There are tools. Use them

I love Ron Gilbert. I still have to play Thimbleweed Park but the development blog has been a delight for anyone wondering how games are made.

Ron Gilbert is more than just a veteran game developer. He is a designer and a programmer with over FORTY years of experience making games. There are not a lot of people alive right now that match that vast amount of game development knowledge.

And yet, he underestimated the audio/sound aspect of his last game. I’m not bashing him, I’m glad he talked about it in this blog post. But my #gameaudio mind is like “this “we care about sound” but we do the exact opposite of caring about sound bullshit again”.

It’s a constant with most programmers: they adore tackling tasks from the ground and do them on their own. “A sound engine? That’s NOTHING. It’s just streaming audio data, volume curves up and down, fades. LOL. It’s NO-THING.”

And then, most of the times, it’s not nothing. It’s big, complex and viscious. Programmers then sweat and ruminate like bovines.

His designer mind should have taken over to tell him “think long term, you idiot ego. Delegate.” It’s true that FMOD and Wwise are a bit overkill feature-wise for a lot of games. The price can also be an issue. But for instance FMOD brings you a game audio engine that’s been tested and approved by thousands of games over twenty years, that has become a standard for game audio designers around the world in the past two decades. It shouldn’t be discarded that fast. It’s a bit maddening that it’s not sort of common sense for experienced people like Ron. Let’s be blunt: it’s totally maddening. I know the parallel is not perfect but imagine a movie director being like “yeah you make the sound using that? It’s an industry standard? Well we won’t use that. We don’t know yet what we will use, but not that”. That’s plain weird.

What are we doing?

If you care about your game, think and work with sound as early as possible. Hire game audio designers. Trust them. Let them iterate like you are, early on. Spend some bucks on the audio stack, even if you don’t see why. You’ll hear it soon, and that will make an entire difference (think about Zelda:BOTW).

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