Download

Wwise/FMOD vs. UE4 Audio Engine

Ok, it got a bit long so I put a TL;DR here: Why would someone choose audio middleware when everything could be done in BP (or can it)?

Hello,

I am starting a new project with lots of nonstandard interactive audio tricks, and want to weigh the pros and cons of using audio middleware like FMOD or Wwise (and the like) vs. making everything in UE4. No prior expirience in either though, so its only reading the manuals, testing the free versions and watching some tuts.

As I can see, middleware offers:

  • Very efficient workflows and even readymade instruments for standard game sound use cases (footsteps, wind, ballistics, event driven music).
  • Lots of abstractions for layering and sequencing audio with respect to interactivity (Wwise containers, FMOD instruments).
  • Better audiodesign workflow (lots of audio metaphors for the UI).

UE4 Audio on the other hand:

  • Has tight integration into the BP system, no RPC overhead.
  • As far as audio playback is concerned, can model everything middleware does at some programming cost.
  • Custom instruments (analog/grain synth) and a strong user base/marketplace ecosystem to develop more of these.

What worries me a bit in UE4 is forward compatibility, the engine is just evolving very fast and future changes might break my project (which might need to build for 10+ yrs). The middleware providers are evolving also, but their development is decoupled from the engine and seems slower paced.

Does this make sense to you? Am I missing something?
Greetings,
Christoph

Their development may be decoupled, but their integration is not–and their integration is always behind our engine releases.

At some point in your project, you decide to stop updating the Engine components and just say here, this is our feature set, this is what our project is about, and anything new is about the next project.

> - Has tight integration into the BP system, no RPC overhead.

There can still be overhead with RPC like things if you’re using sound cues. Sound cues support a hook-like thing to get game params to your sound cues.

> - As far as audio playback is concerned, can model everything middleware does at some programming cost.

Without programming, you can do most of what middleware companies are doing. And we have a robust plugin system that has 3rd parties adding more features now. Hellblade, for example, shipped with the old audio engine feature set and sounds pretty good (up for some audio awards like Best Audio in GANG this year).

> - Custom instruments (analog/grain synth) and a strong user base/marketplace ecosystem to develop more of these.

I’d generalize this as “easy procedural audio” via the synth component. The stuff that lives in the synthesis plugin and that we demo’d last year are all done external to the engine to demonstrate 3rd party capabilities. Hopefully, in the future, you’ll see broader implementation of tools that you might see in DAWs. The same goes for all the DSP effects we demo’d. All in 3rd party plugins.

> What worries me a bit in UE4 is forward compatibility, the engine is just evolving very fast and future changes might break my project (which might need to build for 10+ yrs). The middleware providers are evolving also, but their development is decoupled from the engine and seems slower paced.

It’s evolving but we’re committed to backward compatibility. Even with all the exciting things we’ve done in the last year with UE4 audio, we’re flipping the switch on Fortnite very soon. Fornite is still using the old audio engine and it works 100% with the audio mixer on all platforms (we’re rolling it out slowly to be conservative). All old features work in the new audio mixer. When we start rolling out changes to bigger systems (like replacing the soundclass/mix system), it’ll be in such a way as to be orthogonal to the old system and in a plugin. So if your project still uses sound classes and sound mixes in a year or so, and we’ve got a brand new mixing system in place, the old system will still work the same way (for a while at least).

We hope to change sound cues to make them more useful, but we’ll be trying hard not to break the way they are now (either do automatic data migration, etc). You have to realize we have a game that’s been in development for 7 years with tons of audio content. We can’t break ourselves!