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It's always amazing and encouraging every time that green "Developer" denotable pops up in a thread :D

 

Thanks for the great reply Justin! I know the entire PE team is busy following the forums, but it's rarely there's any confirmation of what you actually read/don't read :).

 

Edit: Oddly specific request here, but for some reason the sounds of wind in leaves really strikes the romantic in me. Can such audio samples be reasonably tied with tree animation? A trivially specific request to bring up I know, but audio-visual continuity of ambient sounds would do much to enhance my immersion, I think, rather than just having sounds from nowhere.

What do you guys think?

I love the idea of this, if it's technically sound to implement :). I think it could, potentially, be done by giving each tree a "sound area", say, a circle around the tree that, once entered, any sounds the tree might play gets added to the ambience. Volume dependent on how close you're standing to the tree. Potentially, in a forest area, this would cause several "tree sounds" to be played simultaneously, at different volume levels, simulating the effect of really being in a forest by layering audio on top of each other. An anvil might have a huge sound area, and by hearing the sound in the distance, you'd know you're nearing a civilized area :).

 

Games like StarCraft, where audio is incredibly important at pro-gaming levels, have a "maximum sound channels" slider, since the game can have literally hundreds of sounds played at the same time in a large battle. For the sake of performance, on a normal CPU, you usually have to limit this to around 128 channels.

 

Issues with this idea:

 

How do you decide when sounds are played, then? Should a sound be played when a PC enters the "sound area"? Or should it be played when your screen is centred over the sound area?

 

If sound is centred around what a PC can hear, what if your characters are spread around the map? Should only the sounds the character closest to the screen is experiencing be played? Should the sounds the rest of your characters are hearing be muffled once you move your screen away?

 

If sound is centred purely around the view port (what you're currently seeing on your screen), should the sound muffle once you move your screen away from the party into fog of war? Could surround be used to indicate that your party is to the right, so that's where all the sounds are coming from? Should there be certain ambient sounds that always play regardless of where you're looking? Birdsong, NPC shouts, kids playing...

 

StarCraft, (using this as an example because, honestly, it's the best example I can think of), uses many different sound "types". If you give an order to a unit that is far off screen you will hear it's response loud and clear, but if that unit engages in combat while outside your screen, you'll only hear muffled combat sounds. I imagine PC comments would always be played as if you heard them spoken to you directly, but action taking place outside of the screen to be played in the background.

 

As a designer, I envy all the exciting design problems you guys have to solve :D

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"What if a mid-life crisis is just getting halfway through the game and realising you put all your points into the wrong skill tree?"
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Good point mstark. Actually, I hadn't even considered the proximity issue of wind and leaves, just figured it to be a constant on a landscape, but this makes more sense.

 

And thanks AndreaColumbo for the link! I'll admit though, I feel a little like a hypocrit now, since I'm a recent fan of power metal (Blind Guardian, Rhapsody of Fire, Therion, and the like), and I'm certain the genre suffers considerably from dynamic range compression (especially Kamelot, I've yet to look into their new album, but I'm fairly certain their producers have no concept of dynamic range).

 

Speaking of audio packs, there will be a Power Metal Pack, right? No? That's cool, I'll just make my own. :cat:

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Pipyui — You're no hypocrit. We're entitled to enjoy whatever genre regardless of how good the mastering is. I myself like a lot of bands whose albums are overcompressed, but I certainly do not condone their partaking the Loudness War. In fact, I spread the word whenever I can, pester bands about it on their FB pages, and partake Dynamic Range Day every year (you can find it either on FB, on Twitter, or on Ian Shepherd's "Production Advice" website).

 

Here is a link where to find out whether an album has been compressed, and to what extent: http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/

 

You may also upload your own measurements for albums that don't appear in the list yet.

 

Sorry for the OT, everyone—I just have strong feelings toward overcompression.

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People will want to either turn the game's audio off, or even worse, the game itself off, and they won't even know why. This is because of a phenomenon called "listener fatigue", which occurs when your ears endure aural saturation for extended periods of time. Two things happen as a result of this: a. the listener's brain tunes out sounds due to sensory overload and b. you become physically exhausted from listening to the game. Both of these things are bad and we will do whatever we can to avoid it.

