The Fabric of Game Audio

Founder and CEO of Tazman-Audio, Anastasios Brakis, is known for designing bespoke audio software solutions including SoundMaker, Fabric audio toolset for Unity3D and his bespoke audio programming services for game developers.

As an audio programmer with more than 20 years of experience, Brakis has worked on a number of AAA console and mobile games where he was responsible for designing, implementing and maintaining a number of audio technologies, tools and pipelines. Clients include  Sumo Digital, Dolby, Machine Games, Epic Games and publications include The Walking Dead: No Mans Land, Angry Birds 2, Rival Kingdoms, Samurai Siege,  The Lord of The Rings: Legends of Middle Earth, The Hunger Games: Panem Rising and Disney Infinity amongst others.


Brakis has been working in audio programming for more than 20 years. “I have been interested in game audio since the late 80s. I initially joined Studio 33 working on games and began working my up. I was a sound designer when I started but they didn’t have an audio programmer as they were a small company. One day they brought a PS1 to my desk and told me I had to learn to programme audio! I was thrown into it really. I found that understanding the process of sound design and programming combined with having an idea in your head to add to the game, was very fulfilling. I found I was gravitating toward programming more and more. Twenty years later, here I am.”


He always wanted to do his own thing and develop new products for game audio so started Tazman Audio creating basic plugins. “The main aim was to create tools that didn’t exist and improve functionality of those on the market. We have gone on to see a natural evolution having launched Fabric for Unity and then a couple of years ago we launched a services division.”


Fabric is the well known middleware solution allowing the design of many types of audio behaviours quickly and easily. “Fabric came about because we started working in Unity on some games and in 2011 Unity was becoming popular. Audio tools at that time were not so great so we created something that could work with Unity. We were lucky to be at the right place at the right time.”


SoundMaker is his most recent creation, launched this year, to bridge the gap between linear and interactive media. SoundMaker is an advanced audio platform providing a comprehensive and powerful solution for creating and distributing interactive audio experiences. With SoundMaker, audio professionals finally have the tool they need to create and distribute cutting-edge audio libraries that enhance the overall gameplay and storytelling experience. “With its intuitive user interface and a collection of powerful features, SoundMaker makes it easy for anyone to create and distribute audio content. Whether you're a seasoned audio professional looking to create complex audio designs or an amateur seeking to incorporate audio into your games or linear productions; SoundMaker has everything you need.” 


Audio programming has changed over the years in that there are now different levels of audio programming and more audio solutions available. “About 15 years ago you were doing everything including using the tools, low level audio programming, dialogue, integration into the game, music systems, because there were no other solutions out there. Now we have more choices in audio middleware solutions that take care of the low level handling of audio, compression, streaming and all of that. Today we have two tiers of audio programmers – low level programmers doing the effects and working on low level areas; high level – integrating the sounds that sound designers have created and integrating them in Wwise into games. It is more physics and game play systems.”


“Going forward we will rely more on existing audio solutions. I expect tighter integration of graphics with game engines and audio middleware solutions. Unreal are doing their own thing as they provide a lot more features and tools for sound designers without using third party or middleware solutions so that is an interesting space. There will always be a need for programmers to be able to do things that you cannot yet do with existing tools.”


All projects can bring their own challenges. “Sound propagation in games can be very difficult to get right and I know Audio Kinetic and Wwise have their own audio solutions but they work in certain environments. There is always the challenge of extending a closed system. Adding new features to existing systems not necessarily open to you has been a big challenge which is one of the downsides of relying on third party tools.”


It is often said that good audio is always the one you don’t notice especially now audio plays a big part of the immersive experience. We are used to visual glitches in games and to a degree they are accepted however if we get an audio glitch that is certainly more noticeable and off putting to the gameplay. Brakis always enjoys seeing the games he has contributed to released. “Releasing software to the public and seeing it used in so many games and having it used on so many platforms is very satisfying. Seeing something through to then actually playing the game with my kids is fantastic. I worked on Disney Infinity which was targeted at my children’s age group at the time. However I can’t help but judge from a professional point of view when playing.”


So what advice would he give someone just starting out with their audio programming career? “I would say the most important thing in addition to a degree, especially for programming, is to have work you have done outside of studying that you can show. It shows your interest and how you go above the basic level and understand more things. Have examples of programming, use of Wwise etc. It doesn’t have to be something amazing but something that shows you have some intuition and not afraid to try new things and able to discuss your code.”


Games have exploded since the pandemic and Brakis believes that we will see a phase of readjustment. “We are already seeing it in tech companies. We often have adjustments for example console to mobile and then mobile to console. As for VR, I think its here to stay. There is a market for it but I think the price of the headset will influence sales for now rather than the game, although that will come. The problem with VR is that it’s very isolating and playing games together online creates a sense of community.  However, VR will always get better.”


Brakis has more ideas coming down the pipeline but for now he is focused on assisting with integrating sound effects and other audio elements to fully immerse players in the game world.


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