Wave Arts at the 2009 Game Developer Conference
Posted on Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Game Developer Conference 2009 • Moscone Center • San Francisco • March 25
With several successful Microsoft Game Studio (MGS) titles already shipping with its licensed signal processing, Wave Arts attended the Game Developer Conference and assisted MGS Director of Audio Guy Whitmore in spreading the message of how Digital Signal Processing (DSP) can improve the game audio experience. Wave Arts founder and chief technologist William Gardner joined Whitmore on stage during his presentation, “DSP: Shaders and Lighting for Audio” to help audio directors, game designers, and programmers learn more about how to employ DSP in games. Using the industry’s first multi-technology, publisher wide license between an audio DSP vendor and a major publisher of console and desktop games as a model for the industry, Whitmore described how DSP is essential to fulfill the game design goals. The license affords Microsoft an opportunity to deploy Wave Arts’s DSP libraries widely to MGS development teams and content developers, using the processing algorithms best suited to each individual game title. MGS has already shipped LIPS and Fable 2 with Wave Arts DSP.
Microsoft and Wave Arts enacted a license in 2008 to use Wave Arts audio processing technology for use in Xbox and Windows games. Under the deal, MGS also receives a site license to use Wave Arts’ line of audio effects plug-ins for content development. Wave Arts’ professional audio plug-ins work with standard desktop audio workstation software environments, such as Digidesign ProTools, Steinberg Cubase, Apple Logic, Cakewalk Sonar, and many others. Because the DSP in the game technology is identical to the algorithms used in Wave Arts’ audio effects plug-ins, the license supports the entire game production tool chain from content development through consumer experience. Hence the game sound designers can use the plug-ins during sound authoring and have the same palette of audio effects available during realtime game play.
The licensed algorithms include many of Wave Arts critically acclaimed processing products: TrackPlug, a channel strip plug-in with 10-band EQ, dual compressors, and gate, FinalPlug, a mastering peak limiter, MultiDynamics, a multi-band dynamics processor, and MasterVerb, a flexible reverb processor. Wave Arts provided surround versions of FinalPlug, MultiDynamics, and MasterVerb for processing 5.1 surround audio formats.
Whitmore’s presentation highlighted the key advantage of using realtime signal processing algorithms: game sound designers do not have to prepare all variations of a sound effect ahead of time; instead the variations can be applied algorithmically during game play. For example, MasterVerb’s reverberation effect can be applied to the sound of footsteps to emulate the sound of a cave or a gymnasium, based upon the game scenario, rather than preparing all variations of the footstep sounds ahead of time. As the game environment changes, the game engine can tell the audio processing to change parameters (like how distant or close the reverb effect should be). Each game player will hear improved audio based on his or her actions.
The algorithms can also be used for realtime “mastering” of the game’s sound. The audio engine in a game mixes music and a multitude of game play sounds. The loudness of this mix can vary considerably depending on game play. Use of a mastering peak limiter such as FinalPlug can prevent the mix from becoming too loud or too soft. Similarly, a multi-band dynamics processor such as MultiDynamics can help maintain a proper balance of low, mid, and high frequencies.
Wave Arts plug-ins are ideally suited for embedding into games because of their excellent sound quality and low CPU and memory requirements. Wave Arts provided embedded plug-ins both in Microsoft’s XAPO format and in a generic format, i.e. a library plus API, ready to implement in game engines.
Flexible business terms allow Microsoft a broad license to integrate the Wave Arts plug-ins in many different games as well as support its in-house and third-party developer audio creation teams with a site license to Wave Arts audio plug-ins.