|The Thirteenth Annual Interactive Audio Conference
PROJECT BAR-B-Q 2008
Group Report: Wrap It Up -- Creating a New Middleware Marketplace for Digital Entertainment Platforms
|Participants: A.K.A "Run DSP"|
Simon Ashby, Audiokinetic
|Peter Drescher, Microsoft|
|Lucas Gonze, XSPF||Jim Rippie, Invisible Industries Consulting|
|Brian Schmidt, Brian Schmidt Studios||Guy Whitmore Microsoft|
|Facilitator: David Battino, Batmosphere|
Content creators use a wide variety of high quality DSP effects to produce digital audio in the studio. These same algorithms would be an effective and efficient way to enhance audio produced at runtime by gaming, web, and mobile applications. However, there is currently no established method for DSP vendors to sell their products to software developers. There is a demand but no effective marketplace.
Brief Statement of the Group’s Solutions to those Problems
Recent progress has been made in the console gaming industry, where some developers have integrated third-party runtime DSP algorithms into shipping products. We recommend that game developers take further steps to create a viable marketplace for these kinds of deals, with an eye towards possible future expansion into web audio applications and mobile devices. However, a solution for gaming may not necessarily transfer to other industries, as each technology faces unique business opportunities and technical barriers.
Mission Statement: To jump-start and foster an ecosystem of DSP middleware companies serving game audio, offering a wide variety of high quality yet efficient algorithms across multiple platforms.
Expanded Problem Statement
While the market for DSP plug-ins for digital audio workstations is thriving (i.e. Waves plug-ins for ProTools), the market for runtime DSP for applications (i.e. convolution reverb for games) is currently limited by technical and business hurdles:
Expanded Solution Description
Audio content creators are accustomed to using these tools for sound design on workstations. Providing access to these types of algorithms in the runtime environment will strengthen the desired audio experience, while enhancing realtime audio adaptation. As the processing power of each successive generation of systems and devices increases, using runtime DSP to manipulate audio on the fly, in response to gameplay or user interaction, will become a progressively indispensable technique.
It would be best if a single, open, standardized, plug-in format were used to produce runtime DSP effects, preferably one already in wide use in the professional audio industry. While there is no compelling technical reason to use one format over another, there are many incentives for choosing a spec and sticking with it, including faster and easier development, porting, and maintenance, of products.
There seems to be no technical reason why such a marketplace could not exist. In order to foster a growing ecosystem of business relationships between DSP effects producers and game developers, an initial seeding is needed to produce a self-sustaining marketplace. This process has already begun, as evidenced by license agreements between Waves and Bungie, and Wave Arts and the Microsoft Game Studio.
To encourage DSP makers and game publishers to collaborate on creating this new marketplace, the group intends to evangelize the concept, advantages, and opportunities, at various industry events (such as the Game Developer's Conference), and in various publications, as listed in the action items. If successful, we hope that three to five runtime DSP effects businesses will emerge at first, allowing developers to choose between different solutions without requiring inordinate amounts of custom integration work. Progress will be evaluated in one year, possibly at Project BBQ '09.
Another way to increase business opportunities is to widen the market to include web applications and mobile devices. As more processing is done by distributed networks using modular open source libraries, development of online DSP effects for social music collaboration, MMOs, and "cloud computing audio" become desirable. However, significant business, security, and browser resource issues, must be resolved before such a marketplace would be viable.
As mobile devices become more powerful, with greater CPU and higher audio fidelity, new opportunities for runtime DSP also become possible. Some mobile applications might include voice processing for spoofing or entertainment, increased audibility for phone calls, environmental noise cancellation, and EQ to compensate for speaker limitations. Don't forget the "who knew" factor, whereby unpredictable convergences can produce unexpected functionality that becomes highly profitable.
Other Reference Material
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