of production. Heaven’s Hellfire, the video game that Eugene, the video power conduit, is obsessed with was initially a TV show. We realized after many months that it made more sense to make it into a video game instead and that would open up more avenues for us to play around with in the gameplay (such as the mildly retro boss battle).

But we still had “TV powers” stuck in our brain and when Andy and I began brainstorming about how to make sounds that were powerful and unique and “TV like” we started thinking about televisions. We stalked thrift stores around town hoping we’d come across some old 1970s vacuum or cathode tube televisions to take apart and record. We failed there, but Andy eventually came across a couple old CRT TV/VCR combos. Double obsolete points! We brought these into the studio and proceeded to record all kinds of sounds with an array of microphones from shotguns to contact mics to crappy telephone microphones which did an amazing job of capturing bizarre electromagnetic interference around the power supply, and other surfaces. We recorded all possible permutations of power on and power off sounds and even got the VCR mechanisms to give us some very bizarre whines and hums. We also did some recordings of the Sucker Punch MAME arcade cabinet which has a very old CRT monitor in it with tons of wires exposed, as well as a shortwave radio I’ve had for years, but never really needed for a video game sound before.

We recorded all of these sounds at 192kHz and the frequency content of the recordings on the CRT monitors at the higher frequencies was pretty astounding. While some of them we had to remove the >20kHz content to save our ears and speakers, Andy also did some pitch shifting to play around with some of these normally inaudible sounds and they became part of the video power palette.

A few words on the telephone microphones we used: they are cheap and really neat for recording electromagnetic interference. Although Radio Shack may be dead and gone now, you can still get them online. It’s pretty neat the wide array of sounds you can get from one of them by waving near essentially any power source from a monitor to a computer, plugs, etc. Basically any electronic device will give you some interesting content. For a lot of the TV powers, Andy took various EMF sounds and morphed them together using Zynaptiq’s Morph plugin.

So, similar to our other power sets, below is a video showing some of our field recording as well as the final in-game sounds.  What’s different here is that the video powers were finalized later in the project and we were so focused on finishing the game, that we did not make a fancy, fun video for the team. So, it may not be as fun as the previous videos, but still shows what we recorded and how it ended up sounding.


The Sound Design of inFamous Second Son: Concrete Powers

March 16th, 2015

It’s hard to believe that inFamous Second Son is a year old already!  I’ve been completely lagging on finishing up these posts about the powers design for the game, so let me use this opportunity to make good and present the first of the final 2 parts of this series. I will hopefully get around to posting my presentation on the Systems Design for the game soon as well so those who haven’t heard/seen it can have the information available to them. Anyway, on to the magic and mystery of concrete!

For those who haven’t played or seen inFamous Second Son you play a guy who gets superpowers battling an authoritarian government agency called the DUP whose soldiers are all imbued with concrete superpowers by their leader Dana Augustine (as normally happens with government agencies).

The biggest challenge for us with concrete was how to make it sound unique. It’s just rocks and stone right? We’ve all heard countless variations on rock sounds in everything from impacts to destruction and rubble/debris sounds. We needed to figure out ways to make our sounds stand out as unique, while also conveying the power of the enemies in the game who used concrete.

The powers ran the gamut from concrete grenades to spawning concrete shields to launching off spires of concrete and forming a concrete balcony on walls. In short there was tons of concrete objects being created and broken in the world. Not only did we need these to sound unique and “powered” but they also had to sound completely distinct from all the “normal” concrete in the world you could destroy or collide other objects with. It was a huge challenge, but one that Andy Martin was definitely up for.

The place to start, naturally, was by buying a bunch of concrete. I looked into the process of concrete, which is usually just a mixture of water, an aggregate like sand or gravel, and Portland cement (named after a type of stone used in the UK, not the sleepy hamlet of the Pacific Northwest of the US). While the thought of mixing up my own concrete sounded appealing to my construction worker wannabe side, we weren’t in a position in the project where we had limitless time to experiment. So we did the next best thing: went to Home Depot. Andy and I both made trips to the hardware store and bought all kinds of concrete and stone, from paver stones (which were often too resonant) to clay bricks, cinder blocks, and more. They were demolishing a building across the street from my house and I noticed some particularly large chunks of both asphalt and concrete sitting on the other side of the fence. I waited until nightfall, donned my ninja costume (really just a bathrobe with a scarf tied around my head) and absconded with the almost-final resources we would need to make our concrete powers come to life.

