A description of loudness standards with respect to video games and the tools and terms related to it. If you want to see my spiritual part 2 of this blog click here
As you may or may not have seen on my Twitter my normal workhorse machine I had been using for years for music, gamedev, and sound design finally bit the dust and I needed something new (and quick!). I’m writing this blog post to talk about the decisions of why I chose a Hackintosh/Windows 10 dual boot setup and what was entailed so that you can make an informed decision for yourself. This is not a post about which is ‘better’ or what tools you should use but is more for showing how I approach issues and what I learned since a lot of this was me putting my problem solving and googling skills to the test. Let’s get to the fun stuff first, the build:
If you’re unfamiliar with the term it stems from the fact that Apple is well known for keeping proprietary software and machines closed off from the rest of the tech world and creating their own special ecosystem, unlike windows or Linux that can be installed on a myriad of machines, Apple can only *technically* be installed on their own machines. In comes the hackintosh which allows you to build a PC-like machine for a much lower cost and install macOS on it without having to step into an Apple store. If you plan on building one I STRONGLY recommend researching components and compatibility first since it MATTERS what parts you use and what OS you have. Mine consists of these components pulled from a fantastic site for this (https://www.tonymacx86.com/buyersguide/november/2017/#CustoMac_mATX):
- Gigabyte GA-Z270MX-Gaming 5 Motherboard
- Core i5-7600K CPU (+ a cooler since it doesn’t come with one)
- EVGA GeForce GTX 1050ti 4GB GPU
- Crucial Ballistix Sport LT (8GB x 2) RAM
- Samsung 850 EVO 500GB (Mac Boot Drive) // WD Black 7200 2TB x2 (Data Drive+Backup) // Crucial SSD I had already for my Windows Boot Drive
- Corsair 600w PSU
- Corsair 270R Mid Tower ATX case (I wanted room just in case)
- LG Ultrawide I already had
- macOS 10.12.6 Sierra and Windows 10 Home
If you’re familiar with computer components you should be able to tell that I was going for a fairly mid-high end machine but was trying not to go crazy. An iMac with a similar setup would cost me over $3500+ and I spent much much much less on this (even less than half actually).
But Why Not [insert various comments here]?
Because this is my setup and not yours! I chose this setup for a variety of reasons and I’m overall happy with it so far (only time will tell if that stays true) but it’s also something I think could overwhelm someone not familiar with the process or getting dirty inside BIOS and plist settings. Previously I was mostly working on a 2012 Macbook Pro and while I liked the portability, the more powerful setup was really appealing to me and I think I can do without it being mobile since I was mostly working from home now anyways. But why Mac? I’ve been working in it for almost a decade (and my dad had one when I was a kid) so I’m super familiar with the OS already as well as how to navigate it. I also have a lot of programs tied to Mac that I’d rather not look for a replacement for currently including Myriad, Audiofinder, Logic, and some other things I use occasionally that are core to my workflow. Partially, it’s also why I’m dual booting Windows since I do sometimes work in there, especially when I’m doing things in a PC game or some middleware (or just playing games). I WILL SAY THAT A SINGLE MACHINE IS NOT IDEAL. I would much rather have a separated PC and Mac machine but because of the setup of my rather small studio corner of the living room I didn’t have a ton of space for two machines, so now I have one monstrous one. It’s nice to have my Mac for composing up when playing the game on PC next to it, but I can get by (and have) with vid caps and other things. Why not go buy a decent mac instead of dealing with this? Price mostly but I’m also a tinkerer and wanted to try something new. I’ve been rooting and modifying my Android phones for years, plus I program and do other things so I wasn’t really afraid to tackle something like this when I read through a few guides. So far, it runs fantastic in both Windows and macOS and runs all my programs/plugins/hardware beautifully.
How’d the Build Go?
Alright… so I’d be lying if I said it went totally smooth and some of my friends may be laughing and saying “I told you so” reading this (and yes you did tell me). In general, it went Ok but there were a few things that I messed up in the process or weren’t explained well enough that I had to problem solve for. First of all, the guide here does an ok job of giving an overview of what to do. The boot disk, Unibeast etc was ok but I ran into an issue or two when trying to actually get to step 4 to literally install macOS on the system since the BIOS settings weren’t accurate for my board. Now, when you read these type of Hackintosh guides you’ll see things talking about EFI, kexts, plists and lots of other terms that you might not be familiar with if you haven’t dived into installing OS’s or modifying things on a level below the normal User Interface that computers give you, but these are vitally important things to get your hackintosh working correctly so it’s important you read through and understand what things are and do beforehand, at least in a general sense. Also, I loathe multi-beast and would not recommend using it, it’s a program that essentially injects kext files for various drivers into your EFI and can massively break things if you choose the wrong option, which I had to fix a few times manually. In comes this guide which had the BIOS settings I needed to actually get the machine to boot into the macOS install prompt, plus the provided EFI folder and settings was a life saver a few times as I was setting it up. If you read, are careful, and prep a bit beforehand it’s easy to setup with the guide, just be ready for one or two times you have to fly solo and solve your own issue (to the internet!).
