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Audio Design and Game Development: A Conversation with Chris Hegstrom - Part 2
Episode 22031st January 2024 • Audio Branding • Jodi Krangle
00:00:00 00:33:33

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“But you don’t know how that user is going to do it. Are they going to somersault through the entire level? Are they going to climb up a wall and jump down? And are they going to just sit in a corner for a while and then walk three steps and then sit in a corner for a while? You don’t know if somebody is going to, how somebody is going to play. And that’s the beauty. And that’s the draw of video games and the interactivity of it.” -- Chris Hegstrom


This episode’s the second half of my conversation with sound designer, creative director, and Insomniac Games audio manager Chris Hegstrom as we talk about how far video game sound designs have come since Space Invaders, how the pioneering soundscape of Burnout Paradise helped reshape everyday UX design, and what the next breakthrough in gaming audio might bring.


As always, if you have questions for my guest, you’re welcome to reach out through the links in the show notes. If you have questions for me, visit where you’ll find a lot of ways to get in touch. You can also join regular Clubhouse chats in The Power of Sound House every Wednesday (check the schedule for times). Plus, subscribing to the newsletter will let you know when the new podcasts are available, when new audio rooms are scheduled and what they'll be about, and it'll give you access to a resource called The Studio with lots of interesting sound-related mp3s, videos, educational pdfs, and exclusive discounts from previous guests. If you’re getting some value from listening, the best ways to show your support are to share this podcast with a friend and leave an honest review. Both those things really help – and I’d love to feature your review on future podcasts. You can leave one either in written or in voice format from the podcast’s main page. I would so appreciate that.


(0:00:01) - Game Design and Sound Integration Complexity

Our discussion continues as we talk about the advantages of video gaming’s early one-man operations, and how the industry’s grown to rival Hollywood post-production fidelity. “In video games,” he says, “we essentially have that fidelity now, and it’s interactive, which means you set up the parameters so that the user can mix it while they’re playing.“ He also talks about the trends going forward when it comes to video-game sound, and what he thinks might prove a bigger hit than 3D sound. “I think the next trend is going to be a lot more maybe CPU based,” he explains, “or a lot more based on really kind of amping up the interactivity to the point where you as the audio designer are actually really impacting the interactivity of the user or what the user’s experience might be within a game.”


(0:20:16) - Audio Design and UX in Gaming

Chris also tells us about his sound work on the classic PS3 game Burnout Paradise, and the science behind the heart-pounding, and groundbreaking, ambient effects. “The response that I got from a user,” he recalls, “was, you know, like, ‘I don’t know what you guys did to the music, but man, like every time I was chaining a burnout, my palms were sweaty!’ And I said, ‘That’s it.’” We also talk about how such dynamic audio techniques are showing up in everyday apps and UX designs, and the pressure for video game consoles to keep pushing the envelope when it comes to sound. “You know,” Chris explains, “every generation of console that you release and every title that you release has to utilize these, you know, these crazy features even more and more vigorously and more efficiently.”


(0:28:51) - Future of AI and Immersive Technology

“That becomes ubiquitous,” he adds about video game’s breakthrough features, “because all of a sudden it’s in your car, it’s on your refrigerator or you know it’s in your home, and then you have screens or you have digital assistants or you have you know, smart devices.” We also talk about the role AI might play in future sound design, and how to get in touch with Chris: “I guess LinkedIn’s probably a good way to do that. Yeah, that’s my kind of only social media of choice at the moment.”


Episode Summary

  • How video game development went from garages to sound studios.
  • What audio feedback in gaming means for sound design in everyday life.
  • Future trends in sound design, from games to kitchens to AI.


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