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Jumpgate Evolution Developer Blog

Jumpgate Evolution is a Massively Multiplayer Online Game set in the open expanse of space. With breath-taking visuals and an innovative twitch-based space combat, Jumpgate is the definitive space combat MMO, putting you at the heart of the action.

Author: JumpgateEvo

Contributor: Khatie

Making the Sound of Music for Space - Herman Peterscheck, Producer

Posted by JumpgateEvo Monday August 31 2009 at 3:02PM
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A game is by definition an audio/visual experience. It is usually the visual side of things that get the most attention and so little time is spent on the other half of the equation. While visuals are critical for having a successful game, having great audio is very important. To think this deeper, try imagining Star Wars without John Williams' sound track or James Earl Jones' booming Darth Vader voice. Poor audio on top of great video can really deteriorate production value. The trouble with audio is that it generally comes late in the development cycle and all to often as an afterthought. Another difficulty is that while poor visuals tend to be obvious, poor audio tends to be a silent failure. Star Wars with slightly worse music would create a sense that "something is missing" or "something isn't right" whereas a bad special effect is much more likely to be spotted for what it is.

So how do we approach audio in a space game like Jumpgate Evolution? The most important thing is to have a kick a** audio department. We have a full in-house audio production team along with good external talent who knows how to “articulate” music. As the visuals and tone of the game begin shaping up we make sure the audio department has access to as much information as possible: concept art, story documents and, of course, a playable version of the experience. We then spend a lot of time looking at other forms of media: movies, tv shows, commercials, other games... anything that might inspire. For a space game like Jumpgate Evolution, it can be quite challenging because there are limited references we can take from. Such as how should alien ships sound when they fly past or what should we use for the environment ambient sounds because in reality, space has no sound.

But our goal is to try to get that same emotional response from the game. Therefore a lot of this is breaking down the various parts that make a given scene evoke an emotional response. By removing elements from a scene you can quickly realize what the core elements of the scene are. For example, does a combat scene in Battlestar Galactica still hold up if the music is different, or if there are no special FX sounds, or if you remove the dialog with some radio distortion. Many things are also very subtle. For example we noticed that in many space scenes there are two levels of spoken audio. The primary is audio directed at the viewer (or the protagonist) and then the secondary audio which is voice chatter between external groups.

The next step is to do some basic concept work. This is done by taking a few minutes of unedited game play video and then letting the sound and music guys do whatever they want to make it sound like the experience we are trying to achieve. This is then evaluated by people watching the video and giving feedback. Once we have a few minutes of game play with the audio the way we want it, we meet with engineers and evaluate the feasibility of the various technical pieces involved. By taking this approach we can avoid spending time on features that will not provide the game experience that people find compelling. We also experiment with existing sound and music to see if it's a quality issue. Sometimes the features and tech are fine, but the audio itself simply requires more iteration.

The final thing to consider is when to stop. As with everything in games, it's difficult to know when you are "there," so we spend a lot of time just testing the game. While we want to create a compelling experience at every level we also don't want to keep working and iterating on things that are starting to have diminishing returns. This point can be incredibly hard to evaluate, especially with something as elusive as audio, but there is a sense that you know it when you hear it.

By having an early prototype that has been tested against a sample audience we can be confident that we are aiming towards a solution that will create the experience players are looking for. By comparing the experience to existing experiences in other popular media, we can be sure that we are measuring against the required quality mark. As with everything else in development it's all about prototyping, rapid iteration and testing.

Orthelian writes:

Good luck to them in rivaling EVE's music. That I'd like to hear.

Mon Aug 31 2009 5:14PM Report
Kyleran writes:

Hate to disappoint them, but in EVE (and all games) i turn off all music and most sounds and play my own soundtracks (when Vent isn't on).

Waste of money and effort in my book, better stck to improving the gameplay instead.

Mon Aug 31 2009 5:19PM Report
Eanok writes:

 In my case there are times where I enjoy laying back in my chair and enjoying the landscape, and the background music of the game I'm playing. I love to feel immersed in the world of my choice every now and then. Of course I will turn on most graphic detail and sounds when in  big battles, but that is for performance resons only. If I could and my computer allowed it, I would always play with sound and all the graphic effects on. 

Mon Aug 31 2009 6:18PM Report
free2play writes:

Music is a background thing, not to br treated as anything else. Even in mundane tasks like mining in EvE, while I lestened to the BG music it was the lasers that I was listening to and for. Sound effects overshadow music and music is a contrbuting asset to good sound effects. As long as the sound departmen in JGE put as much effort in to effects as they do the music, it will be a valuable part of the game experience.

Mon Aug 31 2009 8:43PM Report
Paincake writes:

Personally I find the musical compositions of a game essential to the immersiveness. It really binds to me emotionally. Nostalgia also alarms me when I hear a familiar piece of music. Music and visual art forms are both best friends and cooperate very well to emotionally touch the gamer.

Mon Aug 31 2009 10:17PM Report
EvilC writes:

I've only enjoyed the music of three games:  the original Command & Conquer, EVE Online, and the original Jumpgate.  I have faith that NetDevil will pull off a winning score again.

Mon Aug 31 2009 10:56PM Report
hogscraper writes:

 I really liked the music in X2 but when I was on Warhammer I had all sound turned off. Really only play sounds in FPS games because I have to.

Mon Aug 31 2009 11:52PM Report
Jorgevorg writes:

@Kyleran You're so right! Sound is such a useless portion of the entertainment experience! We should just go back to the era of the silent movie. While we're at it, let's bring back the black and white visual experience! Color is -so- distraction and takes away from the overall visual experience!

Mon Aug 31 2009 11:55PM Report
xiirot writes:

Well, to be fair, if they're putting this much effort into just the soundtrack, then can't we expect them to put as much - if not more - effort into the rest of the game?  I wouldn't dismiss the possibility.

