"As a sound engineer and teacher, I’m very interested in assets that can simplify the audio integration process. The less coding there is, the better. I’m also always on the lookout for really creative tools for sound designers,” he says.
For Eric, an ideal game audio engine has:
- a great mixer with flexible routing (including group bus, aux bus, multichannel output matrix, 3D panning and doppler effect)
- easy ducking and dynamic control (for HDR mixes)
- a bunch of creative insert DSP FX, volumetric FX and sounds (for seamless transitions between zones)
- a timeline with automation curves (for multitracking and sequenced events)
- pooling system (to limit instances of sounds and boost performance)
- weighted randomization of parameters
- a sample accurate clock and musical divisions of time
- instruments (sample-based and synthesized ones with the usual modules like OSC, LFO, ADSR, etc…)
- a music sequencer (with a flexible file format), midi input and output, wav rendering, async loading and streaming.
fmod integration in Unity and the upcoming Unity 5 audio features offer at least half of those tools, and most of the others are already available on the Asset Store. Which assets did Eric find most helpful on his quest for the ideal audio engine?
“The first toolkit I bought was SoundManagerPro as I was looking for a simple pooling solution (with limited polyphony) and a straight “no code” event system. Then I tried out Master Audio, because it has Playmaker actions. I discovered that it’s a very complete toolkit with it’s own group mixer, synchronized playlists and a clever ducking system,” says Eric.
He’s still using it, but he’s always on the lookout for more exotic options. So he got in touch with Tazman Audio, who offered him an educational licence of their Fabric audio toolkit. “Believe me, it is great fun to play with the embedded modular synthesis engine and the loopable timeline is vital for evolving motors and background ambient effects.”
One of Eric’s other obsessions is step sequencing. “My deepest wish is that Unity could provide extensive management for a tracker format like .mod or .xrns, with an API to control the track activation and the pattern changing. So I bought the Step-Seq asset by Quick Fingers to see how far it could take me, and it’s pretty powerful. Unfortunately I discovered that an accurate musical clock is very difficult to obtain with C# coding. An experienced musician might find the stability a little disappointing.”
To overcome this issue, he started using a combination of MidiUnified and MidiSynth by Foriero Studio. “The midifile player is rock solid and the different integrated synths offer a wide range of sonic capabilities (“bass” is one of my favorites). You can make your own sfz soundbanks and work in a classical DAW for authoring. And, if you like alternative input controllers, the multi-platform integration of midi I/O works perfectly”. He also discovered a bunch of Playmaker actions, which are handy for rapid prototyping. “I would have expected more control options over the midi files, but at this time, it’s the best solution I’ve found to do light weight songs from a few samples if you want midi files.”
For synthesis, he’s found the port of usfxr - Procedural Sound Effects by Zeh Fernando to be very useful for real time or rendered FX sounds. It saves a lot of memory.
Finally, he’d like to also share two secret weapons for audio driven events and animations: “I love Visualizer Studio, which is a spectrum based triggering asset that lets you split your audio into multiple bands of frequencies and put a threshold on each one (to trigger whatever you want when a certain level is reached on that band). And I’ve also bought DarkACE : Audio Curves and Events, which works like the animation window, but on the waveform of your audio file. That’s very handy when you want to automate something graphically to the music.”
“And of course like everyone, I’m feverishly waiting for the official release of Unity 5, especially its new audio features!"
Eric « Dok » Wager is a French sound engineer who’s worked on music and movies like OSS117, Les 11 commandements, La Beuze, Svinkels, TTC, Arsenik and Singuila. He’s also been part of the demomakers scene since 1990. He’s fond of generative arts and signal processing, teaches at the SAE Institute in Paris, and is the co-founder of IndieTrainers, a game development training company.