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How and when do you start composing/designing?

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For you who are in the business, I'd like to ask...
 
How do you start designing sound or composing music for one particular game?
I mean, what resource from the game do you use as a base for the composition or idea?
Do you start composing with just the storyboard, design, sketches, and 3D models; or do you wait until the resource, assets, or scenes getting into shape?
On big AAA game titles, when did the sound team start working? From the beginning? In the middle? Near the end?
 
thank you

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Usually what happens on pro titles is that there's a brief that describes the sort of music required, and it's delivered to the composer when the team starts needing the music to be in place. Then the composer has to work around that. Composers are often outsourced contractors so it's not uncommon for them to not have any access to the game or to the assets, although there will usually be concept art available to them at a minimum.

 

What goes into the brief can vary massively from company to company and ideally it will form the starting point for a further dialogue about how the track should sound, perhaps with some reference works or artists being discussed.

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How do you start designing sound or composing music for one particular game?
 

 

Usually someone will start by:

1. Figuring out the audio direction - style of music, style of sfx.

2. Figure out audio features (ie footstep system, ambiance system.. etc)

3. With both 1 & 2 in hand - go through the game and create a rough spotting list of sounds to generate a rough asset list.

4. Get hold of any material that will help you create the initial assets - ie start with things that don't have specific animations but are core sounds like footsteps and foley - then work up from there - ambiances, weapon sounds, pickups.. etc.

 

 

I mean, what resource from the game do you use as a base for the composition or idea?
 
Concept art for music - or screen captures.
SFX I want animations and or gameplay capture, or vfx captures.
 
 
Do you start composing with just the storyboard, design, sketches, and 3D models; or do you wait until the resource, assets, or scenes getting into shape?
 
Depends on the game - some I've started with story board but more often than not, I have game footage.
 
 
On big AAA game titles, when did the sound team start working? From the beginning? In the middle? Near the end?
 
thank you

 

From the beginning. The planning, and documenting of audio and figuring out what audio technical issues are to be dealt with and what audio systems will be needed and rough designs will be created initially. Also figuring out team members, designing workflow, tool support -  all the early stuff that technical sound designer / audio lead would be involved with.

External contractors could be engaged at any point in the project, but usually mid-project is when head count needs to expand to deal with development cycle being in full swing.

Edited by GroovyOne

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How do you start designing sound or composing music for one particular game?
 
It depends on if I'm talking about my in-house work or my freelancing work. In-house work begins either when I'm ahead on my other tasks and have extra time to get a head start and if the next game has been specked out enough for me to have a clear idea of what they're going for direction-wise. When discussing my freelance work, I don't begin writing a single thing or making a single sound until the contract stage has been fully completed and the deposit has been paid.
 

 

I mean, what resource from the game do you use as a base for the composition or idea?
 
Everything I can get my hands on. Storyline, sketches, game design documents or bibles, playable levels. References of similar games or visions from the crew. Song examples the team or point of contact feels would work in their game. A list of adjective and emotions they want the player to feel in their level. Everything.
 
When doing sound design, I need video captures to work toward if it's a complex action. Something like a simple button click or generic footstep can be handled without visuals. At least for a first pass. Regardless, having visuals is always preferred for sound work.
 

 

Do you start composing with just the storyboard, design, sketches, and 3D models; or do you wait until the resource, assets, or scenes getting into shape?
 
Again, it really depends. At my in-house work, there's usually not a ton of time as I'm juggling about 4-7 games at one time. So I get started as soon as a basic idea/direction/vision is confirmed. Another thing we do often is send them placeholder ideas to make sure we're on the right track before we really spend time on polish/etc.
 

 

On big AAA game titles, when did the sound team start working? From the beginning? In the middle? Near the end?
 
When I was working on LEGO Universe, we started with all of the other teams - right at the very beginning.
 
I hope that helps!
 
Nate
Edited by nsmadsen

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