Firelight Technologies, the creators of FMOD, talked about their adaptive sound software solution for game developers.
Firelight Technologies is a small Australian company that has been dedicated to providing audio tools for sound designers and musicians to make interactive sounds for games. It also comes with an audio engine that processes that data in real-time, inside the game, to produce the sound you hear in today’s titles. We’ve been going for nearly 20 years now, ever since FMOD started as a hobby for Brett in his university years.
There has definitely been an evolution in the development of FMOD. At the start, FMOD had no solution for the audio professionals and content creators. It was purely a programmer’s interface, just like Open AL or DirectSound. It focused on just handling cross-platform mixing of sounds, special effects, decoding and playback of a variety of file formats, 3D sound processing. and it had to be fast (i.e. use as little CPU time as possible). Somewhere in the early 2000s, we started getting questions about producing tools for sound designers. We created FMOD Designer, which was used for hundreds of games, maybe over a thousand. Then in the early 2010s, we decided to start from a clean slate and introduce ‘FMOD Studio’.
FMOD Studio is a sound professional-focused software product, and we had some time researching how sound authors worked with game audio in the industry. It was quite a radical change for us and a risk. This product has now evolved into being a very powerful tool for games that we have today. Right now the focus is all about the workflow for artists and how fast audio can be created with maximum interactivity. Today’s games are very demanding and we’re proud of what we have achieved and what game developers can achieve with our tools and engine.
FMOD Advantages for Sound Designers
When sounds are created for a game, they have to be dynamic and interactive in a game. You can’t just play the same footstep sound, or music loop, over and over, it has to change and be reactive. You also need a simple way for a programmer in a game to say ‘start the car engine’ and ‘set the rpm for the car’ rather than programming all of that very complex logic yourself. This is what FMOD Studio handles and more.
A standard sound editor lets you lay out a linear track, whereas FMOD Studio lets you have the audio laid out with multiple tracks, with parameter controls, game logic, and components that can be reused. This allows the game audio to constantly change and react in real-time. Complex game audio events can be created by a sound designer, not a technical person, and interactive music tracks can be created as well. The game then triggers those events with simple commands, or they can be inserted into an existing game engine like UE4 or Unity.
One of the biggest advantages of FMOD Studio when it comes to game development is the breaking of the old create/compile/load/play cycle. This was a typical workflow for game developers and would happen many times a day for a developer test new content. FMOD Studio takes out the middle step ‘compile’ with its fully developed ‘Live Update’ feature. Typically a game audio professional will create sounds, then compile it all into binary files, then hand it to the programmer to reload in the game.
FMOD Studio lets the sound author connect directly to the game (over a network) and fully edit the audio while connected to the game. You can add sounds, delete them and edit them while the game is running, and not have to ‘compile’ the audio until you want to send off a deliverable. This sort of workflow is expected now and saves real dollars in development time. This is why middleware like FMOD Studio saves money in the long run for a developer.
One of the things that surprise people is that FMOD Studio is free for game developers if the project you’re working on has a development budget of less than $500k USD. This helps a lot of indie devs who are just starting out.
Above that budget level, we have 2 simple pricing tiers based on game budget, details of which can be found athttps://www.fmod.com/licensing. We don’t charge extra per platform, it is a simple 1-time fee based on the size of your game.
Firelight Technologies, FMOD Developers
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev