Going Full Time

Greetings all!

It’s been a long time since I last posted on here. I’m not going to promise that I will start posting on a regular basis or anything, but I do hope to not be such a stranger on my own blog as I have been over the past year and a half.

Since my last post in June 2014 things have been pretty manic. I continued my work on POSTAL 2: Paradise Lost until it’s release in April of this year, and from there moved forward onto more work with Running With Scissors. Along with that I had a part time job in a grocery shop; left that (for reasons I’ll explain soon) for a full time factory job, and then got made redundant in June this year and moved to another full time factory job. With all this, in November 2014 I because a father (the reason for changing from the shop job), which has been…huge!

Now the big news for this post is that I have recently gone full time as a Sound Designer! That’s right, I am living the dream and loving it! This means I have more time to put into improving my skills and more time to spend with my family – wins all around! So watch this space as I’m hoping to continue sharing more exciting news as I carry on with this journey in the world of game development!

Announcing: Postal 2: Paradise Lost DLC

Anyone who periodically checks in to this blog will know that I’m not the best at keeping it up to date, and with that people reading this may not be aware that a few months ago I was offered a remote intern position with Running With Scissors. Again, this may elude some or most, but the first public evidence of my involvement came in the form of music I provided to accompany a boss fight for a special Easter event developed to appear for a limited time in Postal 2 (an extended version of that music can be found HERE).

Now to get to the more exciting part of this post. Yesterday (June 10th), in the midst of teams revealing what games they’ve been working on and show off what people can look forward to, RWS announced their/our latest project – Postal 2: Paradise Lost. You read correctly! This will be downloadable content for the 11 years old Postal 2! See below for the announcement trailer (majority of the sound design for which was provided by yours truly):


It should be kept in mind that this is extra content for a game from 2003, and things like the graphics will keep in line with the original game. In fact we are still working in Unreal Engine 2! Also, the idea behind this project is to give more to the fans of the series (let’s ignore Postal 3 for now, seeing as another team was behind that train-wreck), as well as re-establish RWS in the game development world – this can also be evident from the amount of support the team has given Postal 2 since being made available on Steam in late 2012.

Despite what people may have thought (or maybe hoped), the Postal Dude appears to be sticking around and getting in back in people’s faces… or at least shoving certain objects in people’s faces. Honestly, I’m really excited to be involved in this project, and I’m looking forward to Autumn for people to start playing it.

Lost Key Games presents: Cubey

Everyone, please welcome the first game to be release by Lost Key Games:

Those who have been keeping up with my blog may already be aware of a project I have been involved in for Lost Key Games, called Betrayal’s Wings. Around the time I started my break away from my sound work, this project got put on hold and ideas were being thrown around for something new to work on while waiting for things to pick back up with Betrayal’s Wings.

This lead to the development of this time-based puzzler. Essentially, the player controls a cube and has to navigate it through 30 levels, dodging obstacles and using jump pads, lasers, etc. It has already been developed for Mac and PC, but there are also plans for it to be released for Android and iOS in the future.

The game is set to be released tomorrow (9th July, 2012) at 20:30GMT*, and will be available to purchase on Desura by clicking the button below. All details about this game, demos, and videos can be found at it’s Indie DB page.

Desura Digital Distribution

 

* EDIT: Due to unforeseen circumstances the release was been delayed until the 11th July.

A Couple of Updates

Men Can’t Make Beds

Over the past week or so I’ve been exchanging messages with David Jones regarding what is left to be done with Men Can’t Make Beds. This lead to a Skype session the other day whereby we further discussed these details. It turns out that there isn’t a great deal left to do as far as the sound design is concerned. A couple of the scenes have been altered so, obviously, the sound has to be edited to correspond with these changes.

It has also been decided that both myself and David have been over-thinking the use of sound in the film, in that we both were thinking that with it being a live-action film all the sounds have to be diegetic and realistic. At the same time, we were trying to create a more cartoony feel to the film and thus subtly adding more cartoony sounds. We have now come to realize that the original idea for this film was to create something of a live-action cartoon and, with this in mind, we agreed that there should be a lot more freedom in terms of how sounds are used. So I am now in the privileged position to go back through the film and be even more experimental – these are exciting times!

It may turn out that only a few things get added and kept, but (as I’m sure other sound designers would agree) its definitely a good position to be in. Besides these sonic tweaks, we are just waiting on the original music to be completed, and the illustrations for the final credit sequence. Once all these are in the bag we will be able to move to the final mix and actually getting it out to you beautiful people.

 
Contamination Europe

The big news for Contamination Europe is that there will soon be an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money toward actually hiring some programmers to work with the current team, so as to increase productivity. The team is still working on a few things before creating a demo video that should be used with the campaign, and an official website is being developed – the IndieGoGo campaign should be live once the website has been completed and put online. Obviously, I will be keeping you updated as to when that will be, and I do hope people will help with whatever they can afford so as to help get this game off the ground, and to further show your support for the team.

