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Gaming with Dekthro

Opinions and views of Dekthro.

Author: Dekthro

The red headed stepchild of games, audio.

Posted by Dekthro Tuesday July 14 2009 at 6:10PM
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Audio? Sounds effects? Musical score? No big deal, most of us probably just run iTunes in the background, or maybe even Pandora. For most this is a viable option for MMORPG's, since unlike first person shooters, when you are the last man alive in a 5 versus 5 situation, you might want to be aware of the footsteps of the guy running up behind you, instead of your favorite heavy metal tune. Though, like the visuals, and game play, audio plays a very important role in a game. It's a particularly powerful art form that can dramatically toy with the players emotions and senses.

First off, do me a quick favor, and view the trailer of this Half-Life 2 modification entitled, NEOTOKYO. But turn off the audio.

Click here to view!

Great, now watch it, with the audio.

Notice anything different? For me, I have seen this trailer roughly ten times, and everytime I watch it, it gives me chills and goosebumps, and makes me want to fire up STEAM and get fragging. Now, granted, this is not you playing the game, it is you watching the trailer for the game. But this trailer for a lot of people, is the deciding factor of whether the game is worth the download, or if the name will never get further than your short term memory. The reason I suggested this video, is because compared to other game trailers out there, the the choices of video clips stitched together, with this glorious coat of audio to bring the whole outfit together, creates an immersive experience.

Consider the trailer for the game, Runes of Magic.

View the trailer here

Not quite the same effect, is it? We have some more traditional orchestrated music, with a dash of choir work. The music isn't tailored to fit the scenes to creat emotional hits, though I saw plenty of opportunities to do so! Not to engaging.

Now all of this is out of game experiences, but how about in game? Sound effects and scoring are all important in game as well! One of the best examples of both come to mind, from the game World of Warcraft. One of the most epic feelings that I recall was the first time I decided to mute Ventrilo and my music on a Ragnaros fight (goosebumps as I type that, recalling the situation!). As Ragnaros emerged from the lava, and the fight engage, an audio track that I had never heard before initiated, and everything became much more intense, in addition to his low rumbling voice. Unfortunantely I'm unable to find a YouTube video depcting this. As for sound effects, a buddy of mine had a love for the Deep Wounds sound effect of an Arms Warrior. It was a dramatic gushing chop sound, unique to the ability, assisted by a rather bloody splash graphical effect. Though the rest of the game is rather lacking in enjoyments like these, and if I recall, the music for Ragnaros was used for several bosses.

That brings up another point, though. With all these other factors playing along with us, Ventrilo and our personal taste for music, why have this third line of audio further garble up our speakers? Who needs guildies commanding and yelling, insane guitar rifts assisted by a furious double bass, and a uninspired classical score with some bland combat sound effects? Probably the reason why most opt out of even having game sound on in the first place, and why developers don't put as much effort as they could into these things. But unfortunately, for those who do give it it's well deserved attention, it usually goes unnoticed.

Unfortunately I can not highlight any MMORPGs that excel in this area of immersion, since after the Ragnros incident, I fell back into the 'mute game, play music' niche. Which is why I was forced to use the NEOTKOYO trailer as my leading example (and a rather damn good one, if I do say so my self). Though from what I've seen so far, Aion is showing some possibilities of having a great score and set of sound effects, but we will see on its release. How about next time you fire up your game of the moment, instead of loading up your favorite audio player, turn on the sound, and see what you are missing. You might be surprised.

ghstwolf writes:

Time and a lack of imagination is a killer for this.  Time is an issue because listening to the 4-7 min music loop for hours at a time sucks.  That is how it is today, just background noise with no significance.

Now comes imagination.  Why can't we have good somewhat unique sounds for combat?  Grab a baseball bat or metal pipe and run around hitting things.  OK times up... so did it sound the same when you hit a tree, a car, that neighbor you don't like?  Nope.  A bit of that would help keep things fresh.  While music is good, IMO less would be more.  Sourcing sounds and music to points of interest or activity (with a distance fade) would be amazing. 

Just imagine it for a moment, instead of some classical track (playing for the 8th time since you've logged in today) you get crickets, frogs, a bit of wind noise, and the rustling of a wolf up ahead.  You kill the wolf, with all the sounds of blade slashing meat, growls and whimpers.  Continuing on you find a stream, one that you heard before you could see and follow it.  As you follow it, you hear the drums of a distant village.  As you approach, it grows louder maybe adding other instruments or singing/chanting.  It's close now, but it all stops, replaced with some grabled yelling and the sounds of combat.  You reach the clearing just in time to see the small band of players that had attacked the village mount up to ride off.

I'm suddenly annoyed with this little dream.  It's very possible to do all of this, it adds to game play (hearing NPCs and PCs), and would be a highly immersive element that wouldn't go stale very quickly.  Too bad it is just a dream, one that most Devs don't seem to share.

Tue Jul 14 2009 7:22PM Report
Dekthro writes:

@ghstwolf:

Very good points. In regards to situational music and the such, this was one of the things that stood out to me while watching soem Aion gameplay videos. Is there variety in the music? Will it play something different for a huge boss fight or the same tune that was played for that dramatic fight against that rabbit; this I'm not sure. But it was a nice feature overall.

But as I said, and you as well, it is probably not going to happen, when companies know that their users are more likely to just mute the game and play their own tunes.

Tue Jul 14 2009 7:54PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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