From here, Andy began to run wild and experiment with all kinds of torture he could enact on our various pieces of concrete. From scraping everything against the slabs from metal disks to binder clips to resonating a jews harp against them to, yes, crushing, beating and destroying, he created an elaborate and unique palette of concrete sounds. As a few of the characters in the game developed, their powers also evolved. Some characters now had “beams” of concrete they would shoot out to shield allies while another burrowed underground like Bugs Bunny on his way to Albuquerque, and another sat atop a giant swirling tornado of concrete chunks. We needed something unique here and I devised a way to record a constantly moving collection of some of the concrete chunks we had broken (and wrote up a blog post about it here).

Andy’s wizardry both in recording these sounds and in shaping them in ProTools and Wwise into the layers of concrete powers was top notch as always and now it was time to show the team what we’d been doing (and that our jobs are more fun than theirs). Below is another Sonic Equation of sorts which we showed at a company meeting demonstrating some of recording techniques used to make the concrete powers of Second Son:


Thanks again for reading. I hope to get a write-up of the video powers (which naturally entailed a lot of fun creative recording and manipulation) done next week in time for the proper anniversary of Second Son’s release. Stay tuned!

GDC 2015 recap

March 10th, 2015

GDC 2015 has ended and those who weren’t there have gotten their information solely in 144 character fragments. I wanted to write up a quick post of my experiences at the conference, key takeaways, etc. to give those who weren’t able to there a (slightly) more comprehensive idea of what transpired.

To be clear, there was no drinking, having fun, or gallavanting because we’re all professionals and don’t have time for such shenanigans.

The big takeaway from the week as a whole is that everyone is interested in VR and 3d audio, but we’re still figuring out what to do with it.

I arrived Monday night, not to hit audio bootcamp on Tuesday, but because I’m lucky enough to work for Sony and have the opportunity to be a part of their Game Technology Conference before GDC in which I sit in a room with some of the most talented game audio developers in the world and talk about game audio. We heard talks from Evolution studios, some of the Morpheus team, and others from SCEE and SCEA. Talented folks. Here I am sitting in a room with guys from Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica, Bend Studio, Sony Cambridge, London, Evolution, Sony Japan, Insomniac. It’s a very humbling experience being surrounded by such incredible, inspiring talent, all the while having great discussions to further inspire and innovate.

I actually cut out of conference for an hour to catch the beginning of the Audio Bootcamp and Jay Weinland’s talk on Weapon Design in Destiny.  I always enjoy talks where people share some screenshots of their Wwise projects. I find it fascinating how we all use the tool in different ways to sometimes do similar things and other times create totally innovative concepts. The two big “that was cool” moments from Jay’s talk which have been done elsewhere, but were elegantly implemented: the notion of silence duckers: using a Wwise silence plugin with 0.1 second length played with an explosion to duck most other sounds by 12dB for the .1 seconds with a .2 second recovery time to carve out some space for the explosion without being detectable. Also their passby solution for rockets in which they created several sounds of the same length with the pass by the listener at the same spot in each file. Based on velocity of the object they trigger the sound based on when the midpoint should go by the listener and if it’s too late to start the sample from the beginning, they seek into it.

One final comment about Audio Bootcamp: since the beginning it’s been more of an “introduction to game audio” day. This year it seemed far more like an extra day of the audio track. So many interesting speakers and talks on music, technical sound design, VO, etc. Pretty cool that audio has so many compelling topics that it takes more than the 3 day conference to cover all pertinent info.

Wednesday started with a talk from Jim Fowler of Sony talking about using Orchestral colors in Interactive music. While it was a bit esoteric for non-music people, Jim did a fantastic job of presenting a great concept in regards to working with music stems: rather than arrange music by instrument or section, arrange it by function within the score. He then showed how he marks up charts for an orchestra so they can tell what they need to play when. Really neat concept, and some lovely dry, British humor to boot.