All in all it was mostly time consuming and seemed like I had to run into “just one more thing” to get to the next step. I actually had started this build on Mac OSX 10.11 not realizing that support for my Nvidia 1050ti wasn’t added until 10.12.4 for macs (whoops) and I had never installed Sierra on anything so I didn’t have it in my Mac Store purchase history (how I normally grab OS installers). Not a problem right? Just go to the Mac App Store and OH CRAP 10.13 High Sierra is the new OS and there’s seemingly no way for me to grab 10.12.
The Importance of Problem Solving
My job requires a lot of problem solving in and out of games so this is an area I feel like I really excel at. This is also where this post becomes a bit more general so I can talk about how to tackle a difficult problem under a deadline (since I’m in the middle of contracts and needed my new mac running ASAP). BE CALM. When my computer wouldn’t boot or when I needed something I couldn’t find I would take a breath and calm the f down so I could focus better. The above installer was one that was particularly stressful for me since I wanted to avoid 10.13 like the plague but I’m well aware of Apple’s MO to kill off support for older things. Try searching for different words and sentences if you can’t find what you need or start trying to be more general and following larger issues which might bring you to your answer. When searching for my OS installer on google, I didn’t find my answer from someone else also trying to build a hackintosh, I actually found a sysadmin forum of people complaining about not being able to make backup disks then followed some Apple support posts to my main answer: THIS LINK with the glorious installer. I had found a ton of questionable places to grab it from but this was the official one from Apple that they hid from consumers. This is also only one example of the many things I had to google including the few times I couldn’t boot and some other small things about how to setup my Hackintosh for dual booting Windows (using Clover, the bootloader similar to GRUB). TAKE BREAKS. I walked away from the build a couple times just to clear my head and see if I could approach the issue from another direction or think of some reason why this might be happening. Like…. when I first tried to boot to BIOS and there was no sound and no video output even though the computer was on and seemingly running. After looking at some things it turned out that the MOBO had no built in speaker (for whatever reason) and that the 1050 was the default output instead of the onboard I had plugged into.
It took me about 10 hours of building and setting up (this includes me downloading all my plugins and such too as well as installing Windows which can have it’s own issues sometimes), actually building and getting macOS setup took maybe 3 hours. The rest of the process once I got macOS to boot correctly each time was just configuring it for my needs which required a hellish amount of hours downloading, moving, grabbing licenses, and other things to make sure I had everything like in my old MBP (but this time it was shiny and not full of bloated crap from 5 years of working on it!). After, it was time to tackle the Windows 10 partition which basically was just installing it normally on another drive and setting that up for my needs as well.
Would I do this again? YES. Partially because it was overall a neat process for me to try something new and get something to work. I’m a builder, sometimes of cars, computers, stuffed animals, soundscapes, or albums but I like building and creating things so even the annoying parts of this build didn’t really bother me since I knew I could always wipe and start over (which, thankfully I never had to do). I’m also really enjoying having rendering speeds like 100x faster than my laptop haha.
Is this for everyone? Maybe? I think any reasonable person could do this, even if you’re not totally tech oriented but it could be a little more difficult for you if you’re not used to these types of setups and programs (like modifying files or editing plists with messing other things up). Patience is also needed, if you’re impatient or annoyed by troubleshooting this maybe isn’t for you. You can read through some of the guides as well as the issues people get in the forums to see if it’s something you’re interested in. Anyways, I had enough people interested in what I built that hopefully this answers Q’s. If you’re curious about something else or want to ask me something hit me up on Twitter: @JayMFernandes
It’s been awhile and some cool new stuff has been happening so I wanted to highlight a few of those here! First of all, no, I’m not dead. I may seem like it, but I’ve just been really busy with a lot of things (both professionally and personally) and have been focusing in on those lately.
Let’s Talk About Games!
Pit People Update 4: Vibrant Villains Is now released for both Steam and Xbox One!! If you’ve been playing Pit People you’ll enjoy some more content, including some sweet ass sounds from yours truly in the new quests!