I've been aware of how "too much" sound can annoy me, but I hadn't really thought of how it relates to gaming, outside of how I'll sometimes turn the soundtrack off after a while (simply because I'm tired of hearing it after 50+ hours of playing...).

 

But this might explain why I would get so tired while playing Borderlands 2. The noise of 10 guns firing, helicopters overhead, every enemy has callouts they say constantly, player chrs noises, driving soundtrack, story npc's making story and humorous chatter in the corner with those overlapping and often being interrupted by other story bits if you trigger them...it's quite a mess. :geek:

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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I was away for couple of days and there is a new page in the thread... nice to see Bell responding to the thread... (and the general loudness-wars discussions)...

 

We have all seen games with creepily silent environments or the constantly loud or the same 30-second song looping for the 13131231231231231231 time

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Indeed, though this issue really strikes my interests, I'm afraid Bell has already addressed everything that comes to my mind regarding it. See what you've done, Bell?! In trying to incite this discussion, you've only helped in destroying it!

No really though, thanks for talking with us. We get lonely here all by ourselves.

I just wish I had more to add to this discussion now... somebody's got to get it rolling again, because I'm incapable of doing so. :sweat:

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Indeed, though this issue really strikes my interests, I'm afraid Bell has already addressed everything that comes to my mind regarding it. See what you've done, Bell?! In trying to incite this discussion, you've only helped in destroying it!

No really though, thanks for talking with us. We get lonely here all by ourselves.

I just wish I had more to add to this discussion now... somebody's got to get it rolling again, because I'm incapable of doing so. :sweat:

 

Here, I've got an idea. Lets talk about other games that have awesome atmospheric sounds! What games really stood out to you in this regard? Why?

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Indeed, though this issue really strikes my interests, I'm afraid Bell has already addressed everything that comes to my mind regarding it. See what you've done, Bell?! In trying to incite this discussion, you've only helped in destroying it!

No really though, thanks for talking with us. We get lonely here all by ourselves.

I just wish I had more to add to this discussion now... somebody's got to get it rolling again, because I'm incapable of doing so. :sweat:

 

Here, I've got an idea. Lets talk about other games that have awesome atmospheric sounds! What games really stood out to you in this regard? Why?

I don't much care for ambient sounds that aren't part of the soundtrack. When Adam was streaming his Icewind Dale 2 playthrough, I found the sound of the docks to get very annoying, also as pure ambience if it's not connected to anything I see it creates a dissonance that is distracting, that's also the case if I'm seeing something that should be making a sound but isn't. Generally this means I hate crowd and chatter ambience, but really like wind and ocean ambience.

 

Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines, if you just consider the hub themes, it's a master class for atmosphere. They've got sweeping, brustling sounds, that I associate with urban environments and night time, and creeping sounds, you've got dissonance and cacophonous sounds. Santa Monica is sleepy, slow. Down town is oppressive, faster paced. Hollywood is calm, melancholic. Chinatown is rhythmically more ordered, steadier paced, with a clash of styles as Chinese sounds are introduced.

 

World of Goo, Diablo II, Prince of Persia: Sands of TIme, Bastion, Fallout 1 & 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Half-Life 2, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, these build atmosphere well. You can either literally create atmosphere by using or recreating (through proxies) sounds that exist in the setting, using existing culture and associations, and the emotive side of sound. A lot of the atmospheric sounds I like are in the form of sound tracks with industrial elements.

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Here, I've got an idea. Lets talk about other games that have awesome atmospheric sounds! What games really stood out to you in this regard? Why?

Hm. That's actually a good question. It's usually the music that I notice first and often I won't think about the atmospheric or non-music sounds until later. I tend to notice hard sound effects (my chr. chopping wood, sword against sword) or atmospheric music more than general ambiance effects - Diablo 1's in-dungeon soundtrack combined with the character's footsteps is classic, imo.

