Sunday, February 5, 2017

Ludic Audio Function: Feedback

"Unlike the consumption of many other forms of media in which the audience is a more passive "receiver" of a sound signal, game players play an active role in the triggering of sound events in the game." (Collins, 2008, loc.86) Game sound designers need to be aware of the communication between the player and the game. The ludic audio function, also known as "The I.N.F.O.R.M Model", consists of instruction, notification, feedback, orientation, rhythm-action and mechanic. These audio functions provide greater understanding of what needs to be heard and why sounds are mixed in the gameplay. "Ludic comes from the latin ludus which means game or play." (Kamp, 2010, pg. 6) This term derived from Van Elferen who referenced Juul's dissimilarity between a game's fiction (narrative) and its rules (or it's ludic aspects).

This post mainly elaborates on one of the six ludic audio functions: feedback and later provide a relevant example. The term "feedback" means the "audio in response to the action instigated by the player that indicates confirmation or rejection or provides reward or punishment." (Stevens, 2016, pg. 310) Puzzle games like Zuma (Popcap Games, 2003) provides an instant feedback to allow the gamer understand what is happening in the game. Puzzle games like Zuma has objects that were not based on reality, therefore, the audio designer has to make the audio sounds as if they were coming from the object itself. This game makes practical and effective use of arcade style sounds to engage the player while providing feedback and information of the ongoing events in the game. Zuma has matched or bonus items displayed, the sounds provide significant hints to keep the game engaging. (Marks, 2010, web)

According to Collin's game audio terminology, sounds are categorised into interactive, adaptive and dynamic audio. Zuma's (Popcap Games, 2003) ludic feedback audio function mainly reacts to the player's direct input, making it an interactive game. Besides Zuma is also an adaptive audio game that has sounds that responds to the proximity of the balls and the yellow skull structure. With both the interactive and dynamic audio characteristics, Zuma is a dynamic audio game. (Collins, 2008, loc. 98)


An analysis was done to one of Zuma (Popcap Games, 2003) boss level gameplay [0:10 - 5:07]. The objective of this boss level is to extinguish the torches, the player loses a life when the balls reaches the yellow skull. This level had five feedback sound events. The first sound event was used to indicate an explosion when three or more of the balls with the same colour came in contact [0:31]. However, the sound did not sound like a real explosion, it was just an indication to fit the context. This contact explosion could trigger more explosions as part of the chain reaction, a second sound event with an increasing pitch was used in this instance [0:46 - 0:48]. The third feedback sound occurred when the player extinguished a torch [0:56]. The fourth feedback audio appeared when the balls were at a close proximity to the yellow skull, This acted as a warning to the player's life [0:35]. The fourth audio feedback imitated the sound of a heartbeat to evoke anxiousness, as the balls got closer to the yellow skull, the rhythm of the heartbeat started to increase [2:32].  In an unfortunate circumstance, the player lost the level. The last sound event happened when the balls dropped into the yellow skull [2:33].

In conclusion, feedback sound effects are necessary to engage with the player and provide an understanding in the gameplay. The gamer could miss out visual cues happening in the gameplay and the audio feedback provides an assistance for the player to complete the level.


Bibliography


Collins, K. (2008) Game sound: an introduction to the history, theory, and practice of video game music and sound design. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press. 

Gaming, C.J. (2012) Zuma's Revenge - The final boss(es) battle [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed 5 February 2017]. 

Isaza, M. (2010) Aaron Marks Special: Function of Game Sound Effects [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed 5 February 2017]. 

Kamp, M. (2010) Ludic music in video games. thesis. Research Gate. Available from: [Accessed 5 February 2017]. 

Popcap Games (2003) Zuma, video game, Xbox 360, Electronic Arts America.


Stevens, R. & Raybould, D. (2016) Game audio implementation: a practical guide using the unreal engine. Boca Raton, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, CRC Press is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa Business. 

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