GameSoundCon Industry Survey Results

GameSoundCon

As the GameSoundCon conference draws closer, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the Game Audio Industry Survey that was designed by GameSoundCon Executive Producer Brian Schmidt.  The survey was prepared in response to the broader “Annual Game Developer Salary Survey” offered by industry site Gamasutra.  Since the Gamasutra survey suffered from skewed results for game audio compared to other game industry sectors (owing to lower participation from the game audio community), Schmidt set out to obtain more reliable results by adopting a different approach.

Instead of focusing on the yearly salaries/earnings of audio professionals, the survey concentrated on the money generated by the music/sound of individual projects. Each respondent could fill out the survey repeatedly, entering data for each game project that the respondent had completed during the previous year.  The final results of the survey are meant to reflect how game audio is treated within different types of projects, and the results are quite enlightening, and at times surprising.

GSC-SurveyThe financial results include both small-budget indie games from tiny teams and huge-budget games from behemoth publishers, so there is a broad range in those results.  Since this is the first year that the GameSoundCon Game Audio Industry Survey has been conducted, we don’t yet have data from a previous year with which to compare these results, and it might be very exciting to see how the data shifts if the survey is conducted again in 2015.

Some very intriguing data comes from the section of the survey that provides a picture of who game composers are and how they work.  According to the survey, the majority of game composers are freelancers, and 70% of game music is performed by the freelance composer alone.  56% of composers are also acting as one-stop-shops for music and sound effects, likely providing a good audio solution for indie teams with little or no audio personnel of their own.

A surprising and valuable aspect of the survey is to be found in the audio middleware results, which show that the majority of games use either no audio middleware at all, or opt for custom audio tools designed by the game developer.  This information is quite new, and could be tremendously useful to composers working in the field.  While we should all make efforts to gain experience with audio middleware such as FMOD and Wwise, we might keep in mind that there may not be as many opportunities to practice those skills as had been previously anticipated.  Again, this data might be rendered even more meaningful by the results of the survey next year (if it is repeated), to see if commercial middleware is making inroads and becoming more popular over time.

Expanding upon this subject, the survey reveals that only 22% of composers are ever asked to do any kind of music integration (in which the composer assists the team in implementing music files into their game). It seems that for the time being, this task is still falling firmly within the domain of the programmers on most game development teams.

The survey was quite expansive and fascinating, and I’m very pleased that it included questions about both middleware and integration.  If GameSoundCon runs the survey again next year, I’d love to see the addition of some questions about what type of interactivity composers may be asked to introduce into their musical scores, how much of their music is composed in a traditionally linear fashion, and what the ratio of interactive/adaptive to linear music might be per project.  I wrote rather extensively on this subject in my book, and since I’ll also be giving my talk at GameSoundCon this year about composing music for adaptive systems, I’d be very interested in such survey results!

The GameSoundCon Game Audio Industry Survey is an invaluable resource, and is well worth reading in its entirety.  You’ll find it here.  I’ll be giving my talk on “Advanced Composition Techniques for Adaptive Systems” at GameSoundCon at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on Wednesday, October 8th.

Many thanks to Brian Schmidt / GameSoundCon for preparing this excellent survey!

Game Music Documentary at GameSoundCon

beep_kickstarter

The kickstarter campaign for the documentary “Beep: A History of Video Game Sound” is entering its final six days.  I’m pleased that the producers approached me to be interviewed for their film; I’ll be talking about my career as a game composer and my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music.  The “Beep” documentary looks like it will be a fascinating project, and all indications are that the resulting documentary will be a wide-ranging discussion of the audio aspects of video game design and production.  Two days ago, the kickstarter announced that its plans include coverage of GameSoundCon, the video game music and sound design conference founded and executive produced by the president of the Game Audio Network Guild, Brian Schmidt.

GameSoundCon

The conference is less than a couple of weeks away now, and I’m looking forward to giving my presentation, “Advanced Composition Techniques for Adaptive Systems.”  The GameSoundCon crowd is one of the most enthusiastic and creatively-charged groups of people I’ve come across, and it will be great fun to meet new people and talk about the current state of adaptive music in games.

When I heard that “Beep: A History of Video Game Sound” would be covering GameSoundCon, I started thinking about the nature of Brian Schmidt’s conference, not only as a great gathering place for creative audio folks, but as a historically-significant event.  After all, one of the slogans of the “Beep” documentary is “Be a part of game sound history!”

