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Beyond The Button Press

October 20, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2

What's In Store

Over a decade of CD- and DVD-based console development has largely created an environment in which audio designers see their work as relegated to the inflexible confines of a locked disc. However, hard drives and memory devices are now either standard issue or readily available for every gaming platform, though some are more practical than others.

Every PC and PS3 game has access to a built-in hard drive. While PC gamers are used to patches and publishers that push new content into their games, the concept is relatively new to console games. Each major gaming console has its own online store with a variety of demos, games, and additional content such as added levels and extra songs for music games.

The potential for broadening the sound experience of a game after it's been purchased is broader than updated playlists or a handful of new voice lines.

Imagine an adventure game in which the most powerful weapons or treasure were hidden in-game and the only clues to their whereabouts were garbled pirate radio transmissions that could only be purchased and implemented via downloadable content.

Imagine edutainment games for children with continually expandable vocabulary packs or a music game like MTV Music Generator that allowed for uploadable and downloadable user-created collaboration.

The shipped disc isn't the end of the game anymore and audio designers should be considering the gameplay potential of hard drives, storage devices, and online delivery channels.

Listen To This

Speaking of music, with the Xbox 360, Microsoft now mandates that any music occurring during interactive gameplay be replaceable with the user's own local MP3 collection. The text of the actual Microsoft technical certification requirement (TCR) says little more than that. In practice, however, the Custom Soundtrack option has proven to be clunky and artless in its implementation.

This isn't, however, in any way a reflection on the requirement itself. Nothing in the wording of the TCR says that voice ducking or in-game DSP filtering cannot affect the user's music. Theoretically, a game could read the metadata of a user's mp3s and reassign slower ambient music and faster rock or hip-hop tracks accordingly so as to react with an interactive music engine.

Additionally, the Xbox 360 isn't the only platform with the potential for custom soundtracks. PCs, the PS3, and the PSP all contain the necessary hardware to access a ready bank of user-selected music files.

Audio design potential has extended beyond the confines of disc burns and button presses. As audio designers, it's up to us to make sure that our creativity keeps pace.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2

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