When I’m not at work in my studio making music for games, I like to keep up with new developments in the field of interactive entertainment, and I’ll often share what I learn here in these articles. Virtual reality is an awesome subject for study for a video game composer, and several of my recent projects have been in the world of VR. Since I’m sure that most of us are curious about what’s coming next in virtual reality, I’ve decided to devote this article to a collection of educational resources. I’ve made a point of keeping our focus general here, with the intent of understanding the role of audio in VR and the best resources available to audio folks. As a component of the VR soundscape, our music must fit into the entire matrix of aural elements, so we’ll spend this article learning about what goes into making expert sound for a virtual reality experience. Let’s start with a few articles that discuss methods and techniques for VR audio practitioners.
Welcome back to our three-part discussion of how video game composers (such as ourselves) can make strategy gamers smarter! In these articles, we’re looking at ways in which our music can enhance concentration and tactical decision-making for players engrossed in strategic gameplay. Along the way, I’ve been sharing my personal experiences as the composer for the Dragon Front strategy game for virtual reality. Over the course of these articles we’ll be covering three of the top concepts that pertain to the relationship between music and concentration. In part one, we discussed the concept of ‘music-message congruency,’ so if you haven’t read that article yet, please go check it out and then come back.
Are you back now? Good! Let’s move on to the second big technique for increasing the smarts of strategy gamers!
As video game composers, we create music in a wide variety of tempos designed to support the energy of play and the pacing of the game’s overall design. From leisurely tracks that accompany unstructured exploration to frenetic pieces that support the most high-stakes combat, our music is planned with expert precision to shape the excitement level of players and keep them motivated as they progress.
Can video game composers make you smarter? Well, video gaming can be a pretty cerebral activity, requiring astute problem-solving skills and disciplined concentration in order to excel. That’s especially true for any game built around strategic and/or tactical gameplay, such as real-time or turn-based strategy, tactical shooters, multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs), and online collectible card strategy games. To succeed in these types of games, players must assess the current situation and formulate a plan that accounts for future developments and variables. Without this type of tactical forward-thinking gameplay, a gamer has little chance to win. So, can music enable gamers to think tactically, stay focused and make smart decisions? Over the next three articles, I’ll try to answer that question, while exploring the role of music in enhancing the concentration of strategic/tactical gamers.
Along the way, we’ll be taking a look at some scholarly research on the subject, consulting the opinions of experts, and I’ll be sharing my experiences creating the music for the recently released Dragon Front strategy game from High Voltage software. We’ll check out some music tracks I composed for the popular Dragon Front game (pictured at the top of this article), and we’ll discuss methods for supporting and enhancing concentration for strategic/tactical game players. But first, let’s take a closer look at the Dragon Front game.
My work as a video game composer has lately included some projects for virtual reality games (more info on that in the coming months), and as a result I’ve been thinking a lot about the awesome potential of VR, and have also been writing lots of articles on the subject. Earlier this month I began a two-part article that focuses on the experience of the end user, and the gear with which they’ll be enjoying our video game music and audio content (you can read part one here). So, let’s now continue our discussion about the new generation of headphones designed specifically for VR!
In this article, we’ll be discussing two headphone models:
Plantronics RIG 4VR
So let’s get underway!
Entrim 4D headphones
This March at the famous SXSW convention in Austin, Samsung showed off a piece of experimental technology promising to bring a new dimension of immersion to virtual reality. It’s designed specifically to complement their popular Samsung Gear VR device, and it works by virtue of electrodes that send electrical signals right into the wearer’s head! As if virtual reality itself weren’t futuristic enough, now we’re talking about a device that zaps us to make the VR feel more real! It’s called Entrim 4D (pictured right). We’re talking about it here because (among other things) Entrim 4D is a pair of audio headphones built specifically for VR.
In this article I’d like to turn our attention towards the experience of the end user, and specifically, the primary interface with which users will be enjoying our audio content. So, let’s talk about headphones! More specifically, let’s talk about the newest incarnation of this device… headphones built specifically for VR!
This will be a two-part article (since there’s a lot of ground to cover!) In part one, we’ll be discussing these two headphone models:
Since I’ve been working recently on music for a Virtual Reality project (more info in the coming months), I’ve been thinking a lot about VR technology and its effect on the creative process. Certainly, VR is going to be a great environment in which to be creative and perform tasks and skills with enhanced focus, according to this article from the VR site SingularityHub. I’ve written in this blog before about the role that music and sound will play in the Virtual Reality gaming experience. It’s clear that music will have an impact on the way in which we experience VR, not only during gaming experiences, but also when using the tools of VR to create and be productive. With that in mind, let’s consider if the opposite statement may also be true – will VR impact the way in which we experience music, not only as listeners, but also as video game composers?
