“When you want to hire a sound designer, look out for portfolios that specifically talk about sound design,” Gwen Guo advises her audience at Casual Connect Asia 2014. “A composer will be able to have a portfolio that illustrates good music composition, but they may not necessarily have the portfolio that illustrates good sound design, so make sure there is that distinction when you go on looking for people to hire.”
“IMBA Interactive just turned one!” Co-Founder Gwen Guo proudly announces. IMBA began when Guo and Co-Founders Sharon Kho and Jeremy Goh came out of the research program, Singapore-MIT Gambit Gamelab, where they had been prototyping and developing games based on research topics. They were inspired by how the audio designers were involved with the development team from the start of pre-production, and they wanted to bring this culture to Singapore. The three of them decided to form a company to provide high quality audio at reasonable rates. Guo states, “When you’re a company, you are in a better position to educate clients about how important audio is.” They also began forming a community of audio freelancers to share knowledge and open full-time jobs, since they prefer collaboration over competition.
Beauty of Collaboration
Guo is proud to be a part of the indie community and is inspired by the positivity it spreads, especially in Singapore, where competition is rampant. She feels encouraged to see developers and creatives beginning to recognize the beauty and merits of collaboration rather than rivalry.
There are two emerging trends that Guo believes will significantly impact the games industry in the near future. The first is the increasing accessibility of audio middleware to indie developers. Wwise and FMOD, two of the most widely used audio implementation tools, recently changed their licenses favorably for indies. Now, if your total game development budget is USD $100,000 or less, FMOD is available to license at no cost. Wwise has a free license if there are fewer than 200 audio assets in the project. Guo believes this change will give rise to greater experimentation with audio implementation in a way that was not previously possible due to time and manpower constraints. She says, “Indies now have the power to push the boundaries of game audio.”
Since middleware is relatively new to Asia, IMBA must educate clients that value can be added to the game with compelling, well-executed audio. Eventually, Guo expects that developers will think about audio early in the production process rather than leaving it to the end.
The second trend she sees results from better cloud storage and version control. Guo claims, “Service providers like ourselves can now work remotely while maintaining a solid working pipeline.” This is more efficient for the client because the service provider goes to them, rather than the reverse; equally important, companies could be visiting three different clients in a day using either a laptop or their desktop, and still communicate with the programmer who is physically present. Guo believes the increased contact will allow a more personal relationship with a client, adding to the positive work experience.
Rise of the Indies
Guo feels the biggest impact on the games industry as a whole will come from the rise of indie studios, with the possible decline of AAA studios. Indies now have tools, at a reasonable cost, to make great games. New ways to raise funds for the development of indie games, such as crowdfunding, are also available. Massive promotions from platforms, such as Steam’s Greenlight and the Humble Bundle, have led to the popularity of many indie games. For example, the complementary sale or gift of game soundtracks alongside the games themselves have proven popular and effective in boosting market exposure for indie games.
When not at work, Guo’s activities are still closely connected to the games industry. Most often, she can be found gaming, sound recording, checking out electronic musicians, and reading about feminism, especially female/LGBTQ representation in games.
She prefers playing on PC, since this is what she grew up with. She enjoys the process of completely customizing it to best suit the games she plays, feeling this gives her a close connection that she can’t get on console.
For the past 12 years, she has been playing Team Fortress, ever since it was TFC; now she plays TF2, and, for a short time, played it competitively. She likes MMO games which have a social aspect, such as Lord of the Rings Online and Guild Wars 2, which she has been playing recently. She suggests, “The whole ecosystem of successful guilds brings out the best in people; for example, you craft items for newbies, expecting nothing in return.” As a self-described Tolkien geek, she admits that some of the side stories woven into the lore of Lord of the Rings Online have her completely hooked.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.