I then headed over to my one non-Audio talk by Alistair Hope from Creative Assembly on building fear in Alien Isolation. Unfortunately it was only a half hour talk, but somehow he managed to get through all of his content. The key takeaways here were how they used prototyping to figure out their concept and then stayed true to the concept through further testing. These guys really get the meaning of the term “grounded” in regards to design and how something is grounded when it makes sense in the world you are building, rather than the real world. Interestingly they toyed with making it a 3rd person game at one point due to the fact that most other survival horror games have been 3rd person and there was also the conflict at the time with FPS Aliens Colonial Marines. In the end they found that 3rd person felt like an Alien game, while 1st person felt like Alien, so they stuck to their guns. The last, most important thing, which should apply to all projects were their Key Universal Learnings. The seem so self-explanatory, but are definitely worth reminding ourselves (and our teams) of when working on a project:

  • Have a Strong Vision
  • Everything should work together to support that vision
  • Deliver strongly on the vision
  • Believe in what your doing

Next up for me was a talk from Harmonix on creating the interactive musical experience of Fantasia. My one wish for this talk was that they brought a Kinect along because it was cool to see some movies of their prototypes in Max/MSP and Live, but watching the movies of gameplay made we want to see how the 3d motion of the user caused various changes in the music. Still it seems like everyone that works at Harmonix is a musical tech wizard and they definitely have a lot of fun developing their gameplay.

Wednesday concluded with a talk from Monolith about Shadows of Mordor which was really great. Brian Pimantuan, the audio director as well as his programmer and staff composer did a really good job of showing how they set out to maximize emotional resonance in the open world environment of the game.  Some of the interesting things they did were moving the listener back to the player to make things more intimate and tie things closer to the player. Similar to Condemned, they added music stingers to impacts on Uruk Captains. Really nice, subtle touch of integrating music into sound design and increasing intensity. Also really dug they way they took a few queues for the Nemesis Orcs and made each one unique and reinforced each Orcs character by chanting the Orc Chieftains name over the music cue. Really slick. Also of note, though they barely touched on it, was how great the mix of this game is. So much going on and just a fantastic job of keeping everything balanced and sounding good.

Thursday was the (almost painfully) long day. The morning began with Oculus’ Brian Hook and Tom Smurdon talking about their experiences thus far with audio and virtual reality. They had some interesting perspectives on how we need to handle audio for VR including all mono sounds and a very judicious use of music. Gone are the days of simple tagging of anim roots with sounds to be replaced with a joint-based animation tagging system since the immediacy of virtual reality means we need greater spatialization of near-field sounds. They provided a great, early insight to playing with audio in VR games. It also made me very excited and encouraged about the work Sony is doing on the same front. The Oculus programmer, Brian Hook, made a VST plugin of their 3d audio SDK implementation which allows Tom, the audio lead, to easily audition 3d audio sounds before getting them in the game. A nice touch and one we should (hopefully) expect to see for other 3d audio solutions soon.

I had plans to troll the expo floor for a bit after the Oculus talk. I tried to see Nuendo’s implementation into Wwise 2015.1, but the line was too long, so I started to wander and ran into Mike Niederquell of Sony Santa Monica and Rob Krekel from Naughty Dog. We spent the next hour chatting about a gamut of topics including best practice uses for the PS4 speaker controller (perhaps a future blog post). Before I knew it, it was time for the next talk, which was Joanna Orland of SCEE talking about how to get a team on board and understanding your audio vision. Using the Book of Spells project she introduced the concept of creating a common language with the rest of the team so they could provide feedback to audio without being obtuse. In the Book of Spells example, each spell type was given an elemental name derived from natural sounds. If the rest of the team wanted changes to a specific sound they would use these elemental descriptions to help describe to Joanna the exact aesthetic they were looking for.

Rob Bridgett gave a very compelling talk on adaptive loudness and dynamics in mobile games next. His talk was arguably about much more than mobile games and easily spills into handhelds and also has implications for consoles. Rob is doing some supercool stuff out at Clockwork Fox. Not only does he do different mixes and loudness settings via compression based on whether the user has headphones connected or not, he also uses the device microphone to measure the noise floor of the room to help determine optimal loudness for the game mix. Brilliant adaptive techniques which, given the availability of a microphone, should be used in consoles as well.

