Post Magazine

March 2011

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Audio eliving childhood, feeling like a rock star, or the possibility of opening a spigot of lucrative workflow — each describe the benefits of scoring and designing sound for interactive videogames. But do the benefits outweigh the headache-inducing technical challenges that seem to sprout at the workstation like quick-growing mold? R FIGHT NIGHT CHAMPION “When you’re sitting back and playing the game you’ve scored and designed music for, sure, it feels like you’ve gone to work as a kid,” says Gordon Durity, engineer for EA Sports’ Fight Night Champion, a grueling 22-fight interactive boxing game and a follow-up to Fight Night Round 4.“But then when there are exec reviews, crunches and millions of dollars on the line — definitely not.” Challenges presented themselves to Durity, audio producer Freddy Ouano and the team as they embarked on a path not frequently taken by EA ( — a “mature” rated title. “With this game we wanted to push the bar,” says Ouano.“What the production team pushed for was not to worry about language and violence and the amount of blood that was spilled.To our writer we just said,‘Give us an authentic experience.’The main char- acter, Andre Bishop, is fighting in jail, so they’re not using flowery language, there are lots of f-bombs and swears, so we’re revealing the grittier side of boxing — from the video, to the speech, to the sound design and music, and we had to reflect that emotional tone from beginning to end, and a lot of that is blending.” To achieve that grittiness, EA pulled another first-time trick, starting with the 45 minutes of animated motion capture they commissioned at House of Moves. Instead of a handful of actors gathered around the big U87s reading a script and then animating to that, EA wanted to have the actors do the dialogue while also perform- ing the boxing moves. “That’s unique,” says Durity. “It’s more along the line of films than cartoons. Recording dialogue with the mocap ac- tors enabled us to achieve two things — getting the real performance from the actors, and authenticity in the way that it was miced, so it doesn’t sound like a bunch of peo- ple sitting in a room, and we don’t have to go back into the studio and dub in a voice actor because the mocap actor might not have the voiceover capability. It’s a new skill that’s coming into the act- ing world: actors now have to be cast not only for physical moves, but also for dialogue.” The team’s audio target (ATAR) aimed at a narrative linear mode — all the film material was cut in Avid Pro Tools, while in-game sound was cut with in-house proprietary tools. “It was a shift,” says Ouano. “It was, ‘Hey, we’re making a movie now, we’re not just making a game.’There are two camps to videogame sound effects, especially when it comes to simulation sports: there are people who want a simulation experience and they ex- pect it to sound like it does when they watch boxing on TV. But we have to remember we’re making a videogame — sound effects is part of giving the user feedback, so we need a punch to give feedback to the viewer.And be- cause Champion has bare-knuckled boxing, we had to make a subset, our 30 Post • March 2011 Fight Night Champion from EA Sports sounds gritty and raw, reflecting the games’ storyline. for Games By Brian O’Connor

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