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I'm a music composition student also getting a minor-plus-some in computer science. I love writing music and making sound effects and want to write music for games. But, I also realize everyone and their mother wants to do that. With that in mind, and since I'm already equally in love with programming, I'm interested in looking at focusing some aspects of the computer science portion of my education towards audio implementation for games.

What I've done/am doing:

  • Wrote "MusicManager" classes that are aware of musical timings and a small amount of automated mixing based on game events

  • Reading Who is Fourier? as I work my way toward understanding Fourier analysis and implementing the FFT

  • Learning FMOD Designer and using the designer API in a game (of course not taking a class specifically on this, I'm good for learning APIs on my own)

With that background, I've got a two-part question.

So aside from the things I list above, and the good ole fundamentals of computer science (data structures and algorithms, discrete math, OO/structured design), what are studios looking for in audio programmers?

Also, G.A.N.G. and Audio Engineering Society lecturers speak as though audio programmers are the next hot thing in games, but do many studios even have or think to hire dedicated audio programmers?

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closed as too broad by Byte56 May 28 '14 at 14:06

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Edit: Added links for GANG and AES – michael.bartnett Dec 6 '10 at 18:27
This is not really an answer to your question, but I have to disagree with Kylotan - At my last job we were pretty desperate to find someone who was both a good programmer and interested in doing audio. FMOD Designer is OK, but if you're using a custom engine for a big game - and a lot of places are - you're going to need custom tools, especially for foley, but even for things like subtitle synchronization and music transitions. It may not be full-time audio like graphics programmers are near full-time graphics, but if you want to be "the audio guy", a lot of studios would love that. – user744 Dec 6 '10 at 20:27
Usually a combination of FMOD and the audio engineers handle implementation of effects. The programmer deals with making sure the audio engineers can get usable stuff to e.g. the level designers and vice versa. With a strong background in audio programming you'd have a much better idea what kind of stuff the engineers need to do, and maybe be able to split your time between audio engineering and programming rather than audio programming and some other kind of programming. (Depends heavily on the studio's org chart.) – user744 Dec 6 '10 at 23:56
That's pretty interesting, Joe. We did do some audio work in our engine but it was just spread around the team as none of it really required specialist knowledge (unlike with graphics, for example). – Kylotan Dec 7 '10 at 0:24
@Kylotan: We did that for a long time, but things got done a lot faster, better, and with happier audio engineers (and programmers) when they could work with someone who understood more of what they were doing. – user744 Dec 8 '10 at 8:24
up vote 8 down vote accepted

G.A.N.G. and AES lecturers speak as though audio programmers are the next hot thing in games

I had to Google for those terms - you might want to edit your question to be clearer about what those names mean, because I doubt most will have heard of them. Needless to say, they are bound to be a bit biased regarding their own relevance.

do many studios even have or think to hire dedicated audio programmers?


Some do. Most probably don't.

As far as I can tell, most people are using a typical audio library, often with a thin wrapper around it, and getting their resident sound/music guy to create sounds for the game via Wwise, FMod Designer, or similar, and that's about it.

A small but growing number of games have had complex or novel audio requirements of late, eg. since the Guitar Hero thing took off. But despite good sales of those products, it's still just a drop in the ocean in terms of the quantity of games that require such features and the number of developers attempting them.

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Thanks for the links suggestion, edited appropriately. What about games that have to deal with managing surround sound mixing for consoles? I know for the average social game, handheld game, or indie game, audio is close to the bottom of the list of concerns, but there's still a lot to worry about as you up the ante for production quality. And what about games like Spore? They used PureData to mock up generative soundtracks. Is this kind of thing not getting more and more common? – michael.bartnett Dec 6 '10 at 18:28
Surround sound can be handled by using positional sounds with the API and wouldn't require a specialist audio programmer. As for generative or procedural soundtracks, it's not something I hear a lot about. The last one I heard of before Spore was Alpha Centauri, which is about 12 years old. – Kylotan Dec 7 '10 at 0:22

I love writing music and making sound effects and want to write music for games. But, I also realize everyone and their mother wants to do that.

Since when? Audio in games has never really been the focal point of the industry, and that is not changing. There are companies that want wonderful soundtracks and some good sound effects (naturally), but they use audio libraries and hire people to make that content in a 3rd party context.

Audio programmers are not really hired by the game company.

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Since OCRemix. Composition is a tough career to begin with, but the game music market is getting more flooded with composers who are interested in strictly games, and composers who are jumping the film boat to cash in on the game industry. – michael.bartnett Dec 6 '10 at 18:34

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