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Saturday, March 13

Halo Reach sounds off...


I've already done 4 posts today and a couple more in draft so I'm simply gonna steal this one about the effort that goes into making the sound for Halo Reach. Hat tip to Grunts R Us and IGN!

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Bungie takes their sound design very seriously. Today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco Jay Weinland the Senior Audio Lead at Bungie talked about their sound tool and the difficulty of managing hundreds of sound events in their games. The talk was quick and to the point with a brief insight into one of the ways Bungie has approached game design on Xbox 360. To set the stage Weinland threw out a few statistics about the number of audio events currently in the latest Halo project.

At any given time in a game there can be 195 different surface types, 22 audio events, 1789 crates (movable objects), about 24 bipeds (characters), and 165 projectiles. These elements combine for what Weinland admitted is an unknown number of audio events. And that's why their tool is so important.

The tool works on an Actor vs. Actee principal, which mean that both an object and the environment can create a sound when they interact. Then, the tool can tag which sounds play when two objects touch. For example, when a Warthog crushes a large, heavily armored Covenant soldier you can tag the sound of crunching metal. Weinland mentioned that new to the design process for Halo Reach, animators can tag objects for specific sounds during the design phase, and that information is pulled into the audio tool. He also referenced the sound of a "sprinting" biped, which he said we might be experiencing soon.

Weinland also showed a screenshot of an audio level, a bare bones environment in Halo that contains different colored areas indicating separate surface types. That way, it's possible to quickly test audio interactions in the environment.

During the question and answer section Weinland was asked if they've ever run into memory problems. He answered by saying that Bungie had early on made the "acceptable decision" to make heavy use of the hard drive. They figured that most people playing Halo would own a hard drive and thus the "Non-hard drive case of Halo audio is not as good as Halo audio with the hard drive."

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That's a nifty feature to be able to utilise the assets of the Xbox 360 in that fashion. I've heard laptops and PCs can do that trick, so it seems a natural application of the theory. 

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