Unity – Building a Sound Manager

Sounds are a necessity for video games as they provide a significant portion of information and atmosphere to the player. As such, having a sound manager in any game project is a must. This article describes an approach for developing and implementing a sound manager in Unity ideal for small games.

A game sound manager should at least possess the following properties:

  1. Easily accessible from any class without having to instantiate a copy.
  2. Accessible across all Unity scenes
  3. Possess the capability of adjusting settings (eg. volume)

The sound manager described below only consists of a single monobehaviour and associated audio files for simplicity. Consider a “SoundManager” gameobject added to the game’s first scene. In the awake method:

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 // Use this for initialization
    void Awake () {
        //Singleton Pattern
        if (!_firstRun)
        {
            Destroy(this);
            return;
        }
            _firstRun = false;
            DontDestroyOnLoad(this.gameObject);
            //Get States from PlayerPrefs here to manage settings

            //Initializing static instance and Audio Sources
            Instance = this;
            InitializeAudioSources();
            PlayAmbient(SoundLocation.AmbMenu1);

            //Adding UpdateAmbient method to be called whenever the scene changes
            SceneManager.sceneLoaded += UpdateAmbient;
       
    }

This gameobject employs a singleton pattern that self destroys if it isn’t the only instance. This is done using lines 4-8 where _firstRun is a static boolean set to true by default. Afterwards, the gameobject sets itself to persist through scenes via the DontDestroyOnLoad call. Below, you can then load settings previously saved via Unity’s PlayerPrefs. An example of using PlayerPrefs can be found here. The gameobject then initializes its own static instance and its audio sources. Finally, it attaches a method UpdateAmbient to be called whenever the scene changes via SceneManager.sceneLoaded. This is useful for if you wish to change the ambient music whenever the scene changes.

Initializing Audio Sources

Unity employs a flexible and powerful audio system with audio sources being a key component. If you are not familiar with Unity’s audio system, it’s helpful to have a look at the Audio Overview section in references. For the purposes of this article, audio is categorized to only Ambient and Effects. The InitializeAudioSources() method is provided below.

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    private void InitializeAudioSources()
    {
        _ambient = this.gameObject.AddComponent<AudioSource>();
        _effects = this.gameObject.AddComponent<AudioSource>();
    }

InitializeAudioSources() attaches two (2) new audiosources to the gameobject for each of the audio types. Having multiple audiosources allows for multiple audio clips to be played simultaneously. This facilitates the majority of scenarios where ambient music is playing and an effect sound is to be played on top of it. _ambient and _effects are two (2) private global variables. The code snippet below shows an example of what playing ambient and effect sounds look like.

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  public void PlayAmbient(SoundLocation sl)
    {
        if (_soundAmbient)
        {
            _ambient.clip = (AudioClip)Resources.Load(GetSoundLoc(sl));
            _ambient.loop = true;
            _ambient.volume = _ambVolume;
            _ambient.Play();
        }
        else
        {
            _ambient.Stop();
        }
    }

    public void PlayEffect(SoundLocation sl)
    {
        if (!_soundEffects)
        {
            return;
        }
        _effects.loop = false;
        _effects.volume = 0.7f;
        _effects.PlayOneShot((AudioClip)Resources.Load(GetSoundLoc(sl)));

    }

SoundLocation will be described later on but it essentially produces a path to the audioclip to be played.

You’ve now essentially got a gameobject that can be accessed across different scenes and in other monobehaviours in one line statements such as:

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SoundManager.Instance.PlayBossMusic();

Selecting AudioClips via Unity Editor

Simple so far right? Now moving on to actually using this manager across other gameobjects. The Unity Editor is extremely powerful, allowing you to set variables in Unity directly rather than through the IDE. As such, it may be desirable to be able to set audioclips directly from the editor. There are a few methods of doing this.

1. Setting AudioClip Path as a String

You can create methods that take in a string parameter indicative the audioclip’s location. In the Unity Editor, you can then type in this string directly. It would then be sent to a command such as :(AudioClip)Resources.Load(path)
The obvious problem with this approach is that if the audio file needs to be changed, all the individual strings would need to be changed. At the time of writing, it is not possible to enter a constant or variable name into the Unity Editor, so you’d have to type in that path every time.

2. Combining Enums with toString()

Fortunately, Unity allows developers to select enums directly in the editor, so we can combine this with toString() to generate paths. Consider the enum below.

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public enum SoundLocation
{
    AmbMenu1,AmbBoss1,AmbGame1,
    EffHurt,EffPlayerHurt, EffPlayerDie,
    WeapPStandard,
    WeapE1, WeapEMine, WeapEBoss1,
}

Where each of those enum represents the name of an audioclip in the resources folder. To translate into a path, you’d use a method such as the one below.

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public string GetSoundLoc(SoundLocation sl)
{
    return "Sounds/" + sl.ToString();
}

This approach allows you to easily select clips from the editor. You can even split up ambient and effect sounds into separate enums to make selections easier.

Disadvantages of Using Enums

There are many articles online detailing the effects enums have on android performance from 2015-2017. I’m uncertain if these performance issues are still present but it may be investigation if you possess are significantly large amount of audioclips to implement.

And that’s it! You’ve now got a sound manager for your Unity games.

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