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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Deciding Where To Place Music/Sound Effects In A Game

This post is copied from bpmusic.com. It was originally posted on 2/11/2009.

It is in response to an email received on 12/22/2008.

So, how did you decide where to place the music/sound effects in a game?

This is a great question, and something I should have mentioned before now. I never placed the music for any levels. In some games, I wrote for what I thought would be levels, but the music I wrote often ended up on a completely different level than I had envisioned. For id Software games, John Romero (maybe along with Tom Hall when he was there) decided where to place what music. John had a great feel for this. And there were games I worked on that ended up having music from sources other than me. And I didn't have anything to say about that as it was a decision the game company had the right to make. It's something I never considered until it happened. Remember, these were the equivalent of the days of the first Hollywood talkies, and the music/audio "wheel" in the game business hadn't been fully invented yet.

On other games, generally the game's producer (often the only other one working on a game except for artists) made all decisions as to music placement.

None of the games I worked on had completed levels before I had already completed the music. Sound effects were a different story. I would often create them as I learned about creatures/weapons/animations, but many had to wait until at least some levels were locked down. For the most part, even when I was asked to create many different effects for the same creature/weapon/animation, the first one I had created was the final selection.

Sound effects for Doom/Duke Nukem and later had to be tweaked to follow the animations too. In film, this is easy. You have a time code and frames to lock sound to. There was no standard time code with computer games, and as you probably know, different computers play animations at different speeds. So, I would create a sound for say a weapon. It would have to be compiled into the game. I'd play the game and watch the animation while the effect played. I'd tweak the timing of the sound effect to try to get it to work with the animation. All this while keeping in mind that the animation speed would vary. It actually worked amazingly well -- better than I would have thought it could with the primitive earlier game sound engines.

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