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Using Untapped Resources For Game Audio: How Testers, Producers Can Help
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Using Untapped Resources For Game Audio: How Testers, Producers Can Help

September 28, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

In almost every QA department there’s someone dying to get their hands on game audio. Use this to your advantage. QA has downtime like everyone else, and a task that can fill that time is audio training. Tasks and skills such as the following can be taught in a single day:

Simple VO Edits

(top and tail, normalization, basic and relative mixing)

This entire process should take less than two hours. Sound Forge costs around $300, and Sound Forge Audio Studio (the equivalent of Photoshop LE) is a mere $70. Get your trainee a copy of one of these programs and go to work. Simply grabbing a section of the file with space in it and deleting it is easy. Selecting mouth noise and pops, and then muting them, is also easy to grasp. After that, using the normalization tool helps set the proper volume, but keep in mind relative volume (if you normalize a whisper, for example, it will sound much louder than a yell). In most cases you’ll need to edit volumes of each file until they’re all somewhat similar. Add to this the general rule that 3db up or down is the smallest perceived volume change, add 20 minutes of practice with a dozen sample files, and you’ve got yourself a junior audio editor.

File Processing / Batch Conversion

Sound Forge (the $300 version) comes with a batch converter. Sometimes you’ll need a mass amount of WAV files converted to MP3s, OGG, or AAC. The batch converter couldn’t be simpler: just select your files and teach your trainee about what formats they need to use (stereo / mono, bitrate, sampling rate, etc.) When you’re in the midst of something a little more demanding on your own experienced ear and you require a lot of conversion, you’ll have someone who is happy to oblige.

This conversion can work for groups of sounds that require volume tweaking for a better mix (although ideally this should happen as a function within your game engine). It can work well also when you need to save memory, though fortune will one day bless audio designers with the ability to have only 44.1khz sounds and up in an asset heavy title, just as it will allow texture artists to use nothing but 512x512 textures.

File Management And Testing

(does a file actually trigger properly?)

Which build needs to have what files? Are they all present? What about the exponentially higher amounts of VO for localized versions? Again, these questions are important, but not critical in actually making the game more fun. If that is your job, you needn’t worry about these questions and they’re best dealt with by someone else.

If you don’t have a contractor doing all these things for you already, then document the information required in spreadsheets and other formats to the point where you’re sure they’re right. This will allow you to pass off scripts and sound asset lists to your QA audio specialist and have them go to town. Time may come soon where missing audio files become a TRC violation. Don’t wait until that happens.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

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