Beep_history_kickstarter

The GameSoundCon conference will take place at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on October 7 – 8.  GameSoundCon will be celebrating its 10th conference this year.  Since its first event in 2009, GameSoundCon has been steadily growing as a resource to the game audio community.  GameSoundCon concentrates its sessions solely on game audio, which separates it from other industry events that encompass the entire discipline of game development.  Further, the GameSoundCon conference embraces both the music composition and sound design disciplines, differentiating it from other music-centric gatherings such as Game Music Connect, the Ludomusicology Conference and the North American Conference on Video Game Music.  This particular combination of priorities seems to make GameSoundCon an ideal event for the “Beep” documentary team, and I wonder how their historical perspective will inform their coverage of the conference.

In my own speech at GameSoundCon, I’ll be approaching the topic of interactive music in games from both a modern and historical standpoint, and I imagine that other presentations will do likewise in regards to their topics.  It’s nice that the GameSoundCon event will be documented with the intent to understand its historical significance, and I’m looking forward to meeting the documentary team of “Beep: A History of Video Game Sound.”  There are still 6 more days to go before the kickstarter ends, so if you want to get involved, you can go here.

Music and Aural Feedback (for Game Composers and Sound Designers)

Over at GameInformer.com, writer Kyle Hilliard conducted an interesting test. He recorded the sounds made by video game controllers to see which is the noisiest. In the course of the test, he pressed the buttons of various controllers from across the long history of video game devices, and then categorized the controllers according to their peak decibel levels. You can go over to his article to read about his testing methods and see the bar graph of his results. 

His test got me thinking about the idea of aural feedback – the use of sounds to confirm or reinforce the literal actions of the player. For instance, when the player hits a button and causes an action in the game, the game emits a sound that represents that action. These can range from plain clicking noises meant to accurately emulate the sounds the controller makes naturally, to more whimsical dings, pings, tones and whooshes – the inherent nature of which would depend on the atmosphere of the game. These sounds can encompass both the immediate action of clicking the controller and the physical action or reaction that occurs as a result of player’s click.

When these aural feedback sounds are strongly evocative of a sound effect, such as a click or a whoosh, then they fall completely into the purview of the sound designer’s art. But when they are closer to dings, pings and tones, they begin to cross into the realm of musical expression. This is when the sound designer and the music composer for a game can work in a very collaborative fashion.

The video game Peggle 2 is a great example of this, and a perfect demonstration of sound design and musical score working together in perfect harmony (literally). Here’s a demonstration of aural feedback at its most musical:

Ultimate Trailers – West One Music

WOM_WOM_0355

I’m pleased to share some news about one of my recent projects: music composition for the Ultimate Trailers album from West One Music.  The album is described by West One Music as “hard-hitting epic action trailer cues including electronic and rock hybrids and orchestral action.”  West One Music is one of the leading recording labels for production music that graces audiovisual productions around the world.

Music from the album will be available for use in television and film productions, so I’m looking forward to seeing my music appearing in lots of interesting projects!  Here are some photos from the orchestral recording sessions for the Ultimate Trailers album.  My music was recorded by the Alvernia Orchestra – some of their other film projects have been Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove and Closer to the Moon.

Alvernia2
Alvernia1

Alvernia3

Music, Audio and Immersion (for Game Composers and Sound Designers)

Immersion

Immersion

Since I’ll be giving a speech at the Montreal International Game Summit in November about “Music, the Brain, and the Three Levels of Immersion,” I thought I’d use this blog as an opportunity to look at three other perspectives on the role of music and sound in the Immersion phenomenon – in which we lose all sense of reality and surrender ourselves completely to the gameplay experience. My speech in Montreal will include some ideas that are detailed in chapter three of my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, and the connections between aural experience and the immersion effect will be correlated to some specific research studies that are explored in my book. However, there are certainly multiple ways to approach the topic, and immersion is a complex subject to tackle, particularly when we’re attempting to understand what role audio and music may play in the experience.

In the article, “Papa Sangre and the Construction of Immersion in Audio Games,” author Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo attempts to understand the immersive power of the audio-only game Papa Sangre, while also touching upon the effects of gender exclusion on the ability of non-represented genders to become immersed. The author’s conclusions about the internalized nature of audio-only immersion are intriguing.

In part three of the article, “Video Game Technology: Immersion Through Sound,” author Hugo Aranzaes makes some interesting points regarding the effect of increased audio channels (surround sound systems) on the immersive power of sound, particularly in the case of First Person Shooters, in which such positional audio information can be used strategically during gameplay.

Finally, an article by Connor Bridson provides a highly personal and subjective viewpoint about an equally personal and subjective experience – the horror game. Entitled “Immersion in Horror Video Games,” the article contends that audio in an atmospheric horror game occupies a greater position of importance than visuals in the experience of immersion.

