Would you rather go to Hades or the SXSW® conference in Austin, Texas? Most people would agree that SXSW is more fun, especially if you get a prize when you arrive.

That’s the advantage that Kenneth Woodruff’s new game, Jake the Reaper 2, has over the popular original game. In the original Jake the Reaper, available now for iOS, gamers play as Jake, a grim reaper who’s new to the soul-collection business. He collects souls and ushers them to the afterlife.

Jake the Reaper 2 SXSW Edition, available now for Android and iOS devices, is a taste of the full sequel to come. Jake transports these lucky souls to SXSW, the huge interactive, film, and music conference. Players who complete the task will win a prize (while supplies last) if they show the game completion screen to booth staff in the Dolby® Lounge at the SXSW Gaming Expo in the Palmer Events Center lobby, March 7–9. Prizes are limited, so drop by early.

From Commodore to smartphone

Woodruff, who runs Grand Unified, LLC, recently spoke with Dolby about his approach to game development and the importance of sound in games.

“I’ve actually been a gamer for as long as I can remember,” Woodruff said. “I got into graphics when I got my first computer at age 10. I had a Commodore 64 and was into doing everything pixel-by-pixel, ’cause we still had to do things like that back then.”

Woodruff has spent much of his career working on design, motion graphics, and code for advertising clients, but he’s also pursuing his passion for games.

“The first game that I made, I was able to do the graphics and the code—all the concept was mine, the design, the sound, all the music and everything,” Woodruff said. “It feels great to … build things that are generating fun for other people.”

The importance of game sound

Woodruff says that the sound of his games is as important to him as how they look. “I’ve always been really attuned to the subtleties of sound, to the point where I’ve always liked doing my own audio production for my projects,” he said. “It’s just another kind of creative expression, another thing to tinker with until it’s right.”

On one recent game, a puzzler called Radian, Woodruff used generative sound, a soundtrack that’s generated on the fly in reaction to what you do in the game. He’s currently updating the game to take advantage of the Dolby Audio API, which allows developers to easily build surround sound into their games.

Surround sound “was a really huge draw for me,” Woodruff said. Now that the technology is available, he feels it’s a necessity for games like Radian. “I feel like it wouldn’t be right [without surround sound]. It would be less than it should be.”

If you’re at the SXSW Gaming Expo from March 7–9, be sure to stop by the Dolby Lounge for a look at new games with Dolby audio technology, daily happy hours from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and a chance to win more Dolby prizes.

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