Wondering what tools you should use to create the best sound and music effects in your game? In this helpful read, Zach Young opens up his toolkit. What’s in yours? Tell us! — Maya
With the evolution of web-based games running at a break-neck pace, a developer’s tools become their lifeline to keeping their content competitive. More and more games are getting sponsorships for decent amounts of money and I asked myself, I wonder where that money goes? Well, while it’s really none of my business, I would like to think that some of it gets “reinvested” into our craft. Just like any professional, there are things we all need to get our game from point “A” to “done”. Much like a gardener invests in a new lawn mower, we should be investing some of our money into tools to make our games with higher quality as well as streamline our process.
We all, of course, know we need some sort of Flash compiling software to write the “code” which tends to take up most of our time no doubt. However, graphics, sound effects and music are also very important and I have read in the forums on several occasions about people complaining about the same techno looping music track, or some horribly distorted, low quality explosion sound effect.
It is important to note, that all of this information is completely unsolicited. I’m not getting paid from any of these companies. They are simply programs and resources I have found to make my development life easier. Hopefully they will make yours easier, too.
So let’s imagine a for a second a world without a million games that all use the same door closing sound, or generic explosion sound…. Are you there? Do you hear it? It sounds incredible! So how do we get there?
Well, first off, we have to get our hands on some sound libraries, hopefully without breaking our bank account in the mean time. You can really spend a ton of dough on sounds. I myself have a purchased a $900 sound library that I use all the time. However, you can find sounds for as cheap as a few dollars a sound effect if you know what you are looking for. That might seem a bit steep for a small sound effect, but if you hear it a hundred times the price is well worth it.
I highly recommend buying sounds in libraries because they are cheaper and you can mix a bunch of sounds together to make new sounds. In general, sound effects are my least favorite part of game development. That being said, I always feel good when I take the time to make them right. It can really push a game to the next level.
Here are a few decent sites I found that offer per sound or sound libraries for purchase:
For sound mixing, I personally use Adobe Audition which runs a staggering $350. If that is in your budget, I would highly recommend it! However, if you are looking for something quick and dirty for sound mixing, I personally love Easy Audio Editor by DanDans Digital Media. For $34.95, you couldn’t ask for any more power from a sound editing tool.
For music I know a lot of people seem to put this in as an afterthought which is greatly disturbing. Music can transform a mediocre game to a great game all on its own (in my opinion). Even if you are not a musician there are some fantastic tools out that can be learned quickly and easily that will allow you to be the next Trent Reznor. Well not quite, but pretty close! Creating music with loops is extremely easy, usually just click and drag and can actually be quite fun.
Music Editing and Recording
I use Sony Acid 6.0 which costs whopping $299.95 for all of my techno stuff you can also check out Fruity Loops by Image Line. The very basic package offers enough to get started and runs $49. They have several versions of their software to choose from so it’s worth taking a deeper look into it to find the one that fits your needs. If you are lucky enough to play an instrument or two and want to do some multi-track recording Sonar or Cubase are pretty amazing tools as well.
With looped music, you can buy loop libraries for about $50-100 a pop. I have a collection of probably 8 discs that I use for everything, with a few of my own loops tossed in here and there so I still feel like a musician. You can buy loops in any style of music you can think of. Rock, orchestral, R & B, Hip-Hop, they are all out there. I usually go through Sony for my libraries, but there are quite a few loop creators out there.
If I see one more explosion that plays in 6 frames and has black jagged pixels around it, I swear I’m going to jump out of my second story window! Wondertouch has my back with their absolutely insanely amazing particle illusions SE package. I am not kidding when I tell you this is the coolest tool I have ever used. For $99 you get an amazingly simple program that lets you save out sequences of PNG’s, JPEG’s or whatever kind of file you want, with a few clicks of your mouse! Explosions, fire, swirly particles, you name it, it does it. Most programs promise such things and don’t deliver, this one delivers and then some. So what is the catch? There isn’t one, go get it now.
So now is about the time I would go into detail about hardcore art creation tools, however, since art is such a stylistic subject that depends on what look you are trying to achieve, I will leave that one alone. Obviously Flash does vector art, and beyond that, there are tons of 3D packages out there and even some great 2D programs as well. I will leave that open for you to discover.
I personally have put a lot of emphasis in my own limited success in the industry into reinvesting my hard earned money to make my final product better and optimize the process as much as I can. While it doesn’t happen overnight, you can build up your toolbox over the course of a few sponsored games. A lot of these tools have fairly low learning curves and you may find they can break up the monotony of coding and or creating art in Flash.
To be successful at anything it’s about how hard you want to work, however if you have the right tools, sometimes you can work half as hard and get something twice as good.
If anyone has any other tools they can’t live without, please feel free to post them!