1st Edition

The Game Audio Strategy Guide A Practical Course

By Gina Zdanowicz, Spencer Bambrick Copyright 2020
    416 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Focal Press

    416 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Focal Press

    The Game Audio Strategy Guide is a comprehensive text designed to turn both novices and experienced audio designers into technical game audio pros. Providing both a theoretical foundation and practical insights, The Game Audio Strategy Guide offers a thorough look at the tools and methods needed to create industry-quality music and sound design for games. The text is supported by an extensive companion website, featuring numerous practical tutorials and exercises, which allows the reader to gain hands-on experience creating and implementing audio assets for games.

    The Game Audio Strategy Guide is the essential manual for anyone interested in creating audio for games, inside or outside the classroom.





    1. Getting Started

    Our Goals for this Textbook

    Overview and Learning Outcomes

    Who Should Read this Book?

    How to Use this Book

    Requisite Knowledge

    Theoretical Framework

    Practical Framework, A.K.A. Companion Website (Sound Lab)?

    Visiting Artist’s Tips

    Key Terms

    Further Reading

    Game Audio

    Game Development Roles Defined

    Essential Soft Skills and Tools For Game Audio

    Production Cycle and Planning


    Making Use of Downtime

    PART I

    Sound Design

    2. The Basics of Nonlinear Sound Design

    What is Nonlinear Sound Design?

    The Sound Design Process

    Challenges in Nonlinear Sound Design

    Exploring Immersion and Interactivity

    Essential Skills for Sound Designers

    3. Designing Sound

    Dynamic Audio

    Sound Effects

    The Function of Sound in Games

    Designing the Sonic Palette

    Choosing the Right Source for Your Sonic Palette

    Sourcing Audio from Libraries

    Sourcing Sounds through Synthesis

    Sourcing Audio through Studio and Field Recording

    Field Recording

    Microphone Choice and Placement

    Performing Sound with Props

    Location Scouting and Preparation

    Designing Sound Effects

    Sound Design Techniques

    Effects Processing as a Sound Design Tool

    Putting It All Together

    4. Voice Production

    Dialogue vs. Voice-Over



    5. The Basics of Nonlinear Music

    What is Nonlinear Music?