Game Dev North 2: Dev Harder

On March 17th I found myself in Chester, walking into the Pitcher and Piano bar in search of a group of people for the (originally titled) Northern Game Talkery Time 2. Not long after asking a member of staff where the meeting should be taking place was I approached by Samuel Mottershaw (of Toxic Games), the event organiser. I was soon lead over to our reserved area and increased our group number to a strong 4 (from here the number did quickly increase beyond this).

At this point I would like to state that I wasn’t sure what to expect from attending the meet-up. I’m relatively new to working on games, this being the first meet-up I would have attended, and the fact it was originally set up to get those from the North-East of England in attendance and I had travelled from Glasgow; part of me was expecting to be laughed out. I instantly felt at ease being introduced to those already there, and continued to receive friendly greetings as other came to join our group.

Talk started by concentrating on the event itself. Obviously, everyone would like to see as many people as possible attending, so the first topic was about spreading the word of this monthly meet-up. It was quickly agreed that Twitter is pretty much the center of communication these days, especially amongst those within the games industry, which lead to hashtag talk, and the idea of playing on film titles for the event name (note the title of this post and a bit further down to see how this idea has been implemented).

Over the course of the evening I couldn’t help but be amazed by how approachable everyone was, the constant banter that anyone was welcome to jump in on at any time, and the fact that everyone appeared to give everyone else the same amount of respect and attention (including my own newbie thoughts, ideas, and random banter). It almost had the air of a group of age-old friends getting together after not seeing each other for years.

Time seemed to pass all too quickly and most of the group had to leave a little bit prematurely. Everyone eventually said their goodnights and left in high spirits, with the thoughts that the next meet-up would only be a month away. Even though I ended up spending a painfully cold night standing at a bus stop til 6am waiting for my bus home, I still feel it was worth it to get to meet some great guys, and to spend some time discussing games and the projects we are each currently working on.

This is a meeting for those based in the North-East of England but, as has been proven, anyone working with games is welcome no matter where you’re travelling from. The next meet-up has been arranged for April 21st, titled ‘Game Dev North Meetup 3: Dev With a Vengence’, and details can be found here. Also, if anyone is interested in keeping up to date about the meet-ups, the official Twitter account can be found here.

Sadly I won’t be in attendance for the next meet-up, what with the distance I have to travel, but I will definitely be keeping contact with those I met this time around and I will be sure to attend another as soon as I can (and this time I will remember to pick crashing on a sofa over standing in a freezing bus stop). Also, this experience has definitely got me looking at attending game meet-ups closer to home – GameDevEd anybody?

Game Audio: Part 1 – The Beginning

On this occasion I would like to welcome you to the first of a series of posts dedicated to looking at game audio and how sound is implemented during the development of a game. I wanted to talk about something in more detail rather than simply give some updates on the projects I have been working on, but I was more than aware that I still hadn’t got around to writing anything about the sounds I’ve been recording and/or creating, or the techniques I’ve been using. That was until I had a bit of a ‘eureka’ moment – why not take the time to look at what is used/needed while working on sound for video games?

Let me set this up better. As it may already be known, last year I was taken onboard by 4th Wall Games to create sounds for their first game (Droggon Attack), and from there we have been in talks regarding my involvement in their future projects. This rekindled an interest in me I’ve had since high school (some *mumble* years ago) – working with computer games!
Sadly, through my years at university, none of the courses I attended covered game audio (in fact, my Masters course was meant to but the tutor left before my academic year started). This, and my own ignorance, meant that I never learnt anything about the ins and outs of game audio.
This is where my ‘eureka’ moment comes in. Anyone who read my last post will remember I mentioned that I had been taken on board to create sounds for Betrayal’s Wings (Lost Key Games); I have also joined another independent team (msGameDevelopment) in the development of Contamination Europe (originally a pen-and-paper style game, which can be found here). As I have been talking to the teams, my interest in the area of game audio has been increasing and leading to me wanting to be able to do more…but what does that entail?

Audio Editors
Unlike when working with music or film, there isn’t really a standard DAW for the industry – people use what they are confortable with. It can, however, be seen that there is a particular favorite when it comes to an audio editor – Sony Creative Software‘s SoundForge is used by most (especially as an audio editor, at least after a sound has been created/compiled). GoldWave is another audio editor I have seen recommended.

Development Engines
Unreal Technologies‘s Unreal Development Kit (a.k.a. UDK) is one of, if not the, most popular game engines used. This is both due to how powerful it is, and the fact it is available to download and use for free (licenses only needing to be purchased once selling a project commercially). Another notable engine is Unity – both Betrayal’s Wings and Contamination Europe are being developed using this engine, and due to this it will be the engine I first explore for game audio implementation.
Other engines worth mentioning are: Gamebryo, DICE‘s Frostbite, Havok, Unigine, Synapse Gaming‘s SunBurn, Crytek‘s CryENGINE, Bethesda‘s (just released) Creation Kit, Microsoft XNA Game Studio, and YoYo Games‘s drag-and-drop engine GameMaker.