Tue Sep 01 2009 12:20AM Report
ultraroo writes:

The importance of the effect of appropriate music and ambience in games and movies cannot be overstated. They are crucial to providing the atmosphere and adding to the immersion factor. While many people switch off in-game music to listen to their own MP3 collection or to use voice comms, it is still a factor in setting the scene, as it were. By disabling it you are making a choice to lessen the immersion factor.

That said, a lot of games have utterly dreadful music/ambience, despite having a large array of technology and staff at their disposal. Hopefully JGE won't be one of those :)

Tue Sep 01 2009 12:59AM Report
montin writes:

Using movies as analogy for a game, shows a lack of understanding that the two media experiences are different, which in turn doesn't give me much hope that this game will deliver sound that doesn't get turn off within the first 5 minutes of playing. We will see.

Tue Sep 01 2009 4:38AM Report
Blazz writes:

I think Zelda nailed it a million years ago, and everyone's still trying to catch up.

Tue Sep 01 2009 5:06AM Report
outfctrl writes:

I really loved the music in JGC and am looking forward to JGE.  You have to remember, in JGC, it was boring doing runs from point A to point B.

The only thing that kept me on edge back then while making runs, was those damn black asteroids.  *SPLAT*

Tue Sep 01 2009 5:33AM Report
Axxar writes:

EvE's music is quite horrible, so it shouldn't be difficult to "rival" it with any kind of effort.

Tue Sep 01 2009 5:50AM Report
Orthelian writes:


Tue Sep 01 2009 6:54AM Report
Paincake writes:

Indigo Prophecy? Mafia? Elder Scrolls? Max Payne? Final Fantasy? And especially Blizzard's musical composers are one of the best.

I could make a list of more then 250 games and it would still not be enough to fill the honourable mentions. If anything, movies should rather catch up. Games as a form of entertainment has made progress while films are progressing much more slowly.

Tue Sep 01 2009 8:10AM Report
Axxar writes:

Northrend (introduced in the latest WoW expansion) in particular sports some excellent music.

Tue Sep 01 2009 8:12AM Report
Bzar writes:

who cares.....release already!

Tue Sep 01 2009 8:24AM Report
solarine writes:

Music is important. Most of the successful games have well-produced music that gives further character to the game world.  WOW has good music, as does EVE. Jeremy Soule's stuff is usually very good, e.g. music from Guild Wars.  

Of course it's secondary to gameplay itself, but still... If a game has lousy music, I find myself less and less willing to log in, because immersion is a key point for me. And no, listening to my Winamp playlists does not exactly make me feel like I'm immersed in a strange other-world. 

Another important thing is the ambient sound design. It has to be evocative. A gameworld that sounds dull or wrong is a mini-dealbreaker to me :)

Tue Sep 01 2009 9:32AM Report
Orthelian writes:

Personally, I've never understood what is evocative about WoW's music. Everything I've heard from it is just a lot of bombastic percussion and brass making a mess of 'epic' sounds, like EQ2. The Diablo and StarCraft series are other stories.

But we're straying from Jumpgate. In regards to it, I can only say that I hope the in-game music is significantly better than the tribal drums and chanting they've used in their trailers. Not especially fitting.

Tue Sep 01 2009 10:44AM Report
mrw0lf writes:

A lot of recent mmo (even lower budget) releases have had decent music. The problem sometimes has been consistency, if you start well you better carry on that way otherwise it is recognised when it's judged against itself.

For me ff7 was awsome with the way the music, fills, effects all fitted together so well.

Tue Sep 01 2009 3:49PM Report
Taiphoz writes:

I do not know what some people need to get sucked into a game. Music for me is one of those things to be turned off instantly, no matter what the game is.

Follow me if you will, walk into a forest, or desert, or lake side clearing, shut your eye's and listen for about 5 minutes, NOW THAT is music.

Turn your music OFF, and pump up your ambiant so its louder than your game fx, like bulltet noises and fire.

Guys, this Music is just silly, you do not have a magical fairy band following you around playing your selected tunes. it's madness. the ambiance is the real music of a game.

EvE is an exception to the rule, their in game music is done like a car sterio, you can pick tracks, select the song you want, thats not the same at all, as what I feel Net Devil have planned for JG:E.

They are going to have music change when you enter battle, their going to have it sound all movie like when in massive combat, well I am sorry, but in massive combat the only Music I will hear is the sound of bullets and rockets being lossed and the sound of ships exploding, and possibly some solar wind and ghostly ambiance noise.

All that money spent on music, WASTED!.

Wed Sep 02 2009 4:46AM Report
drozzy writes:

There is No sound in space. You all know that right?


I just wish they figure this out in time and avoid wasting their time.

Mon Sep 07 2009 8:59PM Report
Asherow writes:

Most games I turn the music off.  Its generally a distraction, gets repetitive, or just sucks.  If the music is done right  then I love to leave it on and let it play through.  I hope the soundtrack for this game will be at that level. 

Most people will complain there there is no sound in space, but for me... I don't think any space flight sim or the like could be complete without a good bit of background music.  Doesn't have to have a major orchistra, techo, or some heavy metal band that over powers the effects.  Music in games sound be there more to accent the environment or whatever action is taking place. 

If it turns out the music is bad then I'll be turning it off right away, but if it blends well into the game then I'll definitely be leaving it on and enjoying the whole experience.

As to it being a waste of money... the only time I would agree with that is when they put the music in and it just blows.  I can't stand watching a movie or playing a game where there is no sound other then the actions of the characters or when they've chosen the wrong music for the background.  That's the waste.

Sun Oct 18 2009 11:44AM Report writes:
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