Before college began for me, I always saw myself becoming a composer who would never have to talk to anyone. If I was making a game, I imagine myself alone, just sitting in my safe cave, creating some music tracks and sound effects, sending them off to the director, and then waiting for the product to be released without worrying about having to meet people and talk about anything while working on my next project. I’d totally get away with that, right? Not being social, just making music for other people. That’s a way to get around, right?
If I still believed in living in a shell, this program proves how I would never survive reality. And you know what? Because of this program, I am already thankful that I will always try to break away from that mindset.
For MassDiGI’s 2014 Summer Innovation Program, I am the music composer and sound designer/editor of the 4 games being created. Usually, I am just known as “The Sound Guy.”
I have to confess, it can be quite odd being in charge of an element for 4 games at the same time. For instance, each morning, the teams have stand-up meetings that allow the team members to discuss their daily tasks and objectives. Obviously, I can’t clone myself and attend all 4 stand-up meetings that happen at the same time. That and I need to keep track of audio assets for everyone. This includes tracks of music that loop, sound effects that will be added to the UI and the characters in the levels, and the occasionally needed dialogue for narrators or character lines.
What you’ll see next as you scroll is a preview of how I’ve been organizing the games to keep all the audio files neat and clean for quick preview and save. Here’s how the folder starts out:
The 4 games are listed, along with my folder of notes and art concept pictures in “What-To-Do”. For this, I’ll delve into Night Terrors. We open the folder and we get…
… a folder for Sessions (Logic, DP, etc.) and subfolders located in Audio Files. Sessions helps me quickly go back to where I worked on a music track or specific sound effects if they need revisions or edits. Audio files are, well, where all the audio files are! Let’s dig deeper. We see that we have SFX and MX. For this, let’s take a look at SFX.
As most composers know, .mp3s are annoying. We’re working with Unity, and I need to make sure that the files loop correctly, so for the final submissions, I give the teams .ogg all the time. In a later blog post, I’ll talk more about why .ogg files are preferred. The reason I bounce in both formats, though, are to use the .mp3s to quickly preview the sounds. I just hit spacebar on an .mp3 and I can quickly preview it to remember what the sound was.
Now if we open the .ogg folder…
There they are! Well, not all of them, but a good chunk of the sounds make so far. Ahh, and I need to organize it a little bit. Some voice assets should be in the Voice folder. And now that I look at it, maybe Voice should be a subfolder outside of SFX and MX. Might change that later. :)
So far, this is how I’ve organized myself. Getting back to the point about communicating with the teams, at first, it just seemed like enough work to just compose, make music, and keep everything in an organized area on my hard drive and the cloud system we are all using. This may be a tough summer…
Obviously, I can’t just stop talking to the teams as I’ve already gotten to know everyone after spending time with them while staying at the Merrill building, used as our dorm building.
But by being with them at the dorms and during the work shifts of being at MassDiGI from Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 5:30pm, I realized something amazing. These designers are incredible people to spend time with. I already consider them friends, and am still blown away by their modest attitude in their incredible work and their conscious efforts in making sure that everyone in a team is satisfied with the current progress of a game. There is no away that I could let these people down.
Sure, I don’t know a thing about coding mechanics or drawing/rendering art, let alone draw a shape or figure of any recognizable kind on paper, but I could listen to their amazing ideas and maybe even suggest an idea or two when making the ideas for the games. Maybe in a tower defense game about toys coming alive, we can have teddy bears. Or dust bunnies. Or maybe even evil milkshakes that come alive. That’d be so cool.
And yeah sure, some of these ideas don’t make it, but there’s such a joy I’ve come to love in having so many ideas put on a piece of paper and working as a team to look at what’s best for a game concept.
Even though orientation week was tough in that we had to go through quick exercises of creating game concepts in less than 10 minutes by talking with each other in groups, I realized that no matter how tough a task may be, there is never the feeling of being left behind. I’m just a weird, artsy sound dude, and yet I can contribute ideas to these game concepts. That was a powerful feeling and made me realize that communicating with these incredible developers I can call colleagues may not be as daunting as I thought.
Our Alpha builds are ready to go and be play-tested. With each week comes more ideas and objectives put as tasks on our Kanban boards. The creativity of these teams has helped me immensely in pushing myself to give music and sound to these projects. There’s a lot done already, but so, so much more that needs to be made. And now I think I can speak for us in saying that we now see the beauty in the amount of work that lies ahead. This summer will be hard work that we can share with each other, and no matter how the games come out, they will be products of combined perspiration and confidence.
I’m going to miss everyone when this is all over. For now, time to get to work.