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Sound Design for Games

Based in Copenhagen, Oscar is currently working on a yet to be announced game. With roots in music production and passion for sound in general, Oscar has had a lot of experience with various kinds of audio waves and rhythmic vibrations his entire life. We asked him a few questions about why sound and why it's so important when it comes to gaming.

How did you get into sound design / what is your background?
I've been making electronic music since I was twelve years old, and in my later teens I had a shot at the traditional musical career of playing gigs and doing records. Turns out I am a horrible rockstar and what I really enjoyed was the actual making of music in a studio in my own sound dungeon supplied with a steady stream of coffee.

Sound design was something that came to my attention naturally as it lies somewhere in between my two big passions, gaming and music. The sound design of games and movies started grabbing my attention and I wanted to work with it in addition to composing music for games.

What is the process of designing the sound in a game?
As a sound designer, I feel the main responsibility is helping the game express itself and come alive. To do that properly, the concept artists, game designers and animators need to be somewhat finished with their part of the job before I can start grooving. That way I can do an even better job helping the game come to life by enhancing it with sound. But it's not all creative work. Sometimes it gets nice and nerdy as I need to do all the game logic for when the sounds should play in the game. This part is done with a programmer and is something I enjoy a lot too as you get to design all sorts of systems that can solve various sound issues and you get to feel very smart.

What are some of your biggest challenges as a sound designer/engineer?
You are always last in the pipeline, so while everyone else in the production is preparing the game content, I am usually just composing music and having a good time. But then when everyone is done with their part, that’s when I start working. Usually the game content gets passed to me right before a deadline and then it's just full speed ahead crunching and working late. But to be honest I love it.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When I see someone either laugh at a sound I created or when someone gets really zoned into the game after I have added the sound. Basically, whenever I see that my late hours pay of, and creates a better gaming experience for someone who is playing the game.

How has sound design in games changed in recent years?
I think we are starting to see studios putting more resources into their sound departments and the credits does not only read one name so often. If you look at games like Overwatch and Battlefield it's undeniable how much the sound contributes to the gameplay because of the dynamic mixing, which is where sounds change properties depending on various gameplay factors to inform the player better sonically.

Are there any “easter eggs” that you or other sound designers add to their work?
The platform I am currently working on is very special in the way that I get to do sound effects in a lot of different styles. That include funny and stupid sound effects. So no easter eggs, but a lot of fun SFX (Sound Effects).

What advice do you have for aspiring sound designers?
Play a lot of games! Get yourself a great studio quality headset or a set of studio speakers. By doing so, you can hear the product that the sound designers have spent hours and hours for the end-user to hear and enjoy. Try and notice the logic of the game’s sounds and ask yourself random questions. An example of a question could be "Do I hear the same sound every time I shoot or is different from time to time?"  Be curious with stuff like this. You might also want to download a trial version of a sound middleware which is the software used by sound designers. This software is used to integrate the sound in the game engine and help you familiarize yourself with the process of game production.

Hear every detail. On March 13th, SteelSeries brings high fidelity audio to gaming. Check it out!

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