Creating sound and music since 1994, Greg Rahn is the Audio Director at Kabam, as well as the co-founder of the Game Audio Alliance. He focuses on creating immersive soundscapes that engage and captivate the end user.
What made you interested in music?
Music has always had a big effect on me. I wanted to cause that same effect on others, so I started composing at an early age.
Which of your projects is the most memorable? Why?
The one I’m working on right now. One of the great things about working on social games is that they have relatively short production schedules compared to console and other platforms, which can last a year or more. I’m always presented a new set of challenges with each game.
Why did you decide to enter the video game industry?
I started doing game audio in the early 90’s when CD ROM was the emerging platform. I worked on edutainment products, which for me was an extremely rewarding application of music and sound, because it helped kids learn.
How have your past experiences helped you in your current position?
Absolutely. When I started, the audio format was 8 bit 11k. It gradually improved as computer performance improved and soon we were authoring CD quality audio. When games migrated to the internet platform, the audio format changed back to low resolution and we started all over again. Now we have consoles, phones, tablets, browsers and each present unique audio formats and challenges. I guess experiencing all of these formats has helped to educate me about the various solutions to authoring audio within those restrictions.
Why is audio important to a game?
Sound creates a connection to the game experience on an emotional level.
This helps the player become immersed in the game and want to return to the game for more sessions. This is what all game developers want.
What skills do you feel audio designers should have?
Apart from the obvious music and sound design skills, audio people need to be evangelists for sound. They will interface with lots of brilliant engineers, producers, and other game team members. Not all of these people come from a background where sound is ubiquitous, so they will need to be educated to the fact that sound is a cornerstone of the foundation of game development. Unless your producer previously worked at a company like EA or Lucas, you can’t assume they embrace this understanding.
What common mistakes do audio designers make when trying to enter the industry?
Well, the above certainly applies to this question.
If a new audio person assumes that their job is only about their audio skills, they are in for a surprise.
How can they be avoided?
Enter with a humble and open-minded approach, and be ready for anything.
Which game do you feel successfully employs audio?
There is a game called Amnesia, where the very first level involves maneuvering around in the dark listening to the sound of water trickling. Your objective is to find the source of the water using primarily audio cues and some dimly lit graphics. It utilizes 5.1 surround and the audio implementation is excellent.
What new projects can we look forward to from Kabam?
I could tell you but then I would have to kill you. ;) We have several new exciting games in development so stay tuned and check kabam.com for news.