A unique graphical aesthetic is obviously important when developing a game. I wonder if the same is true for audio? Is it worth investing my time in recording, producing my own sounds or should I just buy stock effects?
I like to follow this rule of thumb:
- Use off-the shelf components wherever possible.
- Replace them with unique elements as necessary!
- Music: Places like IB Audio are nice, because they provide solid music at prices far below what we'd pay to have pieces created for us.
- SFX Collections: CD/DVD effects collections such as Sound Ideas' are great, because we have access to the same, quality, royalty-free libraries that the big Hollywood studios use.
- Individual Effects: We use Sound Dogs because they provide a la carte effects, which means that when we've needed a single sample of cheering spectators, we had it.
This gives us the ability to focus on dev elements such as gameplay and concept testing. And, when we want to create something unique, such as a theme song or a sound effect of a space toilet being flushed into another space toilet, we can do that too.
If you have any kind of budget to spend on your game, you can probably just buy them in. A sound effect from a website like http://www.soundrangers.com costs about $5 to license. You'll need maybe 50 in your game? That's $250. 50 sounds would probably take at least 2 days to record, and you might not end up with the best quality if you're new to it. If 2 days of your time is worth more than $250, buy them in.
I think you really need both.
For example, it's quite easy to generate a ship engine's rumble using a white-noise generator and applying a low-pass filter to this. However, you may find it difficult to get out and record the sound of trains going over tracks, so a stock sample my be more useful in that instance.
Of course, learning how to post-process sounds is very important so you can tweak stock sounds for your own use. As another example, I created the sound effect for one of the bad guys (the Feedback Monster) in Jeff Minter's Space Giraffe. This effect ended up being a combination of a stock recording of some thunder, but then it was processed and I added several samples of guitar feedback that I recorded with my collection of guitars and amps. Along with various EQs, delays and reverbs, etc.
When it comes to music I'd also recommend Jamendo: They have their artist sign that they're not part of a collection society, so there's no second party you have to pay.
Of course a lot depends on the game you're making. For And Yet It Moves, all sounds were created by hand. I'd also recommend SoundSnap for good quality sounds.
Maybe the most important step is to learn what it is that you need for your game and develop an ear for game audio.
I have a MIDI keyboard with hundreds of sounds effects that I can use as I wish - or at least that is way I understand the terms of usage for it - so if you already have a source for effects and know how to make your sound files, save the money. However, if you aren't setup for that (my keyboard was about $200) then buying sound effects packs is a quick and easy way to go. I use the Torque game engine and there is some very cool sound packs available for Torque, buy YMMV depending on development tools.