Middleware and Event Objects
Sound Designers for video games use tools called ‘middleware’ to edit audio. Middleware tools are plugins that are compatible with game engines (softwares used to create characters, environments, and other elements of video games) and give sound designers many more dimensions to work in. Traditional DAWs (Ableton Live or Logic Pro X) only allow users to edit sound in a linear or 2D sense while middleware lets users edit audio in a non-linear way. Middleware gives sound designers further access to traditional audio editing tools like filters and aux sends. Middleware also gives sound designers the ability to add FX’s to audio like reverb, delay, distortion, and automation to samples.
Middleware, most importantly, allows sound designers to handle audio in a dynamic and spatial sense. This means that any in-game event/action can trigger any audio event to happen. An audio event can be anything from the playback of a clip, to beginning the transition of music, to setting BPM, to adjusting reverb, etc. Traditional DAWs are built to output a final, mixed piece(s) of audio in the end, but audio middleware allows us to essentially choose the clips and apply parameters to them that allow us to dynamically play and adjust them at any given point during the game.
Audio middleware also is responsible for managing all of its assets and resources while it is being used in conjunction with other elements of the game engine, such as visuals and input. Most DAWs assume that it has all your available system resources and will typically want to use whatever you have available, but the usage of things like CPU, memory and disk space are all configurable and some are actually done dynamically based on what is happening in the game.
Let’s say you want to add the sound of an explosion to a video game. Adding the audio to the game is as simple as uploading a sample of a desired explosion to a middleware program. But now that your audio is in the game, you need to determine what actions will trigger the sound. Wwise by Audiokinetic is a popular middleware program that will let you assign specific in-game actions to trigger the explosion by creating what is called an ‘Event Object’. By creating an Event Object with middleware, you give instructions to the game engine on when, where, and how to trigger any sort of sound throughout the game.
Below is a video from Eric Houchin who throughly breaks down his process using Wwise to design and link sounds to actions in the video game Limbo.