Digital Asset Management Systems
Asset management systems allow developers (and sound designers) to have all elements of a project kept in order and to see the changes being made. Popular choices for this: Perforce, Alienbrain, Apache‘s Subversion (a.k.a. SVN), SmartSVN, Razuna, Temerity, Southpaw Technology’s TACTIC, ShotRunner, and Give Software’s Project Overlord.
According to one source, it is felt that Alienbrain is the most expensive yet not so good when working with games. Razuna has the advantage of being open source and free; it is also seen as in league with others mentioned above, but still not the best. The most popular suggestions seem to be for using SVN with TortoiseSVN or Shotgun, or SmartSVN with Tortoise.

Audio Implementation Middleware
Middleware is often used for implementing interactive audio into video games – the most popular of these are FMOD and Audiokinetic‘s Wwise (tutorials on using Wwise can be found here). Other programs worth noting for this section are Creative Technology‘s OpenAL and RAD Games Tools‘s The Miles Sound System.
According to Wikipedia, OpenAL has a disadvantage whereby it does not account for sound propagation delays, and because of this it cannot be used to calculate sound arrival time differences. [I should note I am well aware that Wikipedia isn’t always completely reliable, and on the page mentioned above there isn’t a reference given for the statement, but I still felt it was worth mentioning.]
Before completing this article I also came across XACT – this appeared confusing to begin with as I kept seeing articles claiming it as middleware and didn’t seem to be tied to anything. Wikipedia further caused confusion with stating that it is no longer supported by Windows. I ended up going through the tedious line of contacting Microsoft to get answers. Eventually I got a response stating that it is actually a part of the Microsoft XNA Game Studio. According to this source, XACT is an implementation tool that is useful for sound designers who have little-to-no knowledge of coding, or they lack the desire to code. For detailed information on this either follow the links here, or here.

Coding
It has been found that a certain amount of coding can also be required, depending your level of involvement and/or the manner in which audio is being implemented. Languages for this, quite obviously, revolve around the languages used to program the other elements of games – so the likes of C/C++, and Java (information on Java sound can be found here). XML is another coding language found to be used for audio programming – a simple introduction to using XML with games can be found here, and an introduction for audio scripting in XML can be found here. Lastly (at least the last I am mentioning), is Python – this is a language that is free to use (even commercially), and runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux/Unix.
Along with the above-mentioned languages, there are an abundance of text-editing programs to replace Notepad/TextEdit and to increase productivity, etc. While looking around I’ve only seen UltraEdit being mentioned, but a comparison list of the available programs can be found here.
Also, as previously mentioned, there are possible work-arounds for those who don’t know how or want to code – i.e. XACT.

So I’m going to be putting up posts now and again about particular things I’ve been looking at and learning, and anything I happen to think of particular interest, regarding game audio and audio implementation. I would like to state that this is a learning experience for myself, along with it being for people who might be interested in game sound to get some insight. With that being said, if anyone sees any information I have given that is incorrect or would like to advise on anything that may be useful to look into and/or use then do please get in touch (either by leaving comments or sending me an email).

Happy New Year 2012

A very happy New Year to everyone! After a refreshing break for the holidays it is time to return to the fun and adventures of sound creation and manipulation. For my first entry at the start of a new year, I thought I would take a moment to give updates on my current projects and talk a little about some upcoming ones.

Men Can’t Make Beds:
This project is currently racing closer and closer to it’s completion. A rough sound mix has been achieved, although there are still one or two elements that are being worked on with regards to my sound design – these being to add more depth and to give a few options of how the sound could be used in particular moments. Once the film is finished I plan to post an article going into further detail about how sounds were created and used.
The major announcement for this project is that it now has an official trailer with a mention of a release date! This was uploaded yesterday and features music composed by Christopher Blake. You can watch this trailer below, or you can head over to the official page where you can also read more details about the film.


Hollow Village:
With this being a student project, within two weeks of filming being completed a video edit and rough sound mix was completed so as it could be handed in by the students. Despite it originating from an assignment from their university, it is hoped that more work will be carried out on the pilot episode (particularly in it’s sound design) with the possibility of presenting it to TV networks. A timescale has not been discussed as of yet and the further work has yet to have started, but once there is any further news on it’s development I will be sure to mention it here.
Director, Ian Vaughan-Jones, has created a teaser trailer for this project as it currently stands – this can be viewed below:


Betrayal’s Wings:
This is a PC/Mac-based game currently in development by Sausage Pie Entertainment, and I have recently been welcomed on-board to create sound effects. I am not at liberty to give out many details about this game at the moment, although I will be sure to give updates about it’s progress. What I will say is this is something that I am very excited to get my teeth into.

Misc:
In other news, the Killing Time project is still in post-production, with the work being carried out by Ray Bird. No release date has been announced as of yet, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Over the past month there has been some other work I’ve been doing – one being film-based, the other for a game. Sadly, I am unable to give out any information about either until they have been released but, again, as soon as I am able to I will give full details.