Does Your Game Need Audio Middleware?
FMOD? Wwise? What value can these tools bring to my project and do I really need them?
We've created sound and music for a variety of games with and without middleware and have compiled our answers to these questions for you in this article!
The Rundown on Audio Middleware
Almost all AAA game studios as well as a good amount of indie developers use audio middleware. However, many still ask what these tools do and what value they bring to their project.
Here's the quick and easy answer:
Audio Middleware is a powerful tool that gives composers, sound designers, and programmers more control over the creation, organization, and implementation of your game's audio while making the entire process faster, easier, and more flexible as well as providing extremely useful features that would take weeks or even months to code yourself.
In short: audio middleware is the bee's knees.
That's not the whole story though, so let's dive into some details.
Don't Game Engines Already Have Audio Functionality?
Practically, the functionality is very limited and even the most basic of audio tasks are often not possible or not practical inside the engine itself and can only be done in other software or with an unreasonable amount of custom code.
As of writing this article, there are clear differences between the major engines such as Unity, which offers only bare-bones audio functionality, and Unreal, which recently updated its audio system to offer more helpful features than before.
Still, middleware has become a standard for most games, and audio designers, as well as game developers, are becoming more and more accustomed to using it.
Which Middleware is Right for My Project?
There are several options when it comes to middleware but the two biggest competitors in this space are FMOD and Wwise.
Wwise is the industry standard for AAA games, partly due to the fact that it has been around longer and also due to the fact that it offers some crazy advanced features that only the most complex games would probably consider using.
FMOD has become the go-to middleware for smaller productions looking for something that offers all the necessary features for quality game audio while still remaining relatively simple and user-friendly.
Another distinction between the two is that FMOD is set up to look and feel like tools that sound designers and composers are used to using (hence the user-friendliness) while Wwise's structure is more programmer-oriented and can sometimes scare away audio folks with less competency in that area.
When it comes down to it, both programs offer pretty much the same things. There will be no large, noticeable differences for most game projects.
Which one will be right for you depends mostly on what your programmers are used to (assuming they already have experience with middleware) and what your sound team is familiar with.
Most audio designers will have at least a core competency in both FMOD and Wwise in order to be more flexible for their projects, so don't worry too much.
What About the Price?
No good things in life are free, so what will it cost you to license middleware for your project?
Since the information on this can change at any time, we'll only speak generally on this topic. Here are links to the pricing options for FMOD and Wwise so you can double-check the specifics for yourself.
Middleware costs are generally based on your production budget. If you are working with a smaller budget, you pay less to use middleware and vice-versa.
At the time of writing, both FMOD and Wwise have free options for small-budget or non-commercial projects. Otherwise, their costs can vary wildly.
FMOD currently charges on a per-game basis while Wwise charges based on the number of platforms you release on. Our experience is that the pricing models from FMOD are much simpler and easier to understand while those from Wwise can seem needlessly complicated*.
*Luckily, Wwise has a very competent and friendly sales team and if you're not sure what license you need for your game, you can shoot them an email and they will promptly answer your questions.
Overall, FMOD seems to be the easy choice for anything besides AAA, multi-million dollar productions, thus supporting the industry standards mentioned above.
We advise taking a closer look at both pricing models, as only you can decide which middleware would be the best for your particular situation.
So Do I Need Middleware?
We'd recommend it.
Middleware is an incredibly useful tool that will almost certainly pay for itself in time and energy saved otherwise custom-coding all the most common, must-have audio functionality that players are used to in modern games.
In our experience, many features one can set up in just a few minutes in FMOD or Wwise would take hours or even days to program yourself. That's a big win!
It's only in rare cases that we could say with certainty that a project wouldn't benefit from using middleware. If you think you have one of those rare cases but aren't sure, feel free to schedule a call with us and we'll help you decide if that's the case.
At Double Shot Audio we know you want to make unique and memorable games.
In order to do that, you need to partner with an audio team that understands your vision and can translate it into great sound.
That's where we come in.
We will work with you; turning your vision into a finished, polished game that you feel proud of and that you and your fans can enjoy for the rest of your lives.
Want to learn more? Schedule a Call. We're happy to answer any and all of your questions.