    Challenges of Nonlinear Music Writing

    Essential Skills for the Game Composer

    Exploring Music as an Immersive Tool

    Diegetic vs. Non-Diegetic Music

    Production Cycle and Planning

    Working with a Team

    Platforms and Delivery

    6. Composing Music

    Generating Musical Ideas and the Creative Cycle

    Starting Points for Musical Composition

    Composing Game Music

    Form and Structure in Game Music

    7. Arranging and Orchestration for Games

    Genre and Style Considerations

    Foundations of Musical Texture in Games

    Arranging and Orchestrating Using Samples


    Template Planning

    The Orchestral Instruments

    Writing for String Samples

    Writing for Woodwind and Brass Samples

    Writing for Choir Samples

    Writing for Percussion Samples

    Writing for Full Sampled Orchestra

    Advanced Orchestration and Arranging for Live Ensembles

    Working with Synthetic Timbres

    Other Styles of Arranging in Game Music



    8. Audio Implementation

    Implementation Basics

    Dialogue Systems

    Dynamic Mix Systems

    Resource Management and Performance Optimization

    Testing, Debugging, and QA

    9. Music Implementation

    Approaching Implementation

    Arranging and Orchestration as Implementation

    Advanced Vertical Techniques

    Advanced Horizontal Techniques

    Adding Randomness and Variation

    Composing Complex Adaptive Systems Using Middleware

    Aesthetic Creativity and Composing Outside the Box

    Tools for Experimentation

    Pure Data

    Simplicity vs. Complexity in Game Music


    Business and Networking

    10. The Business of Games, Part I: What Do We Do Now?

    Career Development: Overview and Philosophy

    Selecting Tangible Goals

    The Pyramid of Sustainability

    Career Paths in Game Audio

    11. The Business of Games, Part II: Gigs, Gigs, Gigs!

    Networking and Creating Value

    Demonstrating Value

    Finding Work

    Business and Price Considerations

    The Final Bid

    Navigating Contracts

    12. Your Game Audio Strategy Guide

    Audio Creator as Game Developer



    Gina Zdanowicz is an accomplished audio designer for games, film, TV, new realities, and podcasts. A graduate from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Music Synthesis, Gina honed her skills in game audio by working in house with game developers and founding her own independent sound studio, Serial Lab Sound. Gina has worked on over 100 video game and interactive titles and her work with Nickelodeon (TV) has been nominated for two Daytime Emmy awards. In addition to her career as an audio designer, Gina is a game audio course author and instructor at Berklee Online, a tutor at Thinkspace Education, and a lecturer at universities such as NYU and conferences around the world like GDC. Follow Gina at: www.seriallab.com

    Spencer Bambrick is a composer for games, film, and the concert stage. His recent work includes BestLuck (2018, PC, Mobile), Block Party (Emmy-Nominated Nick Jr. Series of Animated Shorts), and additional music for Paladins (Hi-Rez Studios). Spencer is the Game Audio Network Guild Northeast Regional Director and he has presented at GameSoundCon (2018, 2017), PAX Dev (2016), and MAGFest (2015). He is currently pursuing his doctorate in Music Composition at The University of Hartford (The Hartt School), studying interactive music, game technology, and social activism.

    "If you’re interested in the world of game sound, you need this book! I couldn’t be more excited that this book exists and wish I had had such a comprehensive and well-organized handbook when I was starting out as a sound designer/composer. Gina and Spencer take us through a complete overview of the craft and the skills involved in this growing field where sound is an essential component of game development. They shed light on the creative process, the technical skills, and the practicalities, from sound and music creation to game audio implementation.

    This book is a culmination of Gina and Spencer's many years of professional experience wrapped into an accessible and effective guide. Not to mention, they are seasoned educators, so as you can imagine this book is not only bursting with invaluable tips from professionals, but it’s also instructive and even includes assignments and additional practical information on a companion website to make sure the concepts really hit home. That combination is invaluable and an enormous help! A must-read for up-and-coming game audio folks, in my opinion." - Michele Darling, professional sound designer and assistant chair of Electronic Production and Design at Berklee College of Music, Boston, USA

    "This is an astonishing achievement. It is the definitive book of reference that the industry has needed for years. It will help guide a whole new generation of creative technical audio professionals into this immensely challenging and rewarding area of the video games industry. If you have any serious interest in video games audio or music, you must read this book." - Guy Michelmore, composer

    "A delightful and useful addition to the Game Audio Toolbox of Your Mind (and bookshelf!)" - George Alistair Sanger, "The Fat Man"

    "The Game Audio Strategy Guide is a comprehensive text for anyone wanting to better understand the nuts and bolts of music composition and sound design for games. In their information-packed treatise, Gina and Spencer provide an excellent roadmap for understanding the complex and not-so-straightforward art of game music and sound." - Brian Schmidt, executive director, GameSoundCon and Brian Schmidt Studios, LLC, USA

    "This exciting book is a comprehensive 'walkthrough' of the creative processes of game audio. It uses the experience of industry professionals in tandem with theoretical discussion to present practical wisdom in an accessible manner. The book encourages readers to become reflective, innovative composers and sound designers. A strategy guide, yes, but absolutely no cheating!" - Dr Tim Summers, lecturer in Music, Royal Holloway University of London, UK, author of Understanding Video Game Music and co-founder, Ludomusicology Research Group


    ''The Game Audio Strategy Guide is a dense educational textbook that packs as much information as possible into a single source and aims to fulfill multiple goals. The authors present a theoretical and practical framework that covers all major aspects of game audio (sound design, composition, implementation, business) from the fundamentals all the way to advanced topics. It aims to bridge the gap between academia and industry practice.

    A noteworthy feature of this book is its detailed companion website, which is actually a vital part of the reading experience, an approach that might bring its own advantages and disadvantages. The website adds a considerable amount of essential information, detailed clarifications, examples, and practical exercises for each chapter.

    As an educator, I cannot think of another game audio book that provides that much combined value to its readers in such an expanded range of topics that touch on both a theoretical and a practical perspective. If a student wishes to buy only one educational book on game audio, I think this is it!'' - Marios Aristopoulos, Journal of Sound and Music in Games