Meeting Report: 6th June 2011 – Computer Games Audio Design with the FMOD Development Platform

Melbourne – June 6, 2011

Speaker Names: Brett Paterson, Firelight Technologies; Stephan Schulze, Games Sound Designer

Meeting Location: RMIT University, Carlton


Firelight Technologies is the Melbourne-based developer of the popular FMOD games audio development platform, which is in use in a range of popular games for the PC, Games Console, and mobile platforms.

Brett Paterson of Firelight Technologies started the evening with a brief rundown of the company’s history and current operations, culminating in its current position of being used in 37% of all games released.

He also indicated that it is also in use by the military, NASA, and the Ford Motor Company for developing simulators, and has also been used in the US for developing electronic voting machines.

Brett then passed over to Stephan Schulze who is a games audio designer and FMOD user.
Stephan has developed a comprehensive sound library of personally recorded live effects which he uses to create all the effects and even some music in his audio designs.

He demonstrated that a major benefit of FMOD is the way it can generate complex effects “on the fly” and in a manner where each incident of the effect can be slightly different – to better mirror the real world and maintain the gamer’s interest. He emphasised the important additional benefit of this being minimising memory usage as only the “raw elements” making up the audio need to be stored.

Memory space in games is apparently a limited resource. Stephan created and played some examples of creating complex effects using a handful of short effects elements from his sound library, and demonstrated how time-efficient the FMOD process was compared to creating the same effect in a linear editor like ProTools.

He also demonstrated that with FMOD’s audio manipulation tools, manipulating pitch, time, and level the same raw effect can be used for a multitude of purposes, saving memory again – a recurring theme.
A shotgun can become a cannon, a cat become a lion, or one breed of bird can become many breeds.
He demonstrated all of this to great “effect”.

He also indicated that the budgets, and production values, for games production had now risen to the point where they were rivalling some movie budgets making this an area worthy of further examination by audio creatives and engineers.