The End is Nigh was announced which is the newest game from Edmund Mcmillen & Tyler Glaiel. I was approached to do some SFX for it (which of course I said hell yes!). I’m super excited to show off what I’m doing here in our short timeline and hopefully people enjoy it! As of right now, I’m still working on it so nothing to show off quite yet.
I’m also working with some really cool devs for some projects I can’t talk about yet D: but I swear it’ll be awesome!
But what about this ‘other’ stuff???
Alright so I mentioned some other stuff. I’m going to be doing some more blogs soon talking about a few things I think are important. One, is how to deal with burnout and stress. Another, is how to try and save your games from common audio QA pitfalls. Lastly, I’m having another kid so who knows if any of this will actually come to fruition. Thanks for checking in and If you see me don’t be mad if I’m busy I swear I’m just trying to knock it out of the park!
You might be wondering about what I’ve been doing recently. “Man it sure seems like I haven’t seen Jay around in awhile” or “Hey where’s the next cool loudness article?” might be some things you mention when looking at my site, but the awful truth is just that I have been really busy so far this year, and not just with games. So what have I been doing with my life? Well, the first thing is completely redoing my backyard and building a wall. Why am I posting about it here? Mostly because I got some really cool sounds out of it and ended up trying to record as much as I could from wood, to concrete, to digging, to machines (though I did get tired of it since it’s really hard work). Once I get around to cleaning some of these up more I’ll post them but they range from things recorded with my M10, other mics, and contact mics!
Let’s see…. I released my new EP Rise on Spotify! If you enjoy Outrun, Kavinsky, Synthwave or any of that awesome 80’s synth magic you’ll (hopefully) enjoy this!
Continuing on I also attended this small conference you may have heard of before called the Game Developer’s Conference. Mostly there for business reasons I also had the chance to hang out with a ton of old audio friends as well as making new ones. Sightglass was an amazing opportunity to listen to others and meetup with everyone, plus the coffee is pretty good. The highlight of the top for me was being a part of the #GameAudioGDC and #CarouselCon group, who even let me be a speaker and talk about some stuff during one of the days!
What did I talk about? I pretty much turned my infamous butterfly post into a real life talk, without slides or anything. I spoke to my game audio friends about why I think context matters so much in sound design and why you should consider context even in the very early stages of design. I also spoke about how something can change depending on context and how the user’s perception of this can be leveraged (for better or worse). I received some very awesome positive feedback about it so I’m currently considering attempting to bring it to the big stage and possibly speak at a few other shows (or even GDC next year!).
Holy cow this game has been on my plate for the last few years and it’s so exciting that we released it into Early Access for Steam and Xbox Game Preview for Xbox One in January. The feedback has been immensely positive and I’m so excited to see players enjoying something that we worked so hard on at The Behemoth. If you listen closely, I have a slew of sound effects, ambiences, and a song in the game (plus helping design some behind the scenes stuff for them in FMOD). Coupled with the other music from Patric Catani and the SFX/VO/Music and other crazy things from Will Stamper, this game packs a talent punch behind the scenes and I’m grateful to help out on it. Eventually I’ll have my contribution on Bandcamp and other places but for now you can enjoy it in the game ^_^ (buy it here or here)
I’m also working on some cool new stuff I can’t really talk about but hope to share soon as well as trying to play some games when I have time (like Night in the Woods which is just SO GOOD). PLUS I’m doing another San Diego Game Audio meetup at Ossic (the 3D headphone people) which should be SUPER AWESOME. Anyways, back to it!
Recently I had the pleasure of hanging out online with Ian Shepard and Jon Tidey on their newest episode of The Mastering Show! It was a ton of fun and also a good opportunity to help explain some of the unique workflows in game audio that don’t really exist in other forms of linear media. Some of the things discussed:
- Why audio is critical to the gaming experience
- How “mastering” works in games (Or how it doesn’t really work that way)
- Challenges and solutions in gaming audio
- How to measure the loudness of a game, what to aim for, and why it matters
- Some of the best games for audio (way too many to list!)
- Why Jon hates “3D sound”
After seeing some really inspirational posts from A.C. Menes and others about what they accomplished in 2016, I decided it’s a fantastic idea and wanted to do one of my own! Now… there might not be a ton of really cool things on here, but that’s sort of the point is that these are things I’m personally proud of. PLUS It’ll help me figure out how to make my 2017 even better! Without further ado, here is my list of accomplishments:
- I continued working on my current large game project, helping a bit with audio and other things on Pit People.
