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IN-DEPTH 14 October 2016
Art and sound immersion in interactive games
Game makers need to keep up with players’ increasing expectations from technology says Tom Wood, VP and Chief Product Officer, B2B at SG Interactive
By Gambling Insider

Revolutionary technology changes the way we consume our favourite entertainment content. Wearable technology and virtual and augmented reality transform how we play, so creators are innovating around the player’s needs. New technology is all about immersion and surrounding the player with the sound and visuals of their favourite games, websites, and apps, whenever and wherever they are. While few own a virtual reality headset, most consumers own a mobile device or desktop computer. To engage players today, operators must provide one-of-a-kind games that replicate the immersive nature of advancing technology.

When an operator chooses games for mobile and desktop, these advancements influence the decision more than ever, because the player can enjoy the content anywhere. Two key elements are sound and art—the aural and visual elements when combined create a single cohesive gameplay experience.

Sound

The challenges that online casino face are very different from those of their land-based counterparts. Techniques that make a brick-and-mortar casino game immersive do not work as well in an interactive game. Online players can access their favourite games anytime and anywhere, so sound has to permeate the player’s real-world environment. At SG Interactive, a division of Scientific Games, we combine unique audio techniques that create an enveloping aesthetic like no other.

Win tunes, ambient noise and game music are fundamental elements of a sonic game environment that elevate the gameplay experience, while anchoring the game to the themes and creating aural cues for the player. When you demo a game, take note of both individual and group sounds. Do the sounds enhance the story and theme? Do the sounds make a cohesive and authentic whole?

When a player stops spinning the reels, the music should reflect the pause in gameplay usually with a fade out or a significant step back in compositional complexity − the world of the game is only complete when the player interacts with it. These interactions breach the surface of the base game and give the player a mental foothold in the game’s world.

Game creators and operators also have to take into account the player’s speakers or headphones. Whether they’re playing with a low-end pair of ear buds or a hi-fi headset, the sound should still project the game’s theme into the player’s world. You may find it beneficial to sample a game in a variety of environments with an array of devices and headphones to simulate the player experience.

Art

Game art begins with a story, and that should inform every artistic decision in the design process. The world-building draws from characters, style, conflict and setting. Once those elements locked in, artists are empowered to create assets that serve as groundwork for the rest of the game’s visuals.

When you look at a demo, ask yourself if every piece of art in the game serves the theme. Each symbol, character, background, and animation should be purposeful and contribute to the player experience. Short introductory videos to kick off the gameplay narrative can further deepen the experience. Small stylistic touches enliven the world as well: smoke rising, wind blowing the grass in the background, or light flickering. Do you feel like you’re part of a story or visual experience where every element in the game world is crucial to the tale? The more a game speaks to the player, the more willing they will be to invest themselves in the narrative and setting.

It is imperative to adapt game visuals to player needs without sacrificing game quality. One prominent example is SG Interactive’s upcoming initiative to offer every game with responsive orientation. Players will be able to enjoy our games in either landscape or portrait view on mobile, and each orientation will feature its own optimised interface. Combined with immersive artwork and visual elements, this will make spinning the reels even simpler. It all comes down to player interaction. When sound and visuals respond to player actions, the game becomes a more active and enjoyable experience.

A unified aesthetic

When the art and sound of a mobile or desktop game come together, players get a polished and connected aesthetic. And when the gameplay features and maths are top-notch, all of these elements create a unique experience tailored to the online environment. By recognising these innovations and new technologies, you can provide truly captivating gaming experiences that engage players.

As Scientific Games Interactive Vice President & Chief Product Officer, B2B, Tom Wood leads global product strategy, technology, compliance, delivery and roadmaps for the RGS and SG Universe business lines. He manages a worldwide team of product managers, game development squads and technology specialists who are driven to meet or exceed market and customer expectation
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