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Acoustic Ecology

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Synopsis

Designing sound in a holistic way, as influenced by the discipline of Acoustic Ecology.

Relationships

Contexts:
Aesthetics , Ambiance , Foley , Sound Effects , Music , Dialogue , Foley Music , Diegetic Music , Chitchat , Character Soundprint , Identification .

Description

This card carries the most influential concept inherent to the conception of the whole set of cards in the deck. It may not be very specific in suggesting explorations during sound design but it states a crucial mindset that ought to be present when considering other cards. The Acoustic Ecology can be thought of as the whole set of sounds that are heard during the game. The reason why it is so important to design all sounds as an “ecology” is that sounds have relationships that need to be managed appropriately, in a holistic way. Simply superimposing the sounds from the several Sound Layers is not adequate. To start with, sounds related to entities and events that in turn are related among themselves. But not less importantly, the reverse also applies – the sources of those sounds should also shape their relations as a consequence of the characteristics of their own acoustic expressions, as it happens in a natural ecology [pending:[REF]]. More, in addition to timings, turns, tones and relative strengths, there is also the dimension of coherence. Some games extend the Acoustic Ecology to components other than the gameplay (and Cutscenes when they exist). Namely, Title Screens and Menus may be coherent and integrated – in acoustic terms – with the Acoustic Ecology experienced during gameplay.

Examples

Prototype
InFamous:
Crysis:
[show less examples...]
Grand Theft Auto IV:
Red Dead Redemption:
Patapon:
Assassin's Creed:
Katamari Forever:
Papa Sangre:

Additional Comments

Coherence in the Acoustic Ecology in the subsequent phases of development

Coherence in the Acoustic Ecology is a concern that needs to be thoughtfully transmitted and carried to the implementation phases of sound in the game. We are not dealing with implementation aspects in the scope of these design patterns but we consider that, in this particular case, a remark is opportune. One bottleneck to the integration of sounds in games is the availability of sound files and the scarce ability to produce them from scratch. Off-the-shelf sound libraries are often too expensive or otherwise limited, considering the budget of small projects. Consequently developers are often challenged with the need to combine sounds from sparse origins that are highly incompatibly in aesthetics and acoustic terms (disparate levels of background noise, reverberation, etc.). In turn this may lead to a final result that fails in terms of overall coherency, regardless of the merit of the sound design that may have preceded this phase.

On the concept of Acoustic Ecology

[pending]

External Resources

  • Book: "The Acoustic Ecology of the First-Person Shooter" by Mark Grimshaw[1]
  • About the Acoustic Ecology in Half-Life 2
  • Wrightson, K. An Introduction to Acoustic Ecology. Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, I (I, Spring 2000). 10-13, (2000).
  • Other relevant AE Bibliography [pending]

References

  1. Grimshaw, M. 2008. The acoustic ecology of the first-person shooter. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Muller.

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