Simple VR technologies like the popular Google Cardboard headset can be a lot of fun – as I personally experienced recently (photo to the left). However, they offer only the rudimentary visual aspects, which omits some of the most compelling aspects of the VR experience. When motion tracking (beyond simple head movement) is added to the mix, the potential of VR explodes. Over the next three articles, we’ll be exploring some interesting possibilities created by the motion tracking capabilities of VR, and how this might alter our creative process. In the first article, we’ll have some fun exploring new ways to play air guitars and air drums in the VR environment. In the second article, we’ll take a look at ways to control virtual instruments and sound modules that are folded into the VR software. And finally, in the third article we’ll explore the ways in which VR motion tracking is allowing us to immersively control our existing real-world instruments using MIDI. But first, let’s take a look at the early days of VR musical technology!
In a new report released January 5, 2016, the research analysis firm SuperData issued a forecast of the future of Virtual Reality gaming in the coming year. Among the results: 5.1 billion dollars are predicted to be spent on VR hardware in 2016, and 55.8 million consumers will have adopted some version of a VR platform by year’s end. The report also predicts that inexpensive VR gaming on mobile devices will prove the most popular in the short-term, dominating the market in 2016. The report also suggests that small indie studios may benefit by jumping into VR development early (since the top publishers are proving to be a bit more reticent). These are awesome times to be in the video game industry, and there will certainly be lots to learn as we go boldly into the world of VR. In this blog, I’ve collected information about upcoming video game conferences – some that are already famous and some that are brand new. These events might help us to learn more about our role in the creation of VR music and audio.
Since the game audio community is abuzz with popular excitement about the impending arrival of virtual reality systems, I’ve been periodically writing blogs that gather together top news about developments in the field of audio and music for VR. In this blog we’ll be looking at some resources that discuss issues relating to artistry and workflow in audio for VR:
We’ll explore an interesting post-mortem article about music for the VR game Land’s End.
We’ll be taking a closer look at the 3DCeption Spatial Workstation.
We’ll be checking out the Oculus Spatializer Plugin for DAWs.
Here, you see me trying out the Samsung Gear VR, as it was demonstrated on the show floor at the Audio Engineering Society Convention in 2015.
Todd Baker is best known for his audio design work on the whimsical Tearaway games, and his work as a member of the music composition team for the awesome LittleBigPlanet series. His work on Land’s End for Ustwo Games affords him an insightful perspective on audio for virtual reality. “In VR, people are more attuned to what sounds and feels right in the environment, and therefore can be equally distracted by what doesn’t,” writes Baker. In the effort to avoid distraction, Baker opted for subtlety in regards to the game’s musical score. Each cue began with a gentle fade-in, attracting little notice at first so as to blend with the game’s overall soundscape in a natural way.
This past weekend, the Audio Engineering Society held its annual North American convention in the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. I was participating as an AES speaker, but I also knew that AES includes an exhibit floor packed with the best professional audio equipment from all the top manufacturers, and I didn’t want to miss that! So, in between my game audio panel presentation on Saturday, and the Sunday tutorial talk I gave on the music system of the LittleBigPlanet franchise, I had the pleasure of searching the show floor for what’s new and interesting in audio tech. Here are some of the attractions that seemed most interesting for game audio folks:
One of the most interesting technologies on display at AES this year was Fraunhofer Cingo – an audio encoding technology developed specifically to enable mobile devices to deliver immersive sound for movies, games and virtual reality. Cingo was developed by the institute responsible for the MP3 audio coding format. According to Fraunhofer, the Cingo technology “supports rendering of 3D audio content with formats that add a height dimension to the sound image, such as 9.1, 11.1 or other channel combinations.” This enables mobile devices to emulate “the enveloping sound of movies, games or any other virtual environment.” While I was there, Fraunhofer rep Jennifer Utley gave me the chance to demo the Cingo technology using the Gear VR headset, which turns Samsung mobile phones into portable virtual reality systems. The sound generated by Cingo did have an awesome sense of spatial depth that increased immersion, although I didn’t personally notice the height dimension in the spatial positioning. Nevertheless, it was pretty nifty!