 

But I like the whisper of wind, the sound of rain (probably my fave...if a game had nothing but rain sounds, I'd be happy :p ), rustling trees, creaking metal, a river. What I call the "moody" sounds.

 

One thing I don't tend to like is "distant murmuring crowds" effects, since most of the time they sound too artificial/busy, as well as repetitive. It's ok in short bursts like in some medieval strategy games, but generally, don't like. eg, stuff like this:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdMlKVio0LA

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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One thing I don't tend to like is "distant murmuring crowds" effects, since most of the time they sound too artificial/busy, as well as repetitive. It's ok in short bursts like in some medieval strategy games, but generally, don't like. eg, stuff like this:

 

I agree, you see 4-5 people (NPC) making noises like there is whole crowded bazaar there... But I like the ****tail party effect that is in some of those scenes (no particular example right now)

 

I remember Limbo from the games i have played lately as an interesting example of using sound (we can argue that it is a different game (camera, mechanics, etc...)).

 

I have always loved the music (soundscape) of Fallout and Fallout 2. The action-sounds (with the action depending on the location) in the tracks were well placed density-wise, not to regular or sparse depending on the location.

 

Another example that comes to my mind is MDK (though I have not played it in a long time so speaking through memories), again MDK had a certain style of world and the sound effects were also reflecting that but the effects were not created to represent a realistic quality but they were consonant with the music.

Edited by xvart
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I'm pleased to see that people agree with my little pining for audio-visual continuity of ambient sounds. I truly had thought I would be the only one here who gave it more than a passing care, and that you all would belittle me for it (I'm very sensitive).

 

So far as games go, I'm actually only a casual gamer so I don't have many samples to extract from, but the first game with good ambient sound that comes to mind is 2008's Turok. It managed to produce a jungle with a little more noise than just the omnipresent and looped crickets and birds.

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Games that stand out for me in enhancing the gameplay by use of sounds are:

 

Diablo 1, excellent soundtrack, and sound was expertly used to add to the creepy eeriness of dungeon crawling

StarCraft 1 & BroodWar, also an excellent soundtrack (mainly the Terran one), where reliable sound effects are used as feedback to all actions you perfrom, as well as action happening elsewhere on the map.

BG2 - Athkatla, the sound adds an atmosphere of hustle and bustle to the city, an atmosphere that the few NPCs standing around couldn't create on their own

 

Most Blizzard games make excellent use of sound, but I think the earlier ones stand out more.

 

I don't think either of these games provide a sort of "answer" for how sound should be handled in PE, but they all enhanced to core idea of the game, and helped their success. Also, any game with an absolutely epic score is a winner in my book. I want to be able to leave PE in the opening menu, and just listen to the theme over and over :).

 

(Random: Justin, any chance we might see a rendition/interpretation/cover of the Morrowind theme made by you? :D)

Edited by mstark
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"What if a mid-life crisis is just getting halfway through the game and realising you put all your points into the wrong skill tree?"
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Here, I've got an idea. Lets talk about other games that have awesome atmospheric sounds! What games really stood out to you in this regard? Why?

 

Vampire: The Masqurade - Bloodlines

Game had fantastic atmospheric sounds overall but one level come mind overall Ocean House where excelent atmospheric sound make eerie looking manor to change wondreful horror experience

 

Here is youtube link to one walkthrough, but I had hard time to find one where sound quality is even decent and there is no commentary.

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I really like when items have a satisfying *thunk* to them when you equip, or move them around your inventory. Diablo 2 plate/gothic armor springs to mind.

 

And I feel like I have to post this:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSlGQpvl_IA

Edited by mstark
"What if a mid-life crisis is just getting halfway through the game and realising you put all your points into the wrong skill tree?"
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Great conversation, as always! Thanks for having it.

 

*snip*

 

Hope that answers any questions you guys have! If not, I'd be happy to talk more about this (I can talk about audio all day as you can probably imagine...)

