June 2007, I was visiting the WTCC race in Pau for references and the normal networking tasks, but also to assist our new sound engineer, setting up appointments with the WTCC teams for a good sound recording session. I met Anthony in the Pau paddock, and from that day onward I knew he would fit in just nicely. His English was not the best when we met the first time, (he speaks near perfect English now!) but we were able to talk about cars and then especially car engines. Anthony spoke the language of sounds, mimicking a wide variety of car engines explaining to me what his favorite cars were. It was a sign in the sky that we found another car-nut who was excellent at his job and would become an invaluable member of the SimBin Dev team.
We let Anthony out of his sound proof office, which is not so sound proof for the guy that has the office next to him, or under him (hence “the God of thunder”). And he has written a nice article about his love for cars, sounds and what not!
A DREAM CAME TRUE…
It all started 37 years ago, I was only 5 but I already enjoyed making a lot of noise in all ways possible, with my voice, playing drums on washing powder barrels, playing records on the stereo, etc… As long as it was loud, I was a happy child.
My uncles were all passionate about music, electronics, acoustics and motorsport and they simply transmitted their passions to me as they provided so many opportunities to hear some loud stuff.
Very early, I attended my first concerts and races, and I started to play drums as well (I didn’t know any louder instrument).
And that day during the summer of 1977 I saw this hill climb race – it was the shock of my life. In that era, race cars were very loud (not the muffled moped we can hear nowadays) and these sounds just turned me crazy.
I knew this would be a part of my life but I didn’t know how: pilot, mechanic, journalist or simple spectator, there were many options but I needed to hear these sounds as much as possible.
Sound engineering finally got my choice a few years later, so I started to learn all I could about acoustics and sound reinforcement while attending more and more races, and I actually became a sound engineer, mostly specialized in concerts as I liked loud music and playing instruments.
But as you know, in engineering there is the word “engine”, so I quickly needed to link my two main passions and I found a way to do it while playing my first racing games.
By chance, one of the first serious racing games was also moddable: Grand Prix Legends.
So I made my first sound tweaks in that game, then Rally Trophy and all the games that allowed it. Finally I published my first sound mods for the “F1 Challenge 99-02“game. Very soon, some modding teams started to contact me to ask if I wanted to work on their projects.
When GTR was released in 2003, it was another shock as this game was providing such advanced car sounds that I immediately started to dream about working as a sound designer for SimBin. Actually, what could be better than working on race cars sounds for the best racing games ever? But that was only a wonderful dream at that moment…
Two years later, rFactor arrived on the market and became the main modding platform in the racing game community. It also became my playground for many sound mods amongst a few were released in various historic mods.
One of them especially attracted the attention of Diego Sartori, Creative Director at SimBin. One can imagine my feeling when I received his first email, back in January 2007.
10 minutes after reading the email, I connected with Diego through msn. After a quick chat, he sent me an NDA and I returned it signed by fax. It all happened within 20 minutes.
I started to work as a consultant from France and then I moved to Sweden 7 months later to work for SimBin. The first sound I made for the studio was the Caterham addon pack for RACE The WTCC Game.
A dream came true and it keeps going…
THE AUDIOREALISM ERA…
Making sounds for a racing game is barely something you learn in school. There’s probably as many ways to do this job as the number of sound designers, but we can explain a few things though.
First of all, how do we grab all these sounds? That mostly depends on what you’re going to do with it later. The most common way is to record the car while it’s running on a test bench.
I always considered this method insufficient, and we need more to get the proper material for realistic sounds in our games.
Making sounds for SimBin games is also a bit special, as the quality of the sounds before I started to work here was always very high in each title. So, to keep this tradition going is a continuous challenge.
Photorealism is now a standard in the simulation world, so there’s simply no reason for audio to be stuck in the medium age.
That’s why we always need to work on new technologies and develop the tools that will lead us to the “audio realism” era.
Recreating all the environmental variables that modify the engine sounds in real life can be extremely complex but I think we’re on the way to get something more and more natural and realistic.
Not saying that we are there yet but this is one of the areas where SimBin is producing some significant efforts.
But sometimes, costly technologies are not the unique solution to improve the audio experience in racing games, and we need to come back to basics.
In SimBin’s case, that means recording race cars in their natural environment, on the racetracks, and more important, while they’re running and giving all their potential.
Because while the audio quality of the recording has to be good, it is the content of the recording that is crucial. And of course not only inside the car but also outside, to make sure that we capture all that makes a race car “alive”.
Then comes the time to sort all this audio material.
This is where the specific experience of making sounds for racing games become essential.
You need to know exactly which parts of the recordings will work and extract them in a way that will sound dynamic and natural into the game.
Implementing these samples in the game and making the car sound as close as possible from the real one are the last steps before enjoyment.
This is probably the most creative and interesting part of the job. It is a lot about experimenting and testing here, as there is no mathematic formula to find the perfect balance between all the engine samples you have created.
And the sound doesn’t only need to be immersive; it should also give some precise information about how the various parts of the car are behaving and allow the player to adjust his driving consequently.
Here again, being used to develop some car sounds helps a lot, otherwise it can be very time-consuming or make you hysterical.
In the end, this process is only a part of many elements delivering the immersion feeling.
From my point of view, race cars are not only vehicles modified for the competition, they are wild screaming animals. As a spectator, the sound that the cars produce is probably the most impressive. But as a driver, it looks more like a fight against a beast, with the vibrations and the sound of the engine becoming a part of your own body.
Therefore, providing this scream into the games is essential for a proper immersion.
Can you guess the car?