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I have been attempting do more game sound to add to my film/tv sound design experience. I have done a few games now, most of which are mobile/social games. I am having a TON of difficulty in both communicating with clients and budgeting my time (drawing from my film experiences).

I am often working with nothing more than a few word description of a sound. This is leading to MANY revisions of effects and destroying my time budget. I am also not very well-versed in cartoon type sounds.

How can I improve my communication and time management?

  • @AJHenderson, I just need help. I am not a recent grad trolling for a job. I have a serious question/issue. I am here to be educated. Is that not what this forum is for (within the confines of sound design and the business of it)? – Chris Davis Mar 26 '14 at 19:13
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    Sorry about the confusion. I initially saw the focus of your question as looking for a mentorship, which is off topic for the site (since a mentorship isn't of help to anyone else and is basically looking for getting answers off-site). I have altered your question based on your comment to focus on trying to get a solution for your problem here. It may still be too broad, but it isn't looking for help offsite anymore. – AJ Henderson Mar 26 '14 at 19:19
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Often to avoid "many revisions" with these types of projects you should try offering options. Like version A, B and C of a particular sound you only have a word describing. If a client has options to pick from, they will less likely push back for a revision of the effect but will rather pick their favorite.

Hopefully more will chime in with some good advice on estimating time and budgets.

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Ask for a gameplay video showing different scenarios in game and start working on sounds on top of that video. I've found it's much easier in most cases than trying to describe things just with words. Later you can use this video to show the client how you would have implemented the sounds in game.

If possible getting an unfinished version of the game could be even better and you could then record your own videos. Bandicam is excellent software for this.

Besides artistic side the written description of the sound should include how important the sound is, is it heard often, does it play often same time as other sounds etc. I've sat on both sides of this table and this is something people often miss. Sound designer might create a perfect alien death sound, but nobody told him game consist of killing 500 aliens in 60 seconds, so game developer doesn't need a perfect alien sound, but 15 sounds that are not irritating when heard all the time etc.

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The best advice I can give is to ask questions. As a sound designer, you are the subject matter expert when it comes to designing a sound, not the client. The client may very well not know what they want. Ask about what the purpose of the sound is. Provide feedback and ideas on how that need can be met. Listen to their responses and flush out what it is they actually want and will be happy with.

It's a collaborative process and communicating early to set expectations and determine goals is critical to success and being able to manage your time well. (Note that this doesn't only apply to sound design either, it really applies to any type of specialist consulting.)

This will also help with time management and budgeting as it helps you get a better idea of what work is needed and lets you give the client a better understanding of the work involved and why it takes the amount of time that it does.

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Ask them for a few (like 3) references for games they are playing that are roughly similar to the game they are making. Go play those games and make video captures. Copy some of the key sounds you think would work from the reference games. Use these copies as a starting point for your new original work.

Keep in mind that everyone needs to hear the sounds in context so if you're able to get video captures of the games you're working on then mock-up gameplay with your sounds. You'll find that in isolation sounds might be good but in gameplay it doesn't work.

Learning what style of sounds appeals to casual / mobile game devs is a learning curve for sure, I worked in post for years and wrapping my head around what game devs like took a long time. I used to make sounds that were too simple, literal, and realistic. Once I got a hang of more tonal cartoony gestural expressions then things got a lot easier.

Check this game out, it's free and you can hear what I'm talking about IE : the client loved this stuff >> https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/super-snack-time/id496869790?mt=8

ping me if you have more question

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I always say, when in doubt supply options. I'm not sure if that will completely help your problem. But just offer lots of options when it comes to sound design elements.

  • This has definitely helped me out, @Taylor D. and Everyone. I started sending and few different options and immediately got far less "i like it, but what if we did this" type of responses. Game sound is such a huge adjustment from film work I was really having trouble managing my time doing both. Thank you all! – Chris Davis Apr 22 '14 at 19:14
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Depending on the client and nature of the project, I sometimes will have a section of the contract limit the number of free revisions I'll do. After a set number, the client pays a fee. This way they're less apt to bounce back and forth on ideas, and you can get more solid feedback from them the first time around.

Also as mentioned above, I always like to have more than one example in the early stages, usually three options is my go-to. Having context and options to compare can make the process a lot smoother. Even if you really have one idea you're going with, make two quick ones for the sake of comparison.

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Like CarbonSystem said, limit the amount of free revisions that the client can ask for the audio content. If they go past that amount then you can set a separate fee for the following revisions.

Communication with the developer:
First, always try to get as much material as you can from the developer team and go through it thoroughly. Game design documents, early concept art, rough animations and even playable builds really help you to get inside a project and start the audio design process. Ask a lot of questions!

Always try to be part of a project from day one. Opening the communication channel between you and the developer as early as possible is really important. When you are there from day one you can really influence the audio design of the project and get a lot of precious info that will help you to create high quality assets.

Time Management tips:
Plan and schedule your time. When you know what you are going to do each day and you stick to it then you won't run into any problems with the deadlines. I have had multiple projects at the same time and I could not have completed all of those without scheduling my time for each project. It takes some time from the start but it's totally worth it in the end.

You could utilize a simple version of an online Kanban board. Kanban board consists of three columns: "to-do", "in progress" and "done". You create your tasks and add them to the "to-do" column on the board. When you start working on a task you move it to the "in progress" column and when you have completed the task you move it to the "done" column. It is a really useful tool to keep yourself up-to-date what has been done and what needs to be done on a project.

Cheers,
Pasi

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