 

And a big thank you to you, Justin. If P:E is set up for 5.1 sound and an emphasis is placed upon high-quality sound then everything will be peachy for me. No matter how "Gee whiz!" the graphics become, I'm still looking at a screen atop a desk. Properly done sound, however, can truly transport one to the world in question. Just close your eyes or allow them to become unfocused and the sound can wash over you and touch your mind at a very primal level. That's when you know you've gotten it right.

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Another game which has where I love very much about atmospheric sounds was Darklands and how they used music and sound make cities and towns feel alive and medieval even as they were only 2d images and dialog menus. Betrayl at Krondor uses similar approach successfully also.

 

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Just close your eyes or allow them to become unfocused and the sound can wash over you and touch your mind at a very primal level. That's when you know you've gotten it right.

No pressure.
"What if a mid-life crisis is just getting halfway through the game and realising you put all your points into the wrong skill tree?"
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Just close your eyes or allow them to become unfocused and the sound can wash over you and touch your mind at a very primal level. That's when you know you've gotten it right.

No pressure.

 

Hey, without the interference of publishers, this is the opportunity to genuinely do things right.

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http://cbrrescue.org/

 

Go afield with a good attitude, with respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forests and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoors experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.----Fred Bear

 

http://michigansaf.org/

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A feature I enjoyed from the BG series was the ability to overhear enemies that you could not yet see. That added a lot to the atmosphere, although some dampening and distortion from the dungeon acoustics would have been welcome as well. I'm replaying Fallout 3 right now, and the ability to overhear creatures I cannot yet see gives the game space an inhabited feel.

Edited by rjshae

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes please take your time , this is very important feature which made your game even more athmospherical. Even after all these years when I replay P:T, or Fallout 2, I just get sinked in when hearing Arroyo theme and characteristical lvl up beep, when hearing voices of streets in Hive be it at night or day and many many others, thats how strong this feature is.

"Have you ever spoken with the dead? Called to them from this side? Called them from their silent rest? Do you know what it is that they feel?

Pain. Pain, when torn into this wakefulness, this reminder of the chaos from which they had escaped. Pain of having to live! There will be no more pain. There will be... no more chaos."

 

 

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first of the Necromancers,

voyager in the Lands of the Dead.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you for your feedback, Mr. Bell :) It is very encouraging to hear such words from a developer working on this title :) Listening fatigue and the ever present (in many examples contemporarily produced music) "loudness war" leading to dynamic range compression is also always a good theme to make listeners aware of.

 

Regarding other examples of good audio (disregarding compression artifacts etc), additionally to the ones mentioned previously (IWD 1, PS:T, Prey) Chronicles of Riddick comes to mind as well as other stealth action games like Thief 3. Contrary to other mentions here in this thread, I considered the "bustling city" sound effects of BG2 often somewhat disconnected to what actually was there in terms of visible content. Such, hm, gaps don't really add to a feeling of connection to the game world. This is not true for very minimalistic/old games, where there is nothing to see other than still images of the environment for example, and sound is really a substitute instead of an effect of existing game objects.

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This is why I knew Justin Bell was the man for the job. You are obviously a technical expert on sound as opposed to writing music "because it sounds cool."

 

One thing that comes to mind is the sounds that come with the click of a button: specifically the turning of pages in games. Oftentimes, you'll be flipping through a book, and each page gets a "fwip." I'm not sure if that annoys people, but if I keep hearing "fwi fwi fwi fwi fwi fwi fwip." It gets a little annoying...

 

Which was why the Vampire: the Masquerade was odd...when he picked up the newspaper, I was imagining I'd hear a "paper sound." But I didn't. It was ... odd...

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  • 1 month later...

If you are thinking about sound for videogames, than I would strongly suggest going to the places where people heavily geek out about sound in video games. There are even discussions regarding that 'what are some games with the best sound, period', like was asked earlier. Here are three links that I believe are relevant to the discussion of audio in games:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-nameless-guide-to-pc-gaming-audio-with-binaural-headphone-surround-sound

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-lust-envys-headphone-gaming-guide-updated-1-11-13-astro-mixamp-2013-added

 

And a third link which seemed to be talking about the actual question of what made good or bad gaming audio:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/633327/games-with-best-sound-design-music-and-sound-effects

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