Sound plays a key role in the ultimate game experience. Back in the old days and old games we used to have very simple 8-bit sound samples playing all over again to make the experience more enjoyable. Space Invaders, Pacman and Mario. Sound in those games was very simple but added alot to the game itself. Thanks to them we now can easily gues what sort of game is it when we hear a specific sound from it without even looking at the game. The memorable music from Mario or the looping sound from Pacman.
As well as graphics and gameplay, ound has been evolving since it was first implemented into games. The most curious thing is that in the past years game companies have started hiring proper composers to create a moody and atmospheric soundtracks to enchance the gameplay even more. Some of those companies even reached for well known and respected in their own crafts.
At the begining sound was only used to represent some simple special effects. As the industry progressed and more possibilities were available, developers started using it to replicate real world sounds and implement them into the games. Most of them were just ambient sounds of the environments that the player was visiting in the game. Sound was also used to point the player into the right direction or notify him about an event. For example the memorable puzzle or secret area sound from Tomb Raider. Since the begining of 90's developers started to record speach and implement them into the games. Voice acting became very pouplar nowdays that some developers are hiring well known actors. Mass Effect 2 by BioWare could be here an example. Martin Sheen, Carrie-Anne Moss, Seth Green, Claudia Black and many many more have given voice to the characters in the game. It is good to see that some developers reach for proffesionals.
Another great cast in a game which made the experience even better was in CD Project RED's game called "The Witcher". It is a Polish game. They have used alot of good polish actors to give voices to those brilliant characters. The game had brilliant dialogues becouse of the cast. Actors did actually change the script as they were recording to improve the dialogues. That came out pretty well. I have played both Polish and English version of the game and only in the Polish one the dialogues are packed with emotions.
Let's move on to music in games. For me it is one of the most important things. Great music makes my game experience even more enjoyable and memorable. As I have mentioned erlier some developers started to hire professional composers. My favourite game music composer is Jesper Kyd. He has made music mainly for the Hitman (from which he has been known well) and Assassin's Creed franchise. Borderlands, Unreal Tournament III, Splinter Cell and MDK soundtracks are also one of his. Very talented musician. He only creates music for games. The score for Assassin's Creed franchise is my favourite one of his.
My other favourite composer is Hans Zimmer but he's a holywood film composer. He has made soundtracks for "Black Hawk Down", "Pirates of the Caribbean", "The Dark Knight", "Inception" and many more well known titles. He's like the John Williams of the 21'st century. A year ago he has been hired by Activision to produce a score for Modern Warfare 2. Brilliant action/thriller music worked very well with that title.
I think that the future in improving the sonic experience in games is to use more orchestral music. By that I mean spending more time and giving more importance to that topic than developers usualy do. Using melodic themes to reinforce the franchise identity has become more popular these days. Hiring proffesional and well known composers might be the only way to increase the overall experience. Rest is up to the technology side of those things. I think that for today's standards and judging by the health of the games industry there won't be any bigger jump in that area for a long long time.