- I worked on SFX for a cool project with a friend on a Leap Motion Interaction Engine Unity demo
- I took part in the Good Bundle, which helped raised over $100k towards the ACLU and Planned Parenthood
- I competed in EP Jam (again) and released my new EP “Resist”
- I took part in Reel Talk as a participant where my site and demo were reviewed by others in Game Audio
- I remastered my EP “Space Odyssey” and released it on Spotify as well as all of the other popular places
- I created 10+ songs of varying genres for personal fun + work (some as seen on my Soundcloud)
- I did a few (and had to stop because of time) Do Stuff Monthly blog posts, where friends and I would make something each month and post it.
- I created MY FAVORITE THING EVER and talked about what good and bad sound design can really be.
- I talked more about Loudness in video games (including another blog post) and helped other designers and devs make sure their games weren’t too loud.
- I moved to fully using Reaper as my main DAW (finally).
- I bought my first (and second) hardware synth 😀 & upgraded my studio monitors/studio.
- I met some sweet fans, audio people, and devs at PAX West, PAX East, and San Diego Comic-Con.
- I helped release some of my favorite games including Firewatch, The Witness, Salt & Sanctuary, Hyper Light Drifter, and Inversus through my main job at The Research Centaur.
I’m sure there’s other cool things but these are the ones I remember the most. I’m still trying to figure out what my 2017 will look like (besides being filled with work). Some of my goals include getting to GDC, releasing audio in my first major indie release (even if just helping our audio team), and recording WAY more with my M10 and mics. Here’s to a great 2017!
This post is a continuation of my previous blog post where I talked about what loudness is so now I will go into more of why it matters with a focus on video games.
Now, there are different things which loudness affects that should be considered. Some of them might be very noticeable to many users while some may very subtle. The more noticeable something is the more someone can point at it specifically as a problem, like a single sound that’s too loud. But the subtle issues can be widespread and harder to pin down. They may be veiled as comments about audio ‘lacking polish’, being ‘too loud’ overall, or just being uncomfortable to listen to for long periods of time. All of these are things developers and designers should strive to fix (and some are!); even console manufacturers are jumping in! Loudness in games has an effect on how much a player enjoys the game, the length they will play in one sitting, and how they talk about it to others, though the amount of these effects is not certain as it can be subjective, but it’s one piece of the puzzle! Look at it this way, if there are ways to make games more polished (or call it “better” since most would agree) and have less “bad” things to point out, then why wouldn’t you want to?
Background: In October 2016 I was looking through the long list of things I wanted to finish *sometime* ranging from small personal projects, cover songs, original music, game jams, prototypes, demo reels and whatever else you can possibly think of. Just looking at the list became a bit overwhelming so I decided to cut it into smaller pieces so I could slowly start finishing these things. If you want to follow along in my #DSM journey hit me up on twitter!
I would like to show you this video, which is my ‘finished’ sound design example using a butterfly:
What did you think? Greatest rendition of a butterfly you’ve heard? Confusing? Did you laugh at least? In the post I would like to explore the reasons why I made this and talk more about choices for sound design, why details matter, and how you could be doomed from the start.
Background: In October 2016 I was looking through the long list of things I wanted to finish *sometime* ranging from small personal projects, cover songs, original music, game jams, prototypes, demo reels and whatever else you can possibly think of. Just looking at the list became a bit overwhelming so I decided to cut it into smaller pieces so I could slowly start finishing these things. If you want to follow along in my #DSM journey hit me up on twitter! (@JayMFernandes)
It has been a pretty interesting month for me and I was able to start some really interesting projects as well as finish some other ones! The first project I finished is a Ben Prunty inspired Chill/Ambient track that I used to explore Reaktor and what I could.
Background: In October I was looking through the long list of things I wanted to finish *sometime* ranging from small personal projects, cover songs, original music, game jams, prototypes, demo reels and whatever else you can possibly think of. Just looking at the list became a bit overwhelming so I decided to cut it into smaller pieces so I could slowly start finishing these things. If you want to follow along in my #DSM journey hit me up on twitter! (@JayMFernandes)
There really are none. I was doing this for personal growth but I think it’s fantastic to see others want to join as well. But… Maybe just tag whatever your doing on Twitter with #DSM so I can search for it! I plan to curate everyone’s projects each month so other’s can see what you’ve done! There’s no requirement of feedback or anything since the goal is to GET SOMETHING FINISHED. (I’d try to get it done by the last day on the month)
Lots of things have been happening this month! Sadly, I have not finished my sound replacement I mentioned in November, but I did do a lot of administrative things as well as some cleaning up. One of the things I did was release a new song that I submitted to the Starr Mazer contest earlier in the year (as well as made my whole Bandcamp library free to download). This can be seen here: