GDC 2018 has come and gone, and I’m back on my sofa digging through my notes. Here are a few vignettes and ideas I’m kicking around. Your mileage most definitely varied (25.2 according to Google Fit) but tweet at me if you want to tell me I’m wrong. I’m looking forward to it.
This year’s 2 day VO roundtable left me thinking. It’s always a mix of career paths, specialties , and experience levels. This year, there were many more voices with strong opinions than last year, but it also felt like a lot of the newer actors, engineers, and students were missing. I don’t know if that’s a side effect of pass pricing or the dates, but it felt like a more experienced crowd. Day 1 focused on everything outside the studio, while day 2 was around the session itself. I have been known to express… strong opinions about session setup. Having used spreadsheets as recording scripts for years, the switch to theatrical style scripts was a game changer. Sessions ran better, actors were happier, and we had a much easier to follow format. It didn’t happen overnight though, and as I allude about here, refining our VO process included hours of me jabbing at my script automation scripts, carving Excel sheets into different formats, and fighting with Word about line breaks. I realized during the roundtable that I’m pretty lucky to have that chance. Since I’m always working with in house writers, I get scripts a day or two in advance. I have the time to prep, and I almost always have more than enough time in session to get through the day’s lines. Not everyone is that lucky. Localization houses get scripts last minute, almost never have enough time to turn them around, and might be running lines per hour in the triple digits. Workflows are also really, really sticky. We’re a small shop, so we can try new things. A session isn’t a big deal to us, because we do a lot of them, but they’re usually one offs or part of 3 or 4. If you’re running 24 sessions with an actor over a year, small problems are suddenly big problems. Even worse, if you’re running 1 session but that’s to localize a years worth of work, or to fix just session 13 and a bit of 17 since we had to cut that one orc, knowing you have a smooth, reliable session setup is invaluable. It also means you can’t make changes as easily, because by the time you test a new workflow, refine it, test it again, rework it again, you have script pages piling up and deliveries closing in. For those of us at the bottom of the budget scale, working in serious games and small indie projects, we have room to experiment because we’re broke all the time, so what’s the harm? Same thing at the very top, where you have the budget, which means time, to experiment, and even then, if you have the money, who cares if things could be a bit cheaper, we’re on deadline. It’s the 90% of projects in the middle, whether mid-budget games, big budget games with small below the line dialogue budgets, or a small budget anything, that can benefit from better work flows, but they have to be rock solid. Question is, how do we make things better without spending some time making things worse?
Friday Night Foley
Emily Meo put together the second year of Friday Night Foley, a couple hours of casual stomping around Union Square post-GDC. Confession, I forgot my M10, but it was a great time clanging on playgrounds and scuff jumping with the best of them. I learned a lot of about making sounds out in the field had a great time. I shot a bit of video, check my twitter in a few days for that, though I might have to blur some faces. There was some very minor mischief. Relevant quote from a passerby, “What’re you doing, chasing ghosts?”
What’s Your Cloud?
The incomparable Damian Kastbauer asked a fantastic question at the final Sightglass #GameAudioGDC meetup, “What’s the cloud you see over this GDC?” I’m paraphrasing, but the idea is what’s the 10,000’ view of GDC for everybody. I knew immediately, “uncertainty.” Labor action, funding and monetization changes, and of course the changing demographics of the game audio community. There are more of us, we’re more diverse, and we’re still a pretty fun bunch. But the average game still has fewer than 1 full time sound designer. There’s a ton of work, but there’s also a ton of people working for free. Big studios have imploded, while indies are wondering about the future of Steam vs. the amazing opportunities of the Switch. That doesn’t even start to describe the always fun and exciting career moves we’re all making. We’ll see how it shakes out next year, but sooner than that.. Part II…