The least sexy, but super important skill for sound designers

I want to introduce you to this Completely Innocent House™

FBI House.jpeg

There is absolutely nothing suspicious about this house. It’s SO unsuspicious in fact, that it has never received mail (despite the fact that people come and go all the time), the curtains are always drawn, and camera lenses are poking out of the windows 24/7.

I repeat: This is a Normal House.

To make things even more wholesome and not-at-all suspicious, the owner of the house is officially listed as “FBI” in public records. You see, it turns out that this house just happened to be purchased IMMEDIATELY after the Soviet Embassy moved to just across the street in 1977.

While it’s pretty darn obvious to literally everyone (the realtor who sold the FBI the house even put the owner’s occupation as “Clerk — really a spy”) that this is a spy house, what wasn’t so clear is that this house had a second use. You see, while the Soviet politicians were busy hiding everything from the spy house, the FBI was quietly digging a tunnel underneath their embassy.

While the tunnel never came to fruition due to constant issues with flooding, that’s a pretty baller way to hide things in plain sight.

There’s plenty of knowledge that is invisible when we start to work in the game industry — especially as composers/sound designers. Still, like a secret spy tunnel, this hidden knowledge is incredibly important. And one of the most important but-often-invisible things we need to know about is source control.

Source Control for Sound Designers.png

Source Control (also known as “version control” or “revision control”)
Is a ludicrously useful tool in all software development — not just game development. Basically, these tools allow you to keep track of all of the different versions of files across multiple members of the same team.

In essence, it allows multiple developers (you included) to collaborate on the same project and merge all of your updates and changes together into a shared repository!

Sexy, right?! Can you believe how exciting this is?!!!?!

But in all seriousness
Lack of knowledge about source control is something that I see trip up TONS of audio designers. A developer will tell a sound designer “Okay, here are our git credentials” and will be met with a blank stare most of the time.

If you’re serious about your career and working on teams both big and small, AAA or Indie, then being able to work on the project and update your changes is pretty darn crucial.

Imagine not being able to collaborate with your team because you don’t have some basic knowledge.

You’ve probably heard of things like “Git” “SVN” and “Perforce” before
And these are all different source control methods. They all have a similar goal but work in somewhat different ways. There’s no “best” way, and everyone (especially programmers) has their own die-hard preferences. Though you are pretty much guaranteed to run into Git sometime soon if you haven’t already.

If you want to understand this deeper (and you do if you want to have a serious career in games), then go through this handy, interactive git tutorial here.

Most every game uses this
If you’ve played a game in the last 15 years, they almost certainly relied on some sort of source control to keep track of all their files. Think about it: if 500 people are working on a game, all individually working on different (or the same) parts of it, wouldn’t it be nice to have something that keeps track of who’s working on what, who uploaded what files, and what changes have occurred?

And yes, knowing how to work with source control means you can have your hands directly on the game’s project (in let’s say Unity or Unreal) and implement your sounds directly into the game.

Also, when things go really bad, you can always revert to an earlier version of the project, so it makes it VERY hard to irreversibly break a game when you’re using these tools.

Can’t you just upload your files using Dropbox like usual?
Sure, you can do that, but when it comes to actually implementing your sound into a game and integrating it into the project, then you’ll need to know how this stuff works.

You DO NOT need to be a master of it at all. Just a basic understanding will get you up and running with pro devs very quickly.

So, to recap:

  • Source control is the least sexy thing on the planet

  • But boy is it important to working with teams

  • There are tons of different types of source control, most commonly Git, SVN, and Perforce

  • You can learn Git (which is incredibly commonly used) quickly and easily here.

Even though source control isn’t sexy or even remotely (that’s a Git pun for my fellow super-dorks) fun
It’s an incredibly important skill that we need to have when working in games. It’s one of those things that has been right in front of you the whole time, but never made itself clear. Kind of like a house on the corner that turns out to have a secret spy tunnel underneath it.

Get some guidance
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