For New Composers Breaking Into the Game Music Business

broken-glass-269716_640

Breaking Into the Business

I’m often asked for the secret to breaking into the business of composing music for games. I dedicated a chapter of my book to that topic, so I’ve definitely given the issue a good deal of thought, but I’ll admit that it’s a complicated and difficult road for every newcomer to traverse. The toughest aspect of the journey is at the very beginning, when those initial efforts to secure work don’t immediately pay off. Patience and faith are both important virtues, but they don’t offer a lot of comfort at the beginning of an aspiring game composer’s career. While in my book I tried to supply as much useful information on the topic as I could glean from my own career and my experience in the business, I know that everyone has a different path to tread, each with its own unique challenges. So I’m going to dedicate this blog to a list of thirteen articles and community discussions about how to break into the business of composing music for games, written by a lot of smart folks with experiences to share and hard-won advice to impart. In the ensuing heap of game industry wisdom to be gathered from these articles, I hope that a few newcomers will find some helpful guidance, and a modicum of comfort as well.

How to be a video game music composer – Tips from the pros
by Sophia Tong, GamesRadar.com
 
Music in the Gaming Industry – Getting a Job as a Game Composer
by Nelson Everhart, Kingsisle Blog
 
I want to be a game composer
GameDev.net community discussion
 
Getting Started as a Video Game Composer
by Bobby Prince, BPmusic.com
 
Where does an amateur composer find job, or is he heard?
Northern Sounds community discussion
 
How to Get Music in Video Games
by Kris Giampa and Erik Pettersson, Beatport.com
 
How to be a Video Game Composer
by Kevin Kelly, G4TV
 
2013 Guide for Aspiring Video Game Composers
by TheCurrentVibe.com
 
Pursuing a Career in Game Audio
by Nathan Madsen, GameAudio101
 
How to Wrangle a Job Writing Music for Computer Games
by Lance Hayes, Andertons Music Co.
 
Game Developers and Music Composers – How do you network?
TIGForums community discussion
 
GDC 2011 Talks #1: Tips for Prospective Video Game Composers
by Laura Shigihara, SuperShigi.com
 
Advice for Breaking Into a Career in Composing Music for Videogames
by Lisa Horan, Mix Magazine

Game Convention Speaking Engagements 2014

Appearances-Fall-2014

This fall is going to be a busy one for me!  In addition to the release of one of my projects – a very big video game that I’m quite excited about (more info coming soon) – I’ll also be doing three speaking engagements.  I thought I’d share info about those here, in case any of you might be attending.  It would be great to see you there, and if you bring along a copy of my book (A Composer’s Guide to Game Music), I’d be happy to sign it for you!

GameSoundCon 2014

October 7th & 8th
Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles

 

It’s my pleasure to speak at GameSoundCon again this year!  Last year was tremendous fun, and I’m looking forward to giving another lecture to the wonderfully creative and enthusiastic game audio folks who attend GameSoundCon!  My presentation, entitled “Advanced Composition Techniques for Adaptive Systems,” will take place on October 8th.  Here are a couple of photos from my presentation last year.

A portion of the audience for my presentation at GameSoundCon 2013

A portion of the audience for my presentation at GameSoundCon 2013

Speaking at GameSoundCon 2013

Speaking at GameSoundCon 2013

Audio Engineering Society Convention (AES 137), 2014

Thursday, October 9th – Sunday, October 12th
Los Angeles Convention Center

Audio Engineering Society Convention 2014

I’m looking forward to speaking at this year’s AES convention.  My presentation, entitled “Effective Interactive Music Systems: The Nuts and Bolts of Dynamic Musical Content,” will take place on October 9th.  I’ll also be speaking on October 10th as a part of a panel entitled “Game Biz 101: How to Jump Start Your Career.”  The panelists also include Guy Whitmore (Studio Audio Director at PopCap Games), Stephan Schütze (Audio Director of the Sound Librarian), Richard Warp (Audio Lead at Leapfrog Enterprises), and our moderator Steve Horowitz (Audio Director, Nickelodeon Digital).

Montreal International Games Summit, 2014

Monday, November 10th – Tuesday, November 11th
PALAIS DES CONGRÈS DE MONTRÉAL

 

It will be a tremendous pleasure to speak again at the Montreal International Games Summit.  Last year was a fantastic experience, and I’m looking forward to returning to Montreal!  My presentation will be entitled “Music, the Brain, and the Three Levels of Immersion.”  Here’s a video of my presentation at last year’s Montreal International Games Summit.