In this week’s blog, I’d like to explore the role that comedy can play in a video game, and how we as game composers can use some of the techniques from comedic sound design to our best advantage. Along the way, we’ll be looking at an interesting essay article by pop culture critic Christopher Gates, a presentation by game sound designer Luca Fusi at the December 2015 Vancouver Sound Design Meetup, and an interview with film sound designer Chris Scarabosio.
I’ll also be sharing some of my experiences applying comedic sound design techniques during music composition for the video game The Maw – an award-winning and very funny gamethat was developed by Twisted Pixel Games. To the left, you can see that I’m working hard to give The Maw its proper dose of comedic wackiness… but more on that later.
First, let’s get a broad perspective on the role of comedy in gaming.
At least, that was my impression a couple of months ago when I attended the audio track of the Game Developers Conference. Setting a new record for attendance, GDC hosted over 24,000 game industry pros who flocked to San Francisco’s Moscone Center in March for a full week of presentations, tutorials, panels, awards shows, press conferences and a vibrant exposition floor filled with new tech and new ideas. As one of those 24,000 attendees, I enjoyed meeting up with lots of my fellow game audio folks, and I paid special attention to the presentations focusing on game audio. Amongst the tech talks and post-mortems, I noticed a lot of buzz about a subject that used to be labeled as very old-school: MIDI.
This was particularly emphasized by all the excitement surrounding the new MIDI capabilities in the Wwise middleware. In October of 2014, Wwise released its most recent version (2014.1) which introduced a number of enhanced features, including “MIDI support for interactive music and virtual instruments (Sampler and Synth).” Wwise now allows the incorporation of MIDI that triggers either a built-in sound library in Wwise or a user-created one. Since I talk about the future of MIDI game music in my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, and since this has become a subject of such avid interest in our community, I thought I’d do some research on this newest version of Wwise and post a few resources that could come in handy for any of us interested in embarking in a MIDI game music project using Wwise 2014.1.
The first is a video produced by Damian Kastbauer, technical audio lead at PopCap games and the producer and host of the now-famous Game Audio Podcast series. This video was released in April of 2014, and included a preview of the then-forthcoming MIDI and synthesizer features of the new Wwise middleware tool. In this video, Damian takes us through the newest version of the “Project Adventure” tutorial prepared by Audiokinetic, makers of Wwise. In the process, he gives us a great, user-friendly introduction to the MIDI capabilities of Wwise.
The next videos were produced by Berrak Nil Boya, a composer and contributing editor to the Designing Sound website. In these videos, Berrak has taken us through some of the more advanced applications of the MIDI capabilities of Wwise, starting with the procedure for routing MIDI data directly into Wwise from more traditional MIDI sequencer software such as that found in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application. This process would allow a composer to work within more traditional music software and then directly route the MIDI output into Wwise. Berrak takes us through the process in this two-part video tutorial:
Finally, Berrak Nil Boya has created a video tutorial on the integration of Wwise into Unity 5, using MIDI. Her explanation of the preparation of a soundbank and the association of MIDI note events with game events is very interesting, and provides a nicely practical application of the MIDI capability of Wwise.