2, Issue 4
November 29, 1999
in games always seems to get lost in the rush to talk about the
visuals in games, especially in reviews. Have you noticed that?
There might be some comment on the music, as to its suitability,
or some reference to the atmospheric-ness (is that a word?) of
the ambient sounds, but thats usually about all. Then it's
off onto the great visuals, or the terrific power of the
weapons, or the general abundance of blood.
really not fair to the poor sound designer, who's spent hours
sweating over getting the music and sounds just right,
or to the poor programmer thats had the sound guy hammering
on him to 'lower the attenuation on this set of sounds, but up
it on that'. Anyone who's ever done sound stuff in games knows
what I mean. Sounds require more tweaking than any graphics event
going. Its far more subjective than graphics, but far less likely
to be something that needs to be toned down, like graphics inevitably
do, since they take so much of the processing/rendering time of
sounds are important - more so than most people realize.
Try playing your favorite game with all the sounds turned off.
Doesn't play right does it? In a study done by LucasFilm when
they were testing out the THX standards, it became apparent that
decent sound can actually fool the brain into thinking the picture
is better. In the study, one group of people that where shown
a movie with average sound, then the same movie with better sound
actually commented that the picture seemed sharper too! Sound
= important. QED.
now we have a new tool to play with. 3D Spatialized sound. Not
that spatialized sound hasn't been used before - lots of games
split the mono sounds over two channels and use 3D distance from
camera to determine each channels volume. But this has always
been more a gimmick than a real helpful tool for the player. Thats
not to say it isn't helpful at all, just that for you, as a games
player, to really be able to use it, you have to have just the
right set of circumstances. Things are coming along with the new
5.1 speaker setups that we are starting to see developed for the
home PC. A quick stroll down Best Buys' PC sound isle gives you
many manufactures offering 5 speaker setups, and cards from Creative
Labs, Diamond and Aureal that will use them.