Next up, Martin Foxton presented a talk on modular sound design using the Frostbite engine. His concept was essentially the notion of building sound events or in-game sound effects from smaller building blocks of sounds which can be reused as necessary and also creating templates for these sounds a la prefabs in Unity where you can create a script to carry over various settings for a sound. If you’re not already using modular sound design, it’s a great way to achieve variety while still maintaining sane bank sizes. It’s the reason every time you fire an R2 smoke bolt in inFAMOUS Second Son there’s 1024 possible derivations of the sound that can play!

The final talk of Thursday was a mind blowing presentation by Zak Belica of Epic and Seth Horowitz of Neuropop, a neuroscience research company. Seth was pretty damn hilarious and I only wish they had another hour or two to discuss their concepts. The takeaway here was that sound was one of the fastest of your six senses (yes, there are six. Seeing dead people is not one of them, but balance is). Anyway, because audio is such a fast sense, especially compared to vision, it means there are fewer possible illusions we can play on the auditory sense. However there are some neat tricks: For example the sound of bacon frying makes most non-vegetarians salivate, especially when you show an image of bacon with the sound. Speed the sound up and show a picture of bees, and people think they’re hearing bees and feel a little more uncomfortable. They showed us a few other really neat tricks including modulating a sound at 18.1 – 22kHz to make the eyeball vibrate and create a discomforting feeling. Using infrasonic distortion panned alternatively left and right to create unease. And even why fingernails scratching on a blackboard used to give everyone such shivers when blackboards existed (the envelope of the sound is identical to a child screaming in pain). Seriously, we all need to do more research into neuroscience and how it affects or manipulates audio perception. There’s a lot we can play with there.

By Friday, brains and livers were full, but there were still a couple more good talks to attend. Before these final sessions, I walked the expo floor and was finally able to check out Nuendo’s implementation into Wwise. It’s not fully realized yet (you can only import audio files, not folders which you can templatize into containers), but it’s a great start which I hope other DAWs will follow suit with. Needless to say, I’m starting to evaluate Nuendo now and hope they come to their senses, realize the opportunity they’re creating for themselves, and offer competitive crossgrades. There’s some great forthcoming features in Wwise 2015 besides Nuendo as well: calling events from other events, batch rename tool, profiler enhancements, optimizations, incremental bank building, advanced cache streaming and more.  Can’t wait to start playing with it!

The afternoon started with David Collins and Mike Niederquell having an informal discussion about the sound design of Hohokum. Super awesome that they did a live demo during their talk. Not only are there not enough live demos at GDC, but watching Mike play through some of the levels made me really want to play the game again. It was cool to watch such a fun, light informal talk and also bask in the joy that is Hohokum. Seriously, if you haven’t experienced it (I would say “play,” but it’s less of a game and more of a audiovisual experience) you should definitely seek it out and give it a go!

A perfect cap on GDC was Dwight Okahara and Herschell Bailey from Insomniac giving a glimpse into the open world sound design of Sunset Overdrive. Key takeaways here were that the audio team helped drive and sculpt the irreverent style of the game by implementing offbeat audio into early “gritty” concepts which brought the rest of the team around to the more fun style we now know and love as Sunset City. They showed off some of their fun tech like contextual storefront dialogue and the horde crowd/walla system and it was fun and refreshing to see such a talented team facing the same frustrations my own team does with streaming, lack of programming resources and other annoyances that plague our daily audiocentric lives.

So that was the talks that I made it to. Granted for every audio talk I went to, there was another at the same time. I missed tons of great talks from Matthew Marteinsson of Klei talking about Early Access to  the PopCap team blowing minds with their work with Wwise and 5mb of memory to create Peggle Blast on iOS to Jon Moldover, Brian Schmidt and others talking about turning music games into instruments and more of an interactive experience.

One final note which I’ve said so many times this past week and hope to never stop repeating: the game audio community is something truly special and wonderful. Hanging out with and meeting so many inspiring men and women and being able to openly share our passion is such a fortunate thing. Of all the people I met, hung out with, joked with, talked shop with, etc., there wasn’t an ounce of ego anywhere. Everyone in the community seems dedicated to each other and hellbent on push our entire industry forward together and I can’t express how lucky I feel to be just a small part of that experience.

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