Whether you are working on audio for an Indie or a AAA title, chances are you will have to deal with an important amount of assets,which will need to be carefully named and organised.
A clear terminology, classification and organisation will prove to be crucial not only for yourself and find your way around your own work, but for your team members, whether part of the audio department or the front end team helping you implement your sounds into the game.
I would like to share my way of keeping things neat and organised, in the hope that it will help the less experimented among you start off on the right foot. I don’t think there is only one way to do this though, and those of you who have a bit of experience might have a system that already works, and that’s perfectly fine.
I will go over creating a Game Audio Design Document and dividing it into coherent categories and subcategories, using a terminology that makes sense, event naming practices, and folder organisation (for sound files and DAW sessions) on your computer/shared drive.
Game Audio Design Document
First, what is an Audio Design Document? In a few words, it is a massive list of all the sounds in your game. Organised according to the various sections of the game, it is where you list all the events by their name, assign priorities, update their design and implementation status, and note descriptions and comments.
The exact layout of the columns and category divisions may very well vary according to the project you are currently working on, but here is what I suggest.
COLUMN 1: Scene or Sequence in your game engine (very generic)
COLUMN 2: Category (for example the object type/space)
COLUMN 3: Subcategory (for example the action type/more specific space)
COLUMN 4: Event name (exactly as it will be used in the game engine)
COLUMN 5: Description (add more details about what this event refers to)
COLUMN 6: Notes (for instance does this sound loop?)
COLUMN 7: 3D positioning (which will affect the way the event is implemented in game)
COLUMNS 8-7-9: Priority, Design, Integration (to color code the status)
COLUMN 10: Comments (so that comments and reviews can be noted and shared)
It would look something like this:
This document is shared among the members of the audio team so that everyone can refer to it to know about any details of any asset. You could even have a ‘name’ or ‘who?’ column to indicate who is responsible for this specific asset if working in a large audio team.
It is also shared across the art team if the art director is your line manager, and across any member of the front end team involved in audio implementation.
This list may also not be the only ‘sheet’ of the Audio Design Document (if you are working in Google Sheets, or equivalent in another medium). A few other sheets could involve a document created especially for the music assets, another for bugs or requests to keep track of, another for an Audio Roadmap, and so on. Basically, it is a single document to which all team members can refer in order to keep up to date with the audio development process. You can equally add anything that has to do with design decision, references, vision, etc.
While big companies may very well have their own system in place, I find this type of docs to be especially useful when working in smaller companies where such a pipeline has not yet been established.
I’d like to point out as well that, in the creation of such a document, it is important to consider that you will need to remain flexible throughout the development process. Especially if you join the project at an early stage, where sections/names/terminology in the game are bound to change. Throughout those changes, it is important to update the doc regularly and remain organised, otherwise it can rapidly become quite chaotic.
In terms of terminology, this is again something that can be done in many ways, but I’d say that one of the most important things is that, once you’ve decided on a certain terminology, remain coherent with it. And be careful to name the events in your audio engine exactly the way you named them in your design document. Otherwise you will very rapidly get confused between all those similarly named versions of a same event, and won’t know which one is the correct one to use.
What I like to do is, first, no capital letters, all minuscules, so that it doesn’t get confusing if events need to get referred to in the code. Programmers don’t need to ask themselves where were those capital letters, which may seem like a small thing but when there are 200+ events, it is appreciated.
Then there is the matter of the underscore ‘ _ ‘ or the slashes ‘ / ‘. That may depend on the audio engine and/or game engine you are using. For instance, using Fabric in Unity, all my events are named with slashes for the simple reason that it automatically divides them into categories and subcategories in all dropdown menus in Unity. This becomes very handy when dealing with multiple tools and hundreds of events.
Then the organisation of your audio design document would pretty much tell you how to name your event. For instance:
category_subcategory_description_number (a number may not always be required)
If you dislike the long names you can find abbreviations, such as:
I personally find they can become quite confusing when sharing files, but if you do want to use those, simply remember to be clear on what they mean, for instance by writing their abbreviated and full name in the doc, and make sure that there is no confusion when multiple team members are working with those assets.
Whether you are working as a one person department on your own machine or you are sharing a repository for all the audio assets, a clear way of organising these will be crucial. When working on a project of a certain scale (which doesn’t need to be huge), you will rapidly get dozens of GB of DAW sessions, video exports, and files of previous or current versions.
I suggest you separate your directories for your sound files, DAW sessions and other resources. Your sound files directory should be organised in the same way you organised your Audio Design Document. This way, it is easy to know exactly where to find sound(s) constituting specific events.
I also suggest that you have a different (yet similar) directory for previous versions. You may call it ‘PreviousVersions’ or something equivalent, and have an identical hierarchy as the ‘current version’ one. This is so that, if you need to go back to an older version, you know exactly where to find it, and can access it quickly. You can name those versions by number (keep the same terminology, and add a V01, V02 at then end).
Finally for your DAW sessions, you may decide to go for something a little bit different in terms of hierarchy, but I find that maintaining a similar order is very useful for self organisation and be able to quickly go back to sessions you may not have touched in a while.
I also highly recommend that you save your session as, in order to back them up, but also anytime you make changes to a version of a sound. First, corrupted sessions do happen, so you’ll be extremely happy when it happens and you haven’t lost weeks of work, but also if your manager prefers an earlier version of your sound, but with some modification, you can easily go back to exactly that version, and start again from there, while still keeping the latest version intact.
So, if my asset hierarchy and division in my Audio Design Document looks like the one in the image above, my folder hierarchy would look something like this:
And finally you can create a folder for Video Exports for instance, and have your video screencaptures there, again organised in coherent folders. The principle will remain the same for any other resources you may have.
I hope this was helpful, happy organisation 🙂