GameSoundCon SF wrap 2009

The Rock Band training consisted of two solid days in Pyramind’s Mac Lab, where attendees were schooled in the ways of preparing files for use within the Rock Band Network, which range from learning the mix and midi setups, guitar, bass and drum authoring, vocal authoring to venue track, camera and lighting authoring. Harmonix is providing a “pirate-proof” method of getting music to the vast Rock Band Network using this technology.

GameSoundCon (the audio session track) targeted newcomers to the game industry, either coming from traditional media (film/tv/advertising) or students or those new to the game industry. GameSoundCon founder, Brian Schmidt, a long time veteran of the game industry, held several sessions explaining the history of game audio, the development of technologies within game audio, and a discussion of essential game audio technologies. There was a lot of discussion and demonstration of middleware tools being used in game audio, such as FMOD (who were at the conference, available for Q/A and private sessions), and Wwise. Emphasis was placed on innovation, and education of emerging technologies, not to mention the importance of communicating and working within your team. Brain said it best, “If you are simply uploading your .wav files to an FTP as your game contribution, you are the most replaceable member of that game team.”

GANG President, Paul Lipson, teamed with Tom Salta for a presentation on “Interactive Audio”, discussing musical scoring within games as an interactive and non-linear process (as opposed to linear work done in traditional media.) Again, FMOD was used to demonstrate the technology used in creating an interactive score, and attendees were treated to several different implementations of music within FMOD for one specific project.

The first day wrapped up with an impressive key note address from accomplished composer, Chance Thomas (who scored the upcoming James Cameron’s AVATAR game). While most of the first day was filled with technology talk, game business and economics, Chance Thomas shared some “Stories from the Road”, in which he picked several stories from throughout his career that helped illuminate some of the mysterious avenues one travels within a career in music, games and audio. One of his stories featured GANG’s own Richie Nieto, as Chance demonstrated 5 qualities that Richie was able to bring to the table in becoming a valuable asset to an audio team, and not all of them were audio related. Attendees also appreciated the box of delicious donuts that Chance shared, while telling a related “donut” story.

The second day featured a lot of demonstrations, including a fairly stunning demo from Leonard Paul, showing off sound design software that he had written. His program, “Pure Data” is meant to be used as a middleware solution for students with the Half Life 2 game engine to discover new ways of implementing real time DSP within a game. Rather than forcing memory to load 12 different “dragon roar” .wav files, you could load one “dragon roar” sound to memory and program the synthesis, granulation, pitch etc to process that single .wav file to create a more organic and less-memory intense audio experience. More of his writing, and downloadable versions of his software are available at

SomaTone’s Kane Minkus discussed working with audio within the growing casual game sphere, as SomaTone is a game audio company that was founded on the idea that they would focus largely on casual games. Many attendees were surprised to learn of the growing base within casual gaming, and the huge industry (within an industry) that it is becoming. During his talk, many rainbows and unicorns seemed to appear in the room.

The day finished up with panels discussing the business of game audio, with more stories and wisdom from Tom Salta, Chance Thomas, Paul Lipson, Ken Felton (Sony), Mark Tuffy (DTS), GANG’s Morla Gorrondona, and Savina Ciarmella (AMF). With game audio being a fairly young industry, the rest of the music industry is slow to catch up to what is happening in this fast paced world. One panel in particular, was directed at how one works into the game industry coming from film/tv/music industries, and the inherent challenges that one might need to prepare for. For example, having worked his way well into the established music industry, Tom Salta (who has helped produce mainstream artists such as Cher) had almost no credibility upon entering the game sector, and he shared stories about redefining himself within this industry.

As mentioned in the interview we did with Brian Schmidt, there are probably more GameSoundCon events planned for the coming year, so we will try to alert the GANG community when these will be happening.

Interview written/edited by Dren McDonald