Firelight Technologies Pty, Ltd., www.fmod.org
By: Damian Kastbauer, Bay Area Sound
In audio development, we do our best to assess the needs of the project, establish a working methodology, and lay the groundwork before suiting up and heading in to battle. The development war wages on at a breakneck pace, shooting at moving targets until everything is in full swing, and just as we're hitting the beachhead, ammo is running low. The best we can hope for is the minimized stress of well-implemented systems and creative user workflow.
It's times like these when the power of established audio middleware comes in to save the day. One of the leaders of the pack is Firelight Technologies' FMOD Audio Engine and FMOD Designer Tool. Though the Designer Tool is the winner here, the combination is what delivers a total interactive audio solution that addresses the burgeoning specialization of audio integration in today's highly technical world of game development.
After the initial integration with the game engine, most of the work involved with creating dynamic, multi-layered sound is left in the hands of the audio team. FMOD's comprehensive Event system manages everything from volume, pitch, and positioning to more complex functionality such as playback behavior, distance attenuation, and falloff curves. Having this level of control allows the audio team to tailor the way things sound, and make sure that the sound content is played back in the best way possible.
With additional programming support, values and parameters from the game engine can be passed to the FMOD Audio Engine and used within the Designer Tool. This functionality enables a level of dynamic flexibility over an event allowing you the ability to parametrically define what sounds are played back, dynamically effect the sounds through the use of DSP, and trigger multiple sounds over time. Parameters can be leveraged in order to better mirror the reaction of sound in realistic ways, or take them further away from reality and infuse them with a higher level of interactivity driven by gameplay.
Imagine using a parameter for player distance to change the directivity of a fireplace within a 3D space, making it more directional the closer you get to it and alternately distributing the sound of it throughout the available channels when further away.
Additionally one could tie a 24 hour clock in the game world to a looping ambient event that would change the types of sounds played based on the time of day. Adjusting the speed of a flange based on distance could add a dynamic effect to the sound of an approaching ghost, making the sound content vibrate at a greater rate when closer to the player. Or you can trigger an event that sets off a time-based chain reaction of sounds, allowing for a type of interactive sound design within the tool.
The FMOD Engine and Designer Tool is a magic box full of functionality that allows the audio team to make creative decisions about how things sound. As interactive audio specialists, we are continually dreaming of new ways to enhance the sound experience for our audience. With FMOD, we can realize some of those dreams.