Flash Game Polish Tips: Audio

HeadphonesI spend a lot of time thinking about things that will improve my Flash games. If you use sponsorship or licensing models in the Flash game business you are really marketing to two audiences–your players and your potential sponsors.

I want to provide the best experience I can to my players within a reasonable amount of effort while at the same time I also want to make sure my game is going to provide as little friction as possible to potential sponsorship or licensing.

To that end I have 5 tips I wanted to share for dealing with audio in your Flash games that I’ve found helpful:

Tip #1 – Normalize your music and sound effects

This is a very simple tip but it is too often overlooked. Normalizing is basically just making sure that the loudest volume levels of all your sound effects and music are at a consistent and good target peak.

Normalizing your audio assets before you import them into your Flash library is a good way to improve your workflow. You know that all your audio is within a consistent peak range and you can balance further with your software volume settings.

You can use a free program like Audacity to provide normalization. I’ve found the default setting of normalizing to -3dB works well.  If you are using Windows 7 you’ll want to get the beta for Audacity.

Tip #2 – Individual controls for sound effects and music

Why provide two controls? A nice thing about having independent controls for sound effects and music is that it can give the player more freedom over the experience of your game. It can allow them to keep your sound effects playing but still jam out to their own music. Another reason is sometimes the player doesn’t mind the sound effects but maybe the music is starting to get repetitive the 100th time they’ve played your chain reaction game. I look for any little tips to keep players happy and in the game and I’ve had many positive player comments from implementing this feature.

Tip #3 – Provide common key bindings for audio control toggles

Setup a keyboard listener in Flash to respond to some common keys. I like to bind the ‘S’ key to toggle the sound effects and the ‘M’ key to toggle the music.  This is a real simple touch that allows your players to quickly mute your game when they can’t find the onscreen audio controls. Remember to provide text somewhere to let your players know these settings controls!

Tip #4 – Use volume sliders for sound effects and music

The good thing about providing volume sliders over a simple mute/un-mute toggle is that your players can mix the volume to suit their individual speakers or headphones. It can be incredibly hard to master and mix your game volumes correctly so that it will sound decent and in balance across the many audio systems it will be played through. Volume sliders give the power to the players to tweak one up or down to get that balance that is pleasing to their ears.

Tip #5 – Save sound and music settings in a shared object

This last tip I have implemented most recently based on some player feedback I got. I really like this tip because it never occurred to me until I received a story from a player. The player got busted by their boss for playing one of my games in the office because they were surprised when they loaded it up again and the audio of both the preloader intro movies and the main menu music was still enabled.  They had just assumed that since they had muted the game audio the last time they had played that it would have remembered!

Well I had never really thought of this feature before but it was quite easy to implement and has been really awesome. You can use a Shared Object in Flash to track any changes to the audio controls.  You might be using one already to record local highscore data and you can just record your audio settings to this object.  Then when your game loads you can check the Shared Object to see what the audio settings were (if any) the last time they played. If there isn’t any data then you can just enable it as as default. This allows you to mute the preloader intro movies and menu music when they return if they had disabled it in a previous gameplay session!

Got any other good audio related tips? Share them below in the comments!

Tutorials

2 comments

  1. ani says:

    Nice tips but I don’t think that volume slider is so important. Most of the players mute the game anyway. And I don’t talk about games with awful sounds and music.

  2. Dave "HybridMind" Evans says:

    Thanks! The volume sliders I find just a nice touch. As far as your statement that ‘most of the players mute the game anyway’ is that based on hard stats or just your own impression? I actually have hard analytic numbers on all my games for that and that is not the case at all. My games sound and music are muted less than 7% of the time! I even track subsequent un-mutes and a large portion of the muters re-enable the sound and music even! So make sure you’re basing your decisions off of hard numbers on your own games and not just general impressions. My game data represents many millions of play events so I know the hard facts on my own games anyway. Perhaps if you are seeing a lot of muting it would lead you to better improve your sound and music? I spend a lot of time on mine. If you want to know more about getting analytic data in your Flash games definitely check out my recent post on using Playtomic!

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